My advice to anyone considering a beagle puppy as a pet is to go ahead and name the dog “Dammit” when you get it. This will save the beagle much confusion throughout its life because, “Dammit,” is how you will end up addressing the animal most of the time. Having said that, beagles are personable, charming and loyal especially when there is food involved (for them). They are also extraordinarily energetic and stubborn and they “ain’t nothin’ but hound dogs” once they get on a scent. My definition of a beagle is this: a nose and a tail which are always in motion connected by a stomach that is always hungry. Funny and frustrating, they are never boring.
My first beagle, Freckles, came into my life when I was a pup, myself, on Myrtle Street in Jackson, Mississippi. Memories of Freckles are fond and, as an only child, I must have found him to be someone to play with and keep up with my own pre-six-year-old energy. My dad was an accountant and one of his friends found Freckles for us and he certainly kept me busy as a kid. One day Freckles disappeared and never returned. We always believed he might have gone off after a rabbit or something in the woods that were later removed to make room for Interstate 55. That taught me in later adult beagle ownership to always have a fence or a pen – a beagle will follow a scent wherever it may lead.
Travis McGee…or “I gave my love a beagle and she married me anyway.”
When Gail and I were dating and getting serious, I decided that I would give her a beagle. She already had a big, lovable retriever/something/mix named Gold Rush. Her beloved dachsund Huey had died so she began to talk about getting an “emergency backup dog” for Gold Rush. She had a dog pen behind her house, so I knew she loved dogs and had a place to keep another one. When Gail got home from work one day, I escorted her to the dog pen where I had made a sign that read, “Travis McGee, Salvage Expert.” And there in the pen was the barking beagle puppy I had named after mystery author John D. MacDonald’s legendary private investigator.
“Salvage expert” was a good job description for Travis because he was, like all beagles, an incessant snoop with his nose always in action. He proved to be an escape artist by jumping from the roof of his doghouse over the fence of the dog pen. This happened several times and he always went around the front door of the house, proud of himself, as if to say to us, “Look, I did it again!” After Gail and I married and moved to a house with a fenced-in backyard, he and Gold Rush seemed determined to reach Beijing through one of the many deep holes they dug in the yard. We had a deck with a built-in bench and Travis would mount it with his back feet on the bench and front feet on the rail and survey the backyard kingdom he and Gold Rush shared. When he struck that pose, I referred to him as “Captain McGee on the poop deck.”
Once, after he began to get older, he jumped off that deck running at Man O’ War speed chasing who knows what and broke his leg. After costly surgery, Travis had to wear one of those odd looking cones around his neck to prevent him from bothering his stitches. Beagles live to sniff and the cone just about drove him crazy because it kept his nose from reaching the ground. I composed a limerick about his situation:
There was an unfortunate beagle
Who thought he could fly like an eagle
He jumped off the deck
Broke his leg -not his neck
And the vet bill should be deemed illegal.
A diva by any other name
…is the beagle we own now. Our current critter is a little diva named after the Mississippi John Hurt song, “My Creole Belle.” She is the most cheerful, fun-loving dog I have ever seen. And why wouldn’t she be happy? Belle acts as if she might brag to other beagles about her “2,200 square-foot air-conditioned and heat-controlled dog house, complete with a butler and maid.” She’s the first female dog we’ve ever owned and she seems to be far and away more intelligent than Travis was. That’s good and bad, depending upon what she has a mind to do. When we got her, Gail and I took her to obedience school. It really worked well because we seem to do everything she wants us to.
If it weren’t for Belle, I might never consider things like my blood pressure or what it’s like to sleep until daylight. But just as those things cross my mind, she’ll do something really funny or curl up beside my desk and snooze away as I work. The peaceful, loyal office dog, right out of a Norman Rockwell painting or the L.L. Bean catalogue. Who could resist a scene like that? Then she wakes and howls at a volume that would give a Fender Twin Reverb amplifier a run for its money. Put another dollar in the jukebox, baby, she’s on a roll!
But all in all, it’s like this: Beagles – you gotta love ‘em. Dammit.
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Text and photos copyright 2012 by Les Kerr.