Photos for a Friday

It's nice to have a friend in a thunderstorm, says Mr. Box.

THE houndbloggers, and indeed the hounds, missed a couple of hound walks this week due to the unbelievably torrential rains. Which were not as bad as they were in Milwaukee, so, really, we’re not complaining. But we hated to miss those walks. I still took some pictures, though, and, having less than usual to say about hound walks, I thought I’d share them.

The way we know that the rainfall truly was torrential is by how soaked Gerald got. Gerald is Bingo’s pet rabbit, or something close to a rabbit. It’s hard to tell what Gerald’s exact  taxonomy is. Looking at him he looks like a cross between a rabbit and an octopus, and then there’s the fact that he’s a toy. However odd his looks, Bingo loves Gerald and brings him almost everywhere with him–everywhere except indoors from the rain. I try to remember to go out and collect Gerald from the yard before storms hit, but sometimes I forget, too. I am not my dog’s rabbit’s keeper.

The Gerald Sog-o-Meter read "saturated" this week.

Gerald reached unprecedented levels of sog this week, meaning 1) it rained a hell of a lot, 2) he felt like he weighed about 38 pounds, and 3) he had to stay outside a good long while until he dried in the sun, finally, this afternoon.

That’s not to say we didn’t make it out with hounds at all this week. We did, and we caught some nice photos of a few of our favorite hounds.

Bonsai and her amazing bronze eyes.

Paper does a little subterranean sniffing.

The hounds.

… not to mention one of those hot Hound Welfare Fund saddle pads in action:

Most weekdays, we walk out from a place we refer to as The Pig Lot, but don’t let the name fool you. It’s picturesque, especially at this time of year when everything is in full bloom and butterflies are everywhere.

At the pig lot.

A post-walk visit to the barn revealed that my horse Sassoon has gone into the witness protection program …

Sassoon incognito.

… but I think Tuxedo the barn cat still recognizes him.

Tomorrow we return to Boone Valley for another hound walk morning, and we expect to get some more video and photographs. If Trevor’s there again, we’ll stop in and say hello, as long as he’s not, you know, feeling too shy.

Where's Trevor?

See you on Saturday!

Puppies of Two Species

Driver meets four-year-old Trevor on Saturday's hound walk

WHAT a beautiful day Saturday was! It started with a crashing thunderstorm that prevented me from riding over to catch our trailer ride to the day’s hound walk, so the houndbloggers went out with the hounds on foot for what turned out to be a Very Special Morning.

Iroquois huntsman Lilla Mason brought the hounds, including one-year-old Driver and many of the BA litter, to Boone Valley Farm instead of to the usual meeting point on the farm across from The Corners. The change of location was exciting to the hounds. The older hounds, Paper among them now, associate Boone Valley with nearby Pauline’s Ridge, one of the richest coyote coverts in the hunt country and understandably a place that holds great interest for experienced hunting hounds.

To the puppies, the field trip was especially exciting. New sights, sounds, and, most importantly, scents! New country to explore!

Even before kennel manager Michael Edwards unloaded the hounds from their trailer, there was some excitement when a herd of cattle came barreling past not far from the hound truck. But the hounds, safe inside, didn’t turn a hair, and when Michael turned them out, they ignored the cattle’s trail and put their noses right in the grass to find the biscuits Michael and Lilla had scattered there for them.

Nearby, another “puppy” was making his debut at Boone Valley, too. That was young Trevor, the four-year-old son of an Iroquois member, who was out on his new pony Polly for his very first hound walk. Driver and Paper were hugely curious about this pair, the smallest person they’d ever seen, riding either the largest hound or the smallest horse they’d ever seen. Like kids everywhere, Paper, Driver, and Trevor were drawn to each other.

Paper, who joined the hunting pack last season, says hello

Paper's pretty sure he's figured out where she keeps those biscuits ...

The day had the potential to be a little too exciting: inexperienced young hounds in exciting new territory where running cattle had piqued their curiosity, old hounds returning to a place they know well for coyote runs, and a strong breeze to carry the scent of coyote to them from Pauline’s Ridge. It was a good test for both groups of hounds, and they did very well. When temptation drew them too far away from her, their noses in the air to catch the odors wafting by, they returned when she called. Occasionally, one or two of the puppies–most notably Backfire, a BA puppy who has showed himself to be forward many times on earlier hound walks–would range away from the main group of hounds and stand gazing off into the distance, nose twitching.

Those are critical moments in a puppy’s development, Lilla pointed out, because they mark a decision. The puppy can either decide to follow his nose and head for the hills, leaving the pack and Lilla, or he can decide to back away from that temptation and stay with his peers and his huntsman.

Backfire, one of the year-old BA litter

“We want them to process information and then make the right decision,” Lilla explained.

Backfire was an especially good example of all of the puppies’ progress. At Boone Valley, we could see Backfire developing the idea that he’s part of a pack. He’s learning that, when the group stops, he can wander a little and taste the air, but when he’s out on his own too far away from the pack and Lilla, it’s a little uncomfortable. Looking off to the far hills, he’s still in touch with Lilla, and when she calls, he hears her and turns.

A huntsman’s ability to stay in a hound’s mind like that, to maintain that golden thread of connection between himself and a hound even when something else is calling to the hound’s deep instinct, is vital to success. It’s not always possible to hold a hound’s attention, but a huntsman that consistently can regain a hound’s attention simply by saying its name–a twitch upon that golden thread–has perhaps the greatest gift a huntsman can have. But it isn’t easy to achieve, and it isn’t foolproof.

“Backfire,” Lilla said, “is a thinker. And we want these hounds to think.”

As with young horses, hounds that can process information and respond to it thoughtfully, rather than simply react with instinct, are better to handle.

Trevor, mom Debbie, and Polly the pony watch the hounds. Well, okay, Polly was watching the grass.

As for Trevor, he had a good day, too! He learned about hounds and also about Polly. The main thing we think he learned about Polly is that she is a PONY, meaning, yes, she will try to roll even while (maybe even especially while) you are riding her, in which case it’s best to get off. He learned that Driver is very big. Most importantly, he found out that this business of following the hounds on horseback is about as much fun as there is in the world.

We think so, too.