A New Years Eve Tail… Two Tails

Pat Robertson with Vanilla, left, and Bessie

BLYTHEWOOD – Well, it was an interesting early New Year’s Eve. I went out to the dog kennels to feed and discovered two of my female beagles were gone. We had just erected three new chain-link kennels adjoining my old kennels and these two dogs were quartered in the end kennel.

One was Walking Tall Bessie, who has four wins and is just 24 points shy of her AKC Championship. The other was her daughter, Up The Creek Cherry Vanilla, less than two years old, who shows a lot of promise. I certainly did not want to lose either of them.

They had found a bad spot in the chain-link near the bottom and worried it until it gave way enough so they could squeeze out. It was almost dark when I found they were gone, so I figured I’d spend New Year’s Day walking the woods around the house and riding up and down adjoining roads, looking for them.

About 7 or so I walked out on the front porch just to listen. One thing about beagles: they will find some animal’s scent and trail it. I thought I heard a sound, not much more than a murmur, well down in the woods beyond my kennels. I could not tell if it was a dog barking or just what few leaves left on the trees were rustling in the slight breeze. It was a low indistinct sound, but I was sure that there was something happening way down in the woods, so I grabbed my flashlight and a leash and started walking.

Past the dog kennels, past the big oak that blew down during a violent storm a few years ago, down the hill towards the dry creek bottom. The deeper in the woods I went the thicker the trees and brush. With a heavy cloud cover the only light was my flashlight beam. But the further I went the louder the murmur grew. Finally, I heard a distinct recognizable bark. That’s Bessie, I thought. I zeroed in on the sound and soon spotted a white form between the trees in the darkness. I knew immediately that it was Cherry Vanilla, so named because she is mostly white with some lemony-red markings. I caught another movement in the shadows behind Vanilla. It was Bessie, more traditional in Beagle coloration – brown with a black blanket.

They were reluctant to leave whatever it was they were trailing, bur I hooked both dogs to the same leash and started back in the direction that I thought was towards my kennels. I knew it was uphill but it was a big hill. You need solid homing instincts walking through the woods on a dark night or you can wind up a long ways from where you want to be. I was zig-zagging my way up the hill, but not seeing anything familiar in the flashlight beam, until finally the dogs in the kennels heard us tromping through the woods and began a serenade of howling. I zeroed in on that sound and soon broke through the woods where I could see the chain-link fence of the kennels and the porch light of my house in the distance.

The deep woods can be a strange and foreboding place on a dark night. It’s always a relief to reach a point where you see something familiar and know you have made it out safe and sound. Bessie and Vanilla were soon ensconced in a secure kennel and neither they or any of the other dogs seem to be bothered by the fireworks blasting away in the neighborhoods nearby. And now I can welcome in the New Year and hit the bed without worrying about where my dogs are.

Happy New Year!