Tuesday, February 24, 2015


This article appeared in the Opinion section of The New York Times on February 21, 2015.  It was written by Emily Yoffe & emailed to me by one of my Duckies, Shirley, to whom I am grateful!!  I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.  When my kids were small, we had a beagle named Bagel & Bud's sister had one named Squirt.

(I must apologize for the inconsistent type size & spacing in this post, but my computer seems to have a mind of its own today!!)

CHEVY CHASE, Md. — A BEAGLE, Miss P, was the surprise winner of the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show on Tuesday. What a perfect name for a beagle! Our beagle was Sasha, but we could have called her Miss Pee, because the only solution to our decade-plus struggle to housetrain her was to take away all the rugs.
Miss P is, of course, adorable. Beagles embody adorableness, with those soulful eyes, that sprightly gait. But to those of you who, inspired by Miss P, are thinking of getting a beagle puppy, let my experience be a warning. I had so many experiences with Sasha that I wrote a book about her endless capacity for mayhem.
The initial inspiration was the evening, early on, when I found myself
out in the rain while she strained to pass ... something. Finally, like a surgeon suiting up for an emergency, I put a newspaper bag over my hand, and yanked at what was dangling from her nether regions. It was long and elastic, with a metal ring on one end. I realized it was the strap from my favorite bra, which had gone missing a few days earlier. Yes, my beagle ate my bra.
Beagles are hounds, driven (I would posit, driven crazy) by their sense of smell. Humans have about five million scent receptors in the back of our noses; beagles have 220 million. They can smell the turkey sandwich you briefly stored in your tote bag and ate a week earlier, and nothing will persuade your beagle not to shred your bag in pursuit of this ghostly meal. Because of Sasha, we had to create a kind of beagle escrow fund to reimburse guests who might inadvertently leave shoes, boots, wallets and purses within her reach. Anything leather made Sasha think she was about to tuck into a wagyu beef dinner.
This scent drive is the reason the Department of Agriculture has a Beagle Brigade that stalks airports looking for smuggled sausages and other edible contraband. At some of my lowest moments with Sasha, I considered volunteering her services for the aid of her country, but I realized the brigade probably would not take on a member that was likely to eat the undergarments of visitors.
When you get a beagle you are told they are “independent.” This is dog-person speak for “do not ever, ever take your beagle off the leash.” A few years ago my neighborhood was covered with fliers put up by owners desperately looking for a runaway. Fortunately, she was found a few miles away. The owners told me their beagle has attempted so many such breaks that she now wore a GPS tracking collar, 24/7. Although we never let Sasha off the leash, she never took well to it. I had chronic arm pain from her pulling. (Yes, I had trainers try to help. Many of them.)
Once when I was walking Sasha, lost in thought, I felt proud that she was finally progressing because she was trotting behind me without pulling. Then I got home and her empty collar hit the front steps. Somehow Sasha had slipped out. For the last few blocks I had been dragging an empty leash, talking to myself and gesticulating wildly. A neighbor who found Sasha left a message and said, in a rather accusatory tone, “She seemed to be starving.” (Of course she was starving; I had fed her only 20 minutes previously.)
When you walk a beagle, you must leave time for people who stop to ooh and ahh over your darling companion. Beagles provoke many memories from the middle-aged. “Oh, we had a beagle when I was growing up,” they’ll say. Very few say, “I have a beagle at home.” It’s as if at some point everyone realized that Snoopy wasn’t real and that beagles are not founts of gnomic wisdom.
After we got Sasha, I belatedly read the guides that noted that beagles are notoriously hard to housetrain. This was confirmed by her propensity to pee on our bed, which might have made her feel warm and cozy but left us feeling wet and clammy when we slipped between the sheets. Dog literature will tell you that whatever the dog does is your fault, so we considered it great progress when she began to focus her extrajudicial eliminations on the carpet.
Sasha had an essential sweetness, and we ascribed her accidents to obliviousness, not malice. But she was wilier than we imagined. We bought a new house halfway through Sasha’s life. On moving day from the old place, when the furniture was taken out of the den, we saw that the wood flooring behind the couch had warped and buckled, saturated by Sasha.
We got Sasha from a group devoted to beagle rescue. Despite being bred as rabbit hunters, many beagles are apparently lousy at finding bunnies, because this mid-Atlantic rescue group had an endless stream of beagles from Virginia and West Virginia who been found wanting and then dumped. Even after we got Sasha, I would look on the website at desperate, maltreated beagles picked up while wandering, and I came to foster five beagles while they awaited new owners. (Why I didn’t channel this masochism toward writing “Fifty Shades of Grey” rather than a book on naughty dogs is a question I have asked myself.)
Some of our beagle guests made us appreciate Sasha. It was not a happy day when one of the dogs ate the TV remote just before my husband was about to watch “The Wire.” But beagles, like every other creature, have a range of personalities.
We took in only one puppy, Spice, who had been rescued from euthanasia by a caring lab technician after having been a test animal in a vaccine experiment. Because Spice had spent most of her life in a cage, she needed lessons in walking. Her first few days with us, she would place her hind legs on my husband’s feet and he would hold her front paws and they would march along, like a little girl on the dance floor with her father.
Then there was Annie, voluptuous with striking, darkly outlined eyes, who reminded me of Elizabeth Taylor. She had a phlegmatic personality — when I walked to my daughter’s elementary school she would let the kids “play” with her with little response. Something in my write-up about her spoke to a family with two young sons, the younger of whom had mild autism. When they met Annie at our house, they flipped for her. Over the years they sent me pictures of all of them together — Annie had her own life jacket when they went boating. She was a great source of companionship, and became a confidant of the younger boy. A couple of years ago the mother wrote to tell me Annie had died. She said Annie had been cremated and that when the mother’s time came, their ashes would be mixed together.
Sasha herself has been gone for four years. We now have a Cavalier King Charles spaniel. There is no need to worry about her running away; cavaliers are canine Velcro. But I have to stop these beagle reminiscences, before I find myself being drawn to the rescue beagle website, and volunteering to take in more strays. After all, the carpets have been cleaned and they’re back on the floor.

"Arf, arf, arf" & before I forget,"Woof, woof!!"----fishducky