A party for Harlequin!

Cheers to Harlequin! Photo by Peggy Maness. Click to enlarge!

FRIDAY evening had a golden sunset–what a fitting display for the sunset of Harlequin’s hunting career and the start of his golden years!

Harlequin, nicknamed “The Boomerang” by the hunt staff, is one of our most remarkable hounds. To read his story, click here. But we’ll give you a taste of the kind of foxhound this rebel-turned-leader was with this excerpt:

“I can tell you he was a good leader,” Lilla says. And I’ll turn the mike over to Lilla to tell you how, because she tells the tale better than anyone, having seen it first hand:

“One time hounds were in a covert in Possum Hollow, and it had been a blank day up to that point, dry and hot, one of those days in the drought. It seemed hopeless. But we got in Possum Hollow, and one hound spoke, then two hounds spoke, and then they just erupted. At the very west end of Possum Hollow, out popped a coyote. There just happened to be a medium-sized cow standing there eating by itself. It had obviously gotten out of the field where it belonged. When the coyote came out of the covert, the cow took off and ran down the fenceline. The coyote got right underneath it and ran along with it for about 200 or 300 yards. Then the coyote turned right under the cow and went straight west while the cow continued on north.

Harlequin enjoyed hearing huntsman Lilla Mason tell his story. Photo by Peggy Maness.

“That particular day, we had a few older hounds and a lot of younger hounds, because the fixture was a good place to bring younger hounds. One of older hounds was Harlequin. The hounds came spilling out of covert in full cry, but when they got out they quickly had a check, I suppose because they could smell that cow. We’d all seen the coyote come out, but the cow had foiled his scent. So the hounds swirled around and around, and it was Harlequin that left the group and went up and down that fence line, up and down, again and again. You could see he smelled smething but wasn’t sure. But then he struck off on the line right where the coyote had split off from the cow, like he was saying, ‘Here it is! Here it is!’

“He was that kind of hound: he would rely on himself to help. He puzzled it out, and he was the one who went back on his own to do that. And that does a lot for the puppies coming along, when you have a seasoned hound like that to lead your puppies. That what makes your puppies.”

Harlequin arrives for his retirement party with escorts Michael Edwards (kennel manager) and Amy Dillon. Photo by Peggy Maness.

We auctioned tickets to Harlequin’s retirement party at the Hound Welfare Fund’s 2010 fundraising dinner and auction in March, and what a perfect evening it was. The location was a lovely refurbished log cabin, owned by Iroquois president Derek Vaughan and his wife Neal, that sits on the palisades above Boone Creek and the old Grimes Mill that serves as the Iroquois Hunt’s headquarters. Tucked away in the woods and surrounded by gardens, the cabin provided a perfect setting for Harlequin to receive his guests. Foremost among those was Betsy van Nagell, wife of joint-Master Dr. Jack van Nagell, and a special friend to this special hound. Huntsman Lilla Mason explained why when she took the floor to honor Harlequin: at hunt meets, when she and kennel manager Michael Edwards would count hounds, they often would turn up one hound–or a half-couple, as foxhunters say–short in the count. They’d count again, maybe even debate how many they’d brought, and then one of them would spot the “missing” hound. That would be Harlequin, who, upon being let out of the hound trailer would head straight off for Betsy and sit down next to her horse. Every. single. time. He would gaze adoringly up at her, and nothing would divert his attention from the object of his affection.

Harlequin (Shamrock Xray '96-Bicester Harmony '97), by Peggy Maness

Betsy loves Harlequin as much as he loves her, and his retirement party was made possible in large part by her generous donation, including the Moet & Chandon Champagne whose corks popped cheerfully before the big toast to the evening’s star.

Harlequin with his closest friend, Betsy van Nagell (right). Photo by Peggy Maness.

The Hound Welfare Fund thanks Betsy not only for her contributions to Harlequin’s party, but also for her years of support for the fund. We also thank Derek and Neal Vaughan for opening their cabin for this special occasion, caterer Cooper Vaughan of Dupree Catering for a splendid repast, and photographer and frequent Hound Welfare Fund volunteer Peggy Maness for capturing it all in pictures.

Thanks are also due to the many hound lovers, Iroquois members and non-members alike, who have helped to make wonderful retirements like Harlequin’s possible. Thanks to your support, the Iroquois Hunt retires all of its hounds, allowing them to live out their days in comfort at the kennel and to pass away peacefully and with dignity when the times comes.

The Iroquois Hunt has been around for more than 125 years. It was founded in 1881 in a very different era, and it has endured in large measure because its members and Masters have been responsible stewards who maintained the hunt’s good name and honorable reputation among landowners and in the larger community. It’s in this spirit that the Hound Welfare Fund continues the tradition of responsible breeding, care, and retirement for every member of the hunt’s working pack–a tradition that also burnishes the good name of the Iroquois Hunt Club, and, by extension, that of its members, both hunting and social.

An elegant setting for Harlequin's party.

All of our hounds are valuable to us, and, frankly, it’s not easy to come up with just one as our annual Retiree of the Year!

So, please, wherever you are, please raise a glass to Harlequin, and to all the other hounds you know. They deserve it!

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