Sunday, July 08, 2007

Life With Beagle

Today's blog post is dedicated to Marty the Beagle, aka "Devil Dog." Marty has been my faithful companion since the very day of my dissertation defense, during which he slept on my grandmother's lap due to a case of kennel cough. In fact, it was precisely this case of kennel cough that guided my decision to choose him among all the other beagle puppies. While the lot of them were hyper and frisky, Marty seemed mellow, soulful, and companionable. Boy, was I wrong, he was just sick. After I treated him with some antibiotics and his cough went away, his inner devil emerged and haunted me for the first three years of his life. It started with his "Cujo" puppy stage, in which he "teethed" on my hands, arms, and legs.

He then developed the most guilt-inducing momma's boy syndrome. I would put him in his kennel, leave for work and hear him barking bloody murder all the way down the block. I was a horrible beagle mother. I started imagining him developing pyromania and seeking out ways to destroy the house to pay me back for abandoning him while I was at work. It was also during this period that he discovered how much I hated him chewing the carpet, the wood moldings or the furniture. My irritation at such behavior only seemed to encourage more of it, usually during my sleep time. I became a very light sleeper, listening for Marty's step and jingly dog chain, ready to awaken and scold him for destroying something else.

He finally matured out of this behavior only to replace it with something worse: the run away. He learned to dig under fences, to look for an escape route when visitors came to the door, and how to break loose while still leashed. He would end up miles from home and his cute little face often got him taken in by some unsuspecting neighbor, who would beg me to come get him in the morning so as not to hear his hound call.

Marty doesn't try to escape much anymore, nor does he chew things into bits. He doesn't seem to mind when I leave him at home all day, but rather looks forward to a long nap on the couch, interrupted by some spying on local cats and squirrels. His current devilry lie in his insatiable appetite, which leads him to open doors, jump on counters and lay at the feet of any newcomer to the house during a meal, lest some tasty morsel drop to the floor. If Marty suspects that he is not being fed the good stuff, he will "Act Out," usually by shredding the trash can all over the kitchen to let us know that he did not appreciate his boring kibble while we ate ribs.

But, life with Beagle is a pleasure not reserved for the faint hearted. It is a kind of delicious masochistic pleasure that suckers like Za and I cannot imagine our lives without. Perhaps its a kind of punishment we need to stay grounded and focused on how fragile and fraught life is.

The one solace we take from dear Marty is that he is sniffer, not a licker. And, I say this to let any readers know that should they ever venture into our home to visit Marty, they can take comfort in the fact that he won't stick his tongue down their throat. In fact, you'll get a brief sniff, that leads to a sneeze, and then he will promptly return to the couch and perhaps allow you to scratch his belly.