Dear Goddamned Beagle,
According to the internet, which is never wrong, dogs are able to perceive nearly twice as many frequencies as humans. If one looks into hertz and kilohertz (one thousand shit-beat rental cars) and high and low frequencies, what’s clear is this:
You can hear way better than we can. Which means you’re often ignoring us on purpose. But it doesn’t just mean that. It also means you’re setting us up.
It’s been an extremely hot summer. To avoid burning your feet and melting our brains we’ve been taking our first daily walk early, when we see different people and dogs than we normally see on our neighborhood strolls. Our city is also in the middle* of digging up every street to redo our sewer system, so we sometimes wander in different directions than our usual route to avoid the extra noise, hot tar, steel plates, and big, scary trucks with their air brakes. Those brakes used to send you leaping in terror, but now cause you to whip your head around, ears flying, to receive your consolation cookies™. If occasionally you hear them but I don’t, if I’m being selfish enough to talk on the phone or listen to an audio book, say, I know exactly what I’ve done by the way you stop, plant your feet in a north-south-east-west Plan B pattern, and berate me with your judgy, bulging eyes.
The other day we were headed up the hill of a street we don’t usually walk. Though it was early the heat was already getting oppressive. Little droplets were falling from your tongue as you panted your way up the sidewalk, stopping to sniff only the truly disgusting objects, barely paying attention to the construction flotsam and making only glancing fly-bys on most bushes, telephone poles, hydrants, and other upright objects carrying the canine news of the day.
I was walking in your shadow. I do this literally and figuratively. Before you came along I was unaware that everyone over the age of 40 has history with a beagle, and half those under 40 do as well.
The woman approaching had a few advantages over us. She was younger, maybe in her 40s. She didn’t look nearly as wilted as we did, so she probably lived nearby and had just started her commute for the morning, and she was walking downhill as we approached her heading up.
I admit I was lost in thought, but it’s a friendly town and when a stranger greets you, you greet them in return. Or at least nod, but I’m more of a co-greeter, so though I didn’t hear exactly what she’d said I knew she’d said something. I looked up, smiled, and said, “Hi” back.
“You’re a cutie pie too,” she laughed, “but I was talking to your dog.”
You hadn’t acknowledged the woman at all when she first spoke, yet at this you stopped directly in front of her, looked back briefly in my direction, and then focused your swampy breath on her outstretched arms as she launched into a reminiscence about a long lost companion who’d once belonged to her roommate.
People climb mountains in Tibet, journey to ashrams in India, and trek the miles of the Camino de Santiago to find their purpose in life, beagle. My purpose is less of a mystery. I am here to keep you out of the road, in adequate food and blankets, and to serve as a repository for all the stories of beagles of yore that you inspire from strangers passing by.
You were clearly bored after a minute or two, and why anyone would bother telling you a story without providing a snack is beyond both of us. You headed into the street after what was possibly a dead rodent’s limb just as she got to the mushy part, which seemed to snap her out of her reverie. You were also drooling on her skirt – only rookies stoop to pet dogs on hot days if they’re wearing things with hems.
I should have felt superior here. You walked away while she was telling you about Buddy or Daisy or Snoopy or Molly. You swamped her open-toed shoes. Yet as she stood to walk away she said goodbye to you, not me, briefly glanced my way and gave a short chuckle. You also glanced my way, what dog trainers might call, “checking in” but what I know damn well was your not-so-subtle reminder that people on the street aren’t talking to me unless they’re lost, want to bum a dollar, or have that far-away look in their eyes recalling the howls and antics of companions past.
I heard that loud and clear, beagle.
*While we score #3,517 of all high schools nationally, and #135 of all Massachusetts high schools, the state with the best ranked public education system in the United States, our local paper once proclaimed that we’d placed “48th in a poll of favorite high schools – we made it to the top 50%!” So I have some doubts about the construction being halfway done.