Yes, That Was A Beagle

[Re-posted from Sunday.]

Here's a funny and moving obit about the most characterful - and food obsessed - dogs I know:

Rosie, who died yesterday at 13, was the World’s Most Food-Motivated Dog. She won the title with a stunt modern science has yet to explain.

Rosie-running-cropped-s1 One evening about five years ago, I returned home from a day-trip to Sydney with a notion to make a sardine sandwich for supper. I had left an unopened tin of sardines on the kitchen table before leaving for town. At least, I thought I had, but now I couldn’t find it.

Losing things is nothing new for this blogger and finding them is not his long suit. I spent a few minutes searching for the sardines, then made something else for supper.

While putting Rosie to bed later that night, I spotted the sardine can stashed among the blankets at the back of her sleeping crate. She had chewed the top off, and extracted every morsel of fish and every drop of sardine oil. The can didn’t even smell of sardines anymore.

In horror, I rushed to inspect Rosie’s mouth, expecting to find her lips and tongue shredded. Not a nick. Rosie was fit as a fiddle, and wondering when her next meal would arrive.

“Golden slumber close your eyes.” And sate your tummy.

Dusty, our eldest, is almost the same. When I got her as a tiny puppy twelve and a half years' ago, the vet told me not to worry about keeping her food intake down. I was told: puppies need lots of food, and you could even just let her eat out of the bag; she'll take what she wants and grow. This was probably the craziest advice anyone has ever given me. Barely a few inches long at the time and a few pounds, she  plowed into the bag with manic determination until she all but disappeared. I left for a few moments and returned to find that she had puked a couple of times already, eaten the puke, and started over with the food. I learned my lesson. She has been the same ever since.

Then there was the time when two friends came to visit, a gay couple one of whom had planned to propose to his boyfriend on the steps of the Supreme Court (yes, a drama queen if ever there was one) while he Dustyivy was visiting. They came by first and dropped their bag off and we went out to dinner. No one told me that in the bag were two large boxes of Godiva chocolates. They left the bag on the floor.

I came back early (can't remember why now). When I walked in the entire loft was an explosion of wrappers, ribbons, little bits of silver foil, ripped shards of boxes, in every corner of the room. In the middle of it, lay Dusty, bloated to almost twice her size, with a grin of ecstatic pleasure and satisfaction and chocolate smeared all over her face. After the shock, my immediate thought was panic. Chocolate can be poisonous for dogs and she'd eaten two boxes of the richest chocolate there is. I immediately tried to get her to vomit (if it ever happens to you, get a tea-spoon of salt and pour it down their throat). No luck. She seemed to need water, so I gave it to her and she just drank and drank until she looked like she'd burst. I rushed her outside and waited for the puke. No luck. I took her in to phone the animal hospital. And then it started.

It was a beagle Linda Blair - with viscous chocolate liquid projectile vomiting everywhere in sight. I went to grab her to get her outside. She decided this was a game. So yours truly spent the next ten minutes chasing a projectile chocolate vomiting beagle around my loft until every single item of furniture, every rug, and the bed was covered in what felt and looked like chocolate mucus. My low point was actually slipping in some and careening headfirst into a pile of still-warm, and very slippery chocolate goo. That's when my guests returned, to find their secret busted. But all they could do was laugh at me until they near-collapsed.

Dusty's twelve and a half now. Last week, as I prepared to leave Ptown, I took her out for a walk on the beach. There's a rock that juts into the water halfway down the beach - and since she was a baby, she has Dustyrock always loved to climb it and just sit there looking at the bay for a moment. She's done it many times every year since and if we are walking past that rock, she pulls me so she can clamber up. In the last year, her back knee has given out and the vet has said it would be far too difficult and counter-productive to have an operation that probably wouldn't work anyway. So she's on an anti-inflammatory and some baby aspirin and seems irritated by it but not in any real pain. But she now limps a little, and this time, even with her bad knee, she dragged me to the rock like a steam engine. She couldn't clamber up, so I lifted her.

She looked out at the sea and the sky as the wind made her beagle ears into little sails, flying back past her head. Dusty smiles all the time.

But this time, tears came into my eyes. I had the unmistakable feeling that she knew this could be the last time, and she was taking it all in. The last time I had this feeling was 14 years ago on a beach with my dear friend Patrick, who died a week later. Dusty is a fighter and a character and she may well be around for a few years yet. But she loves that place as much as I do, and she's been there every summer since she was born.

I used to think that dogs were just dogs, beneath us humans, different in fundamental ways. I don't any more. I see the trace of God's love and God's creation in every one. But I only really see it in the one I love and have lived in the same room with for twelve years and counting.