Trailhounds Part 4……When I had kept Notches, the Black-And-Tan hound for a year or so, I became curious as to whether she still had her “raccoon phobia”. Though I probably would have found out eventually by happenstance–raccoons being common in the area–I decided to set up an encounter where I had some control of the situation. At my workplace in those days(I was fired from that job long ago!), I often caught “nuisance” animals in cage traps, and hauled them home to release in the extensive National Forest where I lived, to prevent their being shot by the trigger-happy bossman. I had already reprieved several ‘possums, raccoons and two red foxes in this manner. About the time I decided I wanted to test Notches, we had a persistent and messy trash-raiding raccoon at work that I needed to remove if he was to live much longer. I set a trap, and soon had a sizable and quite belligerent boar coon to take home. I planned to release him on my property, which was also isolated, forested, and good raccoon habitat…..
Upon arriving home, I carried the snarling coon in the cage trap well up into the woods, out of sight of my other dogs–I wanted to get Notches’ uninfluenced reaction to her phobia animal. Then I leashed her up, and walked her up towards the trap. She air-scented the raccoon well before it was in sight, and rather than cringe pitifully, which is what I was expecting, she burst forth in full cry, and began lunging on the leash towards the coon in the trap. As we got closer, and she actually saw the caged animal, she enthusiastically confronted the now thoroughly aroused boar coon. I allowed her to “bay it up” for a few minutes, encouraging her while shaking my head in disbelief–I had not expected this complete a turn-around so quickly in her former aversion to raccoons! Perhaps the previous year of good treatment and continuous praise during her hunting efforts had erased the traumatic experiences of her past…..
I decided to do a bit more, and see if she would trail and perhaps even tree this raccoon, so I tied her leash to a nearby tree, and released the raccoon, who lost no time skedaddling. I waited a bit to give the coon a good head start, and I hoped he would quickly climb a tree, which would have been likely under the circumstances. Notches was wild to get loose–baying and lunging against her leash like an old pro! At last I freed her, and she immediately took up the hot trail of the raccoon, her melodious voice echoing up the hollow. I followed, running as quickly as I could behind. Far up the mountainside, I heard Notches baying “treed” in only a few minutes, and as I came panting up beside her, I saw with some trepidation that the raccoon had climbed up a very small sapling, and he was barely ten feet off the ground, Notches leaping wildly beneath him. He was obviously dissatisfied with his choice of refuge, and was coming down as I approached. This is NOT what I wanted to happen! I did not want my formerly coon-phobic hound to get into an actual fight with a large, justifiably angry boar raccoon during her first rehabilitation session, so I rushed forward, hoping to scare the coon back up the tree. Too late! The grizzled boar coon leaped out the last few feet, and literally jumped right onto my hound! They rolled down the mountainside clinched in battle, and the fur flying! That coon was some bold fighter, but my little hound was not inclined to give an inch, and after a brief tussle, the coon broke away, and shot up a much larger, more appropriate tree, to refuge at the top. Notches was reared against the trunk, baying for all she was worth!
Of all the critters there, I had to admit, I was most surprised at the outcome! I praised my hound lavishly, leashed her up, and we headed back home, leaving the raccoon to explore his new territory, and ruminate on the foolhardiness of jumping onto a baying hound’s back. And from that day forward, Notches has had no further fear of raccoons!…. Next up–the ghost hounds of the Uwharries