Sunday, May 25, 2014

Storytime Sunday #2: The Parable of Toby "Stupid Beagle"

The Parable of Toby,
“Stupid Beagle”
My daughter decided she needed a dog of her own. You know how this story usually goes. She picks out the dog. You pay for the dog. You pay for spaying or neutering. You pay for vaccinations. You buy the dog food. You pay the vet bills. She pets it once in a while, so it’s officially her dog. When she moves into an apartment, you get to keep HER dog—forever. Such a deal!
In this case I didn’t have to buy the dog. My daughter was working part-time while finishing her bachelor’s degree. Through an online swap-shop sponsored by her employer she found someone who was giving away an, “oh, isn’t he sooo cute”, beagle male. His owners had adopted him from the animal shelter which had acquired this purebred beagle roaming the streets as a stray. (Red flag #1?) They needed to find a new home for the “oh, isn’t he sooo cute” beagle because he kept running away and he dug huge holes in their yard. (Red flag #2 and #3?)  Guess whose house they found as the new home for this “oh, isn’t he sooo cute” beagle? You guessed it.
Just so the record is completely accurate, there was one dissenting vote on adopting the “oh, isn’t he sooo cute” beagle, but it was anonymous, so we will just leave it at that.
We weren’t concerned with Toby, the beagle, running away from our yard. We have a huge fenced yard. We had two other dogs for him to play with. We had a bunch of kids to play with him. Who would want to run away from all that?

Who indeed!
Toby seemed to adapt to our family, animals, and yard with absolutely no problem. We knew this was a perfect place for Toby to find happiness. But the first time a neighborhood cat wandered by, Toby was over our fence like a baying streak of beagle-brown and out of sight so fast, the only reminder he had ever been there was the distant baying of a beagle on-the-scent.
We eventually found an exhausted Toby and returned him to his should-have-been paradise, but it didn’t last. Every time he caught an interesting scent, he was over the fence and gone. After some online research we learned that beagles, as a breed, are completely controlled by that black thing on the end of their muzzles. They simply cannot resist an interesting smell, especially if that smell is connected to something which obviously needs chasing.
We tried many methods of keeping Toby in, but they all failed in the end. When we Toby-proofed one spot, he would just find another place to escape over, under, around, or through. Finally the only practical solution was to keep him on a long cable while he was out in the yard.
Even the cable did not end our problem completely. Beagles are wile escape artists. Anything less than complete vigilance would usually result in a concerned, “Where’s Toby?” followed by a search of the surrounding neighborhood. He would slip between the legs of arriving guests if we were distracted greeting them. Sometimes I would forget about his restrictions and absent-mindedly let him out with the rest of the pack, only to be combing the neighborhood 10 minutes later for the illusive dog. On a couple of occasions we are pretty sure he jumped out ground floor windows left open for some summer ventilation.
We always found him. On a few occasions he returned on his own, but most times it was the ‘posse’ who apprehended the fugitive. Our struggles to find Toby after his frequent escapes prompted my wife to purchase a tag for him which we placed on his collar. It said, “Toby”, followed by her cell number on one side. On the other was engraved the solitary appellation, “Stupid Beagle”. My wife’s cell phone rang more than once thus ending the search for the “Stupid Beagle”.

If I haven’t mentioned it before, animals at our house live well past their expected “sell by” dates. In dog years, Toby must now be over 100. He is too old to climb over the fence, but he will still chase squirrels, cats, or any other varmint which gets too close. (I’m pretty sure he is in no danger of catching them.)

Due to his advanced years and diminished abilities, we no longer keep Toby on the cable. But for much of his life with us, his outside adventures were limited by the length of the cable. No matter how long the cable, it has an end. Toby’s fun stopped at that end. Unlike his canine companions, Toby was never able to fully enjoy the huge fenced yard. He never got to chase the squirrel up the tree. He never chased the neighborhood cats out of our yard. He never got to play with the kids in the back yard, or run his heart out playing fetch. He missed participating in a lot of fun activities, all because he could not resist the call of his of his uncontrolled nose.
Moral: Yielding to our urges often robs us of more than we gain.

©2014 William L. Steen


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