So we got a beagle. There's a long backstory here which I won't go into; suffice it to say that Max showed up at our house in mid-December as an 8 month-old puppy, and I have taken on the task of puppy-training. I don't know about you, but I have just enormous stretches of free time every day, and I was getting bored with the needlepoint and constant trips to the nail salon. So we got a beagle.
My family had a series of beagles when I was a child--Cleo, the matriarch, who I barely remember; Princess, her daughter, who would eat anything and everything, up to and including a greasy paper napkin I fed her once; Smokey, the half-beagle, half-mutt granddaughter who was my sister's devoted companion for many, many years. I loved them all and remembered them fondly--so fondly that there were a whole bunch of things about beagles I used to know and which now are coming back to me, to wit: they are hard-headed. They can smell food from 5,000 yards away. They were born to steal. They do bad things, an then look at you mournfully as if to say, "You knew I was a hound when you adopted me."
Max is living up to all of these standards, and then some. Max is unaware that dogs walk on four feet. Max walks on two, the better to do the BCC--Beagle Counter Cruise--which consists of tippytoeing around the kitchen island to see if there is anything up there remotely edible. Failing that, Max will repair to the sofa table in the living room, where, if someone lays down, say, a scarf for 10 seconds, the scarf will disappear. You'll find parts of it later, in itty-bitty shreds all over the carpet. Today my husband came home from a doctor's appointment to pick up some stuff on his way to work, and while we were talking he laid some things on the sideboard in the front hall, whereupon Max very delicately rose on his hind legs, snagged some earmuffs and stole away. Yesterday the 14-year-old looked up to see her 40-pound backpack leaving the room: Max was laboriously dragging it down the hall with the intention, apparently, of taking it up to his spot on the landing for purposes of plunder. We have spent probably $60 on various dog toys and busy bones, none of which really suit his fancy; the only thing he really, truly loves is a real bone from the butcher's. Rebecca and I were watching him work on one of these one day--it was brand new--and I swear I saw his eyes roll back in his head in pure bliss. It was hilarious. The only other time I've seen his eyes roll back that way was yesterday, when I was working on one of my dog-training drills with him. "Stay, Max," I said, and I swear to you his eyes rolled back in his head like a sulky teenager. Clearly, he was thinking, "AGAIN with this 'stay' shit. Well, all right, if that's what she wants..."(Huge, moody, teenaged sigh.)
The other major thing we've learned about Max is that he can levitate. I was standing in the kitchen the other day, stuffing down a leftover piece of Kentucky Fried for a quick lunch, when all of a sudden there was a beagle looking me right in the eye, demanding, "Where's mine?" It would have been scary except for the comical effect created by these two long ears flung out on either side. (For some reason this reminds me of Sally Fields in that old TV show "The Flying Nun." Remember that weird white thing she wore on her head? That's what Max's ears look like.) This dog has a vertical leap that Michael Jordan would envy. I mean, proportional to his height, he makes Michael Jordan look like an inert land mass.
There have been moments when I think I must have been insane to do this. What do I need a dog for? Do I really like shampooing carpets for a hobby? The cat's not thrilled, either; Max doesn't know what to make of her, and the other day he got a face full of stickers when he stuck his head under the bed to say hi. But then there are also moments when I think, Oh, yeah. Now I remember. Like seeing my 10-year-old curled up on the landing, sound asleep next to the dog she's wanted for so long. And this morning, when I had to stop work for a few minutes to take Max out for a walk, and I looked at those snow-heavy clouds and said to him, "Max, we're about to get some white stuff." Max was okay with that. Working at home is a solitary business, but I always thought I liked it that way. It has taken Max's arrival for me to realize how lonely it's been, and how nice it is to have somebody to talk to.