It’s Been A While, Beagle

Dear Goddamned Beagle,

It has been a while, I know. A very long while. There is a word in human, “umwelt,” that means “the world as it is experienced by a particular organism.” Our back yard, for instance, to an earthworm looks like an endless expanse of dark earth; to you looks like a faded army-green field of potential rabbit pursuit and squirrel pizza detritus (and dirt to dig and eat – your Tennessee really shows up in that yard, dog, I swear to god); and to me it looks like a satisfying-if-violently green, artificially-grassed city oasis with a litigious tangle of hose at the bottom of the stairs leading to my armored vegetable garden. If I could electrify that thing I would, beagle. The umwelt of the squirrels, skunks, raccoons, rats, and birds regarding our yard is apparently a Walmart with a “Free Samples” sign over it.

I’m sure that’s fine. Nobody could possibly trip over that.

Anyway, since I last wrote a few things have transpired in our world and the world at large. Notably, there has been a pandemic. Apparently a bunch of dogs who were sick of being left alone all day got together and created a virus and released it. They were clever enough to create and release a virus but didn’t have the foresight to realize the damage they’d do, so a lot of bad things happened, and the rest of the literal world came to a weird combination of grinding halt and frenzied chaos. This will be known in human history books as the “Baking Age,” which, like the Iron Age, has legs and will last for millennia, should anything other than the fake grass in our yard actually last that long.

Somehow your grandfather survived all this. He needed emergency abdominal surgery that would have felled a 40-year-old, in a teaching hospital, during the first summer of the pandemic in August when all the medical students who’d been learning on Etch-A-Sketches were suddenly presented with “meat humans” and told to give it a go. A year later he got COVID, survived that, and then got another virus three months later, and then pneumonia three months after that. Yet he remains to drop food at the table and continue your symbiotic old-man-nap-support/beagle-TV-remote-rest relationship.

I unfortunately also kept the medical community busy. After years of ever-increasing vertigo, migraines, and other fun things, I apparently decided being upright and conscious was for suckers. While I have only scattered memory of it, I was whisked to the hospital in such a state that although I was taken from my home, I was given a “no name” admission in case there was no time for formalities and I needed to be rushed to whatever. I was renamed Coral Unknownmmm, which wasn’t bad, I later thought. Way better than, say, Shrub Commonmmm, or Kelp Invasivemmm.

Now, I’d been sent to numerous neurologists previous to this event. Neurologists, beagle, are doctors who like to say things like, “Have you tried not being a female?” and “Why are you eating?” and “We recommend you eliminate all joy from your life, and if you don’t we’ll blame you for your pain.” As you can imagine, they are a highly paid specialty.

For my particular troubles, they all prescribe Xanax, a drug your Swissy sister Addie used to take when thunder terrorists were in the sky. As soon as that drug is prescribed to dogs, veterinarians ask if it’s helping. As soon as that drug is prescribed to people like me, doctors put “anxiety” on your chart, and then all your symptoms are chalked up to that, and the next recommendation is therapy and something called “meditation,” a human practice wherein long amounts of time are spent in quiet contemplation of ways to dispose of a body.

We eventually found a neurologist who described all of my symptoms perfectly, told me what to do about them, including twice-weekly brain and eye therapies for the foreseeable future, and prescribed Actually Helpful Drugs, none of which was Xanax. He told me that because I’d had this building for roughly 5 years it would take some time to get back to as close to better as I might get, and asked me why I’d taken so long to see him. I understood this to be a legally necessary statement proving his board certification as a neurologist; without driving the patient to that level of rage, he might have just been a sharp, helpful general practitioner.

So much more has taken place. House renovations, family disasters, gardening sabotage, manic cooking forays, job changes, the Invasion of the Turkeys. New York. Africa. Rabbits. the Collapsing of the Cape House, Thomas. Allergy drops and diet changes.

The reason I tell you about umwelt is that while all this and much more has been going on, your view from the blankets has remained the same regardless of what the rest of the planet was doing. I was reminded of how remiss I’ve been by a friend of ours named Betsy. We owe her a thank you. While you’re allowed to duck and cover and wait for food, I really need to do better.

I’m sure you’d do the same if you had thumbs, Beagle. Now there’s a scary thought.

Your Person


  1. WOW, all this and the pandemic! So glad you are on the right path to recovery!

    As Beagles do, it sounds like Nellie watched from the sidelines, or should I say, from under the blankets😜!

    Take good care and we’re all glad you are back❤️!!

  2. Oh, my! What a time you’ve been having! I do hope that your health returns to normal soon. A lot can happen in two years. I was housecleaning my inbox and all of your posts were there and I realized how much I missed hearing about Nellie. Every once in awhile I read one of your posts and they never fail to make me laugh. Obedient dogs are highly overrated in my opinion. Do continue to get well!

  3. This is the best kind of humor there is- gut busting, irreverent, with generous open-heartedness underneath. Etch-a-Sketch to meat indeed!! Only wish your capture of the craziness of modern medicine were less true….easier to forgive beagles—at our house, setters.

  4. Thank you for this. Your writing makes me feel so seen, and less alone and crazy.

    Your ability to use humor to process the worst (and best) of life is a continued source of comfort and solidarity to so many of us out here in TV Land.

    I’m so sorry to hear you and yours have been through the wringer so much extra these past couple years. It’s always a joy to receive an update, but I hope you don’t feel even a little bit guilty for the length of time between updates- prioritizing your health and more immediate real-life concerns was absolutely the right move! You take your time.

    Sending you strength, laughter and a non-expiring coupon for help burying the body.

    Another femme-type person in a years-long process of fighting to be taken seriously by medical professionals for my obviously very real symptoms

  5. Oh wow, Coral. That is a lot. (Hospital names are fun!!) Even reading about it feels overwhelming! Medical stuff if always scary, exhausting, frustrating and designed to take away your independence. (I speak from current experience of an elderly mother in hospital/rehab at the moment reduced to buzzing for a blanket coz she’s cold and not being able to hang on for a bedpan…and this is 4 weeks on so represents an improvement.)

    I hope you all are still treating yourselves as gently as beagle would recommend to fully recover from challenge after challenge after challenge. Perhaps seek out your own nest of blankys from which to view the world.

    Keep up the good work remaining upright now your helpful neurologist has identified that the problem wasn’t too much joy or femaleness. I particularly enjoyed your description of these medical specialists, and their training on the Etch-O-Sketches!

  6. Ughhhhh – I’m sorry you’re dealing with that, and I hope mom learns to pee on the right people and keep her blankets and powder dry. Hang in there!

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