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Life with dogs: They have personalities too

By Darrin McGrath   |   Cabin Country   |   Vol. 31 No. 50 (February 27 2019)

I had to put one of my beagles down. Ranger was fourteen ( I still have her sister) and it was sad to see her get sick.

When Ranger was young, up to about eight years old, she was pretty good on the rabbits. She had a very loud distinctive howl that you could hear a long ways off, even on a windy day. If she had one bad habit it was that she used to sometimes roam very far from me. Often I had to do a lot of bushwhacking, straining to hear the sound of her bell if she wasn’t barking. When was in her first few years of life, I had another older female called Tiny. Tiny and Ranger made an excellent hunting pair. Tiny was older and slower than Ranger, and didnt roam very far from me. She would hunt along the edge of a path or trail, making her much easier to keep track of. And, Ranger would stick around with the older dog. So Tinys good habits helped contain Rangers wanderings.

Usually if the two dogs began to really hunt an area, and begin to get excited with their tails wagging, you knew a start was coming. Most times it was Ranger who would open loud and clear with her squall mouth. Then the roles reversed and the younger Ranger lead the older Tiny in the chase of the rabbit.

Tiny had a bad habit, if I shot a rabbit and only wounded it she would catch it and bury it. So if I had a shot and the rabbit kept going, Id try to listen to see if I could hear the rabbit squeal. If I heard that I had to hustle to close in on the dogs, or Tiny would bury the rabbit. It was a funny thing about how Tiny and Ranger just clicked as a rabbit-running team. Before I had Ranger and her sister, I had Tiny and another older dog named Blackie. I used to hunt Blackie and Tiny together, but if Tiny started the rabbit Blackie refused to join in and would keep on hunting. As a result, sometimes I would have two rabbits on the go. It’s tough when you’re in the woods by yourself and you have two dogs going, perhaps on opposite sides of a trail. All you can do in case like that is to spread out. So its been my experience that all beagles wont necessarily hunt together. Of course, I cant speak for dogs that are run in field trials because they may be used to running in a pack. One thing I have never done is run beagles in field trials. Ive talked to guys who are very much into the sport, and also read about it. However, I am always more interested in getting in the woods and trying to get a rabbit for the pot. Tiny died in her sleep when she was fourteen. It was a sad loss of an old hunting companion, but it was easier than having to make a decision to have Ranger put down. Just before Christmas, Rangers right cheek became swollen. A trip to the vet revealed that a tooth in her upper jaw was bad and need to come out, along with at least one more tooth. The dental surgery was going to cost over $2000 dollars. I loved that dog, but I just didnt have the money. The vet did give antibiotics to take down the swelling and help with the bad tooth. The swelling cleared up and Ranger seemed fine, but within six weeks the swelling was back, and she began to lose control of her bladder in her sleep and around the house. Then I discovered blood in her urine. With her advanced age and now with blood in her urine, I had to make the tough decision. Ranger was a very shy, nervous dog. She would only hunt with me. If anyone else came along she would sit down and refuse to hunt. She was really afraid of strangers. It was tough to know my beloved pet and hunting dog of almost fifteen years wasnt coming home.

The only bad thing about owning a beagle is when they get sick and you have to make a tough decision.

Presently, I am left with Rangers sister Brownie. Brownie is the same age as Ranger and has gotten slow. I did let her go in the woods a few times this past fall, but after about a half hour shed come out to me and wed walk slowly home. So now she has moved from hunter and pet to just being a pet. But she likes to go for a walk on the leash. However, I have noticed that she gets cold quickly. Of course, when a beagle is hunting and running a rabbit they dont get cold. But in advanced years when moving slowly, they do feel the winter winds.

Therefore, I went to a pet store and bought a fleece lined jacket for Brownie. The exterior is a nylon shell which is water repellent and wind-proof. It also has reflective stripes on the side allowing vehicles to easily see the dog in the dark.

Making the decision to get a beagle pup (or any dog) is a major life decision because you are potentially looking at a fifteen year commitment. Having a dog is a lifestyle choice. Owning a dog can limit your ability to travel and it requires much repetitive work such as cleaning up after them. You have to be ready to have dog`s hair on your clothes. Will you let the dog up on your furniture is another consideration. Some people in your family may be allergic to dogs so this can be a factor.

Years ago, most owners of beagles kept the dogs outdoors. Today, more people keep their beagle inside. Keeping a beagle inside your house is the right place for it. Beagles, like all hunting dogs, can do double-duty as house pets and hunters. In fact, having your hunting beagle live inside with you probably strengthens the bond between dog and man.

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