Thirteen is old for a coonhound and I must say that up to the last two-and-a-half months, when illness and age really took a toll, she lived her life full-on, exuberantly and vibrantly. She loved to hike and was as reliable and constant a companion as a person would want. Coonhounds as a breed love trail walking - even running - and nothing is better for finding critters than the ground-scanning nose of a black and tan coonie. Bug was very good at finding turtles! I figure she'd found over a hundred box turtles on our walks over eleven summers and it seemed I could never find one without her.
|Puppy Amos in long-distance hike training with Bug, soon to retire in 2018.|
After her sister Annie passed in 2016, Bug went into a months-long mourning and though she eventually found her way through, I thought it a good idea to bring a coonhound puppy into the house to keep her company and re-establish her pack. Coonhounds are famously social and are decidedly devoted to their packs that are made up of their human family and other dogs (even cats!). Amos fit right in and she loved him immediately. She taught him the protocols of hiking and he's turned out to be a delightful hiking companion. Since the last winter snow in February of 2019, she couldn't do long hikes anymore because of arthritis, so easy two mile up-and-back strolls on the flat River Road along the Susuquehanna was her favorite way to spend a Sunday morning.
|Alert for deer on a ten-mile autumn fire road walk, 2016.|
So in honor of Bug's extraordinary life hiking the hills, forests, river trails, and mountains of Pennsylvania, here are the Coonhound Rules for Amos. He knows he has big pawprints to fill but he is working hard to do her proud.
- Always walk to the left and slightly ahead
- When you smell a tantalizing scent, stop and alert, don't pull or bolt.
- Stop every hour and ask for water and a treat, good for both coonie and human.
- Help pull human up steep rock climbs.
- Follow human on steep descents.
- Celebrate every stream crossing with a good splash.
- Every now and then, look back at your human and flash a big, wide coonhound grin.
- Every now and then, let out a super big, bawdy, full-throated holler. It keeps bad things away.
- Every now and then, just stop and lay down. It forces the human to appreciate surroundings.
- Never dig holes in or poop on the trail.
- Be polite to polite dogs. Be polite to polite humans.
- Warn off aggressive dogs. Warn off sketchy humans.
- Tree squirrels when off leash. Never pull your human up a tree on leash. It hurts them.
- When you get home, enjoy a long nap.
|Rest easy, Bug. 2006 - 2019|
Coonhounds make excellent hiking partners, but do require consistent training early to learn trail etiquette. They "read" human companions very well and convey expressions and signals that I feel are the closest to dogs communicating with people that I've seen in any working/hunting breed. They love children and senior folk, are protective without being aggressive (unless required in dangerous situations), and extraordinarily goofy-funny-lovable. If you want to bring a coonhound companion into your hiking and adventuring life, please consider adopting from the American Black and Tan Coonhound Rescue. http://www.coonhoundrescue.com/