When I was in graduate school in New Mexico, I accepted a position as the trainer and keeper of 23 American Foxhounds which belonged to an English style Hunt Club. In exchange for taking care of the hounds, I was provided with a house, with free rent and utilities, on the same property as the kennel.
When I left off, Helen, president of the Hunt Club and I were summoned to a meeting with the Village’s Mayor (actually, a volunteer position) . The Mayor was not happy with the recent antics of the hounds: running loose throughout the Village. He reminded us that many of the Village’s residents had power, prestige, and money, and would not tolerate the noisy hounds much longer. The Mayor wanted me to give them some kind of medication to make them sleep at night, and he was dead serious. If we didn’t control the noise then they would be kicked out of the Village. Later, Helen and I discussed a solution to the problem. The Hunt Club was only part of a larger club which was, basically, a social club for the successful, and many of the members lived in the Village. Helen turned the issue over to an attorney in their membership and had her get the less than savvy Mayor off our backs. Problem solved. And then came six more problems.
Everyone loves puppies. These were six months old and adorable. I had thought about stealing them away under cover of night and taking them to people who would find them good homes. I hated to put them in with the pack to spend their lives as so much chattel, to be used for entertaining the rich. Short of stealing the puppies, I slowly and gently transitioned them into the pack. The day had arrived. The puppies showed up, one by one– each one delivered by a Club member who had fostered it. They arrived in Mercedes and BMW’s. One rode in the back of a limousine. There were six of them. All had been treated as royalty. They would have a difficult time adjusting to their new lives.
According to Helen, pedigreed American foxhounds could not be owned by private individuals, only clubs and hunting associations. It was to protect the breed. Today, I’ve seen foxhounds for sale to the general public. They’re rather expensive and not just because the American Foxhound has won Best in Show at the Westminster Dog Show a few times. They are valued for their superior sense of smell, their tractability and the ease with which they can pack. There are many types of hunting dogs, the smartest being the retrievers. They have a more complex role versus a foxhound which just follows a scent, nothing more. Foxhounds do make excellent companions if you don’t require a genius dog. I had one for 14 years and she was the sweetest dog and so very loyal, The only issue with her was her singing as I strummed my guitar. She would not stop and let me play in peace. I resorted to playing my guitar in my car.
That first night at the kennel I played my guitar for the puppies and we all sang. I put them in the “heat” pen which was a good-sized room away from the rest of the hounds. I tried to make them as comfortable as possible. After lights out I went straight to bed but was unable to sleep because of the low-level howling and whining. So I grabbed my sleeping bag and a pillow and slept with them in the pen. They all cuddled up to me and I slept with a blanket of puppies on me. We did this off and on for a few weeks. Slowly, one by one, I introduced the adults to them. I would pick an adult and bring him or her to my yard where the puppies were already playing. The adult hound would spend the day with them, getting attention and treats from me, all the while the other hounds were watching them from the kennel side. As the days progressed, each chosen adult would be so excited about being chosen and going to my yard.
Everything was going well. Then Helen invited me to Derby Day at a club member’s home. Every year on the day of the Kentucky Derby, the Club had their own race, but for foxhounds only. They would “hunt” a huge steak at the end of a coyote urine-scented trail: through the horse paddocks and field (it was a spectacular property). They would be timed and the hound that got to the steak first, won it. With my big mouth I suggested the puppies run their own race. The race was on. They would have to beat the adults’ time. The puppies had no experience hunting and coyote urine would mean nothing to them. I had to come up with a plan. FYI: You can buy coyote urine.
*** Coyote and her puppies. Can you imagine how they get urine from coyotes?