I had accepted the position of trainer for 23 American Foxhounds, a pack owned by a real live, English style Hunt Club in New Mexico, in exchange for a house with free rent and utilities. I promised them I would change the chaotic behaviors of the pack. When I last left off, the hounds had quickly learned a significant lesson in manners. Once they were regularly calm around me and didn’t jump and didn’t fight over me, could I begin teaching them more. First of all, I found them to be rather filthy, and one poor hound had flies around his head all the time. Even washing his face didn’t help. So, I decided that they would have baths. Apparently they had not had baths since they were puppies, fostered by Hunt Club members until they were ready to be introduced to the pack. Yes, there were puppies in foster care and they were soon to join the us.
I had thought about having the club members come and help bathe the dogs but decided the hounds were not ready for such a social event and many of the members had just spent their Saturday cleaning the kennel, mowing the field, and other maintenance. So, one by one I bathed the stinky hounds. I could manage a few each day. If you recall, I was a grad student and had a lot of work on that end, too. The house actually wasn’t enough compensation for my time but the hounds were. I bathed “lord of the flies” first, yet he still attracted them. So, I bathed him several times during the marathon bathings. Finally, I decided to look in his mouth. I could see why he attracted flies. He had a few abscessed teeth. Once his teeth were dealt with, flies no longer bothered him.
The hounds had their own yards and a fenced in field for exercising– fenced and separate from my yard. Helen warned me that if my golden retriever ever got in with the pack they would kill him. Naturally, Roger, my dog, found a way into the kennel yet the hounds were not at all aggressive towards him. They were just very interested in his feathery tail. And Roger was wise enough not to make any challenging moves. From then on he visited the hounds while I worked in the kennel. Helen, president of the Hunt Club, was shocked and awed by the development. She was very pleased with the hounds. She called the Hunt Master and told him how great the hounds were doing– so he came for a visit– while I was gone.
When I returned home on this particular day, I did some laundry and decided to hang the freshly laundered sheets outside on the clothesline. I was hanging my sheets and glancing at the road and saw a dog go by and then another, and then a couple more. It took a moment for that to register– those are my hounds! I ran to the kennel windows– they were all gone. There was a note on the kennel door that the Hunt Master had been by and not to bother to exercise the hounds– he had done that for me. AND LEFT THE GATE OPEN! I called Helen.
I already had experienced breakouts from the field in which the hounds took their exercise. One female was a digger and another could spot any weakness along the fence–just up to an arroyo– water flowing through it from one end of Albuquerque to the other. This particular arroyo was an irrigation channel which ran for miles. Once a hound got on the path that ran along the channel, she could travel unimpeded through Albuquerque. Because the hounds had been loose for several hours, Helen decided that club members on horseback would be more practical for searching along the arroyo. Everyone mounted up.
Helen and I each took our cars so that we could search the village and gather up the hounds from the riders. Just like most dogs, the hounds loved to ride in a car. The Fire Station was just around the corner. The Captain and his crew knew me from earlier hound escapes. I stopped by the station to ask them to keep a lookout for them, but they already knew– they were detaining two escapees. I left them at the station to be retrieved later and went searching. Along the way I met up with Helen who had four hounds in her Mercedes convertible.
I found several hounds just by singing (bellowing) out the car window the song “Oklahoma”, from the musical of the same name. I sang to the hounds a great deal. Sure enough, my singing elicited responses from howling (singing) hounds which guided me to their locations. It took about two hours for us to round-up the truant hounds. They hadn’t gone far at all. All the same, I felt badly for the Hunt Master who would be on the receiving end of Helen’s wrath. Unfortunately, we all would be on the receiving end of the Mayor’s wrath for creating a disturbance in peaceful “Dogpatch”. The Mayor requested a meeting. And the puppies arrived.