Dear Goddamned Beagle,
Seven years and ten days ago a bug-eyed raccoon x dog x cat x goat creature stared at me suspiciously, and I in turn stared back with similar misgivings.
“Calm down,” said my friend, “It’s just a beagle.”
She was wrong about that.
You arrived not quite two months after Addie died, the second of my Greater Swiss Mountain Dogs. I’d lost her sister Betty a little over a year before that, and my two human sons had left for college in between. I was in a black hole of empty house and aching heart.
While I held on to my delusions for weeks, you offered no subtleties in your declaration of how things would be. You taught me and everyone who entered your orbit many lessons, both valuable and, at times, painful.
I wrote many of those lessons in letters to you at Dear Goddamned Dog, which I’ve been ignoring lately.
You were a powerhouse of energy and adventure, a good-natured hellion always up for the ride. You climbed, you burrowed, and found trouble everywhere. You took up most of a king-sized bed. And through it all, you filled the spaces that two giant dogs and two growing sons had left behind. Through it all, you were so kind.
You welcomed those sons back as your family, as you welcomed all the visitors, tenants, and guests. You served as the flower beagle at our friend’s wedding when he was dying. You insisted on sleeping only on my replacement knee when I got back from surgery, and kept close watch over me by sitting on my chest when I returned from a couple of unfortunate hospital visits a couple of years after that. We joined the Board of Directors on a boat ride your first month here, your ears flapping, the smell of distant clam shacks beckoning in the breeze.
It was you sitting next to me the day all illusions fell away, and I was no longer the cute young thing at Studio 54 in a mini-skirt, but was now the overweight, middle-aged woman with a broken ankle in a golf cart riding around a dog festival field with a beagle.
But you had so much fun.
You stole food without a second of remorse as often as possible. You even gave up and in desperation learned to like some vegetables when you realized how hopelessly plant-based so much of my menu was, though you always let me know how ridiculous that was.
You wept for joy when friends returned who’d been away for too long.
You didn’t think it was as funny as I did when I put you in a giraffe snood.
You sat with me at our favorite restaurant on Cape Cod and ate your French fries, somehow perfectly behaved sitting at a table, though never when sitting near one. Or on one.
You went with me everywhere, on walks every day, on visits to stay with The Geezer, smiling contentedly as he thumped you on the head and called you Wendy.
They wrote about you in The Atlantic, pointing out that, while all the scientists are busy doing sciency things, dogs are basically busy being dogs. That led to me telling people about your love of tools and training humans on Story Collider, which will be on their podcast at some point soon.
You snored through the nights, leaning against me, your deep breathing chasing away the ghosts of loneliness that have always been there but that you refused to allow in.
You followed the sun for naps, or you burritoed under the softest covers possible. So good was your self-burritoing that I had to put “Never Sit On A Blanket ” signs near the chairs and couches due to all the many times you’d nearly been crushed by rear ends hurling down on you in your camouflage.
You alley-ooped your rolly-ball food toys between our legs as we walked, suggesting, maybe, that tripping and dropping the plates we were carrying might make your snack that much better.
You were my foil and my equal in sheer will and willingness to do for the other. You were my constant friend.
Yesterday I lost you, Beagie, to the one thing neither of us could will away, though we’d both been trying our hardest for months.
I sat last night without you next to me, and slept on the bed with too much room on the empty three-quarters beside me. Everywhere you aren’t feels like falling, and I haven’t been able to eat, because it turns out there’s no point in eating when no one’s staring, threatening to launch an eyeball at you if you don’t share a bite.
Today I sit in my office alone. It’s hard to concentrate without your steady presence. In about an hour, I’ll know what time it is, but you will not stretch and yawn and come to me, explaining that it’s time for our walk, and start howling if I take too long doing stupid human things before we get out the door.
But I notice something, Nellie. The holes that you filled are still filled. The fun, fierce, twenty-two pound force of nature that you were bridged and repaired some of the hardest parts of my life and others’ with love and adventure, exasperation and joy, mischief and humor, reliability and tenderness.
My heart is torn in two, and I am going to be very sad for a long time to come. I miss you, Beagz, and it’s hard to know where to turn right now, because every corner of this house is empty without you.
Thank you, Goddamned Beagle. You left me so much better than you found me.
Oh, my heart. I’m so sorry, love. I think I speak for all of your fond-but-geographically-distant readership when I say, please cut yourself as many breaks as possible for awhile, and only do what feels right. I’m sure you’re no stranger to grief, and you know what you need. I just hope you don’t feel like you have to maintain the other blog’s regular schedule right now, for example. I hope you can take some time to just be a mess. Sending you tons and tons of love, and crying with you from far away. (No need to respond.)
Oh I’m so sorry. I just lost emmy on 3/30. She was my ride or die chick who got me through some tough times. It’s so heartbreaking, you think I’m not getting another dog although, I still have one. I just keep saying she had a great life just as the beagz did. She couldn’t have asked for a better mom. Hugs to you. Xoxo
Dear Margie! My eyes are filled with tears. I know what this heartache feels like and I also know she was probably one of the best dogs you’ve ever had. It’s tough on a day like today. I feel your pain and hope you know you were the best guardian, caregiver and “mom” she ever had.
So sorry 🙁
There are no words for a time like this, oh how I wish there were. I’m so very sorry Nellie is no longer with you in person💓. As humans, we are riddled with flaws. Dogs, on the other hand, are pretty darn perfect. I believe they chose us, come into our lives at the right time, for all the right reasons. Everyday is a gift with them. Time goes by to quickly. We just adopted our seventh Beagle last Friday. Just to clarify, no we do not have seven (7 over the past 30 years.) We lost our sweet Holly in February, so devastating. We carry Holly, and all the others, with us deep in our hearts. Everyone has “the best dog.” I know Nellie was the best dog and she’ll always live in your heart and in all these precious writings💞.
That’s the most beautiful tribute to your friend. I laughed, I cried. Goddamn dogs. Hugs and love to you.
No words for having the Beagz no more but real tears are being shed on the other coast reading this. What a poignant & beautiful remembrance of your lives together.
Thank you for sharing him with us over the years. We will miss hearing about his escapades.
I only want to say that these different spans of time that keep ending are so hard. This is a bad one.
Love to you.
Oh Marjie, there are no words – and yet you found all the right ones here. My heart is broken for you.
I’m so sorry. Nellie seemed too determined to die. Nellie made her own huge niche in everyone’s lives. Sending hugs.
They will not go quietly,
the dogs who’ve shared our lives.
In subtle ways they let us know
their spirit still survives.
Old habits still can make us think
we hear them at the door
Or move backwards when we drop
a tasty morsel on the floor.
Our feet still step around the place
the food dish used to be,
And, often, when alone at night,
we miss them terribly.
Though time may bring new friends
and a new food bowl to fill,
A place in our heart
belongs to them…
and they will live there still.
Reading about Nellie brought me much joy and laughter during dark days after my husband died. Thank you for making my life less bleak.
It is the hardest thing…
Oh Marjie, I’m sobbing.
I can’t express adequately how sorry I am for your loss. This is such sad news.
It’s so trite, but try to be comforted by the wonderful memories. You gave that sweet beagz the best life imaginable.
Oh, Marjie, my heart breaks for you. You made me love Nellie with your observations and writings – and you, truth be told. You made me laugh till I cried. I know well what you are feeling right now and I am so very sorry. They fill our lives and leave a hole many times their size when they go. Thank you for the strength and courage to let us know. And thank you for giving what was no doubt a down and out beagle her place in the sun.
So, so, so sorry! I hope in time the laughter outweighs the tears.
I am so sorry for your loss.
I am so very sorry for your loss, but what a perfectly worded tribute to a perfectly imperfect dog. I feel certain that Nellie will be watching over you for a very long time. Please know you will be in my thoughts during the days ahead.
“To live in hearts we leave behind is not to die.” ~ Thomas Campbell.
How beautiful, I’m crying, laughing, feeling that loss and that beautiful well-lived life! Congratulations on living the best sort of life and giving such a beautiful life to Nellie! Thank you writing this beautiful post.
Sending love and support. Your writing about her antics have brought many of us great joy and laughter over the years.
I’m so sorry to hear of the loss of your hole-filler and life joy inducer. Thank you for your generosity over the years in sharing her adventures in modifying human behavior- it helps me delight in my own fur creatures and adds smiles to my day. I do love how you articulate dogginess.
I am so, so sorry. You have been on my mind all day. How can such compact little being pack such a powerful punch to our hearts.
Yes. Yes to all of this. Coincidental that I find this in the Baltimore Banner while still in tears from losing MY heart dog?? I think not. I will devour each and every thing you wrote about yours if it takes me all year. THANK YOU!