Friday, February 10, 2012

Whoever Loveth Me, Loveth My Hound**

My girl in the sun
This evening, as HRH (finally) takes her bath and heads to bed, Zooey is already snoring on her bed.  I can't say as I blame her; HRH was chastised no fewer than ten times for harassing Zooey today.  Most of the infractions were for throwing a blanket over Zooey, calling it a "saddle" and attempting to ride her like she was a pack mule, although there was also the whole rolling the yoga ball on top of the dog incident.
Through all of this pint-sized misconduct, the only action Zooey took was to look pitifully at the adults as if to ask, "Why is she doing this to me?  Please make it stop."  Sometimes she walked slowly away, but unless she went outside, there was really no escaping the toddler torrent.  She didn't growl; she didn't snap; she certainly didn't bite.  She took it like a champ (I think the peanut butter I gave her helped).
Goofing off with the hose
I bring this up because - and my friends know I say this all the time - it just goes to show how wonderful a coonhound can be for a family pet.
Bred to hunt raccoons and other large game (I have a former student whose family has 25 couples - 50 hounds - who help protect their cattle ranch from mountain lions), coonhounds are loud, mouthy, and boisterous.  They are also independent and stubborn.  Some of the coonhound people I know talk about their hounds "closing their ears."  When a scent hound is on the trail, she doesn't hear or listen to you, and it's almost impossible to call her off; Zooey can ignore me with the best of them.  No amount of calling and begging and cajoling will distract her.  That's great if we're out on a hunt.  Not so super when I am just hoping for a stroll through the neighborhood and she suddenly realizes that we're two houses away from a discarded McDonald's bag.
They also make great pillows.
What makes a coonhound the perfect family pet is the fact that they are pack animals.  Coonhounds, beagles, bassets, and their other scent hound kin hunt in packs.  The Husband, HRH, and I are Zooey's pack (Holden is, too, but he won't admit it).  She loves being around us; when we are downstairs, so is Zooey.  When it's time for bed, she goes upstairs with us.  When I'm working during the week, she's generally asleep on the couch behind me (that's "her" couch - the only one she is allowed to be on on a regular basis) or under my desk.  When I take out the trash, Zooey has to follow me.  Of course, this means that I tend to trip over her, as she's always underfoot.  Especially in the kitchen.  But I love that she is always so happy to see me, even when I just run across the street to get the mail.

Snoozing is her forte.
Sometimes I think I was meant to have a coonhound.  One of the first chapter books I remember reading (and selecting) was Where the Red Fern Grows, by Wilson Rawls.  It is also one of the few books that I will never read again.  While it is a wonderful story of the love between the dogs and their human, the end made me cry for three days.  Three. Days.  It was worse than Old Yeller, and I'm pretty sure my mom was about ready to put me in therapy out of desperation to get me to stop crying.  The dogs in the book are two redbone coonhounds, probably the most noble-looking of the six coonhound breeds (it's that shining, russet coat of theirs).  Then of course there is Disney's The Fox and the Hound.  It's one of my favorite Disney films - and one that I can hardly bring myself to watch (again, it's the ending... with Copper and Tod on the train tracks).  Even though I love taking Zooey to UKC-sponsored hunt events, where the raccoon she trails is a "skin" that is doused with raccoon scent (Worst Job Ever?), I know that I could never take her hunting for thinking that whatever she might tree "could" be Tod.
Having a coonhound is
like drinking from a fire hose.
Yes, I know I'm totally anthropomorphizing my dog and possible prey, and yes, I know that I might be taking a cartoon a bit too far.  But that's how I roll.
Of course, Zooey has already graced this blog multiple times in regard to my running.  She is my running buddy and quite possibly the only being on the planet who gets THAT excited to get up at 4:30 for such an activity.  She meets each run with the enthusiasm that only a dog can give.  That enthusiasm is really all that gets me up on those mornings.  That and the fact that Zooey will jump on top of me if I hit the snooze button even once.  I know, though, that even thought I might not want to crawl out of my warm bed, by the time we're ten minutes into the run, I won't regret getting up at all.  I'm one of many who benefit from my loyalty to my loyal companion.  What's great about having a coonhound in this instance is that since coonhounds are hunting dogs, they can run and run and run.  So far, Zooey's only gone 8 miles with me (on longer runs I drop her off at home and head out again), but I know my girl has many more miles in her.
Now, there are many awesome websites out there that can tell you a great deal about coonhounds - what their natural temperament is, how low maintenance their coat is (although their ears are a different story - floppy-eared dogs need aural TLC), and even some great information about who should and should not get a coonhound.  My favorite is Coonhound Companions.  This website was founded by a group of wonderful people who want to spread the word that coonhounds aren't just for hunting but also for keeping your feet warm.
But this is my blog.
So here are my ten favorite things about coonhounds.

  1. Their snoring makes yours much less offensive to the non-snorers in the house.
  2. Their Frito-feet never stink.  But they will make you have a hankering for Frito Pie.
  3. A coonhound will take all the petting you can give her and then some.  She will let you know when you are done petting her.  And when you are NOT done.
  4. The kitchen floor - and sometimes the counter - will always be clean.
  5. If you want to take a nap, you never have to explain yourself, although you may have to share the bed or couch.
  6. Forget doorbells - all you need is a coonhound who bawls or chops to let you - and your neighbors - know that someone's here.
  7. The softest, most velvety-silky ears ever.
  8. The aroo-roo-rooo and tail slap when they want something really bad is too cute to not let them have that something, even though you just derailed any training that you may have done.
  9. Coonhounds are so patient with young children.*
  10. Every day with a coonhound is an adventure; buckle up and enjoy the ride.  That's what it's all about anyway.
Snuggling with "Little Zooey."
At the end of the day, I think about all the animals who are surrendered when they no longer are convenient for their owners.  Zooey, with her counter-surfing, Holden-harassing, at-the-UPS-guy-barking ways, is anything but convenient.  But I love her in spite of that inconvenience.  And probably because of it, too.
*Just a note - while coonhounds are, as a breed, excellent around young children, every dog is different, and if you plan to bring home a new furry family member, make sure that you do your homework on not just the breed but the specific animal you are considering.

Now... go get you a coonhound!

Pure Love is a Tummy Rub
**Sir Thomas More


  1. Awesome story, Allison!
    And now I want a coonhound.

  2. I want a coonhound, too. Oh, wait ... I already have several.

  3. I sit here staring at Huck snoozing on his basket and blankies with his tail covering his cold wet nose - I realize, these two lunatic mutts are one in the same. What in the heck would we ever do without them?
    And thankfully - by comparison - we look incredibly SANE.

  4. I've got 2 of those redbones that are so beautiful. The Guy who wrote Ole Yeller also wrote a hound dog book called Hound Dog Man, although it has some embarassingly dated racial attitudes. Zane Gray wrote a great hound dog book called Roping Lions in the Grand Canyon. Then there's Martha Miller's Timberline Hound; Jim Kjelgaard's Lion Hound; MacKinley Kantor's The Voice of Bugle Ann and many others...

  5. Thanks for all the titles, Emily - I think I know what I'll be asking my local bookstore to order for me!

  6. Allison, I love your little Odes to Zooey. I like to think that someday I'll actually get to witness her shenanigans in-person, or we're going to need to get you to do a Vlog of her so that we can have The Experience. I feel like if I had a dollar for every time you tweeted another one of her shenanigans, I would be well on my way to getting rich. Please give her a pet and a kiss from Minnesota tonight.