It all started back in fall of 2007, in Denver, Colorado. My roommates decided that it was time we got a four-legged friend. One roommate had her heart set on a basset hound and the other on a Dalmatian. I had been dog-deprived for two years and knew I needed something, but retained an open mind about what kind of dog. Together, we decided we wanted a rescue dog.
We came across a couple of great rescue organizations and heard of a Dalmatian at a shelter near us. We made the drive over, but no Dalmatian. So, we looked at other dogs for over two hours. The last stop was in the sick dog ward. There she was--a beautiful dog. But she was emaciated.
The first question out of my mouth was, "Why is she so skinny?" The shelter person told me, “People starve them to make them hunt.”
[Editor’s comment: Coonhounds hunt just fine even if they are well fed. There are lots of reasons coonhounds come into shelters emaciated—most frequently, because they have gotten lost while hunting and haven’t eaten for several days. However, many coonhounds are not allowed to hunt on a full stomach because that can result in bloat, a potentially fatal problem, and an all-day or all-night hunt can burn off five pounds from a 65-pound coonhound easily. Of course, some hunters do abuse their dogs. On the other hand, many very poor coon hunters take better care of their hounds than they do of themselves. Shelters often perpetuate a lot of myths about coonhounds and coon hunters that make it hard to find pet homes them. Coonhound Companions was formed to help correct that problem.]
I decided to put the skinny Bluetick on a 24-hour hold to allow me to research the breed, since I had never even heard of coonhounds.
[Coonhound Companions wishes more potential adopters would do their homework like this!]
Long story short, I adopted her. If I hadn't put her on the 24-hour hold, she wouldn't have been there the next day. People at that shelter believed coonhounds to be "undesirable" and put them down faster than, say, a Lab. They warned me that they are stupid dogs that are not good for much. [For more info on the breed, see 1 ]
[Ridiculous myth! No wonder that shelter’s coonhounds weren’t getting adopted!]
My Sadie Mae is not stupid and has proven her intelligence over and over again to me.
Sadie seemed a little bored, so I started to train her at home, in Denver, to give her something to keep her busy.
[Engaging coonhounds in mental work often keeps them out of mischief. Bored coonhounds have good imaginations and can engage in naughty behavior!]
Sadie was always able to pick something up after about the third time seeing it done. So, my roommates and I decided that we needed to expand her knowledge. I saw something on Animal Planet showing off dogs doing amazing things, so I decided to teach her myself. She loved to play tug, so we started off with tugging on the dishtowel and then progressed to opening the cupboard. The fridge was a greater temptation for Sadie since tasty food was so close to the front. After losing a couple of hot dogs and some chicken, we decided that the teaching her to open the fridge on her own was not the best idea!
By now, Sadie May has been trained in commands for service dogs and she will open cupboards on her own when she is hungry.
[Not uncommon, even for untrained coonhounds. Childproof latches may prove necessary in some cases!]
She opens cupboards and the fridge with a towel. She has mastered removing socks from your feet without causing pain. She is also trained to match the speed of the person walking with her (never pulling). She will walk next to a wheelchair and match its speed. Sadie has been trained for Touch, so when I put a Post-it in front of her nose, she will touch it with her nose. I can then put the Post-it on a light switch and she will turn it off or on. She will pick some things up on command, but doesn’t like to do this with metal objects. She also knows: Back, Brace, Take It, Drop It, Leave It, Ask (she will touch you with her paw for an object instead of howling or jumping), Fix It (to get leash untangled from feet), Boundary (not allowed outside a certain area). I got most of my ideas from a website 2.
She proved herself so smart at home that I decided we should train in AKC-style obedience and agility. The first class we took was Intermediate Obedience, and then we took three progressively difficult levels of Agility. The instructor, in Michigan, where we live now, runs the number one and two AKC-Agility Corgis in the U.S., and competes in everything with her dogs. She took one look at Sadie and almost died laughing. I still remember her words: "She will never live up to your expectations."
[It's not just shelter people that have misconceptions about coonhounds. A lot of trainers do too!]
That stung, but Sadie and I proved her wrong. Sadie was the first in her class for everything--the first with off-leash heel, the first for off-leash recall, the first coonhound to take agility training off-leash outdoors with this trainer and with the AKC club I train with.
She doesn't get to open doors at our current residence out of fear she'll get a hold of the peanut butter jar.
Sadie’s agility career came to an end suddenly at the age of three-and-a-half, when we learned that she suffers from a back problem, calcification of the backbones. [This is a problem common in dachshunds, bassets, and other “dwarf” breeds 3.] Our vet called it Spondylosis deformans. It is also known as “bridging” or “calcifying“ of the backbones. It may be a genetic issue, although it can also be caused by trauma. 4 It can either remain stable or it can progressively get worse. These days, Sadie is not allowed to jump anything over 16 inches and has been on joint medicine. One day she may be paralyzed from this disease, but we take it a day, week, month, and year at a time. We do x-rays every year and there hasn’t yet been any change. Hang the expense. Her well-being comes first for me.
Many say that coonhounds should not be off leash. That may be true for the majority of coonhounds, but not for all. I have owned Sadie five years now and she has been off leash for three-and-a-half years and HAS NEVER, EVER run off or disobeyed a “Come” command in her life. Although she is not a hunter in the traditional manner (when she ran into a raccoon once, she ran the other way!), she has taken up hunting on her own. Her prey of choice? Mice!
Sadie is stubborn when it comes to sleeping in a comfy bed and will chase off her brother the Mountain Cur (another rescue) [often used for squirrel hunting 5 ].
She wakes me up at 5 a.m. for breakfast every single day. She hates snow, rain or any other precipitation.
My Sadie Mae is not overly lovey and doesn’t play much with toys. Yet she is my best friend, and my snuggle buddy whenever it’s cold. She loves to sleep, eat, and hunt mice--and not always in that order. She is the best dog I have ever owned or even known.
Coonhounds see into your soul and love you with all they have. I was lucky enough to find a coonhound, my Sadie Mae. Even though I added a mountain cur to our family, I will always have at least one coonhound. I need one to complete my soul.
1 http://www.ukcdogs.com/WebSite.nsf/Breeds/BLUETICKCOONHOUNDRevisedJanuary12011 or http://www.Bluetickbreedersofamerica.com/
4 http://www.petmd.com/dog/conditions/musculoskeletal/c_multi_spondylosis_deformans or http://www.dogstuff.info/spondylosis_deformans_lanting.html or