Tuesday, January 15, 2008

The whole, complete and entire story of the life of the One Who Lives In Your House And Has A Big Floppy Tongue(TM)

Another in a series of answers to questions I requested.

Ricardipus asked...
I would like to know the whole, complete and entire story of the life of the One Who Lives In Your House And Has A Big Floppy Tongue(TM).In 26,000 words or less...

I give you...

The Tale of the One Who Lives In (My) House And Has A Big Floppy Tongue(TM)
(AKA Abby, AKA Abigail Von Beagle de Cherche la Lapin, the artist formerly known as Snoopy, formerly known as Merry, formerly known as… we don’t know.)

It was a dark and stormy night... No. Wait, that's a different Beagle.

D2 has wanted a dog since she was old enough to barely say the word. She really, really, REALLY wanted a dog. In the absence of actually having one, she even pretended to be a dog. A LOT. (Try explaining that in the middle of a department store.)
As she was a very enthusiastic child, and as I rather like dogs, I thought it best to wait until she was a little older and, with any luck, a little more self-controlled before I inflicted that kind of lovin' on an innocent, unsuspecting animal. Just as she was reaching an age where I thought it would be okay to introduce a dog into the household, her father decided to run away from home and for a few years, I was unsure whether we'd be able to remain in the family home or have to move to cheaper accommodations where we might not be allowed to have a dog. I didn't want to get one only to have to give it away again. So, I waited until I was sure we'd be staying, and then I went dog hunting.

I went to the SPCA on a lunch hour, but they didn't really have the type of dog I was looking for. I wanted something bigger than a lap dog, but small enough that I could handle it and even pick it up and carry it if need be. They had one dog that was a Beagle/Boxer mix. It was an odd looking thing and looked like someone had just pasted a Beagle head on a Boxer body and it seemed rather more skittish and rambunctious than I was looking for. In retrospect, I'm really glad I didn't pick it. The one breed of dog that has caused us grief over the years is the Boxer. I have had to leave the dog park on more than one occasion because a Boxer has been tormenting my docile little Beagle and WOULD.NOT.STOP. If that’s true to the breed, would I have had a dog that fought with itself on a daily basis? I’m glad I didn’t get to find out.

So, I put my name on a list and went back to work. Less than a week later, I got a call from the SPCA saying that another family wanted to return a dog as it wasn't suitable. Allergies, or some such thing. It was a Beagle. The SPCA preferred the dog go directly from their family to ours, rather than have to go back to the SPCA. Were we interested and could the other family drop the dog off to us?
I said we were. They were unsure, you see, because there is this very weird, to my mind, local belief that Beagles are only suitable as hunting dogs and not at all suited to be family pets. This is the only breed to which this belief applies. It leads to more abuse of Beagles than I care to think of. There are heartrending stories every year of Beagles who have been kept outside with minimal shelter throughout the winter, starved, penned up, abandoned in the woods once hunting season is over. It’s horrible. Well, I’m not local, so I don’t hold with this belief. Every breed of dog was originally bred for some purpose, whether hunting or guarding or companion and Beagles are no different.

The other concern was that the dog had been with several people in the few short months that the SPCA had known of her and they were concerned that she wouldn’t be able to bond with our family, given how much she’d been moved around. We already had the snobbiest cat in the world (not Riley) so I figured at the very least, we’d have a matched set. Funnily enough, their coats matched as they were both tri-coloured. People would look from one to the other and ask if we knew that our cat and dog “matched.” Yeah. We’d noticed.

The lady at the SPCA told me the story of the dog they were offering us. Shortly before Christmas, a man showed up at the SPCA with a very skinny, somewhat distant, but cheerful little Beagle in tow. He said he’d found her along the Trans-Canada highway some distance from here. She was wearing a collar, so obviously had belonged to someone, but there were no tags to identify her owner.

This, sadly, and due to the reasons listed above, is not an uncommon occurrence for Beagles around here. Many of them go missing in the fall of the year. Some get lost while out hunting. Some follow a scent too far – once outside they become noses on legs – and can’t find their way back, or the hunter won’t wait for them. Or, because they’ve not been properly trained – another local belief is that they will just “know” how to hunt and if they don’t, they’re no good and useless - they get abandoned either because they haven’t been a good hunting dog, the hunter is finished with them and doesn’t want the expense of the upkeep over the winter or they run away from the noise of the guns. (I would guess the latter was Abby’s problem. To this day, she is terrified of anything that sounds like a gun shot. New Year’s Eve is always traumatizing for her.) This isn’t true of all hunters, but it’s too much that it’s true of even one.

But I digress (or rant. You say potato…) the man showed up saying he’d found Abby by the highway and had held onto her for a couple of weeks while he made local inquiries to see if he could locate her owner. No one claimed her, so he brought her to the SPCA, where the staff her named Merry, due to her cheerful (read tail wagging non-stop) demeanor and the season.

She was there for over a month and was in danger of being put on the list to be put down, when a family showed up looking for a medium-sized dog that wouldn’t aggravate one of the sons’ allergies. They took Merry home and re-named her Snoopy. They kept her for almost three months and then called the SPCA and told them that the son was allergic to her after all and they’d have to return her. This was only days after I’d put my name on the list to adopt.

So it was arranged that they would drop her off to my house. I didn’t say anything to the girls, so that it would be a surprise, but also in case it fell through.

D2 and I were at home when Snoopy arrived. And that’s went it got weird. It turned out that D2 had met Abby before. Snoopy’s ‘Mom’ was the grandmother of one of D2’s friends in the apartment building where D2’s father lived. When they got Snoopy from the SPCA they brought her to show her to their granddaughters and D2 just happened to be there at the time. She thought we were just going to dog sit and was over the moon when she realized that we were going to keep her!

Snoopy’s ‘Mom’ filled us in on some info. Snoopy had already been spayed (one of the requirements of adopting is that you pay a fee that is refunded once the dog has been fixed), had had an ID tattoo in one ear and came complete with leash, harness, collar and a stuffed bear that she liked to chew (she still likes chewing on stuffed animals, the current object of her “affections” being a stuffed cat that looks disturbingly like Riley).

She was still quite thin and while seemingly a happy little thing, was somewhat aloof, which wasn’t a surprise as she’d changed hands so many times in such a short time. And who knows how she’d been treated or how many people she’d lived with prior to being found near the highway.

Even though she seemed somewhat distant at other times, she loved to sit in my lap and would jump up every time I sat down for longer than a minute. It took some getting used to, as I’d always had cats and dogs are far rougher and more rambunctious than cats. I was used to the gentle, lightweight arrival of a cat in my lap. This was like having a missile launched into your lap. A dancing, clumsy missile that felt like it weighed far more than the 24 pounds or so she would have been at the time.

Not to mention the face licking. Ugh.

And she was HOT. (No, not that kind!) Really, really, hot. She also had a cough, so I took her to the vet and it turned out she had “kennel cough” and was put on antibiotics. It cleared up in no time and, in fact, turned out to be part of the explanation for some of the aloofness. The poor thing must have felt miserable. She became much more attentive once she got better.

The girls decided that Snoopy was not a suitable name for a girl dog and the search for a name was on. I made up a list of seemingly suitable dog names, which got narrowed down to two names and the debate narrowed down to whether Haley or Abby would be better. D2 voted for Haley. D1 thought Abby was better and finally won her sister over by explaining that Abby was short for Abigail. I don’t know why that made any difference, but it did. So Abby she became.

I quickly began to suspect that the real reason the previous family gave her up wasn’t due to allergies at all. It turned out she wasn’t totally housetrained. Part of that may have been that she didn’t perceive anywhere as being “home” and worthy of not soiling, nor had she had the opportunity to bond with any human sufficiently to care whether they were displeased or not. There’s also the possibility that she was kept in a pen or kennels and never allowed into a house. It took a while, but we finally dissuaded her from thinking that peeing (and worse!) anywhere and everywhere was not a good idea.

We still battle the perception that a Beagle cannot be a family pet. I had a neighbour ask me in amazement why I got a Beagle (said with the same horror that some would reserve for a tarantula or rattle snake or some such), with the implication being that they’re only suited to rabbit hunting. This was particularly funny because at the time, this same neighbour had a gigantic Labrador Retriever that was so big and strong that neither she nor any of her children could walk it. Only the father was strong enough. And last I checked, none of them planned on going duck hunting, which is what most retrievers were originally bred to do.

I’ve had several other people, usually men, laugh and ask when I plan on going rabbit hunting. That’s the amazing thing to me about this whole attitude to Beagles. No one asks people who own German Shepherds when they plan on guarding the gulag or owners of Spaniels when they’re going hunting or Shih Tzu owners which concubine the dog will be guarding tonight.

So that’s the story of how Abby, the loving-est, tail wagging-est hound you could ever hope to meet came to live with us. I’ve heard and read stories about Beagles who’ve been destructive and uncontrollable, but she has never been like that. She’ll get into the garbage if you don’t watch her but she’s never destroyed shoes or furniture. A couple of cat toys lost the battle, but that’s to be expected. She generally does what she’s told and comes when called, although you almost have to sound angry sometimes for her to respond. I suppose she’s checking to make sure you’re serious.

She’s been with us for almost seven years now and is my constant companion. She’s sleeping at my feet, snoring like a stevedore as I type this. Did I not mention the snoring? Oh, my lord, the snoring!

I suppose it’s inevitable, what with the no doubt compicated olfactory equipment required of a scent hound. They live to sniff. As I mentioned before, once outdoors, a Beagle (and probably any scent hound) is just a nose on legs. And there are varying characteristics to the sniff, depending on how interesting the scent is. There’s the usual “sniff, sniff, sniff” common to any creature with a nose. Then there’s the “all systems go!” snuffling if a scent is particularly appealing (like something dead and preferably well down the road to total decomposition) that I have heard compared to the sound of a Huey helicopter. If I hear that “whoop, whoop, whoop” snuffle, I know it’s time to pull her back from whatever it is she’s sniffing as the next thing will be to roll in whatever really-nice-dead-thing she’s sniffing. She seems to feel the need to acquire the scent and I’ve read it’s to hide from predators and food sources. I’ve explained to her than she needs neither hide from nor stalk kibble, but so far she’s not convinced.

But the bark… oh how I love her bark. It’s a very mellow sounding “Boo-roo!” that’s kind of like a French horn. Some Beagles howl and bay and generally sound horrible and sometimes downright psychotic, but I have never heard her do either.

So that’s Ricardipus’ question answered and at just under 26,000 words well worth the price, I think. BOO-ROOOOO!!!


Blogger Scaryduck said...

We had a beagle waaaaaay back when.

Also called Snoopy

Also a rescue dog

Also a committed face-licker

What my brother didn't know was that prior to tootling into his room in the morning and licking his face until he woke up, Snoopy would use that very same tongue to give his bottom a good and thorough cleanng.


Or: "Bar-rooo!"

January 15, 2008 at 6:16 p.m.  
Blogger nanuk said...

Am I the only one anal enough to have actually done a word count??

Best dog book ever: Steinbeck's Travels with Charley!

January 15, 2008 at 9:01 p.m.  
Blogger The Wrath of Dawn said...

nanuk - Of course not. I checked the wordcount in Word before I posted.

Charley is even better than this post? Is that possible? ;)

January 15, 2008 at 10:15 p.m.  
Blogger Katherine said...

That attitude about beagles must be a local thing. Around here, lots of people have them as pets and nobody thinks twice. However, I have known some pretty psychotic beagles... Although I'm pretty sure it had nothing to do with their breed and everything to do with not being well-trained or having enough attention paid to them.

January 17, 2008 at 11:36 a.m.  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Travels with Charley" is almost as good as your post. It just didn't have a beagle in it.

I had a beagle named Sara that was part pig, I think. Constantly snorting and always wanting to eat.

I agree with you on the voice. I always enjoyed hearing it even if the neighbors didn't.

And I never took her rabbit hunting either.

January 17, 2008 at 12:29 p.m.  
Blogger Ricardipus said...

Hooorah and Boo-Rooooo to you two too!

Thanks for the lovely story. I'd never heard of the whole rabbit-hunting prejudice thing, but I'm a city boy, what would I know? Ok, it was a small city, but a city nonetheless.

That tongue though, it's a thing to be feared. Yeuch. Bleuch. Blurg.

Also - Abby: cutest.dog.ever.

January 19, 2008 at 11:15 p.m.  
Blogger Cooper said...

Beagle barks are kewl...

January 21, 2008 at 12:41 a.m.  
Blogger Misty said...

If there were more people in the world who love dogs as much as you and I do, it would be a far better place :)

This lovely story has had me almost crying in places (cruelty to animals always has that effect on me) but the description of the gorgeous, tail-wagging, Ba-rooo-ing Abby has put a huge, daft grin on my face as well :)

Plz to give her a huge cuddle for me, akay?


January 21, 2008 at 10:41 p.m.  
Blogger The Wrath of Dawn said...

Yeah, the weird attitude toward Beagles is local as far as I can tell.

She's snoring on the floor behind me as I type this. Should have named her Shadow.

Does anyone know how to install one of those "More" codes so that humongus posts like this can be condensed on the main page? In Blogger. None of your fancy-schmancy works everywhere-but-Blogger codes, please.

January 22, 2008 at 9:13 p.m.  
Blogger merlinprincesse said...

Ohhhh! What a nice story! Thanks for telling it to us! But are the rabbit ears permanent? :)

February 13, 2008 at 8:29 p.m.  
Blogger Lapin Poulain said...

A cousin!!!!! *hop*

February 13, 2008 at 8:30 p.m.  

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