A remedy for too-serious times
I normally write a column about an awesome event, the Basset Hound Games, in time for anyone interested to attend them. But summer seems to have gotten away from me this year, and I will have to describe them in the past tense this time.
For future fun, please note that the Basset Hound Games are always held on the third Sunday of July, which means the 2015 spectacular will be on July 19. Briefly pause now to mark your calendars.
The Basset Hound Games used to be called the Basset Hound Olympics. Now, I have written about them many times over the years. I started attending many, many years ago when my first basset, my beloved Menehune, was just a wee drooly pup tripping over her own ears, and I have tried not to miss it ever since.
The world has seemed a grim and cruel place many times over the course of those years, and sometimes it’s hard to overcome despair. But drive over to Woodburn for this event every year and put yourself in the midst of several hundred long, low, large, slobbering, ridiculous-looking hounds, all of them simultaneously wagging their tails and scheming on how to raid their owners’ picnic baskets, and you will find you can stock up on enough levity to last you for months. My smile muscles get tired.
The array of athletic competitions is breath-taking. First there is the Marathon Nap — last dog left snoozing wins it all. The Obstacle Course, which some years includes the dangerous wading pool filled with one inch of water that defeats many of even the bravest of hounds. You see, bassets are not fond of anything that even resembles a bath. As the saying goes, “I’d rather brave the gray wolf’s wrath, than give my basset hound a bath.”
This year, the champion completed the course in less than 10 minutes, with the help of some encouraging dog biscuits. The 11-yard dash was next … dogs racing 33 feet, ears flapping and lips drooling — some of them even bothering to run to the owners who brought them. I thought Snuffleupagus, my basset, had a good shot at winning this, and he would have had he run in the right direction. I could go on — synchronized swimming (trying to grab a hot dog out of a wading pool), the Endurance Sit, the Basset Limbo, and the ever popular Costume Contest. I defy you to put a hat on a basset and not smile. A basset in full costume is hilarious. My favorite this year was a basset disguised as a banana split, although the basset who looked remarkably like Bert Lahr dressed up as the lion in the Wizard of Oz was a hit, too.
One has to wonder what possesses otherwise sane people, many quite successful in their chosen careers, to set up an event like this. I can answer that —- it’s a heck of a lot of fun! And if you meet someone who owns a basset, you can pretty much bet they have a propensity for fun. Bassets — and I speak from 20 years of slobbery ownership — are not really good for much else.
You will never see a basset hound service dog. Ditto for guard dog, drug dog, search-and-rescue dog, herding or even hunting, which they were originally bred to do. God knows, they can follow a scent, but whether it’s the scent you wanted them to follow or the scent they end up with is pretty much a crap shoot. Obedience trials? You have got to be kidding. And even confirmation competition requires that the dog do what is expected of him in the ring, something you can never count on with a basset.
Some 20 years ago, I was at a nursery in Springfield (Gossler’s, if you know it, a wonderful nursery) where there was a basset named Sherman or Shiloh or such. I thought to myself, “Wouldn’t it be fun to own such a silly looking dog?” and I was hooked.
But one of the first breeders I called gave these words of encouragement to me: “Bassets. They shed, they stink and they slobber. Are you sure you want one?” Happily, I said yes, but she was absolutely honest on all three counts, and really, the three “S’s” are the least of a basset hound owner’s woes.
They don’t just drool — they sling slobber up and down your walls. They pretend to drink from their water dish, but then (and I swear that Snuffleupagus does this with a twinkle in his eye) walk across the kitchen floor leaving large puddles of the water formerly in the dish fall from their mouths.
No scrap of food is safe if left within 18 inches of the edge of the counter — sure, they’re short, but as one basset owner aptly put it, “They’re a LOT bigger than they look!”
And they have an uncanny ability to know instantly when you have forgotten to close the gate to keep them out of wherever it is you don’t want them to be, never mind that they appear to be in a deep slumber at the time. They have a bark for all occasions and share it generously. They chew. They are creative gardeners, but their excavations and penchant for pruning are generally not what you had in mind for your landscape.
Obedience? Forget about it, although in their defense, they will do just about anything for you if you have the right treat. And have I mentioned that they are notoriously hard to housebreak? Shortly after I brought Menehune home, someone gave me a book, “The Basset Hound Owner’s Survival Guide,” and it has been my constant reading companion ever since. Actually, Menehune ate that copy. I had to buy myself another one.
So why do I, and the several hundred other folks at the Basset Hound Games, own such ridiculous, troublesome pooches? And many of us are repeat offenders — when one basset dies, we go out and get another one. Why?
Well, I can speak only for myself, but I believe many other hound owners can relate. In this world of hurry, schedules, lists and tasks, we are in real danger of taking ourselves too seriously. We have to be there. We have to do that. We have to have this. And we have to do it all efficiently so we can get to the next thing we have to do or have or be.
A basset keeps his feet on the ground, except when stealing food or sleeping on your bed. A basset knows the important things in life — love, play, sleep and food. And, trust me, a basset will never take you seriously and will give you many opportunities when you have to laugh at yourself, one of life’s best therapies.
I wouldn’t recommend you go out and get one — they are certainly not for everybody. But once a year, you might want to go to the Basset Hound Games and share in the experience.
Nancy Carlson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.