By Hardy Jackson
“They are nice to have. A dog.”
- F. Scott Fitzgerald
in The Great Gatsby
A while back a beagle named Ono won the top dog prize at the Westminster Kennel Club dog do-rah.
Good for Ono.
Good for beagles.
I got my first beagles when I was about 12 years old. A pair. Got them on George Washington’s birthday, so I named them George and Martha. Naturally.
Those beagles led to more beagles and in time I was the go-to guy if you wanted a small dog for rabbit hunting.
But as I grew older, and in the process of putting away childish things, I also got out of the beagle business.
Still, I never gave up my love of the breed.
Years passed and I had other dogs. Then I went dogless, until my then 9-year-old son and his 4-year-old sister began lobbying.
With all the usual promises.
All the usual lies.
“We’ll feed it.”
“We’ll clean up after it.”
“We’ll…” You know the rest.
I held them off with cost. We’d have to hire someone to take care of it when we were away. We’d have to fence the yard. Get a dog house. Have it spayed. I hemmed and hawed and delayed and made excuses.
And they enlisted Mama.
If you are married and have children then I don’t have to tell you that when Mama sides with the kids you are done for. And if you are not married or are, but don’t have children, read on and learn. At moments like this all you can hope for is a few concessions to save at least a shred of dignity.
Pater Familias my foot.
So I said, “OK, but it will be an outdoor dog.”
And my wife said “they.”
And I, “they?”
And she, “They. The two dogs.”
And I, “Two dogs?”
And she, “We have two children.”
I could see the logic, but more than that, I could see the inevitability. There was no way to argue that we had fewer children than we had, for there they were, eyes pleading for puppies. And having two, there was no way to argue that they should share a dog, because I knew that despite all my efforts (and their Mama’s) sharing was not something they did on a regular basis.
So I reluctantly agreed,
On one condition.
They would have to be beagles.
Now I did not know of anyone that raised beagles. But assuming that my wife could find someone, at least I would have dogs I wouldn’t mind taking care of, since I was pretty sure that is what I would be doing – sooner or later.
And I left the ball in their court.
“When you find them, let me know.”
Which my lovely wife took as a challenge.
And so it came to pass that in the weeks that followed she scoured the classified ads, looking for what I hoped wasn’t there.
Until the day she came in and showed it to me.
“Free to a good home.” (The price was right.) “Part-beagle and part Walker hound.”
Now my sweetheart, bless her, grew up in the Atlanta suburbs. She knew about as much about Walker hounds as I knew about shoe sales at Macy’s.
So I gently asked, “Have you ever seen a Walker hound?”
“No,” she admitted, “but they can’t be very big if they can mate with a beagle.”
And once again I was caught in the web of wifely logic from which there was no escape.
And a few days later we were on the way to see the puppies. And of course the children loved them. Who doesn’t love puppies. Small, warm tummies, little ears and big feet.
I feared for the future.
And in the months and years that followed the puppies – named Freckles and Sprinkles – grew.
As they did “free to a good home” cost me a chain-link fence, spaying (both were girls), increasingly large bags of dog food, vet bills and dog sitters. They also grew in ways I never imagined. Sprinkles became a sleek Walker hound with a voice to match. Not a hint of beagle in her. And dumb as a brick (“challenged” according to my wife).
Meanwhile Freckles evolved into a black and white sausage on toothpick legs. An eating machine.
But I loved them.
For they were always glad to see me when I came home.
Harvey H. (“Hardy”) Jackson is Professor Emeritus at Jacksonville State University. He can be reached at email@example.com.