“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?”
“Coonhounds Holler like  Louis Armstrong’s trumpet when they tree a raccoon.  Love that sound,?
“How is her 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  can
forget 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 all

the 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 lead
solder 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 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  then
weirdly 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 obsolete
as 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.
We 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  Shadow
 Just 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. 2018
P.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.?

Talbot Dog, Dining Room


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