"To his dog every man is king; hence the popularity of dogs."
— Aldous Huxley
Hard to believe it but it’s about time for Christmas vacation and my recreationally deprived self is outside raking leaves. I’m also earnestly seeking recreational opportunities and steadily longing for enhanced weather conditions. In order to relieve what is commonly referred to as the winter doldrums I gain a temporary respite by getting my dog and heading into the woods. This happy fellow does not care what the weather is like if he may only be liberated from the cursed leash to which he is attached. His name is Sport and he came to us on a Christmas morning many years ago as a small bundle of joy and in unannounced fashion (that, of course, is a story for another day). Since that time he has grown into a long bundle of joy.
He is a beagle-basset hound with impeccable bloodlines (or so Mark Shepherd told me). He should have turned into a rabbit hunter of the first order, but neither he nor I wished to limit his skills to a single area of expertise. I take full responsibility for not training him specifically to the talent for which he was born. To say that I am neither an excellent trainer of rabbit dogs nor a talented pursuer of those furry little creatures would be a vast understatement. That Sport has turned out to be a jack-of-all-trades is not his fault.
He does have many endearing qualities. First, but not necessarily foremost, he is a world class slobberer (is that a word?). It is best not to be in range if he has worked up a sweat because with one shake of his head he will thoroughly slime anyone standing within a within a ten foot radius.. His baying is of the world class variety especially if the resident squirrels (who know exactly how long his leash is) have crept close to him. Even so he is nearly always in a good humor and ready for any type of chase. He is always prepared to show off his amazing agility. For example when I let him off his line he will immediately display his athleticism by making several full laps around the yard at full tilt with his behind only inches off the ground.
Sport is built like a horizontal fireplug. His legs are about three inches long and his sumptuous belly hangs down about six inches which of course impedes his progress while tracking wild game. Don’t let that fool you though. He will hunt anything from squirrels to rabbits to deer with equal zest and efficiency. His problem is not lack of enthusiasm but rather with enemy identification. As I explained earlier, that’s not his fault.
Another of his talents lies in his abilities to track biscuits. He can smell one of those morsels a block away and has unlimited scent range on pork chops. He has been known to show up down the road at the Dairy Queen in the takeout line or at the high school lunchroom depending on which way the wind is blowing. He likes dry dog food not at all and will shun it until that long, low belly really gets empty.
As you might well imagine Sport is not a show dog. I would hesitate taking him to a kennel club exhibition because he’d probably show more interest in the buffet line than keeping his sway backed posture in place. Another quirk about our little hound is that his ears and nose will not work simultaneously. If he smells something interesting he cannot hear me call him to come back. Many times I’ve had to go deep in the forest to haul him away from some intriguing animal aroma.
Our years with Sport have been interesting. He is lovable and happy. He is fun to talk to because he doesn’t talk back. He is certainly man’s best friend but most importantly he can help liven up an otherwise boring day when the dreaded winter doldrums rear their ugly head.
Alvin Richardson is a contributing writer, retired educator, and public speaker. Contact him at email@example.com.