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.