Overcoming Doglessness

   puppy 2


On Wednesday my daughter invited a stranger to dinner. Not a complete stranger really, because in a place this small everyone’s heard of everyone else by the end of the day, but a man I’d never met. He built my father’s yawning fireplace with the millstone for a hearth. For years before he became a stone mason he had been a hunter and a trapper and his knowledge of wildlife is legendary. My daughter heard a story of how he raised a fox kit or a deer or a family of opossums or something and was intrigued. Enough to ask to interview him for a class project, because she fancies herself a journalist. She wrote out a list of questions to ask including full name, birth and death dates, age (“Is that rude, Mom?”), favorite place to be, fondest memory, and favorite color. There were other possibly more pertinent questions, but those were my favorites. I told her asking his age would not be rude, but asking his death date might.

And then he didn’t come. I made a venison pie with mashed potatoes to soak up the gravy and baby peas and the pound cake with the real whipped cream and berries and I cleaned the house. I cleaned the house! This involves shoving things under sofa cushions and scanning for cobwebs, followed by a spritz of Lysol for that cleaned-my-house scent. Tedious work. And – after all that – he did not come. “He’s a little backward” (You think?) My daughter had to go to him. I told her to go ahead and ask him his death date. So she went and asked her questions. Some of them couldn’t be answered and I can not tell you why. Witness protection program, perhaps. I can tell you his favorite color is brown. And he gave my daughter a dog. A beagle of the nonhowling variety, I’m told. Is there any such thing?

I grew up down the road from – or rather there was down the road from me, because I was there first – a beagle club. A place where they keep beagles for hunting. Beagles howl. Let me say that again. They HOWL. And they bark. They bark and they bark and two beagles together spur one another on to bark twice as much and fifty (yes, fifty) beagles howl and bark all day and all night and the sound makes you want to break things. You grind your teeth until you think they’ll break and you squeeze whatever you’re holding till you think it will break. I believe my father offered to break a baseball bat over the beagle club owner’s head.

Actually, my first dog was a beagle. But that was long before the beagle club came to our road. There was a sign on the way into town that said “Beagles for Sale” except it looked like “Bagels 4 Sale” instead. Fresh bagels would have been fairly exotic around here back then and my mother couldn’t resist the temptation. We went in for bagels one day and came out with a dog. This may or may not be true but it’s the way I like to remember it. It’s a good story.  I don’t remember much about that dog. His name was Peanut, he had sharp little teeth, and yes – he surely did howl. My cousin that lives next door to me on this road grew up next door to me on the other road. Directly across from the beagle club. I was on the phone with her when my daughter came through the door with this dog, grinning. I said I thought I had a new puppy and my cousin asked what kind. You can imagine the response “beagle” elicited.

 This is how I’ve come to have a puppy snoring at my feet. I can go back to Hungary and ask “Beszél angolul?” “Do you speak English?” with my head held high. I may still be a stupid American but I’m no longer a dogless bitch.