Jack is Churched

                          My name is Jack Beagle. I am a licensed rabbit hunter. It’s what I do.

                         

 

Along with 6 hours of rabbit-hunting daily, I also have a very full social calendar. I am somewhat altitude-challenged, and find that my life is much less anxiety-laden if I visit all the neighbors, and, of course, their large dogs, at least once a week, just so we’re all clear that I only come in peace, folks… just here for the bunnies. (Of course if an occasional snack is proffered, just so much better. Eating is what I do second best.)

 

It was in the course of making my rounds last Sunday, while I was enjoying some of my favorite kids and just about ready to head home for a nosh and a nap (what I do third best), when I saw my Car go by. The Car usually stops for me in case I want a ride, and since I was a pretty good piece away from home, that seemed like a fine idea, but this time it wasn’t stopping… in fact, it wasn’t even headed in the right direction! Thinking either there was some mistake or that my Person was trying to sneak away for the day, as sometimes  happens, I decided to catch up with my ride, so I started running, picking ‘em up & putting ‘em down as only a rabbit hound can, ears & tail strung out in the wind.

 

 

Jackson’s Person:

 

I thought Jack was off hunting and I knew was late for church. It was Palm Sunday and I had palms for my own church as well as for Salem Church. I was making pretty good time headed down the road when I caught a glimpse out of the corner of my eye of a familiar character, so slowed a little to double check, & sure enough, there was the Mighty Rabbit Hunter visiting some neighbor children. Immediately I resumed speed, but too late… he’d spotted me.

 

I knew from past experience that outrunning him was not going to happen. A rabbit-hunting beagle is like a Northwest Mountie… he  will  get  his  man; and if he has to run for forty days & forty miles to do it, well, that’s just part of the job. Happily, I had a leash in the car, so I stopped and Jackson hopped in.

 

Time to revisit my plans for the day . I have noticed one happy fact about getting older: when I was younger, my body was pretty flexible but my mind, not so much… nowadays, tho’ the body is sometimes stiff as a board, the mind has learned to lighten up & bend a bit; so I felt the day was going to work out anyway despite any change in plans. I decided there was no time to take Jack home since I was already late, so I’d take him with me, drop off Salem’s palms and those for my church, along with the copies I’d made of the next few months’ schedule of services, and head back home. I was sorry to have to leave since it was a very special Sunday, and as our minister pointed out, we Episcopalians are not noted for reliably getting back for the rest of the Holy Week services, preferring to get most everything in one large dose on Palm Sunday; but I’d be sure to be back next Sunday for Easter.

 

 

Jack:

 

I thought we were going to the dumpsters. That’s the only destination I’ve visited regularly by auto, and I love the wonderful aromas there. The history of a whole week’s activities is written in redolence around those dumpsters, so am always happy to go… But our vehicle wasn’t the usual fragrant garden of delights that trip entails…  And surely  if it were trip-to-the-vet day, I’d have been on board from the start.

 

 Curious…

 

We hadn’t been off our gravel road long before we made our first stop. I was wearing my best Sunday-go-to-meeting leash, a gift from my doting Aunt Skits (the same Aunt who overnighted me a set of stairs to use getting in & out of bed after I fell off the bed & almost killed myself), so I felt suitably dressed for visiting. We took the fine new ramp up to the doors of Salem Church, and went into the vestibule. A nice lady greeted us and I remembered her from her annual visit to our farm for a Christmas tree. I think she was just as surprised to see me at the church as I was to see her, but she took it in stride and thanked us profusely for the palms. As gracious as she was, she did look a bit relieved when we didn’t head into the big room they call the Sanctuary. Instead we resumed our road trip, arriving in short order at Emmanuel Church.

 

We walked around outside for a few minutes, which gave me an opportunity to leave a few markers in case I ever needed to find my way back, and to let other four-legged folks know I’d visited, always a courteous thing to do. Then we went into the the room called the Parish Hall to drop off the palms & schedules.

 

Well, you’d have thought I was a long-lost cousin, home at last! So many nice people I’d never met came up to scratch my ears and tell me what a fine pup I was and how nice it was to meet me. I loved it, and thanked them all with many wags. Then came a fine surprise… the person who belongs to my absolute best bud, Joey, came in. Her name is Rita, and she’s wonderful. I was so happy to see her she got lots of extra wags!

 

 

Jack’s Person:

 

It was good to see everyone. We are a very small church, so don’t have service every Sunday, & it’s always nice to get together. I knew Jack would be delighted to see Rita, who with her Australian shepherd Joey had mentored him through the chew-everything-ask-later stage of puppyhood. She always had a treat in her pocket for good dogs, and was a dead-eye with a water gun when the situation demanded it….

 

After chatting a bit, catching up with everyone, I thought I had better go ahead & take my hound dog back to the farm. I said as much, and was headed out when our minister, Halley, said “He’s welcome to stay, you know.”

 

I had no idea how Jackson Beagle would behave for an hour of quiet attentiveness. That’s not generally his long suit. I hesitated, running through possible scenarios, knowing that just because I loved Jack in all his puppyhood didn’t mean other folks necessarily would… but all the folks gathered said please to stay, so I decided to sit at the back where I could  leave at a moment’s notice. Rita said “I’ll sit back there with you & help” so Jack & I sat on one side of the aisle with Rita across from us, & we braced ourselves for whatever lay ahead.

 

 

Jack:

 

We went all the way to the back of the Sanctuary. There was a door there, & I could smell the outdoors, so I knew I was all right, but there were two contraptions at the back of the room that were noisily throwing off enough heat to fry a beagle.  I didn’t trust them a bit, though I guess they felt good to people at the front of the room on a chilly morning. I was just settling in when the nice Lady who said I was Welcome to stay said we should all come to the front and get our palms and walk around the church singing, so off we went. When the music started my Person and I fell in right behind a nice man named Ned who was wearing an Angel Suit and carrying the Cross, and we paraded around and around the room with everyone singing,

 

 It didn’t take me too long to figure out this exercise. A couple of times last winter I was allowed (after inviting myself) to go hunting with a pack of rabbit beagles and it was just like this… everybody going around in circles and singing at the top of their lungs. .. so I knew I was in good company. However, after about the fourth time around the same circle (me dodging those two red hot contraptions every pass) nobody had kicked up the first rabbit, so I decided to sit out the rest of the run. Maybe they’d have better luck another time… Eventually they all figured out the same thing and sat down too.

 

I think I have mentioned earlier that I’m a little height challenged… too short on one end, as some folks might put it… good for putting your nose to the ground all day, not so great for hunting giraffes or seeing the front of a room from the very back. Since I couldn’t really see what was going on at all I stretched out on the red carpet with my nose pressed against the crack at the outside door, breathing in the fresh air. My Person had already told me not to mistake the red carpet for grass, and she whispered it pretty urgently, so while I didn’t get the exact wording, I got the full meaning… “Don’t even think about marking this.”  I only thought about it once & we stepped outside for a minute & took care of every puppy’s obligation to fellow travelers.

 

Back inside, it was still frustrating not to be able to see what was going on at the front of the room so I jumped up on the seat to check things out. It was waxed as slick as glass & I very nearly busted my bum! But I stayed up there long enough to recover my composure. Then I saw a wonderful sight…  a gentleman approaching with a Plate! I watched patiently as he got closer and closer, & finally he was right beside me & scratched my ears & told me what a fine dog I was…then took the Plate to the next person without offering me a thing! Such nice people, I could hardly believe it… When the Plate was all the way at the front of the room again  the Welcome Lady  took it and held it up really high, & everybody started to sing; & looking at that Plate up so high in the air, I was moved to sing mournfully right along with them. After that I was a Dog of Diminished Expectations, so I curled up in a ball to get a little R & R. in case the pack decided to make another run later.

 

They all sang some more, and the Nice Man named Ned and the Welcome Lady took turns talking. I believe they were trying to give the group some pointers on kicking up rabbits next time around. Finally they gave a signal, and we all headed for the front of the church again. I braced for another hunt, but this time they all got down on their knees at the railing there and, lo and behold, here came the Welcome Lady around to each person in turn, and she, too, had a Plate! Smaller- more my size- but a Plate all the same. She came to my Person & gave her something to eat, & while she blessed Rita I put my nose thru the rail and sniffed the plate, and looked as cute as I knew how… but there was to be no nosh for the dog this morning. Sad…

 

But then the Welcome Lady smiled so pretty and asked my Person, “Would Jack like to have a blessing?”  And she put her hand on my head and said the very nicest words you could imagine.  I forgot all about the plate, & my happy  tail took over instead. ..

 

Once I was blessed we marched back to our seats, (no rabbit run this time), and sang some more, then everybody went back to the room where we came in to make our farewells.  I collected a whole bunch more of warm words and ear scratches, and Mr. Patteson, the gentleman with the Big Plate, said I had fine lines, and I was welcome back any time, that I sort of livened things up. I am told he is a connoisseur of beagles, so I was honored and proud.

 

My person and I got back in our car and headed home, and curled up on the seat in the warm sunshine I knew I had in fact been blessed.  And I had a little time to think about the Nice Man Ned and the Welcome Lady, and I decided they had taught the pack a pretty good lesson that  morning… that if you all run around and sing as loud and pretty as you can with all your heart and still can’t kick up a rabbit in ten passes, you need to head home for chow and a long nap, and save the hunt for another day.

 

I hope to go back again sometime. I felt a bond with all those good folks, and I’m looking forward to seeing that nice pack again. Maybe they’ll let me take the lead on the next hunt. I could really help with their singing, and with my expertise, I’ll guarantee if there’s a rabbit in that Church, I’ll flush him out!

 

Probably not next Sunday, though… not a good Sunday for rabbit-hunting.