For those who don’t know, I have a Goddamned Beagle.
Why I have a Goddamned Beagle is directly the fault of a friend of mine who runs Great Dog Rescue New England.
It was during another rough spot in my life. My two sons had left for college, and my two Greater Swiss Mountain Dogs had died, all within an eighteen-month period. I was inconsolable, but I was also “free” for the first time in a very long time. I wasn’t sure I wanted another dog, but I also wasn’t sure I’d survive the loneliness, so I wrote to my friend.
Send me something to foster that I won’t keep.
A few weeks later I drove out to pick up the dog that was to be the salve to my aching soul; the creature I would rescue, offer warmth and shelter to, and, through my years of expertise in animal training and behavior, prepare for a successful life with a loving family somewhere else.
“Jesus Christ,” I said when I arrived. “That fucking thing is hideous.”
Her red rimmed, yellow eyes bulged, staring at me with all the trust and gratitude of a Red State getting its Federal bailout money. What fur there was was hound-oily, but her fur was largely missing, revealing large spots of scabby, mottled skin, inflamed and beet red. She’d recently had a litter of puppies, clearly not her first, and all her girl parts were either dragging or trying to escape.
It quickly became evident she had severe separation anxiety. So much for my freedom
She bit me.
Sure, she’d appear to be sleeping, but then I’d leave the room, only to come back to an empty plate on my desk where my toast had been. There she’d be, “sleeping” again on her bed as if she’d never left it.
Yet there was something familiar about her I couldn’t immediately put my bandaged finger on. Especially her eyes.
Once the jaundice passed, other people started noticing as well. "I love her eyes," they'd say. Or sometimes, "Those are some eyes!" I knew those eyes; had seen them before in all their insistent glory, and it wasn’t Marty Feldman. Well, it was also Marty Feldman.
It may seem counterintuitive to compare a beagle with a silent film star. "Silent" and "beagle" are not words commonly heard together. But there's more to stardom than just one's reel. There's the je ne sais quoi, and as her personality emerged, it was clear she shared that with her doppelganger, Theda Bara.
If you squint, the beagle and Theda Bara share a kind of history. The actress reached movie stardom when the west coast was not yet the center of filmdom. In her heyday, the original Vamp clocked into the set in Fort Lee, New Jersey. The beagle was a Tennessee trailer park hound, roaming free to steal and defend whatever morsels caught her fancy. Mother to countless pups of varied lineage, seized in a 5150 confinement raid on her previous caretaker, she was ignomineously snached from the life she knew, landing in a strange land of vague rules and sushi.
It's hard to be taken seriously in any business when you’re thought of as a certain kind of character. The first celluloid sex symbol tired of being typecast, but when she ventured into serious theater she was laughed off the stage. The beagle was rejected by two potential adopters who decided her myriad personality quirks were not what they were looking for in a beagle. Which is odd, since they basically describe “beagle.”
The power of their gaze tells the tale: Love me. Feed me. Whatever. You’ll end up failing me, it’s clear.
But as Flaubert noted, one doesn't make art out of good intentions.
I bring all this up because next week I shall be on something called Story Collider, where I’ll tell of the time the Beagle and I used learning science to avoid disaster with the Comcast guy. Because the beagle, it turns out, is one hell of a trainer, who likes to wrap herself in only the most expensive of my scarves and blankets, assesses every situation for optimum beagle benefit, and somehow fills the space two ninety-plus-pound Swissies left on a bed and in a heart, albeit in a much smellier, diabolical fashion. Local people can buy tickets if they’d like, and Story Collider is also a podcast.
As for the beagle’s status, it’s been seven years of this fostering business. I like to tell her I’m still deciding, if only to keep her on her toes.
The My Little Pony-inspired Cinnamon Chai’s Tea Cake tea came. I couldn’t decide how to drink it, because it has all the good things all at once: green tea and cinnamon and ginger and coffee beans and so on - so I tried it both with and without milk. And then I still couldn’t decide which way I liked it better, because I was kind of emotional from noticing how much older the Goddamned Beagle is now, so I didn’t need to be making any unnecessary, sudden decisions.
I am drinking both at once. And they are both delicious. And my dog will live forever.
I mean my foster dog.
I made it a little weak, as I often do, so next round (in about an hour) I’ll add more to the pot. This stuff is really good. And cozy, so then I needed a scarf to wear while I drank it. So it’s sort of a Bronie’s emo version of If You Give a Mouse a Cookie in liquid form. With caffeine.
THIS, this brought a smile to my face AND a little chuckle! It has been an unbelievably brutal week for us, as we let our sweet little Beagle girl, Holly, go last Monday. We are beyond devastated💔. Holly was our sixth Beagle (yes we are hooked) and also had separation anxiety. We worked with Malena DeMartini for two years, but that’s another story (Holly did recover.) I have read all your Goddamned Beagle stories, they are so relatable and hilarious! I really needed this and I thank you from the bottom of my heart. I know you know this, she had you the moment you saw her💗!
PS I hope these essays are going into a book which I would GLADLY pay to own....