“He’s a southern boy,” Carol insists, although his name is Ollie and not something like Bobbi Joe.
There’s no doubt about Ollie’s ancestral roots. They’re deep into hunting and more accurately, coon hunting. After all, our recent family addition, a rescue from the East Greenwich Animal Rescue League, is a coonhound. He’s not just any coonhound, but a spotted coonhound. Very spotted.
I haven’t seen an animal like him. He wears black, brown and white patches, as do members of his breed. But under the hair are black spots, hundreds of them ranging from no bigger than a pinhead to circles the size of silver dollars. They are everywhere as if he crossed the path of a painter shaking out a brush. They are on the pads of his feet, in his mouth and on his nose. Somehow they missed his ears, but that’s it.
Carol figures it’s the “southern boy” in Ollie that makes him gravitate to sunny locations wherever they’re found. His sleeping form, with all those spots on his pink belly exposed, is most often next to the kitchen door. Such repose is short lived, however, when there’s food to be had.
He’s on full alert then; his freckled nose poking from under an elbow to explore what is on the counter. His tongue pokes ever so slowly from beneath his jowls and he rolls his eyes imploringly. This is not a demand, or the prelude to a snatch and run; it’s a gentle reminder not to be forgotten. Carol is convinced it’s southern good manners and Ollie has learned how to cash in on them.
He knows the command to sit and how it is frequently followed with a treat. It’s not difficult to imagine his thought process:
“OK, I know the drill. I sit and I get a sample, maybe even some of that chicken they’re preparing. On the other hand, if I lie down, I usually get another nibble, and if I roll on my back so they can rub my tummy, I’ll even get more.”
Once he has your attention and has calculated his chances, Ollie won’t wait for the command. He’ll sit, wait for a handoff and, if that doesn’t work, try the belly up routine.
It’s an arrangement that has worked so far. Nothing has disappeared from the table or the counter as has happened with other canine family members – Binky once made off with bread fresh from the oven one Christmas morning, which left me wondering how he had done it without scolding himself. I confess I came to admire such a daring raid, although at the time we were outraged. Ollie is a gentleman, or so he appears. We doubt he would pull off such a stunt, although we haven’t given him the opportunity to find out.
But there’s more to life than food. There’s song.
Carol discovered that truth Sunday after a breakfast of scrambled eggs and fresh baked cornbread.
“He’s a coonhound, so he’s going to love cornbread,” Carol said.
Sure, I thought, as if Ollie is going to know the difference between cornbread and English muffins. It’s food he likes and it doesn’t make any difference if it’s Chinese, Italian or Mexican.
He gently took the cornbread Carol offered him, such manners.
After breakfast, Carol went upstairs to play her guitar. Ollie followed. I soon could hear the distant strum of her playing as I leafed through the Sunday paper. Then a long and melodious series of howls erupted. He kept it up and she started laughing.
“See!” she said from upstairs, “He loves cornbread, and my singing.”
On Easter Sunday, I think we’ll try French toast and see what happens with that.