The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

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July 17, 2014

Coda and Callie’s excellent adventure

BECKLEY — How is it something that you profess to love so much can cause you so much anxiety and grief? No, I’m not talking about dealing with your children (or your spouse). This is worse. This is about dogs. More specifically, hunting dogs.  

Anyone you know who keeps hunting dogs has more than one story about their dogs running away, getting lost or just in general being MIA — missing in action. Whether it is a pointer bird dog, a beagle, cur dog, coon or fox hound, most hunting dogs, you see, are not wired like your average pet. They want to hunt! The intense desire to hunt makes a dog desirable to us, the dog owners. The problem comes during the off season, when the dog is left to lie about the pen or yard and hatch evil schemes of escape.

Don’t tell me that dogs don’t do this, OK? I have kept hunting dogs all my life and I have just about seen it all. I have spent hours, weeks and months driving country roads and byways, looking for a dog. One of the things that has always amazed me is you can look for days for your dog, always fearing the worst. You are waiting, hoping and praying for the call that someone has found him. You come around a bend in the road and your dog is sitting there seemingly waiting for the 12 o’clock bus. He gives you a look that says, “What’s up?” Like you just saw him at MacDonalds that morning.

I freely admit that my dogs are the worst (or best) when it comes to escaping. I am sure that I am well known in my town for this. To many I am probably “that guy who is always looking for his dogs.” Dogs care not a whit about this. They have no concept of how they embarrass you.

I once got a call, and I am not making this up, that my two dogs were in a nearby tavern, a bar. No, not waiting outside the building like polite little doggies. They were in the bar mingling with the patrons, probably bumming quarters for the juke box and buying a round for the house, assuring the bartender that I would take care of it all when I got there.

I know that I should have a bomb proof pen and fence. I go for long periods and there is no problem, no escapes. Then you go out in the back yard one evening and man! No one is home. I really do think that they have a pair of wire cutters hidden in the back fence. I also think that this latest rash of escapes all started after they saw that World War II movie with Steve McQueen in the prison camp.

My latest tale of woe started on a Saturday evening about two weeks ago. I discovered the dogs were gone and started my routine driving the neighborhood in hopes of snagging them as they crossed a road somewhere. No luck. Saturday night dragged on into Sunday and no sign of them. By Sunday afternoon I was getting that nagging old feeling like, are you going to see them again?

The clouds parted and many prayers were answered when we got the call Sunday afternoon. We jumped in the truck and rushed off to the house of a very nice man who called us. Here is the kicker: It was over 20 miles away! Not just any old 20 miles away, this was on the other side of a major river gorge, the New River Gorge, to be exact. That is a lot of rocks, river, rhododendron thickets and rattlesnakes for two bird dogs to traverse in less than 24 hours.

It was 20 miles by road, only heaven knows how far it was by the route the two miscreants took. Coda, the old brown dog was on the front porch almost unable to walk. Callie, the white pointer was actually in the man’s house, enjoying the air conditioning. I walked into the house and she gave me a look that said “Hey, what’s up?”

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