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A Beagle I’ll Never Forget (Page 2)

Every young hunter should have a dog to lead him into the wild, but Barney did much more than that.

But when a rabbit was started, Barney’s bull-headed determination kicked in and he would stick on a rabbit’s trail until we killed the rabbit or physically grabbed the dog and carried him away kicking and screaming. He simply did not know the meaning of quit.

More than once it got so late that we had to leave him overnight and go back the next day to find him. The old hunters always advised leaving a coat on the ground where you last saw the dog. The idea was that he would recognize the scent on your coat and lie down on it. Not this dog. After losing three coats (one was shredded) I gave up on that idea. I think Barney looked at my coats as a way to punish me for leaving him behind.

Usually he would find a nearby house and make a friend. (Presumably this was after dealing with my coat.) The people of Vermont were different back in the ’60s; we always got a call to come and get him, usually followed by something like: “Don’t hurry, he just finished dinner and the kids are having a ball playing with him.”

Once when he hadn’t turned up a week later I figured he was gone forever. There had been rumors of a “ring” of dog thieves in the area and we heard there was a new beagle at a house in the town north of where I lived. My grandmother let it be known around the laundromat she owned that I had lost my dog and was quite anxious to retrieve him. A woman called me the next day and said my dog had just wandered into her yard. She didn’t explain why she’d kept him for two weeks. I got my mom to drive me up to her place, which was about 20 miles from where we had lost the dog, and there he was. His paws were soft and in good shape with long claws, hardly what you would have expected from a dog who had just walked 20 or more miles in the ice and snow. I was just a kid, not even old enough to drive, and I was happy to have my best friend back, so I just said thanks and went home, letting the matter drop.

Barney developed into a wonderful rabbit dog, nothing spectacular, just good. For several years we hunted with him all we could, but all things must end. I got older and discovered fast cars and pretty girls. Gramp got older and Dad lost interest. We hunted rabbits less. Mom couldn’t bear to see Barney locked up, so we let him in the house more. Being a beagle, he could never be bothered to learn about cars and such things. We lived right on Route 7, the primary north-south corridor in the state. It was a sleepy two-lane back then, but it still had traffic. We didn’t allow the dog outside unless he was in his pen, but the desire to roam was too strong and he was too quick. One day he scooted out when somebody opened the door and ran into a Chevy.

Thanks to a good vet he lived and fully recovered from that April accident in time to hunt opening day in late September. I had graduated high school and had a full-time, six-days-a-week job. I was feeling guilty about not hunting with him much and vowed to change that. We had a lot of rabbits that fall and Barney was running well. That got Dad and Gramp back in the game, and we all looked forward to a good year once we started hunting rabbits seriously in December.
Then one day I came home from work and Mom greeted me at the door. That bullheaded little beagle had not learned from his close call. He had bolted through the door again and into another car.

I buried him in back of the barn that night. At 19 you’re not supposed to cry, but as I worked in the dark, digging in the frozen dirt, I wasn’t 19, I was 11, and I had just lost my best friend. 

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6 Responses to A Beagle I’ll Never Forget (Page 2)

GREG wrote:
March 25, 2011

You remind me of the Skeeter Skelton "Me and Joe" stories. Thanks for taking me back to my childhood, my friend.

Bill wrote:
January 17, 2011

That story could have been me almost exactly. I got Butch when I was 10. I lost my him to a windstorm that blew a tree on his dog house while I was away at college. I lived in Illinois, but our exploits were very similar to the authors.

Scott wrote:
January 10, 2011

His name wasn't barney, it was freckles. You just described my childhood dog. Exact same fate for freckles. Only difference, my dad told me just before a football game when I was 18. I had more tackles that day than any other game I played.

The 4 K's wrote:
January 07, 2011

We just rescued a Beagle that reminds me a lot of Barney. I just hope our beginning doesn't end like your ending. Your story was enjoyable, but I wish there was a better ending!!! Here"s to all the Barney's out there.!!!

Bob wrote:
January 07, 2011

You are never too old to mourn a friend like that. I too had tears in my eyes.

Dale wrote:
January 07, 2011

A heartfelt story, brings a tear to my eyes.