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A Member's Story: Buddy and Me

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As with many kids who grew up in Snyder County, Pa., in the 70s and 80s, hunting was a big part of life. The game and opportunities to hunt them were plentiful. But it wasn’t until my late teens that I was introduced to hunting rabbits with a dog. My friend Troy owned a beagle named Buck, and after witnessing the sights and sounds of a rabbit hunt, I dreamed of having my own hunting dog one day.

In 1995 that dream became reality. I promised my fiancée, Diane, a puppy after we moved to Pittsburgh and gotten married. Several phone calls in search of the puppy yielded a man by the name of Don Morris who bred beagles for show. He just happened to have a male from a recent litter that he was willing to sell, so we took advantage of the opportunity. We named him Buddy.

Raising a puppy was new to us with lots of challenges…the paper training, accidents, chewing, etc. We somehow got through that stage to where Buddy was learning commands and even some tricks including “shake” and “roll over.” After a week of rabbit boot-camp back at the Morris compound, Buddy was ready for his first hunt. I recall being more worried about him tracking a deer or running away than us finding a rabbit. Buddy wasn’t just a hunting dog, he was our family.

Then late in the 1997 season it happened: We got our first rabbit. It was several years before we got that second bunny in 2001. I don’t recall exactly what happened with our hunting trips those years, but I do know we were busy raising our two children. My first scare with Buddy came about this time. He somehow injured his neck and was given a warning that surgery would be necessary to correct the problem with no guarantee of success. I remember staring at the ceiling for an hour that day praying for an answer. We kept Buddy crated for several days to see if time would heal him, and it did.

I think Buddy knew he had been given a second chance, because in the subsequent three years, we harvested several rabbits including several hunts with other members of my family. Our greatest success came on our trips back to Snyder County. I recall one hunt with my father that netted four rabbits and another when my brother and I harvested three rabbits and a ruffed grouse. Buddy was 8 years old and beginning to peak.

The timing could not have been better, as we moved my family back to Snyder County in 2005 to fulfill another dream of mine. The house we moved into had direct access to over 40 acres of prime rabbit habitat. Buddy seemed to master the territory in only a few hunts, and it was nothing for him to get several rabbits going with each outing. However, in 2007, we began to notice some changes in Buddy. He became hard of hearing and slowed down quite a bit. He was unable to jump up on the bed and had to take a running start to climb steps. I figured that hearing loss and arthritis, common in older dogs, was taking its toll. Then, one evening a month before his thirteenth hunting season would begin, Buddy got really sick. He was diagnosed with a rare case of gallstones that could only be healed with risky surgery. Again, I was devastated. In what seemed like a miracle, the vet called us back a few hours later saying that there was some daily medication that may be able to manage the condition. We made the decision to give Buddy that chance for one last hunting season.

I got together with my father, brother, and his son for one last family hunt with Buddy on the “back 40” in November 2008. We kicked out several rabbits that morning with Buddy, and I managed to shoot two. Buddy and I got out several times together that season, usually for an hour, just the two of us, a lot like how we started out many years ago. A couple weeks after the season ended, Buddy got sick again and I had to make the decision to end his pain, a decision that was harder than I had ever imagined.

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2 Responses to A Member's Story: Buddy and Me

Don Morris III wrote:
January 30, 2013

Thank you for the story. I am the grandson of the man that you got your dog from. I did a search for my grandpa's name and beagles and found your story. My grandpa's health is failing and he only has a couple of weeks. I'm very glad I found your story.

Jeff wrote:
December 24, 2010

I really enjoyed reading your story. I just came in from hunting with my 8 year old Beagle named Buck. I can't think of anything that beats hunting behind a beagle. Like with you and your dog it is normally just the two of us. Thats what made me like your story even more.