When I was on the road to Albuquerque to attend grad school at UNM, I called around to Realtors, trying to find a house for rent and a landlord who would take my golden retriever. Luckily, New Mexicans love their dogs, cats and horses so my dog wasn’t an issue. One Realtor who was a friend of a fellow student back at UCONN, was trying to get me in a house quickly, since I was already a few days late for classes and I was still on the road. I called her from whatever motel I was at every evening. While I was only one more day from Albuquerque she asked me if I would like a house with free rent and utilities. That was a no brainer. She gave me the number of a woman to call who was in charge of a Hunt Club in Albuquerque and she told me to tell this woman I was an expert hunting dog trainer. I had never trained hunting dogs so it would be a stretch.
Once I made it to Albuquerque I met up with the Hunt Club president and I had faxed references in hand. It was a small house but plenty of room for my dog and I. One slight issue. Actually, twenty-three of them, foxhounds, that is. They lived in what was questionably called kennels in my back yard. Oh, the kennels were good shelter (unless it rained) but it was actually an old concrete block building and the females were on one side and the males on the other. They needed to be fed and exercised and the kennel cleaned everyday and their health looked after, etc. The question whether I could train hunting dogs never came up. That was a relief. And, I could not tell her that I objected to keeping dogs for English style fox-hunting. I objected to it actually on so many levels but I needed a place to live and in the back of my mind I thought about how I would change things.
And then I met the hounds. Helen had them out in the kennel yard when I had arrived. After we talked, she introduced me to them by taking me inside the building and into the yard. I could feel her eyes on me, watching to see how I handled the hounds. They needed manners and training so a person could walk in there without being knocked down. My golden retriever was my first dog but he trained me. She offered me her big stick she used to keep them off her. I refused the stick. I just did my bluffing routine and put my hands down by my sides with the palms down and that prevented them from jumping on me, to some extent. I was a bit bruised. They just wanted to be petted. The males were bigger than my retriever. These were American Foxhounds– bigger/taller than the English Foxhound. There were so many faces looking at me, needing to be near a human– one without a stick or a whip. I took the job on the condition that no one used a stick or whip on them anymore. That included out on the hunt. Helen was hesitant, saying that the whip was needed to control them. I told her that I could change that behavior and the riders would have a much more pleasant hunting experience. She agreed. I just had to figure out how to do that.