Somehow, he sensed, the old Beagle knew. Was it the shorter days ? The colder nights ? Or maybe the short Training hunts getting ready for the opening day ?
“Who knows ?”, he thought, “but he sure nuff’ knows !”. “I don’t know just how, but that old gray muzzled Beagle somehow knows”.
Raised from a litter of pups that had been born not too long after deer season, he had been carried on deer hunts by his mother, even before he was born. It was like he had been born into the job. Before his eyes were open he had made many trips from the kennel to the house where he recieved supplimentary nutrients. Content then,with his belly full, he would doze on his masters chest, learning the sound of his heartbeat. The sound of his breathing. The warm scent of his master became his “safe haven”.
During this “socialization” period where he learned the sounds of home, his master watched the evening news, stroking his head gently.
This bond that developed would never be forgotten by his master or him for the remainder of their lives.
Not too long after their first steps, the litter of pups was taken out to deer camp to learn of things like the smell of a campfire, and the sound of a shot being fired. This time of romping in the freedom of the outdoors was especially fun for the litter, it showed in their actions and vocalizations.
They learned the smell of coffee brewing and laughing around the campfire. It became a second home to them all. It was clear that the genetic code in them was strong when one day they had a giant tug of war with a squirrel hide. The fun game suddenly turned into a sibling feud over possesion of the hide.
As their final puppy shots were administered and their records updated the master began to think of getting ready for the next deer season.
Many hunts and deer seasons passed.
The old Beagle had helped train many pups, mostly his own. Gray around the muzzle now, he didn’t move as fast as he used to. His hearing was not as keen as it was in years past, and he didn’t see as well.
Time had made its permanent changes in his life.
His nose however was still as good as it had ever had been, and he was nearly always the first to strike a deer track. His master had made a habit of “starting” him down a buck’s track when he was a pup, and he had turned it into an art form.
The whole camp knew his broken bawl when he “opened” on a buck’s trail. Everyone could tell by his voice when the was “moving the track”, or just “cold trailing”.
Everyone knew that when he was on a track that it was likely a buck, and he seemed to prefer the older, “stinkier” bucks. If he was in a cast with younger less experienced dogs, and they opened up on a track that he didn’t, the standers knew that it was likely a lesser deer. The club elders would know that it was time to slip away from the stand and go to the campfire. There they would meet to drink coffee and listen to the race while commenting on the direction of travel and which grandson’s deer stand they might be heading for.
Soon the old Beagle would loose intrest in the track of the lesser deer, and he too would return to camp.
All the oldtimers would understand, pat him on the head and covertly slip him a treat. For they also had little intrest in a lesser deer.
Laying by the campfire listening to the stories, you could tell. You could tell, and there was no doubt about it. When he was in deer camp with his old buddies, he was in his element. It just simply was not ever going to get any better than this. Then he would doze off. In his dreams by the fire he could be seen to be moving his paws while dreaming about running an old buck, occasionaly making small sounds in his excitement.
Yes, it was time.
His last deer season. Note the graying muzzle.