Monday, January 2, 2012

Dreaming of Dragons

    Justin gave Joe a new beagle pup for Christmas, so what better way to ring out the old than to take the new baby plus the two granny beagles for a run on the last sunny day of the year. We loaded Cindy and Sandy into the beagle box on the back of the truck and tucked the little one in with his wise and wiley teachers. He was off for his first lesson in tracking rabbits.
     The ground was wet after a soaking rain from the night before, but the weak winter sun was drawing scent up from it. A perfect day to roust out some rabbits. We took the dogs to one of our fields where thorns and Devil’s Shoestring and Barberry bushes have overrun some of the rocky ridges. It’s perfect rabbit territory. The older beagles were anxious to be away and jumped from the truck with alacrity. The pup hung back, unsure of what to do. As soon as they landed the two old girls dropped their noses to the ground and whuffled and snuffled searching for an invisible trail left by any rabbit. The pup was placed on the ground and he followed along behind, pretending to understand what all the sniffing was about. It wasn’t long before one of the human members of our party inadvertently rustled up a rabbit. Shane brushed up against a small thicket and out pelted the fluff-tailed fellow. The dogs were quick to spot the rabbit and took off in hot pursuit. But Bugsy ran straight down the fencerow, outdistancing the dogs in an instant. No matter. They laid their noses to the ground and with their long ears scooping up scent, they followed the rabbit’s invisible trail. Musical howls floated down the valley as the dogs zigzagged across the rocky field. It always amazes me when I see how accurately they can follow a trail made of dead skin cells, hair follicles and rabbit breath. The dogs tracked the rabbit to his den and then we pulled them off to look for another one.
     For an hour, the beagles circled through the thick brush, tails beating time to the their inhalations. The pup had tired at this point and was tucked in my coat, napping. We had almost given up hope, when the dogs began to yip. They had picked up another trail. Diving into a thorny thicket, they succeeded in dislodging another hare. The rabbit headed west and the dogs, with full throated bays, scrabbled after him. Rabbits always circle back to where they started, so we climbed to a high spot to watch the action. The rabbit would hop far enough ahead to rest in the brush and hide while the dogs worked out his trail. When they closed in, he would leap out ahead again. Thus he led them full circle. On his second pass into the cedars, the rabbit must have made a huge side leap. The dogs lost him there. They worked circles for a while, but were unable to find where he had landed, so we gathered them up and stuffed them back into the dog box. The dogs weren’t tired, but at five o’clock, the sun was already behind the mountains. It was time to go home and celebrate an appropriate end to the Year of the Rabbit.  The Year of the Dragon starts January 23rd.  I wonder what the dogs will chase then?

Dreaming of Dragons.


  1. Great photo! And a cute puppy to boot. What fun!