Bill Prince: Why Dogs Don’t Live Longer
Southern Legitimacy Statement: Earnest and I were bird hunting around the back cornfield near the property line a the dairy we were hunting, when Joe, Earnest’s pointer spooked up a bunch of buzzards. Didn’t know the significance then but this was to be my encounter with a dead mule. How the mule died we don’t know but someone had dragged him to rot at the end of that field. Probably trespassers because the landowner didn’t have any mules. The mule was swelled up about half again what his normal size had been I guessed and the sun had dried up the moisture inside him so he was bloated up like a balloon. Earnest poked at him with a stick till he worked a small hole and the mule deflated blowing out what atmosphere was in him and it sounding like a saw mill cutting slabs off a pine log, a high pitched whine. We ran to get away from the toxic smell but Joe sat down and winded it like the dog he was. Yeah, I am from the south, South Carolina was where I was reared. The event of encountering a dead mule was just one of a million events southern boys encounter when growing up. I am legitimately southern, born in Georgia, reared in South Carolina and country bred and born, legitimate though because my momma and daddy were married and I was the second child of three.
Why Dogs Don’t Live Longer
I took Rose, a near six month old beagle pup, from the pen and the other puppies barked, yelped and whined as they jumped up on the side of the pen wanting to get out themselves. Rose was one of Fancy’s pups and Fancy had about six more in the pen, mostly males. We raised beagles and trained them to hunt rabbits for sport, usually keeping a female from a litter and selling the males and the occasional female. Today was Rose’s turn to learn her name and to “down” when we wanted her to come to us and sit gently waiting to be petted and then placed into the dog box when traveling or into the kennel when home.
It is highly unusual for a beagle to “get it” the first time; Rose was the first beagle I had trained that learned her name so quickly and that it was wise to come to me when she heard her name. She got reward treats in about 10% of the time it took most puppies. She was a tri-color wonder of God’s creation. I put Rose in the box with two other puppies that had required considerably more time to groom them in training to where Rose had gotten in about ten minutes.
We went to the woods where shortly a rabbit ran for Fancy, as fine a rabbit dog as we ever had, and the three puppies. Rose followed her mom and ran that rabbit while the other two pups took a while before joining in. It was obvious from the beginning that Rose was rare; gentle, sweet and easy to train. By the time Rose was nine months old she was holding her own with the veteran dogs. The other two puppies I took out that first day were long gone to other owners.
Once or twice Rose ran off after some game other than a rabbit and a mild shock or giving her a good scolding was all it took for her to know, the rule for her was rabbits only. If what Rose smelled was not a rabbit, then she was not to run it, and she didn’t. If Rose barked; you could bet the bank it was a rabbit. For every one of her nine hunting years Rose improved. Last year was her best. We had some faster, younger dogs but Rose proved repeatedly; her inherited traits and her experience would succeed. If a rabbit got up and ran Rose would hound that rabbit till it went in a hole, swam a wide creek or became deceased.
As John Henry Williams said,” Rose caused many a rabbit to be fried.” Rose could find and follow a rabbit no matter what, in most reasonable situations, and some unreasonable Last off season while training puppies; Rose’s age began to catch up with her. William had kept her well treated medically but having some teeth removed and a hard time with the last birthing; now she was ten years old; being 2011 not 2001, Rose was showing her age.
On her last hunt two weeks ago we had the dogs on an island in the Oconee River looking for buck rabbits, the hardest of all rabbits for the dogs to chase, and in shallow water and mud which made it harder, yet Rose worked out the trail for the others. They impatiently yielded to her seniority when they got confused, Rose would sort it out. Rose caused another buck rabbit to be fried that day, and another to swim the river to escape her persistent genius.
When we got home from those islands Rose never really felt well again. Yesterday afternoon when William went to the kennel to feed up, Rose had passed on. Sometime during the day she gently closed her eyes the last time and a great friend, pet and working dog slipped away. She had been sore and swelling since that last day we went to the islands. Actually just our family, a few hunters, a miniscule fraction of people compared to the general population, will ever know what a wonder God created when Fancy conceived Rose. Good bye, Rose, rest in peace. You will be forever in our memories. I have buried many dogs and learned why dogs don’t live longer than they do; because we couldn’t survive losing them if they did. Bill Prince © 2011