07 December 2010

Tracking a Beagle

Whether it is my knee being injured or the colder weather, I have found myself reminiscing on the many adventures I had this past year both planned and unplanned. One event that occurred over Easter weekend involved my friend’s beagle who managed to get outside of my fenced-in backyard and into the nearly 200 acres of woods behind my house. Here is the story as told to a friend in an email with a few edits:
Molly the Beagle
5am I fed all three dogs and then went back to bed. 8am I woke, ready to feed myself this time. I have been leaving my back door open so that the dogs could go in and out of the house and fenced backyard as they please. Right as I am about to fire up the cast iron to cook my bacon/eggs/liver/sausage power breakfast, Shaman comes trotting up with a look of concern. I look outside and Cyprus is at the back fence staring into the woods behind my house. I step outside and hear the baying of the beagle into the woods. Wearing a shirt and shorts, I threw on my KSO Treks, ran out the back door, jumped over the fence, and headed into the woods. I should note that I have never ventured into these woods because it is a dense combination of small pine trees and thick briars. 

I ran for a solid 10 minutes following the sound of the dog baying. The thought of losing my friend's dog was pushing me to run hard. After some time I realized I was not getting gaining on the dog and that the vegetation was getting thicker and harder to traverse. I turned around and ran back, coming out of the woods 2 houses down from mine. I ran to my house, grabbed my keys and the dogs, and drove to a road that parallels the large forest behind my house. With the window down I eventually came to a place ahead of the faint baying of the beagle. I pulled over, left the keys in the car, let the dogs out, and ran into the woods. I tried a "FIND Molly" command a few times, but it didn't do anything. Eventually, as we ran further, I noticed Shaman's ears perk up when Molly would bay, so I tried the "FIND Molly" command again this time he understood. So Cyprus and I followed Shaman... running about 4 miles through more trees and briars, but also several knee-deep swampy parts. I could not tell if we were gaining on her or not. Eventually I saw the white of her tail sticking up ahead. I yelled (in an angry voice) "Molly! Come here!"... but being a beagle on a trail she paid no attention to me. By this point I am extremely muddy and especially bloody from all the cuts on my arms and legs... and there is no way in hell I am going to let this dog keep on running. With adrenaline surging I commanded my dogs (in my deepest, guttural voice) "GET HER!"

Shaman and Cyprus take off. Shaman chooses a dryer, higher ground, while Cyprus runs straight at Molly. Cyprus slams into the little beagle and pins her, biting down on her sides. As Molly struggles to get away, Cyprus lets out a growl (that put my guttural voice to shame) that seemed to say "If you move I will rip you in half you little shit!" I run up, grab the beagle (who is now shaking like she has epilepsy), tell Cyprus to RELEASE, and hoist the little shit dog onto my shoulder. I praise both dogs and then tell Shaman to "TAKE THE LEAD", which I use when I want him to run ahead of me when we are out running trails. Again we follow Shaman... and, no lie, he brought us back out of the woods exactly where we went in. We make it out of the woods and to the road near my car. I currently look like Swamp Thing starred in the Passion of the Christ. I have both dogs WAIT while I make sure no cars are coming. No cars, but two cyclists were coming close. There I stood with a dog on each side, holding a shivering and drenched beagle on my shoulders, bleeding and muddy as they approached. "Happy Easter" I said. "Good morning" was returned in a rather shocked response as they proceeded to peddle harder and periodically looked back at me. I let the dogs get in the car, threw in the beagle, and headed home. I was ready for breakfast.

Back home, Beagle caught
So, after a long shower and pulling 11 embedded ticks off me (not counting what was on the dogs), I was able to eat breakfast for the first time in a long time feeling I earned it. I realized that there was no way I could be mad over the situation, as I had not lose my friend's dog, I had the most intense trail run yet, I got to combine my trailing running experience with my dog training experience, and my dogs performed flawlessly.