River Bottom Beagles

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Did you have fun sleeping out in the tent Molly?

No.

How come you stayed out there all night?

I didn’t know I fell asleep.

I saw you come in the house this morning and then you went back out to the tent and went back to sleep.

All those birds were singing songs.

Do you want another pancake?

I know why crickets are called crickets! They’re out there cricketing all night long. CREEEEKIT!! CREEEEKIT!! CREEEEKIT!!

 

Another wolf story

A metal deer stand out in the ugly clearcut, cammo cloth hanging loose and flapping in the wind. Two year old popple whips growing thick right up to the jack pines on the far side. Daylight fading from a gray sky. Wicked wind blowing out of the east. I can’t hear anything.

I’ve always needed time in the woods with my dogs. Since Lisa died it’s one of the few things that makes sense to me. I can get by OK without much food or sleep but wouldn’t last long without this.

We started in the spruce trees, the dogs ran for a long time in the same area. I saw wolf tracks in the snow when I drove in here, but they’re everywhere now. You can’t get away from them.

The dogs brought their rabbit close, then turned west. I heard a strange voice in with the dogs. What the heck was that? They trailed west, out of hearing. I checked their tracks, dog tracks over rabbit tracks.

They should have come back. I called, blew the truck horn. Taylor came in. Then Honey. Good dogs. May was barking lost over south of us. Looking for me. Lovey never left, she was still running where she started. Speedy and River were missing, picking up River’s collar over west on the far side of the clear cut.

After listening from the deer stand I walked back in the spruces and caught Lovey. We drove over to the other side of the clear cut and back in on a trail. A snowshoe hare just off the trail when I got out of the truck, ran back in the brush. Couldn’t hear any dogs running.

I started walking a four wheeler trail and May found me. I tried to get her to run the hare but she wasn’t leaving my side. I tied her to a tree and let her bark, hoping to bring in River and Speedy.

My trail was heading north but the tracker said the dogs were west. There’s a big, nasty tamarack swamp on the other side of these jack pines, I’m still thinking River and Speedy just don’t want to quit. Walked back in until the brush got too thick, went back out to the road and checked just south of the tamaracks, River’s collar said she was still back in the jack pines.

It’s pretty dark and I don’t have any light with. I followed the tracker back into the thick brush, past where I stopped last time. Pushed my way through. And found River, dead. Her blood soaking into the snow. I spent some time there screaming curses at wolves. All wolves and the people that protect them. Then I picked up Irene’s dog and carried her back to the truck.

I drove about 80 back to the house to get and light and fix my old MN 10 receiver so I could tune in Speedy’s collar. A movie of those dirty slimey wolves eating my dog running through my head the whole time. Alligators with a fur coat and long legs. Killing machines.

It was black dark when I got back and I couldn’t pick up Speedy’s collar. Walked back in to where I found River and looked around. Tracks and broken brush leading away, I followed. I got down and shined the light ahead. Eyes. I thought I found Speedy but all I found when I got there was more blood on the snow. Somebody died here. The eyes I saw were gone.

Fuckin wolves always leave a trail of death and destruction behind, a fact I have used before to find my dead dogs. I picked the freshest set of wolf tracks and followed them. I followed them a long ways. Big ones. They were FRESH. Going away from me. I never found Speedy.

Back at the house I called Kila to tell Irene about her dog, but she was at Gramma Gramma’s. Talking to Kila I caught myself calling her Leese. It’s what I always called Lisa. Woke up in the middle of the night from a dream filled with beagles, and Lisa.

Honey slept in the house that night. Her and River have lived together since the day they were born. Honey is usually happy and busy. That night she laid there and wouldn’t lift her head. She was there. She saw what happened, I’m sure of it.

The next morning I went to see the girls and tell Irene about her dog. She turned away with tears in her eyes. That hurt more than anything.

I went back that day and walked all over that woods. There were a lot more wolf tracks than when I left the night before. I never found my dog.

Ghost in this house

I don’t live here anymore. This house is a cold and empty place. I keep the doors closed and heat shut off in the kids bedrooms. Spider webs and dust in places there never used to be. The kitchen range rarely gets used and the table hasn’t seen a family in a long time. It’s just a place to sleep and eat and leave to go back to work. The kennel is a busy place full of life. The house, not so much. Sometimes when I’m downstairs I hear noise upstairs, but there’s no one here. Ghosts and memories don’t make very good company.

Molly and Irene came down to stay this weekend. Opened up the bedrooms and turned up the heat. Books and dinosaurs and stuffed animals all over. Horses and toys making it hard to walk through the living room. Puppies running around and kids laughing and noise. Had to go shopping for chocolate milk.

Molly watched the same dinosaur movie three times. Irene fell asleep in the recliner with her arm around the library book she got Saturday, she woke up and finished it Sunday morning. We had pancakes for breakfast and the table was full. Hurts to think how much you missed all this.

Now the girls have gone home and the ghosts come crowding back.

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Noble

Good name for this puppy.
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What you do

I’ve spent the last few days and weekends putting families and beagle puppies together and it’s made me think of something Lisa once said. Lisa had a way of saying things that made me rethink what I thought I knew. I wish I had written them all down.

I have the deepest respect for doctors and nurses. I have spent many days watching them work. No one works harder or puts in more hours and days on the job than these people. I’ve seen them come in at seven in the morning and again at midnight, and again on weekends and holidays. Time and time again I watched them pull Lisa back from the brink and give her more time to be here with us.

I can’t imagine a more meaningful way to spend your time. Kind of makes how I spend my days seem pretty unimportant.

So it stopped me in my tracks one day when Lisa said “I love what I do, raising beagles. I get to make people happy and see little kids smile. I would hate to be some doctor that has to tell people that their child is sick and may not make it.”

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Why

Sundae and Law were trailing a rabbit just down the hill from where Lisa’s lives now. Lisa would have loved the sound. She loved Law, he was her pride and joy. The day we buried Lisa’s ashes here, Law attached himself to Lisa’s mom’s side. He barely knew Lisa’s mom, but must have sensed the relationship and was looking for something he had been missing. Sundae has his picture on Lisa’s headstone. I hope someday, when I am laid to rest next to Lisa that someone will let some of my old dogs trail rabbits close by.

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I am afraid of wolves. You should have a healthy respect for a predator that weighs as much as you do and likes to kill. I’m not afraid for myself, but for my dogs and the little girls that spend time out here with those dogs I worry a lot.

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Wolves were taken off the endangered list long ago by the people that are trained to manage wildlife. But politics and some judge from New York City or some place put them back on the list. Well meaning but misguided people that have no idea of the blood they have on their hands.

This is mostly farm land. Wolves have moved in because there are so many in this state they have no where else to go.

New Years day, as Law and Sundae were singing their song to Lisa and all the dogs buried near her, two wolves heard and came to eliminate the competition. I found Sundae not 20 yards from the cemetery. Lisa would have cried at the sound.

Law made it back to the house. His blood soaked my jeans and my tears soaked his fur as he died in my arms. I still can’t understand why.

Sundae and Law will have their own headstone near Lisa’s.

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