We're thinking about getting a dog, something to deter the deer from further devouring our hostas. We already have one canine companion, a sixteen year old beagle named Guy Beagle. He arrived, as most strays do, on the coldest day in winter. Shivering, hungry, and scared, there was no telling how long he'd been on his own. We coaxed him in, fed him some kibble--a lot of kibble, and rubbed his floppy brown ears in the warmth of the kitchen. He must have decided he'd found a pretty good spot because, fourteen years later, he's still with us.
Over the years other dogs have come along and kept him company on his scent-filled adventures in our woods and along our creek. But Guy's managed to outlast them all. Roscoe, a big brown Shepherd-Golden Retriever mix, schooled Guy over the course of ten years on the ins and outs of his favorite game "Wish Upon a Deer Leg." This is the canine version of the human
Thanksgiving tradition of pulling apart the wishbone of a turkey. In Roscoe's
version, each dog grabbed an end of a deer leg and together they carried
it home. Upon arrival, a game of tug-o-war ensued in the front yard.
The winner got to gnaw on it for as long as he liked. Bonus points were
earned if you, the dog, successfully kept it from the human as he or she
tried to dispose of it; points were lost if the human caught you and
gave you a bath as a result of eating the rotted dead meat. Not to be outdone, Guy had his own tail-wagging tricks up his paw to share, in particular "Garbage Can Roulette," a crafty little adventure that involved knocking
over the neighbors' trash cans in search of such delicacies as moldy
pot roast, rotten eggs, and a-day-past-expiration potato salad.
And then there was Penny, a calico-colored Corgi-Jack Russell Terrier mix rescued from a shelter. Originally a city pooch, it took her no time at all to adjust to being a country girl--especially with Guy to show her the merits of splashing in the creek, admiring the bluebells, and rousting Coyote from his den at the bottom of the 150 year old oak tree. Her favorite responsibility, however, was wildlife patrol. She had such a natural ability at scaring raccoons up a tree, cornering pesky possums, and derailing deer attempts at landscape damage that Guy quickly promoted her to Chief of Farm Security. This allowed him to transition nicely into retirement after twelve years of round-the-clock service.
Now fully retired, he spends his days concerned only with how many hours of snoozing in the sun can be achieved in between meals. He's a character in his own right, which got me thinking about some of my favorite fictional pooches.
There's Rosemary Wells' McDuff, the West Highland White Terrier that melts your heart with his expressive eyes and red bandana. I'm so glad that nice couple in the book took him in that rainy night.
Ree Drummond's Charlie is the Basset Hound to beat all Basset Hounds. Slow on the uptake, lover of naps, and with a large-and-in-charge personality I would love to have my own Charlie someday.
It's a good thing Chris Raschka's Daisy got her ball back, albeit a new one after that well-meaning but over-enthusiastic dog park friend popped the first one. No one likes it when a favorite toy breaks.
But, dogs are quick to accept apologies and get back to the things that really matter, like enjoying a good meal, taking time to smell the flowers, and naps. At 112 years old, "Old Man Beagle" is still teaching us a trick or two--except, of course, the ancient canine secret to keeping deer out of the hostas.