Last October, we were driving home to Seneca Rocks from Fort Benning, Georgia when we decided to pull over and photograph the fall scenery from a mountain the other side of Franklin, West Virginia. Our dog at that time, Buddy, decided he wanted to check it out, too. So he hopped out an open window (we were parked) and followed his nose. And kept on going. Whatever was out there was far more tantalizing than returning to our calls. That is the last we saw of him.
Phone calls and emails to shelters from Franklin to Richmond, Virginia were quickly made. Posters were liberally spread throughout the area and any tips were immediately checked out. One caller said he’d seen a dog matching Buddy’s description standing beside a flagger for a road crew out of Richmond. I called and shared our story with a very sympathetic secretary. She promised to speak with each person who’d worked in that location and get back with me. And she did. Her voice was full of sadness when she told me that the dog her flagger had befriended wasn’t Buddy; it was a lost hunting dog, complete with radio collar. At least his owner had been located. I know if our Buddy had latched onto anyone with that road crew, she would’ve made darn sure he was returned. The dear woman sounded so forlorn. I ended up comforting her.
We received a few calls from folks we’d talked with while searching for Buddy. No, they hadn’t seen him but they wondered if we’d found him yet. Genuinely concerned for Buddy and us. Even people who’d seen our poster or the “lost” ad in the classifieds of The Pendleton Times called to see if he’d returned. Isn’t that neat?
But we never have seen Buddy again. To this day – six months later – FarmerHoney prays that Buddy finds his way home to us.
Over Christmas, FarmerHoney visited his family back in Maryland. But something was missing – a dog to love and walk beside, a dog to toss a Frisbee to, a warm furry pup to snuggle with on the couch when the temperature drops to single digits. FarmerHoney headed to the nearest animal shelter and checked out their dogs. There were lots of pit bulls – in fact, most of the enclosures were homes to pit bulls. But in one cage, quiet amidst the sharp barks of the other dogs, was a young hunting dog. FarmerHoney recognized him as a Redbone Coonhound with a dash of something else. Red’s nose was raw and bloody from pushing his toys under a rug on the concrete floor. He must’ve been worried that another dog would find its way to his spot and run off with his toys. So he “buried” them for protection.
In addition, Red’s coat was a mess. He’d been found in the woods of Maryland 10 days earlier, covered in ticks. Numerous places on his body had no fur; it wasn’t mange, but some sort of allergic reaction to the ticks, the shelter’s vet said. He must’ve been freezing out in the woods – his coat is very short. It’s anyone’s guess how long he’d been on his own. Had he lost his way on his first hunting trip?
FarmerHoney called me and informed me that he’d found and adopted a new dog. He was so excited, he hadn’t asked a lot of questions that I was now asking him! So I phoned the shelter and learned that our new pup was about 10 months old, a stray, very submissive, no apparent signs of abuse, quite the sweetheart. I looked forward to meeting him.
After trying out a bevy of names for our hunting dog, we settled on “Rebel”. The breed had been developed in Louisiana and it seemed fitting that a hunting dog from the South carry that name. But the nickname that’s stuck like glue is “Snickle-Fritz”. It suits him better since he’s so eager to please and is rarely openly rebellious. The few occasions when he’s become as stubborn as one of FarmerHoney’s donkeys usually take place over food. This has eased off as Snickle’s realized that we’re not out to steal his treats; if anything, we’ll add some more food to his bowl. However, he really does not like to have his claws trimmed. One look at the clipper and he starts to growl, something we’ve learned he does when he’s scared. We’re still working with Snickle-Fritz on this; trimming his claws is a l-o-n-g process so we tend to work on just a few at a time. Treats help. Some.
It was evident from the beginning that someone had loved this dog in the past, someone had taught him basic obedience skills. One day, Snickle-Fritz held up his right paw for us to hold as he was responding to, “Sit”. I wonder who’d taught him that? Someone was probably missing this special dog as much as FarmerHoney once missed Buddy. (Time and Snickle-Fritz have eased the pain of Buddy’s loss, but I doubt it will ever fade completely.)
It occurred to me that perhaps some sort of divine switch may have taken place with Buddy and Snickle. We remain convinced that Buddy would’ve sought out people after his early hunting trip last October. There are plenty of farms in the area, and he is a little mooch. Anyone would gladly open their heart and home for that little guy. I like to think that Buddy was guided to a home where someone needed him. Just like Snickle-Fritz found a home with a family that needed a 65-pound bundle of gentle energy.
God works in mysterious ways; there are no coincidences.