We were so sad we couldn’t live another day, it seemed, without a dog. So again, we made the trip to the animal shelter, Buddy Dog Humane Society, in Sudbury, Mass.
There, across from the cage where, ten years before, our Dalmatian had stood, gorgeous, noble and proud, waiting for a home, we watched a large, black, white and chestnut-colored pup fold his improbably long legs into the confines of a tiny round bed. We laughed, for the first time in weeks.
Some sound other than the furious barking of the shelter dogs attracted his attention. He unfolded his nimble body, stretched impossibly tall, and trotted off to investigate. Back he came, curiosity satisfied, and plopped down again. We laughed.
We took him for a walk to test him out. That was the plan, anyway. He took us on a dizzying tour of the shelter’s grounds. We were convinced he was the one. “What mix is he?” we asked, as we put down our deposit. “Actually, we think he’s a purebred Treeing Walker Coonhound,” the shelter worker said.
When we went to pick him up, he spooked at a ball of cat hair rolling across the parking lot, then refused to get in the car. The shelter worker managed to coax him in, and knowing the shelter’s rule that I had to take him to the vet within 10 days, we practiced every day. We tried many treats. We had dog friends show him what to do. We climbed in, and out, and in, and out, ourselves. “He’s a hound,” said our neighbor, a Basset hound owner. “What does that mean?” I asked frantically. She just smiled knowingly. “You’ll find out.”
Hounds think a lot. Tucker considers where he wants to go—and doesn’t. Never having walked on a leash, he would simply sit when he had different plans than we did. We called it the Plop o’Doom, because 85 lbs. of stubborn hound are impossible to move. Tempting treats in one’s pocket are a necessity.
Lesson # 2. A hound is stealthy.
They’re hunters, so they’re experts at moving without making a sound. Tucker is so quiet, we often think he’s slipped out somehow and gone gallivanting. But no, he’s usually asleep in one of his many favorite spots or simply waiting to be noticed.
Lesson #3. A hound is sensitive. At first, Tucker didn’t know the difference between his food and ours. Rather, it was clear he preferred ours. When I sprayed him with water (a technique that would barely quiet our barky Dalmatian) after he tried to eat our dinner, he stood shaking in the hallway. I never did that again.
Lesson #4. A hound is gentle and friendly. Where our Dalmatian tended toward fear-aggressiveness, Tucker loves everyone and every dog, especially tiny ones. He can play with the big guys and the little ones. He stands still so toddlers can pet him. Easy!
Lesson #5. A hound is smart. Now that Tucker loves the car, we have to spell the word, otherwise we’ll get knocked over as he races to the door. He was easy to train, and possesses several graduation certificates. It seems like he knows what we’re going to do even before we do. He’ll also go get his leash when he’s ready for a walk.
Lesson #6. A hound sleeps a lot. Our Dalmatian was always underfoot, begging to go out for a run—three times a day! A coonhound’s job is to hang around until needed, so they’re perfectly willing to wait for a walk. Then, they’d like a good, long one.
When admirers used to ask us if we would recommend they adopt a Dalmatian, we would have to tell them no. We were up to the challenge, and loved it, but knew many families wouldn’t have the time or energy to keep up with the exuberant breed.
Now, when people ask about our hound—and they do, Walker hounds are known mainly to hunters in the Northeast—we enthusiastically can recommend the breed. Tucker barely sheds. He’s extremely quiet—no barking, and his throaty bay and his antics make everyone laugh. We laugh all the time now, with our goofy, sweet, lovable hound.
by Lisa Rogers