Beau, the chow, circa 2005 watching as my son, Liam, plays outside with a seed spreader.
The year was 1994 and I was 14 years old. School was out for the summer and life was good. I would spend my days fishing the river with grandfather "Pap" and playing Mortal Kombat on my Sega Genesis.
One day I was outside playing with my Labrador retriever, Duchess, when back by the woods I spotted a stray dog. It was large, with matted hair, and walked with a limp from a hind leg injury. He wanted to be near people but was wary due to apparent trauma from his past. We started putting food out for him on a regular basis when it became obvious that he wasn't going anywhere. After a period of about two weeks, we were finally able to get close enough to pet him.
He was severely malnourished, suffering a prominent limp on his back right leg, and his neck was worn bare from having a rope tied to him for an unknown amount of time. What the dog didn't lack though was a gentle spirit. Once we started handling him he responded with a glad heart and was quickly absorbed into our family.
Naming a new pet is always a struggle for me. I want to pick something catchy, but simple. Something that speaks of the personality of the animal but doesn't sound too corny. In the previous school year we had studied about the American Civil War and a particular general's name stuck out to me, Pierre Gustave Toutant-Beauregard. Beauregard, or simply Beau as he became known to all.
Beau was a complex animal. He never showed an inkling of a mean streak that chows were known for, but he could stare down a person, with an unblinking gaze that could unnerve the most stoic of strangers. He was jet-black and long legged, too long legged for chow really. At a glance he could be mistaken for a black bear.
In the summertime, he would seek out a cool place to lay, usually underneath of the back porch. In the cooler months, however, he came into his element. Snow never seemed to phase him, as he would curl up int the yard, snow forming a blanket over his thick coat. At times all you could see was his eyes blinking through the white veil of snow.
Around this same time I had a Labrador mixed with a Norwegian elk hound that had a penchant for pointing and retrieving quail. While out on a quail hunt one autumn afternoon, Beau took off running and emitting a high pitched yelp or bark. Soon he emerged from the brush in hot pursuit of a rabbit. Never one to pass up an opportunity, I took the shot and got the rabbit. This repeated itself a few times over the course of the afternoon and I ended the hunt with more rabbits than quail.
Beau was a unique dog. I know of no other chows used in the pursuit of rabbits, or any other game for that matter. He just proved the old saying that one should never judge a book by it's cover. You might just be surprised by what lies underneath.
Jon is a staff writer for the Greene County Daily World. He can be reached by telephone at (812) 847-4487, ext. 21. He can also be reached via email at email@example.com.