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To Snore With Beagles

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To Snore With Beagles

I saw this on a rescue website a few years ago and it is great.
It is long but well worth it.

by Dawn Eng

For Marilyn and Bill Anderson and for my pack, human and canine,
past, present and future.—Dawn Eng

The dramatic reduction in sightings of beagles in the wild in North America led researcher Jo-Beth Fossey Williams to propose a field study of a remaining wild beagle pack. The object was to determine why the numbers were dwindling and to propose possible solutions to this alarming development. Williams received a six-month grant from the Daisy Hill Foundation to conduct her study. Her notes and conclusions follow.

Field notes of Jo-Beth Fossey Williams for the Daisy Hill study
Re: endangered beagles

June 1, 1998, 7:20 a.m.
I have been in the field for two months now, travelling through the plains areas of Illinois, Indiana, and Kentucky, with no sign of a wild beagle pack. I am now in Northern Tennessee. These plains before the Smokies, rich in rabbits and squirrels and with an abundance of clean water, would be an excellent beagle habitat. My luck may be changing. When I woke up this morning, I spotted possible signs of beagles in the area. The beef jerky was missing from the pocket of my windbreaker, and I noticed tooth marks of about the right size on the tongue of one of my hikers, which had been dragged several yards away from my sleeping bag. This could be the work of a fox, but it is unlikely—prey appears plentiful in the area, and foxes are shy. But wild beagles can be quite bold. If I am correct, all I need to do is find the closest source of fresh water and I should find my chewer.

June 3, 1998, 9:00 p.m.
Here they are! I've found a clearing in a wooded area which leads to the side of a small lake. A pack of beagles appears to live here: there are piles of brush pulled together into a large bed, and I see four beagles asleep on it. I have carefully set up camp at the boundary of the clearing. My first task will be to make myself visible in a nonthreatening way, ignoring the pack and going on about my own business, while the beagles get used to my presence. If I can avoid frightening them, they will eventually consider me just a regular, uninteresting part of the habitat. Then I will have the opportunity to observe natural pack behavior, describe intra-pack relationships, and eventually determine in which ways the pack is coping successfully with the encroachment of civilization, and in which ways it is in trouble.

June 4, 1998, 11:00 a.m.
There appear to be only four members in this pack. All are typically beagle in appearance: tri-colored, bright-eyed and muscular. There are one male and one female—I haven't yet been able to identify the sex of the other two. Hunting must be good: all four appear strong and in good coat, and their ribs are well padded.

June 8, 1998, 7:00 a.m.
I've quietly observed the pack for several days now. The beagles appear to have a regular routine. As the sun comes up, they begin stretching, yawning and making interesting little moaning noises. They move off to the edges of the clearing to relieve themselves (the pack includes one male, three females). The beagles then return to the bed for a period of grooming and more yawning and stretching. The time spent on this varies from day to day. But eventually, all head off into the woods in different directions—hunting, I assume. After several hours, they return to the clearing and curl up together to sleep again. There is one unexpected development: the beagles appear more interested in me now than when I first arrived, looking over at me frequently. This is the opposite of what I had expected. They don't appear alarmed, however.

June 9, 1998, 7:30 a.m.
Becoming a neutral part of the landscape may be a bit more difficult than I had anticipated. When I woke up an hour ago, one beagle was inside the sleeping bag with me, and the other three were asleep on top of it. The pack is still sleeping, but I am wide awake, thinking about breakfast and wondering what is going on.

8:15 a.m.
The pack is up and active. All beagles have already left the clearing, noses to the ground.

8:45 a.m.
As I am sitting at my camp table with my breakfast of coffee, beef jerky and biscuits, I hear loud schnuffling noises approaching from four different directions. But it is much too early for the pack to be returning—and the beagles have never all come back at exactly the same time before. Some signal I don't yet recognize must be calling them together—some danger, perhaps? Uh oh, they appear to be approaching my campsite!

9:00 a.m.
The pack surrounds me. All are sitting, staring at me with soft, pleading eyes. It is non-threatening, yet somehow compelling. But of course I can't give them anything. I am just here as a neutral observer...well, maybe just one piece each.

9:30 a.m.
The beagles have not returned to the hunt. All four have gone back to sleep—on my sleeping bag!
Re: sleeping I've noticed the beagles move around quite a bit before they go to sleep, making little moaning noises and sighs before they settle into a variety of sleeping positions. Right now, two are curled into little doughnuts, back to back, one is inside the bag, and the fourth is on his back, tummy up, legs in the air, and his head turned to one side (can that be comfortable?).

6:00 p.m.
I have company at dinner—share a small amount of my reconstituted dehydrated rations with the pack (but not enough to interfere with normal pack feeding behavior, of course).

10:00 p.m.
I had to shag all four beagles off of my sleeping bag before I could go to sleep for the night. They didn't appear to take this personally (no growling, no fear reaction evident).

June 10, 1998, 7:45 a.m.
I woke up this morning feeling a bit warm. Found that three of the beagles (the females) were asleep inside the bag with me. The little male was outside, standing over me, his nose in my face and wagging his tail. I will have to assign names to the different pack members for identification purposes in my notes. The small, young female with the huge dark eyes who is constantly grooming the others reminds me of Goethe's little waif Mignon. Then there is the older female—she has a perfect white flag at the tip of her tail. Guess I'll call her Old Glory. The female with the big, beautiful growly voice will have to be Janis! And I'll call the male Michael (no reason—I just like the name).

June 14, 1998, 9:30 a.m.
I've really neglected my note-taking lately—too busy. The pack is fine now, though I was concerned about Michael for a while. He had a nasty infected cut on his right front pad. Fortunately, I'd brought an antibiotic cream in my first aid kit, but it was a struggle keeping him from licking it off. This injury seriously interfered with his ability to hunt; I couldn't let him go off into the woods and get dirt into it. Luckily, I was well stocked with dehydrated food, since I had to feed him during this period. And of course I couldn't expect the others to understand why I was feeding only him, so I fed all four.

June 16, 1998, 10:15 a.m.
Baths in the lake for everyone today (all, myself included, getting pretty ripe). I also clipped nails—all but Janis took it pretty stoically—she sang as never before.

June 30, 1998, 9:45 p.m.
I'd better turn in early tonight. Tomorrow I have to drive into town (about an hour's drive) to replenish my food supply. I really miscalculated how long it would last. Everyone else is already asleep. I'll have to move Glory and Mignon over to get my legs into the sleeping bag—they always head for the bottom.

July 1, 1998, 8:00 a.m.
Well, now what? When I got into the car to go to town, I couldn't drive off because the beagles were standing around it, wondering what I was up to. Janis was singing to me! When I got out of the car to try to bribe them out of the way with jerky, first Michael, then the others jumped in. The females are now lying comfortably on the back seat. Michael is standing on the driver's seat, wagging his tail excitedly. Must concede that I haven't succeeded in becoming a neutral part of the habitat.

September 17, 1998
What a job! After I helped deliver Glory's puppies, I took leave to stay home for their first couple of months until I could place all five in good homes. Everyone is now safely spayed and neutered.


Disappearance of Beagles from the Wild in North America,
a study conducted under the auspices of the Daisy Hill Foundation
submitted by Jo-Beth Fossey Williams, October 1, 1998
I concluded my study of beagles in the wild after three months. The first two were spent locating a wild beagle pack, the third observing it. Contrary to my expectations, I have found that beagles have an excellent ability to adapt to the encroachment of civilization upon their natural habitat. Though prey was plentiful in the area in which I first encountered the pack, and the members had apparently been living there successfully for several years, within a few days of my arrival, they had included me into their routine. As I went back over my notes, I realized that within two weeks, I was providing virtually all of their food, treating their medical problems, and providing shelter for them. Within a month, I was in love.
Beagles cope with the encroachment of human society by attaching themselves tightly and permanently to the first interested human they encounter, thus securing a safe place for themselves within this new order. They are not endangered, they are ingenious. For while it is undeniably true that few beagles can be found living in the wild any more, there is also little of the wild to be found, and what remains is dominated by larger predators with much larger teeth (wolves, bears, wolverines, fisher martins, and the like). But beagles in North America are flourishing: on farms, in houses, in city apartments, and, at the moment, on my bed.


Copyright © by Dawn Eng, 1998-2004.
Posted with the author’s permission January 11, 2001.
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Re: To Snore With Beagles

I love it!

My only argument with the story is the four different directions for hunting. I'd think they'd stay in a pack....

I still wish Lucy would tell me the story of where she went the day she disappeared. Alas, beagles don't keep field notes.

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