I can't truly say that I am disappointed with any of my fuzzy little children. But like most parents, I have visions of greatness for them that they sometimes don't live up to.
Of the many great qualities of beagles, one of my favorites is how they react so excitedly when they smell a rabbit. They start audibly snorting at the ground, the ears perk, the body takes on a spring-like tension from the excitement. In moments, they are tugging at the leash, yowling, as they start following the scent.
Recently, as I was walking Sherman, I noticed bunny tracks in the dusting of new fallen snow. As usual, Sherman was sniffing at the ground while we were going for a walk. He typically cruises along with his nose skimming just above the ground. With anticipation, I waited for the inevitable.
"Doe de doe de doe. Humm, is that where Maggy peed? Doe de do. Wait a minute. Is that a stick?" (Tug, tug at the leash). "Hey, I think Rocky peed over there!"
Sherman walked, danced over and sniffed through the rabbit tracks without appearing to even notice. Had he been a child, he could not have missed the disappointment that was surely all over my face. It reminded me of my brother's first attempt at T-ball.
My brother Andy, who is now a doctor, is also quite the athlete. But this wasn't always so. Several decades ago, on a warm, sunny, early summer day, a large crowd of us were enjoying the great American peewee pastime. The batter hits a high pop-up into right field. Andy is sitting on the turf, picking dandelions, as the ball drops to the ground beside him. Our father was devastated.
Time has a way of curing all ills. It took Andy many years before the bloom of youth blossomed into the athletic doctor that he eventually became. (A couple of decades with a personal trainer has also given him the appearance of a Roman statue. I hate that brother). Hopefully, time will work its magic with Sherman and he will morph into the Great Floppy Eared Hunter.
The Prodigal Lab
We all know the parable of the prodigal son. The young man who says to his father, "you are dead to me, give me my inheritance now so I can start living my life my own way."
Eventually, the son returns penniless and is welcomed back with open arms.
On a recent early evening, we put our yellow lab (white lab if you ask me), Rocky, out to "go potty."
Hours passed before we realized that we had not heard him bark his return and request to come back inside.
It was now becoming dark. Growing worried, my wife and I hopped in the car to patrol the nearby housing additions where Rocky sometimes goes to play with some of his four-footed friends. There was no sign of him.
As the night fell and the gloom deepened, we widened our search. We also returned to his favorite spot several times. Still, no sign of him. In six years, this had never happened before.
That night, I volunteered to sleep on the couch to more easily hear him bark at the door. The morning brought no news. Yvette, my wife, was distressed. Calls to the humane shelter and local vets turned up nothing.
Rocky had never shown any interest in getting near the highway, which borders our yard. But secretly, I began to fear that he may have gone up there and been hit by a car. I had a couple of friends search a several mile radius from our house to see if he may have been hit by a car.
As night fell again, Yvette began to imagine all kinds of horrors. She knew her beloved dog was suffering horribly someplace and needed us to rescue him.
As dawn barely began to break on the third day, I thought I faintly heard the jingle of Rocky's collar. I nudged Yvette, but we both concluded I was imaging things. Well, that nudge triggered Yvette's "first of the morning ritual." From the bathroom, she declared "I hear a bark!"
I didn't hear a thing, but who was I to break her heart?
Getting up, I went to the back door. There were no paw prints in the new fallen snow. I decided to whistle. Nothing. I whistled again. Still nothing. I whistled a third time and final time then started to close the door.
Suddenly, I heard the jingle of a collar as Rocky galloped around the corner and up onto the back porch.
The prodigal lab had returned. Now to slaughter the fatted calf and have a party. Being low on ground beef and similar foodstuffs, we prepared a heaping bowl of kibble and two eggs added to it. Rocky was not at all interested.
Why would he turn his nose up at a favorite?
Then we noticed that he wasn't dirty. He was well fed, clean and uninjured. He must have been living with another family.
Rocky now has a brand new ID tag and is on potty probation.