I picked Blake up in October of 1995 in North River after Mike called and said he had a nice male for me. I left home in a couple days hoping to miss any inclement weather but ran into snow in the North Country that slowed my return trip quite a bit.
I didn’t have a name so my mother suggested “Blake” after my Uncle Joe who had just passed. My dad’s brothers all called Joe “Blake.” It just seemed to fit.
Blake was a high energy hound from Day 1 and I really enjoyed our puppy walks. Through that first winter we did a lot of yard work and by spring he was ready to go. I box trapped a rabbit and showed it to him, set it loose, and Blake proceeded to circle his first rabbit. He didn’t open much but he was right on the line making a quick circle into the scotch pines and back to a hole under my mother’s shed. To say I was impressed is an understatement. I immediately called Mike to tell him the news.
Throughout that summer, we ran quite a bit, solo and some pack work. Rabbits were plentiful that year and we had a blast. As he gained confidence, he added some voice and I was very pleased and could not wait to gun him. We bagged quite a few that first season.
Blake continued to improve and hunted like a finished, older hound by the end of gun season. I just loved taking him out. We had a lot of fun as well some strange encounters.
While running one day with Blake and Betsy, I heard a commotion near a small brush pile. I scurried up the hill to find Blake and Betsy with a skunk cornered. I grabbed a stick to try to get them away but it was too late. Before I could blink, each hound had an end of the skunk and began to stretch it. I couldn’t do a thing and in a few seconds there were two halves to the skunk and here comes Blake to give me his prize. At the time I was driving a Jeep Grand Cherokee and had to put the hounds in the back. I drove the 2 miles or so with the hatch open but everything reeked. Thank God for Skunk Off, it really does work.
Another time with Blake and Betsy, we were running at a Christmas tree farm and the running was heads up and blistering. The rabbit would run through the pines and into a small woodlot and back again. It was approaching night but I let them go a little longer, the running was so good I hated to stop it. As Betsy came across the path just behind the rabbit, I saw some white around her muzzle. I couldn’t see exactly what it was so I hurried down and grabbed the hounds. Both Blake and Betsy’s face and mouth were loaded with porcupine quills. I quickly headed back to the house. Betsy stayed relatively calm as my wife and I removed about 10 to 15 from her. Blake was another story. I didn’t know a beagle could be that strong. I held him while my wife pulled some 30 to 40 quills from his mouth, nose, face, ears and neck. My wife, Blake and I were exhausted after that 3 hour or so ordeal.
I was soloing Blake another time when he got between a groundhog and its hole. Our woodchucks can be pretty feisty and Blake was on a mission. The groundhog didn’t last long although he did manage to bite Blake in the back of the neck. Blake had a mean streak that was totally different than his normal personality. He loved the taste of blood. Everyone that saw Blake run was impressed, he could just hammer a rabbit and seemed to work checks out with ease.
When he felt like it, Blake handled fairly well, but if he wanted to hunt more, he developed a hearing problem and totally ignored me. On a windy day, we were hunting a strip on the upper side of a hill and the running was fairly good. At dusk, I called the hounds in but no Blake. I loaded the hounds and headed back to look for Blake. No luck. I laid my shirt down at the drop off spot and headed for home. I kenneled and fed the hounds and back to the running spot. The wind picked up even more as a storm was coming in. No sight or sound of him. At about 11 PM, I drove around the other side of the hill and caught a slight bawl coming from the thickest, nastiest, jungle of blow-downs, grape vines and everything else. Blake had about 7 hours of running but that wasn’t enough. I had skinned shins, knees and bruises, but Blake was back in the kennel.
Another time, I was not so lucky. We started our hunt about 4 PM and darkness came and no Blake. He was just running minutes before so I knew he was in the area. I was not concerned about this spot as there were no roads or other hazards in that area. I had a long day so again I left a shirt and went home. Around 11PM I went out and heard him running deep in the hollow. There was no way I was going down to get him. Up at 7AM, I headed to the running spot. As I got out of the car, I heard that familiar voice, still going strong. I positioned myself at a crossing and soon the rabbit crossed. I got down there just as Blake was coming through and I grabbed him. He was still going strong 14 some hours later.
He was just something else. On another occasion we were hunting near a small pond and for some reason, instead of following me around the pond, he decided to swim across. He got to the middle or a little farther and decided to swim back the way he came. Still another time he got down a steep creek bank and couldn’t get back out. Luckily, I found him, laid down at the creek’s edge, and barely reached his collar to pull him to safety. Blake and I had so many close calls but also so much fun, I just loved it!
As he aged, his hearing went and wouldn’t or couldn’t hark in to the pack or hear me anymore so he stayed home. Both he and I hated it. Blake died at 12 and it was one of the hardest days for me to lay him in his grave. I think about that crazy hound all the time and now I have a great-granddaughter that is a splitting image of him. Can’t wait till the weather finally breaks to start her.