Sammy, Squirrel Stalker Extraordinaire

By Dorothy Johnson


Sammy, a Beagle owned by Jim and Sally Doten, at first glance is a typical Beagle.  He loves to go to camp and ice fishing with Jim, sleep in the recliner with Sally and stalk squirrels.  This March is his birthday month and he will be three.  Jim and Sally have had him for about eighteen months.  They chose him because he was the smallest of the puppies left in two litters and he showed Jim and Sally how much he wanted to go home with them by cuddling down in their arms right away.

The puppy, though, has never chewed anything but his own toys.  That makes him an extraordinary Beagle and puppy.  He chews all of his toys.  The first thing he works on is taking the squeakers out; then he chews to his heart’s content.  He also loves marrow bones, but he only chews the marrow.  For this little gentleman, no shoes, slippers, sock, furniture or knick-knacks are snacks.  Last week he was given a new ball, sort of an early birthday present. It was a big ball, but he was still able to get his teeth into it and chewed until it popped.

While Beagles were first bred to be trackers, Sammy was bred and brought up to be the baby of the family.  In fact, he was allowed to run free late in the evening, but he got himself in a bit of trouble by staying out beyond curfew and not coming to Jim’s whistle. Right after that he got very sick.  His trip to the veterinarian was a disappointment because if his medicine did not cure his problem, he would need a $1500 surgery.  Everyone in the neighborhood was glad his medicine worked.  Now he is running around, eating his own food (after a diet of boiled hamburger and rice) and acting normally.

Now that he is feeling better, Sammy wants to go everywhere Jim goes.  If, for some reason, he is left at home, he spends his time looking out the window waiting for Jim’s truck to drive in the yard.

In general, Beagles were bred to be trackers (hunters) because of their keen sense of smell.  They are a small to medium-sized dog which is a member of the hound group similar to a Foxhound, but smaller with shorter legs and longer, softer ears.  Predominantly, they were developed for tracking hare, rabbit and other small animals.  Their superior sense of smell and tracking instinct employs them as detection dogs for contraband agricultural imports and food stuffs.  They are also ideal family pets because of their intelligence, even temper and lack of inherited health problems.

This type of dog was mentioned in literature 2000 years ago, but the modern breed was developed in Great Britain in the 1830s from a Talbot Hound, a North Country Beagle, a Southern hound and a Harrier.  Beagles were introduced into the United States in the 1840s strictly for hunting.  They were accepted as a separate breed by the American Kennel Club in 1884.  Now they are known worldwide.  The purebred Beagle is now more popular in the United States and Canada than in their native Great Britain. In 2005 and 2006 Beagles were listed fifth most popular out of 155 breeds in North America.

John Paul Scott and John Fuller conducted a longitudinal study on the smelling/tracking ability of several breeds.  The men set one mouse loose on a one-acre lot.  The Beagle found the mouse in less than a minute.  The Fox Terrier found the mouse in 15 minutes.  The Scottish terrier never found the mouse.

Beagles are even-tempered, with a gentle disposition, merry, amiable and neither aggressive nor timid.  They are a bit single-minded, however, and may not return when they are on a scent.  They rate quite low on the scale of working obedience because of this trait. 

The life span is listed as two possibilities 10-13 years and 12-15 years.  One litter of puppies may produce two to fourteen pups.  Beagles are susceptible to epilepsy, obesity if not on a good diet and types of disc diseases.  Sometimes the immune system attacks a Beagle’s joints even at a young age.  Their floppy ears can also lead to infections if not watched.  Some have eye problems. They are also apt to pick up parasites when roaming free.

Beagles are now mostly purchased as family pets, detection, therapy for senior citizens and for termite detection in Australia.  They have also been used to find people buried alive in earthquakes.  Beagles are also popular in modern culture with Snoopy being the most famous Beagle in literature.

Beagles have many positive points for their personal traits and few of the health drawbacks of other breeds.  If readers are looking for a small dog, I suggest they visit Sammy and check out this baby’s personality.