A tribute to a special hunting dog

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I’ve dreaded the day I would have to write this piece about a little female beagle that I’ve hunted beside so many times. For awhile now, I’ve known her end was near, and now the time has arrived to pay her tribute.

On Saturday, early in the day, I called my closest hunting companion for at least the past 35 years to chat. When he spoke, his voice was splintered and despondent. The time had arrived for him to put down his little female beagle, Molly.

And so later that day he called to tell me he was allowed to sit under a nearby tree at the veterinarians office with Molly in his arms as a veterinarian ended the little beagle’s wonderful life.

Molly came into this world on March 16, 2004, making her 16 years old this past March, an exceptional long life for any dog. The first rabbit shot off her developing trailing skills happened on a November morning when she was eight months old. She was beyond hunting this past season, but the previous year she was still circling cottontails to waiting hunters.

She was one of those generational dogs that was blessed with rare talents beyond normal breeding. Her nose was exceptional. Rabbits could not shake her trailing, and I was fortunate to be part of hunts when she would circle a rabbit numerous times because the bunny was cleaver enough to sneak past waiting hunters, or some rather poor shooting kept the quarry moving.

She just never gave up on a trail. If her barking stopped it was because a rabbit had retreated into a hole or another form of safety where any trailing animal could not penetrate. When that happened, Molly was smart enough to quickly return to the hunters and begin searching for another scent of rabbit.

My friend, and Molly’s owner, is the sort of person who keeps meticulous records of all his hunting episodes and who he shared them with. He does this for a hobby, but his timely notes and detailed entries into his notebook have often dispelled arguments that pop up when we hunters gather to reminisce about past hunting experiences.

His records of hunting with Molly are superb. Most of those jotted notes involved a group of four of us who did the majority of hunting with this beagle, but through the years, 17 different hunters ranging from “first-time youth afield” to “old guys” shot rabbits courtesy of Molly’s trailing ability.

We always had one edict when hunting bunnies with Molly — never jump shoot a fleeing rabbit. When a rabbit broke cover we simply called the little dog to the trail, and off she went. By sticking to this rule, my friend’s accounts showed that a total of 570 rabbits were harvested off of this exceptional rabbit dog.

She was an amazing hunter, but also a wonderful companion to my friend and his wife, and a springer spaniel that shared a home with her. She is greatly missed, even by those who only hunted beside her.

In my conception of any afterlife that I have clung to since my youth, I can see myself greeting family and friends who have gone before me when I get to heaven. But since time is of no matter there, I am not rushed to move beyond that reunion. But eventually, I see myself gathering all of the beagles my family and I have ever owned and buried, and heading toward a distant side hill of thick cover in heaven.

Once there, that pack of beagles will begin to sniff and search within that full and perfect underbrush, and soon begin to chase a rabbit. There will be no shooting, just the trailing movement of barking dogs following a rabbit just as smart and just as determined as those hounds. The yelping and howling will certainly be heavenly to hear, and I will then know for certain I’m in paradise.

Molly is now a huge part of that pack.

Categories: Bloggers on Hunting, Pennsylvania – Ron Steffe

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