Hound dogs run off.
It’s a scientific fact that they can physically close their ears
to the humans who love them and shout “Come back here!” as the dogs go chasing
something small and quick and run a trail.
They get lost.
They get skinny.
They get instinctive.
They get abandoned.
They get found.
They get hit by cars.
They get put into animal shelters.
They get put down for multitude and commonness, and
in the country, they get to hunting.
“Oh, I love the smell of a hound,” my friend, Cari said, burying her face into the fur on my dog, Buttercup’s neck.
At that, Buttercup’s wary tail uncovered her genitals and then it swept back and forth in sweet, dog-level happiness.
A mostly-white hound dog is running
alongside my car on an unlined road.
Another walks into the rural service station
while I wait for my oil change.
My mechanic laughs. “All he hunts is someone to pet him.
Plain worthless is what he is.” He is smiling as he rubs his hound
dog’s smooth, brown head with his heavy, working hand.
The grocery store community board is covered with pictures
of missing hound dogs, past and present.
Some of the Polaroids are decades old.
I would look at them when I was a girl,
and later go into the woods behind the house, calling for the hounds by name.
Something in a hound dog likes to be sneaky.
Every country cook-out has a hound dog, pussyfooting off
with something stolen, head down, eyes sideways and
intelligent. They find a barn or shed to hide behind.
Buttercup ran off one night and I found her
dead in the road the next morning,
yards from the house, her tongue nearly bit in two
by her own teeth and the force of what hit her.
I cried on the asphalt and touched her gray-ticked coat as cars slowed down and drove around us.
I’ll never own another hound dog.
They’re too damn free.
Jessica Wiseman Lawrence had the privilege of growing up on a hay farm in Virginia, then studied creative writing at Longwood University, earning a B.A. and participating in the University's M.F.A program. You can find her recent work upcoming or published in Origins, Helen, Antiphon, and Third Wednesday, along with many others. She still lives in rural central Virginia, where she commutes an hour to her job as office manager each day, because she just can't live anywhere else but the country