National Geographic : 2002 Jan
MASTERS OF SCENT Nose deep in overseas mail, Jacques of the USDA Beagle Brigade in Miami sniffs out meat and other agricul tural contraband (right) with an 84 percent accuracy rate eight hours a day. In Virginia foxhounds managed to track their quarry five miles, despite smoke from a forest fire, be fore returning to their trailer tuckered out. dappled woods and fields three times a week with horseback riders in keen pursuit during the hunting season from August to March and are exercised twice a week in the off-season. They are lean athletes that take confinement in stride, waiting for the next chance to run. I tag along for an exercise session with Dodson, who brings whippers-in to keep the hounds in check. A walk with his pack is as much an exercise in discipline as a physical exercise. The whippers-in snap their leather at dawdlers to keep the pack tight and focused on the huntsman, who with his horn and bag of kibble looks every bit the Pied Piper in overalls. The whippers-in are Dave Ingram, a retired banker from Culpeper, and Beth Opitz, a housewife, foxhunter, mother, and hound lover from Berryville, who drives a couple of hours round-trip twice a week to help Dodson. Ingram says listening to the hounds chase a fox along a ridgetop on an autumn day "makes the hair stand up on the back of my neck." Opitz, who grew up with a pack of hounds her veteri narian father still keeps in Pennsylvania, loves foxhunting so much, she says, "If I got a second life and could choose how to live it, I'd live it as a hound." Short of that she keeps a pack of 17 beagles in a pen behind her house and uses them to chase rabbits twice a week with her husband and two children. If Loewy, Dodson, and Opitz seem extreme in their affection for dogs, they are hardly alone. Dogs are kept in 40 million U.S. homes these days, and Americans spend billions of dollars a year on dog food and dog health care.