Bill introduces us to his new bloodhound grandpuppy, and shares the surprisingly sacred roots of the breed.

Chien de Saint-Hubert

Hi friends, my name is Bill Evertsberg and I’m one of the ministers at Kenilworth Union Church. Doogie, come here, buddy. Sit.

And this is Doogie, my assistant minister and I want to introduce you to my brand-new grandpuppy. Yes, Doogie became Uncle Doogie last week.

This is Sergeant Pepper, and as you can see he’s a bloodhound, and he belongs to my daughter Taylor and her husband Christian, and they live in Wilmette, and you may be wondering why I’m talking about a puppy in a church conversation which is supposed to have at least a modicum of spiritual content, and I’m glad you asked.

Do you know what they called bloodhounds before they were called bloodhounds? They were called Saint Hubert’s hounds, or in French—forgive my pidgin French—but in French it’s le chien de Saint-Hubert. Le chien de Saint-Hubert, Saint Hubert’s hounds.

Hubert was a Christian saint from the beginning of the eighth century. He was a wealthy, aristocratic man who loved to hunt. He spent hours and hours in the woods of the Ardennes hunting stags. And legend has it, that one Good Friday morning when the rest of the village people were at church at their prayers, on a Good Friday morning, the solemn day in the life of church, Hubert was out in the forest looking for prey. And the legend has it that he saw this magnificent stag with this impressive rack, but what was even more impressive, that there was a luminous crucifix between the antlers of this deer. And even more extraordinary, Hubert heard a voice, and the voice said to Hubert, “Hubert, you better drop your obsession with hunting, or you’re going to go to hell in a handbasket. You need to get back to church.” That’s not a direct translation, but you get the point and it will do.

Hubert heeded the stag’s warning, dropped his fixation with hunting, sold everything he had and gave the money to the poor, then gave his life over to the church, finally became bishop of Liège in what’s now Belgium and eventually was beatified as Saint Hubert, or Saint Hubert. He is the patron saint of dogs and hunters, of course, and also, unaccountably, of metal workers, opticians, and mathematicians. I don’t know why. Even well into the twentieth century when a person was afflicted with rabies, it was St. Hubert’s name that priests and doctors invoked for healing, even well into the twentieth century.

And so in the middle ages at a monastery devoted to the memory of Saint Hubert called Saint Hubert’s of course, in the Ardennes, Belgium, this is where the first bloodhounds that we know anything about came from. They were called Saint Hubert’s hounds at the beginning and finally bloodhounds.

Now, you may know that bloodhounds have the most magnificent noses in the entire canine kingdom. Their olfactory bulbs have as many as 300 million scent receptors, which means that their sense of smell is at least 40 times as great as human beings’.

And you can see, have you ever noticed how comically long bloodhounds’ ears are? Do you know why this is true? It’s because when a bloodhound has his nose to the ground, trying to pick up a scent, the ears will kick up the dust and raise the scent to the dog’s nostrils. And also, these magnificent ears, they almost hang to the ground, kind of function as a floppy hurricane lamp. Kind of a wind-break to keep the scent up near the nose of the dog.

And so, that’s what bloodhounds are good for. They’re good for tracking, and you know of course that Hollywood has given us some great impressive bloodhounds. Remember that Jed Clampett of the Beverly Hillbillies had a bloodhound named Duke? And do you know what Christopher Guest’s bloodhound in that great movie Best in Show was called? Christopher Guest’s bloodhound in Best in Show was named Hubert, of course.

For what it’s worth, happy New Year and God bless you.