This Dog – How the Sage Leopard Took over My life

I’ve never met anyone quite like Higgins. When we first laid eyes on him at the pound he was a high-energy, playful puppy of 7 months. He was labeled as a cross between an English foxhound and a Catahoula Leopard Dog. I had no idea what a Catahoula was and supplemented my internet search knowledge by joining a variety of Facebook groups for Catahoula lovers.

IMG_5237In short, the breed is the official dog of the state of Louisiana. The stewards of the breed guard it and express concern that some Catahoulas are not living the life for which they came into being: hunting and working. Well, we’re working on it. For the record, I think he might be a cross between Catahoula and Beagle. He is only 40 pounds, which is much smaller than the typical Catahoula Leopard Dog, which is an amazing breed. Higgins is not purebred, but we consider him part Catahoula and he does have some traits: he has webbed paws, spots in his fur (within the white part of his patchwork markings) and incredible intelligence. As I type, he is crying at me to stop and go play with him. His vision is stunning. He can spot an owl up in a tree in darkness, a squirrel down the street and wood ducks in a high flyover formation. Sage Leopard dogThe challenge is for me to harness all his skills and prowess. When I initially got him, I thought he would make a great jogging partner. He soon started running, and running really fast. He actually pulled me down, jerked loose and ran to the bayou’s edge. Amazingly, he also came back when called. He exerted himself in a very bossy manner and refused to direction from the eldest dog in the house. She was beside herself that Higgins ignored her. He also seemed to ignore me or rather listen selectively. I grew up with golden retrievers who happily complied with every command, so I became exasperated and took him to a trainer with a two-week boarding program. After two weeks, I hadn’t heard anything and called to check on the dog.Catahoula dog mix The trainer informed me that there are rare occasions with some dogs that take longer to train. After about three weeks, he came home much more obedient, but not quite. Unfortunately, the incident followed. A lost dog was staying with us a little while and Higgins was very possessive of me. Higgins and I sat on the couch when Roscoe, a miniature schnauzer, sought attention from me. Higgins snarled and I moved toward him chiding him to stop. Big mistake. I should have stood up and commanded him to get off the couch. His snarl turned to snap and he caught my lower lip. He realized his mistake and ran outside to hide. It was bad enough for me to go to an urgent care to have it checked out. This led to my beloved hound being reported to the county pound where we originally got him. My vet referred us to a behavioral vet who guided us on more training. Higgins has become far more affectionate, reliant and obedient. I haven’t given up on him because I absolutely adore him. We wrap up most nights with Higgins on possum watch and me watching him. The possum crossings over our fence line provide endless entertainment for the dog and it warms my heart knowing he is happy at home with us. He is my best friend, my inspiration and my happiness. He has many nicknames: cutey booty, pound hound, bossy boots, punk and, of course, the Sage Leopard. Higgins dog

The Sage Leopard