It was still dark out when I heard my brother hop out of his bed. What is he doing up this early? It isn’t time for breakfast yet, even the birds are still pretty quiet. Figuring he was just getting out to go to the bathroom, I rolled over and went back to sleep.
Just as I was about to drift off, I heard somebody whisper, “Psst. Hey, Ladybug? Pssst. Ladybug! Laaaadybuuuuug. Are you awake?”
“No.” I responded, keeping my eyes shut and pressing my paws over my ears.
“Well wake up then!” I opened my eyes to find Greatness inches from my face, wearing a ridiculous grin.
“Greatness, go back to sleep! It’s too early for games!”
“Okay, okay, no need to get your tail in a knot.”
Greatness sulked back to the far corner of our lodge and with a big sigh, collapsed onto the floor.
Once again, I tried to go back to sleep. I could hear birds beginning to sing in the trees outside, and a few soft, distant thuds of deer wandering through the woods. The blue moon was still up and spilling its soft rays across the earth. One of the horses in the pasture next to the kennels stomped away a fly, and gave a snort as he woke up. Ugh, now everyone’s starting to wake up. I’m never going to get back to sleep.
I heard one of the hounds quietly step over some of my slumbering kennelmates and make her way outside. That’s when I heard Temple’s voice whisper from the run next door, “Good morning Damson.”
“Morning Temple,” Damson replied with a yawn, “Looks like it’ll be a pretty morning.”
“Sure does. I’m afraid young Lancaster didn’t sleep well at all last night. He must’ve gotten up six times, he’s so excited.”
“Yeah, poor Ladybug hasn’t been sleeping too well either. Though I think that’s more because Greatness won’t let her!” Damson chuckled.
“How many people do you think are going to turn up today?” Temple asked as he scratched behind his ear. That’s when my eyes flew open, and I stopped listening to the conversation. Today’s Opening Cubbing! That’s why everyone is so restless!
Just as this came to me, I heard Casino bay with all of her might, “Daddy’s coming!” and soon everyone in the kennel woke up and joined her. Daddy, huntsman here at Shakerag Hounds, walked down the kennel aisle checking in on everyone before he got our breakfast ready.
“Heeeey! Good morning Mason! Hey there Grenadier! Casino, I see you’re wide awake!” Everyone gulped down their breakfast and began to anxiously await the morning’s hunt. All of the new entry have been so excited to finally start cubbing; just one more step towards being one of the “big” hounds! Even the horses had been getting excited for the upcoming season as they got increasingly in shape after their time off during the summer.
“Can’t believe the season’s coming up so fast!” I heard Zabar comment between mouthfuls of hay.
“Wait until you guys see me get on a big run; I’m the fastest horse in the whole world!” Puddles, a new OTTB who’s had a good bit of training over fences this summer, bragged with a swish of his tail.
“Well it’s not your time quite yet today. You just wait ‘til you get behind one a them rangy coyotes; you’ll be havin’ to put on your afterburners then!” Fritz reminded Puddles.
The rest of the horses laughed as Puddles shook his head and quietly went back to his hay. The older, more experienced horses began trading tales of the best runs they’ve had while Puddles and Joe, Daddy’s new horse, eagerly listened to every word. Before I knew it, the horses were tacked up, trailers were on top of the hill, riders were mounted, and Daddy was putting our collars on. We waited at the bottom of the hill while the last few riders got on and the masters made their announcements. A few of the horses stomped impatiently, excitedly chomped at their bits, swished their tails, and took a side step or two as they waited for the day to begin. Some of the other hounds were fidgety as well, but Daddy kept our attention and just talked to us until it was time to go.
“I’m going to find the biggest fox in all of Georgia!” Lancer boasted and leapt in a small circle.
“Is it time yet? Can we go now?” Grenadier asked as he began to hop up and down from excitement.
“Watch it elephant!” Tracer growled as Grenadier hopped a little too close and bumped into him.
When we set off at 8:00, the sun was already beginning to beat down on the earth and the coolness from earlier in the morning was quickly turning into a thick humidity. When it was time to go, Daddy gave a few short blasts on the horn, and we all bounded into the big field on our way to the first covert. As we arrived to the covert, a few of the older hounds had already begun putting their noses close to the ground, taking deeper breaths. I could feel a few excited butterflies in my stomach; I took a few sniffs but couldn’t find anything, and looked up to see a few of my siblings doing the same thing. Then Daddy gave us the cue to go into the covert.
“Woo-hoo! It’s game day everybody!” Leader celebrated as he leapt right into the thickest part of the covert.
“Alright boys and girls, let’s get to work!” Grapevine said as she charged into the woods.
“Another year, another covert! Time to go find us some game!” Mason hollered.
Everyone in the pack quickly poured into the covert and got right down to business. About fifteen or twenty minutes passed as we all worked our very hardest to find a scent. Daddy moved us along through the woods and encouraged us to keep searching.
“I can’t find anything!” Greenwhich whispered.
“Keep sniffing. He’s in here somewhere.” Tattle quietly advised with her nose glued to the ground.
After a few more minutes of searching, most of the pack was picking their way through a covert close to the edge of a trail. I was trying and trying to sort out all of the scents, but no matter how hard I tried, none of them appeared to be the right ones for us to chase. All of a sudden, I heard a low voice come booming from deeper in the covert, “I got one!” and several of us lifted our heads to hear the cry. Several hounds bounded right in the direction of the voice to seek out the scent, and once Daddy told us it was right, everyone else zoomed in the direction of the growing cries.
When I got closer, I put my nose down and took a deep breath. That was it! A fox! I inhaled as deep as I could and cried with all my might as we all raced after him. Hearing all of the hound music as we all worked together made me forget the thick heat and energized me to keep going. The scent was strong; he couldn’t have been very far in front of us!
As we reached the edge of the covert, I heard a strange voice from up ahead say, “What in the world-” Suddenly we broke out of the thick part of the woods, and were along the sides of the trail where Daddy and first field were quietly standing. We all spread out a bit here, and got a bit quieter.
“Where’d he go? We just had him!” Lancaster moaned.
“Keep looking! You guys can’t be but ten seconds behind him!” Master Daryl Buffenstein’s horse cheered us on.
“You should’ve seen that fox’s face when he saw us all standing here! He stopped dead in his tracks and looked straight at me before running away!” a pony named Tobey laughed with a swish of his tail.
Only a few moments had passed when I heard somebody shout off to my right, “I got it! He went this way!” and we all fell right back onto the scent.
We ran for a total of twenty minutes, and there were actually three foxes up and about this morning! Can you believe it? Three! On the first day of cubbing! With all the heat, I was a little nervous that we wouldn’t find anything, but it seemed like they were everywhere! I wanted so badly to do a good job and make everybody proud. We were all beaming while Daddy did role call to make sure everyone was present after the run. All of the riders gave a big cheer after Daddy blew “End of Day” on the horn, so they must have had as much fun as we did!
When we got back to the kennels, Daddy put us out in the hound yard. Several of the hounds headed straight towards the water troughs for a drink. Nipper hopped into the water trough and started lapping up water as he walked in small circles to cool off. Bees and June bugs lazily buzzed through the air and occasionally a hound would snap at one flying too close. Every now and then there was a flutter of wings as birds busied themselves in the treetops, and a light breeze would move through the leaves, causing the shadows over the hound yard to dance. Nearly everyone stretched out for a nap, with a few lucky hounds claiming one of the big holes as their very own bed.
I got up from my spot in the shade to get a drink, and then plopped down next to the water trough where Newey was laying down to cool off. “Not a bad start to the season, huh?”
“Seemed great to me!” I replied.
“You excited for the official start of formal hunting next month? It’ll be here before you know it.”
“Definitely,” I said. “I’m ready.”
About Ladybug: Shakerag Ladybug is a black and tan Penn-MaryDel who will be entered at the start of the 2012-2013 season, along with her siblings Lancer, Lark, Lancaster, and Lantern, and Shakerag Greatness, Greenwich, and Grenadier. Her favorite activities include listening to hunting stories, digging big holes, and sitting in the water trough, but of course, hunting is her passion.