My beautiful little rabbit beagle Gus is missing. He was born on the farm and raised by my side. When I pulled into my driveway every evening, Gus would stop whatever he might be doing and pound across the yard with a happy grin, ears flapping, tail whapping, to meet me. He would sit patiently at my car door until I gathered everything up and then place his front paws on my legs for an ear scratching before following me to the house. He could fetch a ball, sit on command, catch food in mid-air, circle, and walk on two legs but his favorite activity was jumping straight up in the air like he had pogo sticks where his pads should have been. As I walked back to feed the other dogs at night, he would bound along beside me, jumping up so his nose was almost as high as mine every few steps and laughing as he landed. Then, he danced his joy and ran it in ever widening speed circles around me.
The yard is empty and so is my heart. It’s my fault he’s gone. I didn’t tie him up when hunting season started. Last year, I remembered to chain him until the season passed, but I forgot this year. He was last seen chasing a fox across our neighbor’s mountain on Saturday morning a week ago. Various school children have reported sighting him on Monday morning sniffing his way across a field several miles north of here but I have canvassed all my neighbors to the north and no one has seen him since then.
Most people think that dogs can run free in the country, but that’s not generally the case. Two dogs working together can wreak havoc on a sheep flock and generally one or both end up shot. Maybe Gus found another canine friend and provoked the ire of a farmer. If so, then I can’t be mad. I’ve seen the damage dogs do to sheep. It’s not pretty. But, I don’t think that’s what happened. There’s only one flock of sheep near us and Glen would have let us know if our dog was around.
Maybe Gus crawled through a fence and was snagged by a coyote snare. Coyotes are ravaging the last flocks in the county and snares are one of the few ways farmers have found to create a line of safety in wire fences. But, dogs get caught in them, too. When Gus was a pup, he disappeared for a day. I discovered him just a quarter mile from the house caught in a neck snare. He had been chained before, so rather than struggling against the snare he lay down patiently to wait. It saved his life. When I found him he howled pitifully but he didn’t move. I remember trying to free him and after several unsuccessful attempts to trip the latch, running screaming to the house for Joe. Gus never moved until Joe got back and cut him loose. So, if he’s in a snare, he’s been lying there a long time waiting. But, we’ve let our neighbors who set snares know he is gone and no one has found him, so I don’t think that’s where he is either.
He could have been shot by a hunter, angry at a happy little dog who chased deer for sport, never catching them, but running until his tongue scraped the ground. Hunters have been known to do things like that. They've also been known to steal dogs.
Gus was a handsome dog. He might have been snagged by a hunter who thought he scored a prize. Good rabbit beagles are worth some money and Gus would hunt rabbits tirelessly when he could roust them out. I hope that’s what happened, but what I cling to is the hope that he’s just still hunting and has found a kind soul to feed him who doesn’t yet know my pal is gone. Every morning I wake up and run to the window, hoping to see him prancing across the lawn. Every evening I stand on the hill and call, hoping he’ll hear me and decide to come home.
I should have kept him tied. His mother and aunt are tied and only leave the chains to hunt or trade off for a day of freedom. Our chains are long and light. The dogs can touch noses and have plenty of water and shade, chickens to watch and a good ear-scratching each night as they are fed. But, still, I hate a dog on a chain. Gus was free because he was my buddy, and now he’s gone and I miss him very much.