Bo is an exquisitely well-bred black and tan coon hound so handsome that people literally stop in their tracks to stare.
Hounds just don’t come much prettier than Bo. Anyone would be proud to have him.
But Bo has some sort of turbo mechanism operating just beneath his well-muscled surface that drives every second of his life. He can’t bear to walk nicely on a leash, and he isn’t interested in having his velvet ears rubbed. Even when he is worn out, he paces and leaps, desperate to take to the fields, follow his nose. He won’t even stop to do his business â€” he just empties his bladder in a surging stream while on the move.
He’s the kind of dog you can appreciate for his beauty and his good nature, but, to be honest, you’re kind of glad you don’t live with him.
In August, Bo landed in the little Rocky Mountain shelter, Teller County Regional Animal Shelter (TCRAS), where I’m a volunteer dogwalker. He had lived a pillar-to-post existence during his nine months on earth. Adopted from a Denver shelter at about 4 months old and taken home to an apartment, he was turned in at a another shelter 100 miles away when it became quickly obvious that apartment life wasn’t a good fit and that his strong prey drive would bring about an unhappy ending for the resident cats.
Then he was adopted out to a couple with young kids, and in days they called a third shelter, TCRAS, saying Bo was unruly and kept knocking over the kids. The caller was told the shelter was overflowing that day, but to contact one of the other shelters (phone numbers were supplied) or to call TCRAS again soon as runs would open. The next morning, Bo was nearly hit by a car in a remote area, obviously dumped. He was picked up by a good Samaritan and taken to TCRAS, where employees instantly recognized him as the dog described over the phone.
We volunteers are accustomed to dogs with too much energy and too few manners. Most people who give up dogs do so because they never bothered to provide appropriate training and exercise, and the dog is undisciplined, stir crazy and confused. We’re not professionals, but we can usually at least get animals composed enough that we can walk them and get them used to accepting a little direction.
Bo seemed to be in a different category of creature. He hurled himself at the kennel door day and night. He seemed never to relax or take a nap in the sunshine. Long leash or short, pinch collar or not, he’d pull with the strength of an ox, leaping on his back legs, making himself and the walker miserable. He seemed not to hear when spoken to; he seemed unable to focus on anything presented for his enjoyment.
None of this was his fault, of course. And although Colorado appreciates high-energy dogs that will go on long hikes or trail rides, no visitor wanted this guy.
A shelter volunteer who’s a dog trainer declared Bo a dog in serious need of serious work, and took him in September to be assessed by Sean Hartley, a veteran dog trainer and recently retired SWAT cop whose dog Justice is the No. 2-ranked drug-detection dog in the nation. Hartley now trains trailing dogs for law enforcement and other professionals and trains peanut detection dogs for a recently formed non-profit called Angel Service Dogs. Hartley loves to take on shelter dogs, purebreds or mixed breeds, that are motored by some genetic hard drive that cannot be short-circuited, can only be focused into something productive.
We kept fingers crossed. Bo was not just an out-of-control young dog; he was woefully unfulfilled. Maybe this was his shot.
Last week I visited Bo, now five weeks into training with Hartley. The dog remains as high voltage as ever. “I’ve never seen this dog sleep. And he’s probably the strongest dog I’ve ever seen,” Hartley said with a laugh as Bo blasted outside, whining, sniffing the breeze. But when he was put through his paces â€” he’s training as a trailing dog and will probably go to a handler in law enforcement in a few months â€” it was clear Bo is content â€¦ and excellent at what he does. He followed the scent of footsteps through the grass with unerring accuracy.
“This dog’s gonna find some suspects or save some lives,” Hartley said.
Bo, Hartley said, is clearly from potent working lines, so he’s “tenacious, stubborn and hard-tough,” meaning he wants to work so much he’ll muscle through harsh elements, stressful situations, impossible terrain and bleeding feet to find what he’s after.
Certain lines of hounds can be “fairly mellow by hound standards,” but Bo’s breeding keeps him in fifth gear all the time. “He’s good natured, but he’ll never be a touchy-feeling house pet no matter how much he’s trained,” said Hartley, patting Bo affectionately, something the dog enjoyed for three seconds, then pulled away, distracted by some scent on the wind.
After at least three attempts, he’s nobody’s pet. But stay tuned. If Hartley’s right, you may read some day about a lost child being found by a rangy hound called Bo.