State College, PA - Centre County - Central Pennsylvania - Home of Penn State University

Russell Frank: The Curious Incident of the Dog on the Creek Trail

by on March 30, 2012 6:00 AM

The day being summery, Han and I headed for Shingletown Gap.

Along the creek, we walked through lovesick clusters of blue butterflies and met a couple with two dogs who had lost a bluetick coonhound named Bella earlier in the day. They asked us to call them should we chance to meet her.

About a half hour later, we spotted a dog across the creek that had to be Bella, looking shivery. I called her. She looked at me, but stayed put. I called John, her owner, told him I would try to coax her back to the parking area, but if I couldn't, he would find us if he hiked back in.

The Bluetick Coonhound: Their Personalities

  • When they are unhappy, they are miserable.

Bella looked miserable. WWDD? I asked myself. What would Dorn do? Dorn, my longtime hiking partner, is a friend to all beasts. When we run across dogs or cats in our perambulations of the streets and fields and woodlands of Centre County, he crouches, holds out a hand, talks to them, and they come.

So that’s what I did. I thought food might help, but all we had were apples, almonds and chocolate. I tried the almonds. Bella didn't budge. I wasn't sure what she would do if I crossed the creek and approached her.

They are the breed least likely to be aggressive to people.

I decided to give her time to get used to my presence. While I fished out the New York Times crossword puzzle (be prepared), Han continued up the trail, planning to return after 10 minutes. As soon as I sat down, Bella got up and began searching for a way to cross the water. There was a bridge of thin branches, but she didn't trust it. She stepped into the creek and didn't like the way her paw sunk down. Back and forth she went, trying the bridge, trying the water. I made encouraging noises.

  • They are very intelligent, with an uncanny knack for problem-solving.

Finally, she summoned the courage to cross the bridge. I proffered the almonds. She took one, spit it out, took another, ate it, took a third, spit it out. I was considering seeing how she'd feel about my using my belt for a leash when she picked up the scent of John and his other dogs and took off for the trailhead.

  • Blueticks are curious and have a tendency to follow their own noses. If they pick up a scent they may wander off and not even hear you calling them back, or not care to listen, as they will be too busy trying to find the critter at the other end.

I hustled after her, calling her name and telling her to stay or come, by turns. She sort of did. Mostly she stopped at this or that tree to sniff, which allowed me to close the gap.

We met a group of kids, one of whom greeted me by name: a friend of my son. I explained the Bella situation to them. They wished me luck and my luck improved: Bella allowed me to wrap my belt around her collar.

But she pulled me so hard and fast along the rocky path, wheezing all the while as she strained forward, that I decided she was doing neither of us any good and reclaimed my belt.

  • Do not let this breed off the leash in an unsafe area, as they may take off after an interesting scent. 

Fortunately, John soon appeared and I got to see the happy reunion of man and dog. John reached for his wallet and asked if I would take a reward.

"How much is Bella worth to you?" I slyly asked.

Just kidding. All I said was that I was happy to help and sent them on their way. In truth, I was delighted to have found something after a week of not being able to find anything in my house turned upside-down by painters and cleaners and stagers.

By this point I was far ahead of Han, so I retrieved the Times puzzle and perched on a downed tree to wait for her. Two men approached on the trail. "Doing the puzzle?" one asked. I was surprised he could see that from where he was.

"I read that piece you wrote,” he explained.

Ah. I had, in fact, written about participating in the Mid-State Literary Council’s crossword competition last fall. He saw me with pen and newspaper and put two and two together.

"Now you know how much of an addict I am," I told him.

Then Han appeared and we hiked out and drove to Duffy's Tavern for a celebratory libation.  

To Bella! To Shingletown! To finding what has been lost! To spring!

Recent Columns:

A collection of Russell Frank's columns, titled “Among the Woo People: A Survival Guide for Living in a College Town," is available from the Penn State University Press. His columns for won first place for commentary in the 2019 Society of Professional Journalists Keystone Chapter Best in Journalism contest. The winning columns: The Women’s March: Notes from New York, It’s Time to Change the Script and Mixed Messages at Bellefonte High. Frank is a member of the journalism faculty at Penn State. Before launching his academic career, he worked as a reporter, editor and columnist at newspapers in California and Pennsylvania. He is, by academic training, a folklorist (Ph.D., UPenn), which means, when you strip away the academic jargon, that he loves a good story. His views and opinions do not necessarily reflect those of Penn State University.
Next Article
State College Spikes: Ike the Spike, National Anthem Tryouts to Take Place Saturday
March 29, 2012 11:45 PM
by Greg Pickel
State College Spikes: Ike the Spike, National Anthem Tryouts to Take Place Saturday
Disclaimer: The views and opinions of the authors expressed therein do not necessarily state or reflect those of

order food online