I have an old coonhound named Sam. We aren’t really sure how old Sam is, he was someone else’s throwaway who landed at our door. Kennedy was on the front porch one evening and Sam just sort of ambled up onto the porch and took over our hearts. Kennedy came and got Ken and I out of bed so we could see what was outside. She excitedly led the way and what we found was one of the most pitiful things I’ve ever seen.
Sam is a blue-tick coon hound. He has big chocolate ears, a sad brown face and his body is a map of liver spots and ticking. His ticking is creamy white with blue/black tick marks. When he found us, he probably weighed less than fifty pounds. His coat was dull and coarse and he had more ticks on him than I ever thought could get on a dog. Ken and I sat down with Kennedy and Sam just walked up and rested his head on my knees and sighed really big. It was like he was saying, “I’m so tired.” Belle soon joined us and for the next few days we spent any free time picking ticks off of Sam. Kennedy would rather cut her fingers off than touch bugs, and yet she loving pulled hundreds of nasty bugs from Sam. There were hundreds around his eyes and so many in and around his ears. That was the worst of it. They were so tiny and it felt like we would never get them all. We also started feeding this skinny hound. You could run your fingers down his sides and count every rib. His shoulder blades stuck out like sails on a ship. He was just all angles. Except for his big, loppy ears. Sam has great ears. Anyway, we fed him dozens of scrambled eggs and hot dogs and anything else we thought would put weight on him. Ken got up one morning and made biscuits and gravy, after all, gravy makes you fat! We groomed and nurtured and fattened and loved this sweet dog back into doggy shape.
It wasn’t long and Sam made it into the house and was taking regular naps in the sun beams crossing the end of the sofa. He moves with the slowness and ease of an old timer. He saunters around the house, stopping to chuff things out, sizing things up and making sure things are at the right. He is an affectionate scoundrel. He loves hugs. He doesn’t seem to realize his size, which is now closer to eighty pounds than the scrawny fifty he was when he landed here. When I sit in my chair, he comes over and puts his front paws up on the foot stool and slowly starts maneuvering his way into my lap. Usually I am trying, unsuccessfully, to explain to him that he is too big to be in my lap. It would surprise you how small he can make himself when he is determined. He lowers his head and pushes up against your chest with his forehead and just stands there. It’s like he’s saying he is so thankful. Or he’s telling you he will keep your secrets. You can trust a dog with anything. They listen and love and in the end, you both feel good. You can’t say no to Sam. It would break his heart…and mine.
I don’t know if you’ve ever been around a coonhound, but they don’t bark, they bawl. Sammy has the most mournful bay. It seems to start around his tail, by the time it gets to his throat, his head is thrown back and a deep siren of a call comes out of him. I can’t get enough of it. Even after this many years. Other’s aren’t quite as passionate. Belle has a friend who fishes with his grandfather on our lake, she has had more than one phone call telling her to shut her dumb dog up, he’s scaring the fish away. His cry does echo all across this lake. Wherever you are on the lake, you can hear Sammy. He also loves to swim. If he gets out, oh my gosh. First, you can forget catching him. Stubborn. He doesn’t hurt anything, but he loves to ‘tree’ cats. He stands at the bottom of the tree and with every breath announces to the world that what he was trailing has been caught. When he gets bored, or hot, he heads for the water. Not just in and out. He gets in, leisurely gliding in until his feet no longer touch, then he just swims. Back and forth. It stresses me to no end in the summer months. I am afraid someone is going to come in to our little cove and run right over him without ever knowing he was there. When he’s had his fill. he climbs out, shakes off and has a nap in the sun under the huge oak tree in the front yard. People in the neighborhood always stop to say hi to him. He has a big, easy grin and he loves a bit of a scratch behind those big ears.
He has become the favorite of everyone in the family, but his heart is really Kennedy’s. She isn’t home much, she’s out adulting. He waits. He knows her car. Just as soon as he hears her, he starts in. Sound the hounds. Out the doggy door, to the fence, in the doggy door to the front door and back. This is a constant loop until she comes in. Then he hugs her. He stands up, wraps his front paws around her neck, puts his forehead against hers and just stands there. He is so happy she is here. For the next three or four hours, no other animal will be able to get anywhere near her. She is his. He chuffs and gruffs and lays across her. It’s obvious to me. She found him and saved him. He came to her. She said it best, “God sure gave us a special gift when he had Sam show up.”. That’s the way we all feel.
I became a true coonhound mom the night Sam was out and I thought he was hurt. It was the first night he had gotten out and stayed out all night. I could hear him baying over and over and I was convinced he was stuck somewhere. It was freezing rain outside, I was home alone and I couldn’t stand it, I had to go and see what was wrong. I put my robe on over my pajamas, my muck boots on, snagged Ken’s big ol spot light from the kitchen and went out front and jumped on the mule. The window was iced over, the wind was blowing and I was trying to hold the spotlight and drive. The week earlier, we had lost a tree in the weather and I was convinced he was caught in that tree somewhere looking like Jack Nicholson at the end of the Shining. Mind you, this is about three o’clock in the morning. So I am yelling and yelling for him and suddenly he jumps out in front of me. I swear he was smiling. He was wagging his whole body. He was having fun. I was so mad. I whipped that mule around and headed straight back to the house. Damn dog.
Sam is terrified of storms. I know some dogs are nervous during bad weather. We have two others that don’t do very well during storms. Sam is not even on their scale. He can sense it coming. So on many occasions. he has alerted me to the fact that bad weather was on it’s way. Once the thunder starts, Sam is a full time job. I was the first one who got to see this. I kept telling the family how awful it was, but like most things, everyone poo-poo’s mom. One by one, they have each had their turn. It truly is pitiful. In March, I had just gotten out of the hospital and Sam had gotten out. He was amorously chasing another throw-away pet in our neighborhood who happened to be in heat. He was not coming home. We had been out in the truck, on the mule, on the four-wheeler. We had walked and yelled and bribed. When you got feet from him, he bolted. He was BUSY. Kade and Ken had been trying to get him in, we knew bad weather was coming. They both had to go to work and I was going to be home alone. I was nearly hysterical. Everyone left and I sat and waited, Periodically, I would go out on the front porch and yell for him. He didn’t normally come to the guys, but would usually always come to one of us girls. I yelled til I was horse. I wasn’t supposed to be driving anything but it just kept getting uglier and uglier out. I called Ken and Kade in a panic and they both told me to calm down, Sam was a dog, he would be ok. Well that was the dumbest thing I had ever heard. I took this opportunity to use my furious-ness as the catalyst to stupidity. I got on the four-wheeler, which I never drive. It has power steering and goes two hundred miles an hour and I hate it. It just feels unsafe to me. Especially in the rain, with my eyes, legs and that peripheral vision thing…Off I went. I just kept screaming for Sam. I went up and down all of the dirt roads and all around the neighborhood. I went where he usually went if he managed to escape. Nothing. No sign of Sam. I was freezing. I was shaking so hard, I kept pulling on the handlebars and jerking myself to one side or the other. I kept slipping off the seat because everything was slick from the rain. My hair was in my eyes, the wind was blowing so hard. I decided I’d just better go back home. I got into the house, went straight to the basement and got out of my wet clothes. I grabbed Ken’s robe, it was hanging in the laundry room. I came upstairs, sat down on the couch and just boo-hooed. About that time, Sam walked in the back door. He was soaked to the bone and as cold as I was. I laughed and swatted his butt and then hugged his neck. After drying him off and making him a warm bed on the couch along side the one I made for myself, we cuddled. I cannot tell you the relief I felt.
Our dogs are our family. We have voices for all of them, so we carry out complete conversations we perceive they are having. They all have personalities and quirks that we cater to. We know who is scared of what and who is certainly going to get into trouble if left unattended. They get gifts at Christmas and they have special back to school treats. Although they aren’t going to school. they will be so sad Belle is. They hate it when that big yellow box takes her away for the day. Sam and Tag will stand guard waiting for her to come back home. I don’t know why God chose us for Sam to come to. I know that he has been a comfort to me on so many occasions. I love that big ol coonhound. He will look at you with those big brown, sad eyes and it just makes me smile. I don’t know who decided to throw him away, but I am thankful every day that they did.