Growing up, I was far from an animal lover. My dad got me a Saint Bernard when I was around five years old. The dog was just a puppy, but it did not take long for the dog to outgrow and outweigh me. She just wanted to play when she would put her paws on my shoulders, drive me to the ground, and not let me up. Only so much screaming my mother could take before dad gave the dog away. Or just ask my sister. She will tell you. Part of it was we had a dog that bit me. I cannot blame the dog. He thought I was hurting my sister while we were playing in the yard. Part of it was I was just plain mean and most likely had it coming for a multitude of other reasons.
There are things that happen in life that give you a certain perspective. Those that really know me, know my first wife and I lost a child. It was a defining moment in my life. It was a crossroads. It was many things. I could have let it break me or pick myself up and carry on. Still I grieve, I do not deny that. It will always be a part of who I am. A part of me that is missing.
During the time shortly after losing Carly, Suzanne and I decided to get a dog. Honestly I had my reservations. My recollections of having a dog were not that rosy. But we were both hurting after our loss. One Sunday we went out to breakfast and decided we were going to the flea market and looking for a dog. Not just any dog. A beagle. It was decided.
While at the flea market, I put off really getting a look at the dogs as long as I could. I mean they had sugar gliders! How crazy was that! I thought those were a myth. Like a snipe. Or a shikepoke. Finally I started making the rounds to the dogs. Sure enough, there were beagles. It was late in the day and it was Sunday so the flea market was going to pack up soon that evening. Suzanne and I must have picked up every beagle left. Eventually we settled on one. A female. Dixie was to be her name.
Fast forward a bit. Suzanne decided to pack up and leave. She said every time she looked at me, she could only think about the daughter we had lost. I could not dispel that image from her mind. After all, I had similar images in my own mind when I looked at her. I understood in a way. It was clear that Dixie would go with her. At the time I was OK with this. Dixie had chewed up about everything in the house that was not nailed down, and a few things that were. I told myself I wouldn't care if the dog left too. Good riddance!
About two months went by and I realized I was alone at home. I was not used to that. My life was missing something again. While at work on my lunch hour I scoured the online classifieds and found a man who had several beagle pups for sale. The ad was a few days old already, so I called him immediately. He told me that only one pup remained and a lady had already called the day before me to claim him. That lady had not come to pick him up, however, and if I would come get him that day he was mine.
I left work right on time that evening and drove as fast as I could to Hermitage to see this dog. Upon my arrival, an older gentleman and his son met me in the driveway. They were very friendly folks and seemed to be feeling me out as to what sort of dog owner I might be. There were two pens nearby. One on the right had two adult dogs in it. One on the left had a single puppy. The man opened the door on the pen and a small, black, furry butterball came rolling out onto the ground. You could tell he was not accustomed to being out. He looked cautious while sniffing at everything he came across. Kneeling down in the grass about twenty feet from him, I called out. This little fella came running at me as if he were shot out of a cannon. Jumping and licking me all over, I knew it was a match. A male. Rocco was to be his name.
About a year later my grandmother passed away. In so many ways we had been best friends. I lived with her for a while helping to take care of her. Being her only grandchild, she spoiled me. A part of me was gone.
Rocco had been a great companion. My roommate. My partner. My best friend. Having another dog would be just double the fun! Right? Right!
During this time I met a wonderful woman, Kellye, who I would eventually marry and is currently my wife. She went with me to pick out a new dog. Another beagle. I needed Kellye's stamp of approval. Rocco stayed at home while we answered an ad from the Sunday paper for beagles for sale. This man was an older fellow. He bred beagles, but had not had a batch of puppies for sale in some time. There were a few pens set up in his barn with several adult dogs, and one that was teeming with pups. We handled about three, passing them back and forth between Kellye and myself. Only one really appeared curious about us and seemed to have a special gleam in her eye. She licked us all over and wanted to play. She just felt like the right choice. A female. Gracie was to be her name.
Kellye's father passed away recently. About two months ago. Due to many reasons, it was bittersweet for her. A part of her was gone.
A co-worker of Kellye's had a stray dog wander up onto their deck one evening while they were outside eating dinner. It was just a puppy. Without a tag or collar, but appeared to be clean and well taken care of. They called us to see if we were interested in taking the dog before taking it to the pound. They thought of us first because it was a beagle.
We wound up taking the dog. It was only three months old (so the vet told us). This pup had spots all over her. What to name it? Lying on the bed that Saturday afternoon, with Gracie and Rocco around us, we played with this little bundle of energy. I thought about all her spots...they looked like dots, but spot was not what I wanted to name the dog. She was a female. Dot was to be her name.
Three life events. Three events that each left us a sense of loss and something missing. Three beagles to fill those three holes. They have done a remarkable job at doing just that.
Rocco is now six.
Gracie is now five.
Dot has some catching up to do. She is about five months.
I love animals. Probably because that mean little kid finally grew up.