When we lost our dog Roxanne, in April of 2012, I said I was not getting another dog until I retired. That anticipated retirement date was six years in the future. I lasted a little more than six weeks. I meant what I said, and I was determined, but I was somewhat unaware. I was unaware, or had not realized, what a huge void Roxanne’s death would create in our home. She had been part of our family for 14 years. She was a living presence with traits, traditions and a relationship history with us! So her absence was keenly felt.
I know that some people have more than one dog at a time and while we had considered it, we never did it. There were reasons, expense mostly, but also each of our dogs has seemed to be like “only children” who wanted all of our attention and did not want to share. Some folks, when they realize their family pet is well into old age and may leave at any time, bring a new pet into the household and we weren’t going to do that. Plus, even though Roxanne was almost 15, we didn’t sense the end coming. So we agreed, and I said it, “No new dogs until I have retired and we are in our own home.” But then…
But then one day a friend and parishioner came to our home with his roto-tiller to till garden space for us and brought his beloved Lucy, a friendly, loving Bassett Hound. They were at our house for a relatively short time, but when they left, and Lucy went with her master, I began to have a deeper sense of what was missing in our home. Puppy love; but more than that, devoted presence, dependent distraction from the cares of life?
Well, we were getting ready to go on vacation, so no decision, no adoption yet. But once again my sweet spouse began to read to me from the classified ads. A shelter near us had a Beagle that needed a home. His name, I think, was Tucker. He read that more than once, and we talked about it a little bit, and said, perhaps, when we got home from vacation, we would visit the shelter and check it out and take a look see at Tucker. Then we went on vacation. I don’t remember the details of where we stayed, or how long we were gone, except that while we were away, we visited two families who are friends, who also had sweet affectionate dogs. Doxie loved hanging at our heels and being petted and was generally sweet. I was in trouble.
Then there was Maggie, my friend Carol’s dog. Maggie was a big dog, a Labradoodle and although she was routinely cautioned away from us and the table, came around and loved to be petted. Perhaps it was me and not the dogs who needed to be warned off. They should have met us, me especially, at the door with signs that said, “Hi Michele, DO NOT PET THE DOG! But they didn’t and I did. When vacation was over, I probably asked more than once, “Well, do you want to go to the shelter to see if they still have Tucker?”
So we went, but Tucker was at the other facility getting some needed medical treatment. But they did have another Beagle. A few actually. They brought Misty out to meet us and I knew I was in trouble. In puppy love. My husband says too, that he knew as soon as Misty pranced into the room, that she would be going home with us.
Misty was a popular dog at the shelter and on outings to schools or when school children visited. Everyone loved Misty and loved to feed her. She had acquired a nick-name among the shelter staff: “Porkchop.” She got some exercise and a more regular diet when she got home with us. She loved to be taken for walks and she loved to hunt. Unlike Sam, our first Beagle, she would go diving into the brush, through the woods, on a trail, no matter. Misty had been a hunting dog, part of a pair (a brace) of dogs and been surrendered when her human was getting to a place in life when he could no longer care for her. He kept good records though and that was nice to have, especially since we had no information on Sammy at all.
I did make two mistakes with Misty that cost me, but it was okay. We filled out the paperwork to adopt her, but had to come back the next day, to give them time to check our references. It gave us time to, to get a dog crate, leash, collar and all the things one needs for a new dog. None of that was a mistake. The problem was I had to leave for a conference 45 minutes after we brought Misty home. I was gone four nights and three days, which was plenty of bonding time for her and Roger. When I got home, she was already his, or, truth be told, he was hers. A good friend referred to my husband as “her (Misty’s) Roger.”
To make up for what I missed, when I got home, I let her get on the couch. I wanted to be able to sit with her and pet her. We had not let either of our other two dogs on the furniture. Not that they never found their way there; but they were not invited or given permission. Since I gave Misty permission, she assumed that she owned the couch and was never dissuaded. Did I say that she adored my husband? She would get onto the couch, throw herself up against his side, throw her head back, looking up to him in total adoration. It soon became clear that where Misty was concerned, I was the other woman.
Despite being the other woman, she was my constant companion in the kitchen, especially during what I lovingly call “The Gingerbread season.” If you are making gingerbread for houses, it plumps when you bake it and you have to trim it while it is hot, or the pieces won’t fit together correctly. She was always willing to get rid of the evidence. She ate her food very fast, vacuumed it out of the dish. That probably came from being one of two dogs and competing for food. The funniest thing she ever did where food was concerned though, was the time I gave her a little bit of leftover chili and rice. I thought it was a treat. She barked at it and would not touch it!
One day, when Roger and I were both sitting on the couch, she came up to me and put her paws on my knees. That’s sweet, I thought, she wants me to pet her! No, that wasn’t it. She used me for a ladder to climb up onto the couch and promptly went over to him, threw herself against in and looked back up at him in adoration. Admittedly, I was gone a lot, meetings, classes, gatherings, etc. and I was working on my Doctor of Ministry Degree which meant two weeks in January in Rochester and two weeks in June for three years. Roger was home.
She did get back at me though. One time Roger was away for a few days and I was working on homework. I had to leave her alone 3 times in one day to tend to different pastoral functions. The first two times she was great. So I didn’t pen her in. She never did like or adapt to the crate. The third time I left her was not the charm. She got a page out of my notebook that I had carefully written notes about my reading, and chewed it a bit but mostly tore it up. But I am stubborn. I taped it together and took it with me to school to prove that even at a post-grad level, my dog ate my homework!
To be fair, I was always greeted warmly enough when I came home and it’s not that she didn’t like me. Sometimes, it really did hurt. In theory she was my dog, in reality he was her master, her hero. One other time she climbed up on the couch on my side of the couch and I thought I was going to get some attention, but no, I was just convenient. She practically ran over to him on the other side of the couch. But I could not have not loved that dog. And for many reasons, but here is one. The picture below is not as clear as I wish it was, but it is important, and worth way more than a thousand words.
In 2015 my husband was diagnosed with cancer and our family doctor told me to prepare myself. It was a rough go round and I know many have gone through that. The treatment made him sick, and almost killed him, the side-effects did the same, and then the treatment for the side-effects was no picnic either. We were fortunate in many ways because he was the first patient in our health system to receive a newly approved cancer drug and he is alive today because of it. But through those rough, weeks and months, Misty was faithful. Never underfoot, always near by and ready to cuddle up with “her Roger.” How could I not love a dog like that?
In March of 2019 we learned that Misty had an inoperable tumor in her bladder. We weren’t sure what to do at first, because despite the diagnosis, she seemed pretty normal, ate and drank and played and showed no signs of pain. The vet gave us medication that would help minimize symptoms and we agreed to monitor her. She had six good months that she might not have had, if we had reacted immediately. When it came to her last day, it was pretty clear it was the end of the road. Our vet was very compassionate and we never let a dog cross that rainbow bridge alone. We held each one, cried and mourned.
Why Beagles? I don’t know how to answer that. Many are bred for hunting, but I am not a hunter. I think they are really cute and the dogs we have had, have been great members of the family. I am glad that we were able to give her a home and she gave us laughter and so much more. I blame Lucy, our friend’s Bassett Hound. I blame Doxie and Maggie too. But I guess most of all I blame Lucy, or maybe the right word is credit, for encouraging me especially to visit the shelter and adopt a dog who needed us as much as we needed her.
(Photo credit for featured image at top of page: Photo by Arteim Beliaikin from Pexels)