“Marjorie, the humane society just called, they have a black and tan coonhound pup up here. Needs a home.”“Tell them to Hold her for us.”“Are you sure? Coonhounds are hunting dogs.”“They are so beautiful…affectionate, loyal…shame to let that dog go too a gun lover.”And so we adopted our Tara. She was absolutely stunning as a pup and as an adult.Often men would stop to pet Tara…some even wanted us to give her up in hunting season.“Black and tan, eh? Does she bugle?”“Bugle?”“Coonhounds Holler like Louis Armstrong’s trumpet when they tree a raccoon. Love that sound,?“How is her nose?”“Nose?”“Black and tans are bred to hunt. Sure not a house dog…traced back to medieval times …to the Talbot Hound. That hound was mostly white back in the 16th century. Some were used to track thieves rather than small game. Over here they were bred in the eastern mountains as great hunting dogs. Once they get a scent, you canforget about getting them back. Best to follow the nose..the bugling… until they tree whatever they chase. Not a house dog.”“But we got Tara for the kids…for our house. We do not hunt. We hate guns and cannot understand why hunters want to kill things.”“Well you got yourselves the wrong dog, that is for sure. Better to give her away to a hunter.”
Well, authorities were both right and wrong. Tara was a hunting dog but she was also a most gentle , loving, intelligent family dog.
DOGS develop a loyalty to their owners that goes beyond love of country. Put another way A dog gived unconditional love…forgiving of allthe flaws in human nature. That trust has its dangers as we discovered with our coonhound pup, Shadow. But first, here is Tara who was Shadow’s mother along with ten other puppies carefully bred by Marjorie and dispersed to owners across Southern Ontario with great care. Humorous care really. First take a look at Tara and her brood.In those years we were tapping a maple forest each spring and collecting the sap which was boiled down into almost black maple syrup. Black? Yes, black because the wood ash and smoke were thick and uncontrolled. lots got into the boiling pans…gave our maple syrup body. Not bad tasting. Then shortly afterwards our system with the yellow sap pails was outlawed because of leadsolder in the joints. I suppose that is One of the reasons I am a bit of a dimwit Lead poisoning just like the guys on Franklin’s expedtion to the Arctic long ago. They were poisoned by the lead seals on their canned food.If I went a bit barmy and got lost or hurt in the forest. I was sure Tara wold look after me. She stuck with us even where there were lots of wild things that a coonhound normally tracked. Dogs like Tara love their masters…watch over them…alert to dangers. Somehow that word ‘masters’ is inappropriate…Partner is better but still not right. Maybe you can suggest a term.In England, the coonhounds…then called Talbot Houds, were used to track thieves and other criminals. Tara did not have that skill. Had she the hunting instinct we could have used her to track the bastards that used .22 rifles to shoot holes in our sap pales thereby ending our syrup making.RACCOONS VERSUS COONHOUNDS: NATURAL ENEMIES?Raccoons are the prime enemy of black and tan coonhounds according to some raconteurs who tell endless stories of treed raccoons meeting their death from lead poisoning (i.e. bullets) after being treed by black and tans. Some authorities in the American Appalachians Mooutains say that raccoons lure tracking coonhounds out into open swamps then turn around and climb on the dog’s backs and drown them. Raccoons and Coonhounds, according to some writers, are natural born enemies. I am not too sure of that being true. Why? See below.One year while Tara was with us, our neighbour found a baby raccoon in her fireplace. We took it and raised Ricky (i.e. Ricky the Raccoon)to adulthood. from a near dead thing no bigger than the palm of your hand to a full grown raccoon. How did Tara react? No problem,she considered Ricky just another extension of the family.. Raising raccoons becomes difficult the older they get. For a couple of months we could walk around with Ricky on our head or wrapped around our necks. A loving little creature. And then, overnight, he changed into a wild thing…spitting…biting. So we let him go in a cornfield. Chances of survival would be 50/50 at best. Tara watched him waddle off, almost sad to see him go.Then one year Marjorie, who by this time had the kids and herself dressed in clothes that matched Tara…colour coded. Marjorie decided to get Tara bred and ferreted out a big old male coonhound. Fat but willing. They locked together much to our surprise. Locked? That is a breeders term and suitable. When Tara and the male locked , everyone panicked and Marjorie threw a pail of cold water on them. Locking means the male has penetrated the female and thenweirdly he or she turns around. Each faint different directions…Not- South or East – West. “The thing is going to get broken…get some water… disentach them. If we had only known about locking then Tara wold not have been doused in water. Fortunately she had been bred by then.Marjorie did not stop once she found homes for the pubs. She checked up on t he homes afterwards. Fortunately it was never necessary for her to remedial action…like sending me with the truck to repossess a pup but she would have done that had she suspected abuse of any kind.Tara had eleven puppies. Cut little bounders. I tried to pen them up in the backyard but they grew so fast that the pens were obsoleteas soon as they were built. Newspaper came to photograph the eleven puppies. Kevin and Andy lay on the ground covered in bullies with tongues washing the boys affectionately. The newspaper even sent a reporter to photograph the brood as they pawed Kevin.But what were we to do with eleven coonhound puppies? “Can’t we keep them all?” asked Kevin. The neighbours were long suffering as it was with the 11pups and Tara and the cat and our two ducks, Ping And Pong, who thought they were human and one crippled Canada goose. “No, Kev, we must find good homes for them.” But what is a good home for hounds? Marjorie put an add in the paper and a great number of people responded. Mostly men. Marjorie questioned each of them.“Where will you keep the puppy?’ If the answer was “barn”, then that man was told to buzz off. Down the road from our farm a hound was kept chained in the barn all year except for hunting season. Saddest thing to see that poor old hound with his life circumscribed by the limits of the chain. In addition one late fall day a hound showed up at our farm house He just flopped on the back stoop snd looked at us.. He was skinny and starving. We fed him but eventually he took off to continue looking for his owner which he likely never found. Some hunters abandon hounds at the end of the hunting season we were told.Now the second question. Seemed innocent…appropriate. But it was a trick question.“Do you hunt?” If the applicant said yes, he was rejected. “Sorry sir I am not selling pups to hunters.” Now this was considered peculiar behaviour because black and tan coonhounds are hunting dogs. Seemed reasonable that hunters would want the pups. But no hunter got one or ours. Ours went to families or old couples seeking company. Marjorie cross examined each applicant as if they were candidates to be CEO of Hydro One. Whups!, Wrong example. Coonhounds were used to hunt and find thieves as I mentioned earlier. Coonhounds might get confused if they got within smelling range of Hydro One Execs. Suffice it to say that Marjorie gave each candidate a thorough examination and many failed.SHADOW WAS A GRAND PUP…JUST TOO OBEDIENT SADLYWe kept one of the pups. That’s him with Tara above. A cute perfectly marked tongue slobbering lover of the world around him. We called him Shadow. He got killed by a car. Shadow was just too obedient. One day he went exploring down the street. We did not want our dogs loose. Marjorie called him back. I saw him. He stopped, raised his head…listened. “Here, Shadow, come here.” And then he turned around and raced towards our house. “Stop Shadow, Stop!” Too late… A car hit him. Broke his legs. He could not be saved. Authorities said coonhounds were wanderers and they were stubborn. If Shadow had been such, he would have lived. Instead he was obedient and loved his home (and his mom Tara).Tara and ShadowJust in case you ever see a Black and Tan Coonhound, it could be a descendent of Tara. If it happens to be locked on another dog. Do not panic. Do not get a pail of water. Just wait. They will unlock.This was one of the last pictures I took of Tara walking down a time tunnel after an ice storm. “Had an old dog and his name was Blue….You good dog you” was a pop folk song that always brings back memories of Tara.alan skeoch’Jan. 2018P.S. Black and Tan coonhounds seem to have originated…emerged as a distinct breed,..in medieval times. Back then they were
called Talbot hounds. This painting of the first Talbot graces the ceiling of the Dining Room of Sir Henry Vernon (1445 – 1515) who married Ann Talbot, daughter of the Earl of Shrewsbury. Back then they were white. I wonder if Ann Talbot was as careful with her pups as Marjorie was with ours.?