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Black and Tan Hound

Pets help keep you happy and healthy

Story by Lisa Stites

Rufus is our hound dog. More specifically, Rufus is a Black and Tan Coonhound. We adopted Rufus, and he adopted us, last November from the Columbus County Animal Shelter. There are great agencies with pets available for adoption right here in Brunswick County, such as the Brunswick County Animal Shelter, S.O.A.R. and Paws Place. But we were looking for a hound, and Columbus County is where we found Rufus. We had lost our Belle, likely a Red Bone/Black and Tan mix, over the summer, and we decided it was time to have a dog in the house again. Little did we know how right we were.

Rufus was probably about one-and-a-half years old when we brought him home. We could tell right away that he had never even been in a house before because everything was new to him — kitchen counters, the television, appliances that make noises, etc. Hounds are social and loving dogs, and he took to us right away. But he didn’t know about living in a house, and he couldn’t even relax enough to really sleep those first couple of days. He just stood there, eyes almost all the way closed, swaying. Within a few weeks though, he had settled in pretty well. He is very smart and he housebroke himself, really, and he quickly learned to walk on a leash. He still needs to be told he can eat sometimes, which makes me sad, but he has gained the weight he should have and he’s healthy.

Rufus is such a hound. He chases away the squirrels from our porch, he loves to snuggle and he can go from couch potato to fierce protector of the Stites domain in no time flat. But my absolute favorite thing about this dog is that he makes me laugh.

Laughter is the best medicine, right? It’s a common saying, but this year we got to see why it holds true. There’s always been a lot of laughter in our house. Earlier this year, though, I received a diagnosis that was a complete surprise. I am responding well to treatment, and am on a course to beat this leukemia. Our lives shifted though, and if we weren’t careful, it would have been easy to let a darker mood permanently settle over our home. That’s where Rufus fits in.

Rufus does all the typical dog things that make dogs endearing pets to many. He barks and wags his tail when we come home and greets us at the door. Sometimes he meets me at the door with a toy and I have to play my way across the living room, like paying a toll. He has to have cuddle time, and he likes to rub noses, and maybe nibble a little too. But he’s also sassy. He talks back, grumbles and complains. Oh, he listens when I tell him to stop begging at the table and go lie down. But he grouses about it, and it just makes me laugh.

According to the American Kennel Club website, Black and Tans can serenade a neighborhood with their “mournful music,” and are very social dogs. But they are clearly not the breed for everyone. “B&Ts might be too much hound for the lifestyle of every owner,” the breed description states.

What a polite way of saying these dogs are crazy. Lovable, but crazy. After his first trip to the veterinarian, he was banned from the waiting room simply because he tried to eat a cat. He loves to play with toys, and he flings them at you if you ignore his not very subtle clues that it’s playtime. He did that to me as I was writing this article, actually. I remember the first time he played with a toy, because it made me so happy. He’d been with us a few weeks, and it was like he was finally secure enough that he could relax and play. It still makes me smile. And that’s good for the soul, and the heart, and all of our other parts.

The AKC cites numerous studies that show a correlation between improved health for humans who have dogs. Walking dogs counts as exercise, interactions with dogs can relieve stress and living with a dog can improve heart health, studies cited on the AKC site show.

I’m no scientist, and I’m certainly no doctor, but I can attest to the fact that owning this crazy, lovable pup, who has stolen not only my heart, but also my favorite blanket, does help me focus on happy things.

When you adopt a dog from a shelter or rescue group, you’re saving that dog and giving it a chance for renewed life. But you’re also giving yourself the chance for a healthier and happier life filled with love, laughter, and maybe a little drool.

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