Mister Malibu's First Hunt (and his last one, too)
Raleigh Burroughs
(Reprinted by permission; From The Chronicle of the Horse ; Sept. 22, 1978)

Mister Malibu was blonde, well-muscled, and handsome. Most of his charm was in his disposition. He walked around with a permanent smile on his face, and always seemed about ready to burst out laughing. He never did that, exactly, but anyone could see that he was full of fun. He played games for the love of exercise, and still was bouncing around when his playmates were ready to stop. His friends said he had a sense of humor, and, more than that, he had a lot of horse sense.

His intelligence was what wrecked, at the beginning, what was to have been his career.You don't want a greyhound to figure out ways to do things; you want him to tear after the thing that's running up there ahead of him.

Just a Puppy

When greyhound racing was declared illegal in New Jersey, in 1932, dogs - especially puppies - were going at about ten percent of their worth. The Family who couldn't afford horses, decided it would be fun to have a racing greyhound and picked up two pups from a breeder near Pennsauken. The price was $25 each, or two for $40, with registration papers, fleas, and internal parasites.

Though New Jersey was out, there was racing in Florida, Arkansas, and Rhode Island under state auspices.

Back home in Maryland, No.1 Girl promptly adopted the blonde puppy, and named him Mike. No. 2 Girl took the brindle and called him Pete. The National Coursing Club, and American Kennel Club knew the dogs as Mister Malibu and Scarborough, names that were derived from the pups' parentage.

Live Happily - and Sadly

The dogs were reared in a manner that would not have brought acclaim from a journeyman racing greyhound trainer. The methods employed would have been approved by a Cocker Spaniel or Schnauzer fancier.

Though dosed with the best of canine comestibles, and tender, loving care, after a few months, Pete went down with the miseries. The vet said the trouble came from those dreadful internal parasites. The doc did what he could, but Pete passed on, to the sorrow of the Family. Mister Malibu (Mike) remained healthy, and grew and grew, in size and in the affections of the Family.

Started Training

When he was about fourteen months old, Dad began walking him every morning - from one to five miles. After about two months of that crazy business, Dad hired a boy to walk the dog every morning - from one to five miles.

All the time, Mike kept grinning, and enjoying life, and the association of the people around him. The walking hardened his muscles, and his keenness for sport, so he was taken to a large pasture once a week and allowed to run. He loved that more than anything, and watching him circle at 35 miles per hour was a joy to the eye.

At 18 months, he looked like a racing greyhound, and Dad said, "we've got to send him to the track. " A trainer agreed to take him on shares, and away Mister Malibu went in a trailer, headed for big things. There was some mourning among members of the Family. Everybody feels sad, when the family, and good-natured clown, goes away for a trip. "He won't be gone for too long," Ole dad said, trying to be comforting. And in his life he never spoke a truer word.

At the Course

Mister Malibu was in pretty derned good shape when he left home, so, after a few more long walks he was ready for first schooling. He was led out on the track, jolly and full of fun, as always, and registered no objections when placed in the starting box. When the electric rabbit zipped past, he was out and away with the first ones, looking great. But then, before he reached the first turn, he stopped, stood on tiptoe and looked over towards the backstretch. It was evident his mind was working. "This thing," he was thinking, "is going all the way around. Why are those dumb dogs chasing it? I've got a better way."

Had It Figured

He activated the "better way" immediately, retracing his steps the wrong way of the track. Just as he had anticipated, the silly rabbit continued through its circuit, and Mister Malibu met it as it swung into the homestretch. The damage to the machine was almost total; the dog was slightly hurt. The man who owned the rabbit was furious, the trainer was embarrassed, the racing secretary said, "OUT!"

Mister Malibu was just too smart to be a racing dog. The word the trainer used was "cunning," but "smart" sounds better.

Old Mike was returned home to the Family, and the pleasant life of a country dog. But Time changes many things. Daughters get married, or go down town to school, and dads change jobs. With changes, adjustments must come. It was necessary for the Family to take an apartment closer to the city. Some apartments do not welcome dogs, and this was one of them. More grief!

A friend, Mrs. Mondale, solved the problem. Like many friends of the Family, she knew about Mike, and she wanted him. Mrs. Mondale had a big farm, up near Monkton. She had horses, and cats and other animals, but she didn't have a dog. "I'll give him a good home, " she said. "I'll love him and care for him, and you can come and see him every week, or anytime you wish."

That did it. Mister Malibu moved to Monkton. He adjusted quickly. He learned (with some persuasion) to tolerate Mrs. Mondale's eleven Siamese cats, and when he got used to them, became their companion - good feeling all around.

New Item of Interest

Hunting is a pastime of sporting folk of the County and, on a brisk early winter day, the pack ran across the Mondale estate. Mister Malibu was in his kennel yard, and, as the chase went by less than 100 yards away, he raced up and down adding his cry to the baying of the hounds. Long after they had gone, he looked after them. "This," he said to himself, "is my kind of game. Maybe some day .....".

A week later, the air was cool, but the sun was warm. Mister Malibu was laying in the sun by the back porch, and swapping funny stories with the cats. They were all in stitches over his story about the traveling Dalmation and a cute little blue tick bitch, when Mister Malibu heard something that made him prick up his ears.

Alerted

He turned his head to the side to listen better. Yep, it was the sound of the foxhounds. His lower jaw dropped an inch, and there was that big grin that always came when fun was ahead. Mister Malibu stood on tiptoe, trembling, and waiting. The hounds burst into view, just beyond the kennel and barn, heading west. The horses were in sight not far behind. Mrs. Mondale heard the cry of the hounds, and rushed to the back door shouting, "Mike!".

She was too late, Mister Malibu had joined the hunt. He didn't know what he was hunting, but those other dogs were having fun, and he wanted to join in.

Now, a foxhound gets over the ground pretty well, but snuffing the earth and talking all the time don't move a dog ahead. A greyhound just looks where he is going, and doesn't say a word. When he goes into full throttle, he's almost as fast as a race horse. In seconds, he had caught the leggards, and in a few more seconds, he had passed all but two.

Mrs. Mondale watched from the porch, and said later, "It was the most beautiful sight I had ever saw - that big fawn dog jumping through the pack, and going to the front!" That's where Mister Malibu was - up front. For a moment or two, he bounced along with the leaders, grinning, and saying, "Boy, this is fun!" and stuff like that. Suddenly he realized that he wasn't running with the lead dog. There was a little red one with a bushy tail still ahead. He hit the accelerator, and closed the gap quickly.

If Mister Malibu had been a "killer" greyhound, as dogs on the track are expected to be, there would have been a "crunch!" and a used fox would have flown six feet in the air. His spirit would have continued on to the Great Hereafter, while his remains fell to the earth in a swarm of eager dogs.

Just Love

But Mister Malibu had never developed that killer instinct. He had been brought up to love (even Siamese cats) and be loved. He just ran alongside the fox, smiling and exuding good will.

Foxes, as smart as they, are at a loss as to what to do when confronted by such a situation. This one did what he thought was best, and it was the mistake of his life. He made a quick U-turn, and ran right into the pack - and the hunt was over.

Mister Malibu was running around, licking dogs' faces, and saying, "Boy, we've got to do this more often," when the riders drew up. The gentlemen and ladies of the hunt were not exactly charmed by the intrusion of the speed hound, though some of them were laughing so hard they nearly fell out of their saddles.

The dogs didn't carry Mister Malibu off on their shoulders, but the Master of the Hunt, a gentleman of compassion and good humor, DID take him back to Mrs. Mondale's farm in his station wagon.

Mrs. Mondale said, "Thank you", and, "I'm sorry."

The Master said, "Don't let it trouble you. I shall remember it as the hunt of a lifetime, and I hope its the only such one I ever experience." "One thing I'll say," he continued, "I've never seen people have so much fun on a hunt." That must have pleased Mister Malibu. The Master then gave Mrs. Mondale a list of dates of hunts to come, and asked her to have Mister Malibu in the house or in his kennel on those days.

"I'll do it," Mrs. Mondale responded, "but it will break Mike's heart to hear the pack go by and not be able to join them."

By the luck of the chase, or because word got around among foxes, the hunt never came across Mrs. Mondale's estate again that winter. Mister Malibu spent his off hours lying in the sun with the Siamese cats, laughing, and telling, over and over again, the story of his great adventure. The cats that were awake merely yawned.