It was a non-blistering, midsummer Saturday in Kentucky when Dad parked the truck and horse trailer in his usual spot at the trailhead. As I was helping unload the horses, I noticed a very happy, young beagle coming through the parking area towards me. There was only one other group in the lot, so I assumed it was their dog.
“Cute Beagle,” I said. “That is not our dog. She was here when we parked,” came the reply. Looking at the dog I said, “If you are here when I get back, I’ll take you home.”
Dad and I hit the trail with a friend joining us on our horse Prince. The happy beagle came with us. On our return ride back to the trailer I heard a beagle cry out in pain. I looked towards the sound in time to see the puppy shoot into the woods. Somehow she had gotten under Prince and he stepped on her. The poor thing ran into the woods whimpering. She would not come near me on a horse nor did she follow us back to the trailer. Our friend felt awful, he did know that she was even near him.
I could not stop thinking about that poor little dog in the woods all alone, so I drove back over that night. I came prepared with dog food and peanut butter crackers. It took some time to regain her trust, but I caught her with a little help from a cousin that was staying near by the trailhead. I’m glad I had brought a dog crate, because the she was COVERED in ticks. Once home I had to leave her outside in the crate overnight. This gave my other dog, Atticus (Atty), time to check her out.
The next morning Mom and I gathered tweezers, kibble to use a treats, and went out on the porch to start removing the ticks form the new pup. She had ticks everywhere, including her eyelash line and privates. The insides of her ears were the worst. When a Deer tick was lift up, there were be small Turkey Mites using the same bite area. After 3 hours of tick removal, we had filled a plastic cup with rubbing alcohol with ticks.
Naming her took a few days. Though she was more of a Blanche, I went with Stella because it felt more natural to yell across the fields.
It did not take me long to figure out that Stella had lived in a kennel. Many people believe that Beagles will not hunt if they are pets, so they keep them in kennels. This also means that Stella had no socialization. Our first walk, it was just the two of us, took 30 minutes to cover 100 yards! She was terrified and did not understand being leashed. I started taking my other dog, Atty, with us. When Stella was uncertain, Atty would either nudge her forward or stand over the top of her depending on circumstances. Soon Stella was Atty’s dog. I just feed them, drove them places and paid for the vet.
I am in the city during the week, but on weekends Stella had the run of the farm. There was nothing like hearing her joyous bay cut through the morning fog, seeing her tail swishing back and forth like a windshield wiper and her nose was to the ground. She and the farm Jack Russel, Beau, worked a field in sections like nobody’s business.
Stella and Atty often went hiking with me. One October Saturday I was hiking in Natchez Trace State Park. I was in a bottom area and took a step that felt off, so I did a quick jump. I only stopped when Stella would not move. I turned around a looked. In the middle of the trial was a Water Moccasin, his upper body was up and his mouth was open. I then looked at Stella and saw the blood. I don’t know where the snake went, because I quickly grabbed Stella. I carried her two miles to the car with Atty pulling like a sled dog to make me faster. I drove my Mustang back to Nashville like I was Steve McQueen. I knew she was in trouble when her breathing slowed. Atty would not lick the wound, she only laid her head over the bites. She took three bites and had five puncture wounds from a juvenile Moccasin. That overnight visit at the emergency vet set the high water mark for vet bills, but Stella was worth every penny.
Stella never doubted her purpose and was always sweet and happy. She loved to eat and nap. She has had a heck of a life full of love and an occasional rabbit. She liked horses in the field or barn, but if one had a rider, she raced to the house or trailer.
The brave huntress crossed the rainbow bridge on October 13, 2020. Once again she is with her Atty.
Inspired by the Good Dog column in Garden and Gun.