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Not all today's dogs are as pampered, of course. Billy Dodson, huntsman for the Thornton Hill Hounds near Sperryville, Virginia, keeps a pack of 90 mostly Penn-Marydel foxhounds in an old cattle barn and fenced yard in the shadow of the Blue Ridge Mountains, where the hounds sleep rough in unpainted wooden barracks and live on a spartan diet. Dodson, who has worked with hounds for 40 of his 55 years, assembled the pack over a two-year span and "never paid anything for any of them," instead accepting donations and trades from other huntsmen, as is the custom in the foxhunting world. He subsequently crossbred some Penn-Marydels with American foxhounds to create his own unique subtype.

Dodson has a name for each of his charges and can pick them all out on sight, though they look much alike to the unpracticed eye. He even can identify them by voice. As we stand outside the barn one bright spring morning, a dog barks. "Shut up, Sarge," shouts Dodson, adding in an aside, "I won't keep a mouthy hound." Sarge, wherever he is behind those walls, dutifully pipes down.

Dodson takes pride in feeding his dogs for just a dollar a week apiece, though in winter he sometimes has to boost rations and it gets costlier. Once a day the ravenous, 60-pound hounds devour a heap of fatty scraps from an abattoir that processes buffalo meat, and Dodson augments the scraps with dry food he buys wholesale in 50-gallon drums.

As doted on, by contrast, as Tiffy is, she seems no more content nor fit than any of the hounds. They get to chase after foxes through 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.

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