Pretty Close

I ain’t the kind believes in ghosts, But some nights I get pretty close” Chris Knight – North Dakota

This happened last spring. It’s happened before. I don’t talk about it. I can tell the story this way though.

Windy was due any time and she was big. She was in a kennel at the end of my bed. Early spring cold and dark outside. Black sky, bright stars and deep quiet. I had a good fire going and the house was nice and warm. Nobody here but me, Buttercup sleeping on the bed, and Windy. I stayed up late with her, got up and checked on her a couple times during the night, but no puppies.


Fell asleep with the light on. I was sleeping hard about 4 AM and then Lisa was there, by the bed. She said “Wake up! Time to get to work!”

What?

“Get up! I delivered the first two puppies for you, but you need to wake up!”

I could hear a puppy crying and crying and I said Where is that puppy?

She said “By your bed. Time to get up!”

I finally got woke up. There was a puppy crying. Windy was in labor. Yep, she had two puppies. One was way at the end of the kennel and was cold and wet and crying. I tucked it in by mom and it quieted right down. Then I had to sit there a minute.

Lisa spent a good share of her life next to the sound of newborn puppies before she left us, right here in this place. The sound of puppies was the sound that called to her. Maybe it still does.

Windy delivered nine puppies and raised them all.

Going Out

When I brought Ray home from the vets office I bred a female to him before I put the cone back on him and put him away. He chewed the cone off right away. Bred another female to him a couple weeks later.


Friday morning driving up to the farm again with the truck loaded with dogs, a hell of a fight broke out in the back. I had a bunch of females in heat in the cab, all the males were in the dog box. I pulled over on a busy road, dropped the tailgate, opened the box and grabbed Ray by the back legs and managed to pull him out without getting bitten and without any dogs getting out on the highway. Ray was able to get one last good bite on July before the fight ended.


Didn’t have anywhere else to put him so Ray made the rest of the trip sitting up front with me in the driver’s seat, face covered in blood and a happy grin, looking out at all the cars we passed.


I hunted Ray hard this spring, fixing the sound of that loud pretty bawl mouth in my brain, filing it away with all the others than have gone on ahead of him. Once on hard packed old snow he got off by himself and ran the same rabbit for hours without any kind of mistake.

I’ll be looking and sorting through all these puppies for one like him. Ray is buried up on the hill now.

Talk Radio

I was watching the dogs coming in on the garmin and getting them watered and settled in the truck while Pete was out watching the two that were still out running. He called on the radio.

What dog is that?

Which one?

The chop mouthed dog.

May.

Who?

MAY. M-A-Y like the month that comes after April.

That’s a good dog!

She’s okay.

That’s one of the best dogs I’ve seen!

You’ve been hunting with her for years.

You can’t tell anything with that big pack running and all that noise! That dog is about as good as they get.

Still one dog with her.

Kind of a scratchy voice?

Brienne. She’s got a big loud bawl mouth, she’s just tired from running the last two days.

That little dog?

She’s just a minnow.

That May is a good dog. There ain’t no checks. Just steady running.

We drove down the trail, brush scratching both sides of the truck and got close. The rabbit came by and both dogs close behind. I called them in, May didn’t want to quit. The garmin said she ran 20 miles.

Pete passed up 80 years old a while back. He got Lisa started raising beagles, he and I have been trading dogs back and forth for a long time. Pete bred a dog named Cider years ago that set the standard for our dogs. I still see him in a lot of the pictures many of you send me, and in dogs like May and Monday and Melody. Cider wasn’t like other beagles. He was one of a kind, until I got busy breeding more like him 🙂

Coming home

The road is more like a deer trail. It’s late at night and cold. 20 dogs in the warm truck backed up to the kennel.

Chris Stapleton is playing on the kennel radio. The local radio station plays in here all the time, even when we are away. It’s quiet and still in here and it feels like me and Stapleton are the only people left.

I’m filling up water dishes and putting down dog food. The day started early, doing chores and taking care of dogs. A long night at work and then back to Litchfield to load up the dogs for the two hour drive north. Since Lisa died I just can’t stay at that house anymore.

Leave the kennel doors open and start letting dogs out of the truck. They all run into the kennel. Except Buttercup. Thinks she’s a house dog and she never lets me forget.

Pack in my stuff and build a fire. That wood furnace is the heart of this big old house, pumping heat through it’s arteries out to the far corners.

With the fire going good Buttercup and me walk down and get the mail. It’s black dark, I ain’t much for yard lights and there’s no neighbors. The stars are bright, but there’s more stars behind them and more behind those, pretty much the whole sky is covered with stars. You just need to be out on a cold, clear, dark night to see it.

Talk

You tend to make too much noise. Your dog is listening for the occasional sound that means something to him. But he’s paying more attention to the tone of your voice. The way you move and what your hands are doing. He’s probably using his nose to tell him what kind of mood you are in.

He’s telling you things all the time also. Trying to make you understand. Most of the time we don’t.