The Beagle Among Us

Consider this scenario. Your child is six and they want a puppy. The idea of having a dog is not foreign to you. You had one growing up and quite enjoyed it. You understand your child’s wish, but you think it’s a trope, a fleeting desire shared by millions of children around the world. So you deal with the “I want a puppy” as you have dealt with your child’s other fleeting desires; you package it up with logic (we can’t have a dog because we live in the city; dogs require a lot of work; you’re too young for that level of responsibility), and tuck it away on a high, vaguely unreachable shelf of the future (perhaps someday; perhaps if we were to move to the countryside). You child holds onto his puppy dream with a tenacity that surprises you.

Several years pass. Your husband gets a job in a small town in the countryside, and your son brings up that long ago sentence, the “perhaps” edited right out of it. In fact, that vague thing you hid on that top shelf is now transformed into a statement: We will get a puppy when we live in the countryside.

You never recorded those initial conversations, but your son, having a sharp young mind, convinces you that all of the puppy terms and conditions have been met. The next step is to go out and get one.

You see his point. In fact, without even realizing it, your son’s desire for a dog has gradually worked its way into your own heart and you are envisioning life with dog in the countryside. Your husband never wanted a dog, but has been privy to the years’ long discussions. He capitulates, but with his own terms and conditions: he will bare no responsibility for caring for the dog. We (our son and I) must do all the work. I explain that his terms and conditions are not in touch with reality; once we own a dog, it is a family dog. Yes, our son’s dog, but as the parents, we also bare responsibility. Finally, we all agree. We will get a dog!

That’s when the unsolicited puppy advice starts pouring in.

  • Get a puppy from a certified breeder, not a shelter dog. Otherwise, you have no idea what you will get, or what the temperament of the dog will be. A shelter dog could be a threat to your child!
  • Definitely get a shelter dog. Those purebred dogs are weird and high strung. They can have strange health issues from overbreeding.
  • A mutt is the way to go. But get to know the family who is offering it.
  • If you’re going for a specific breed, do the research first, because once you “visit” puppies, it’s all over. You’ll want that puppy no matter what.
  • Your child will promise you the moon when it comes to dog care, but don’t think for a second they’ll actually take care of that dog.*
  • Once you get a dog, the adults in the family are ultimately responsible.**

You listen. You contemplate. You research innocuous terms like mid-sized, and family-friendly. Your search results deliver the word Beagle. You look up the breed. You smile. Your son smiles. There are other words accompanying the Beagle breed that should set off alarm bells: stubborn, independent, hard-to-train. But you find a website that, while acknowledging these traits, claims Beagles can not only be trained, but are the perfect pet for children with just the traits you’re looking for: patient, friendly, loyal, forgiving, joyful. Your son is leaning toward a Labrador. You think of the the giant piles of Labrador poop you’ve seen being deposited around the neighborhood, and you tip the scale in the direction of the stubborn, but trainable Beagle.

Two months later, you have a Beagle puppy and your excitement as you hold her is only outweighed by that of your son. You have never seen him so in love, so attached, so engaged. This will be different from the guinea pigs who only held his interest for a few months, you tell yourself. He has agreed to go to the puppy lessons. He cuddles her the moment he comes home from school. You see life-long friend potential. This was the best decision of your parenting life.

Time passes. The puppy destroys things. Carpets, shoes, doggy beds, flooring.

Cartoon from the internet passed on by a friend (source unknown). Notice how a Beagle is used for this illustration. Coincidence? We both know it isn’t.

You, the Beagle, and your son follow a 10-week dog training course. Then another, then a third. Your child goes in the beginning, standing in the wind and rain with his little dog, trying to teach her. After the third course, she knows how to sit. She knows how to come, but only on her terms.

More time passes. Your child is older now, busy with secondary school, social events, sports, gaming, homework. He finds the dog, once his best friend, an inconvenience. He gives the dog an occasional pat on the head and reluctantly walks her on the weekends. Your husband claims to only tolerate her, but you catch him giving her loving pats, sitting outside with her on his lap, and walking her on a daily basis. Though father and son make frequent jokes about putting the dog on Marktplaats (The Dutch equivalent of Craigs list), they both know she’s here to stay.

She is the Beagle among us, whose dog hair decorates our furniture and clothing, who is our lap heater when we are reading our watching a movie, and our constant companion on every walk through the countryside. And, of course, the most spoiled member of the family.

Published by kristininholland

I believe in living with integrity and in choosing a lifestyle that shows respect for our environment. Although continually attracted to the idea of imminent success with the publication of my two novels, I am also greatly drawn to living simply and living well: loving my family and friends, and being aware and present for those moments in life--a spontaneous hug from my son, a smile to a stranger, moments of insight--that define real connection and success with peace, love and happiness.

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