I got my first dog Mickey, a mutant Chihuahua, when I was three. She died the spring of my senior year in high school. That spring my dad was teaching intensive 40 hour a week seminars for his company in various cities.
When my mother called him to tell him what had happened, he drove three hours to get home, built a tiny casket, we buried her with a quiet ceremony and then he drove three hours back.
The following summer before I started college, none of my plans had worked out. I was resigned to another predictable, nonproductive (but highly social) summer.
Then early in June a persistent yipping at the front door woke up the whole family. There, too little to even climb up the first step, was the world’s cutest puppy. All puppies are cute, but I will always think the Beagle is the cutest of all.
I named her Kim, Mick sounded backward. Kim was to have a long, happy life, even though it was not the life I imagined for her. But for me that summer—that summer was the Summer of Kim. I took her every place, the tennis court, the lake, the country club, on dates. My friends loved her; she was the star of our
beer parties that summer.
At the first party, she was working the room when I saw her suddenly fall over sideways. I screamed and ran to pick her up and…whoooo…
The veterinarian we called was mostly amused. He told us if she could still walk, she’d be all right. And then he said something about black coffee and a hangover. I guess some sort of humor they learn at the college of veterinary medicine.
I didn’t let her out of my sight again. Through the summer she learned “sit,” “lie down,” “shake” and “stay.” Well, “stay” not so much.
I started college in September. When I came home for Thanksgiving vacation, I knew something was wrong when no one would look me in the eye.
Kim was gone.
I don’t blame my family now. I did then in quite a display of drama queen-ism.
Kim, it seemed, had been a total disruption. At first she sat on my bed and howled, then she walked around the house whining. She was never really housebroken. She had slept on my bed and I took her out each morning and waited until she sniffed out just the right spot so that I could praise her for producing.
We had spent most of the days outside, so she never got the idea of asking to go out. Since my dad was busy with work and traveling and my brother had school and football, it was my mother who got the brunt of caring for her.
When she did go out, she didn’t stay in the yard as Mickey had done. She was all over the neighborhood, picking up everything her little Beagle mouth would fit to carry home. Then my mother would have to go around trying to return what was left of Kim’s treasures and apologizing.
They tried tying her to a clothesline, but she would go to the end of the line and howl. She was being a Beagle, a hound, she was trying to do what she was bred to do.
And so it turned out that one of my dad’s friends at work lived in the country with his wife and three young children. They had two Beagles that they trained to hunt rabbits and they were thrilled to get a great puppy to add to their pack.
Before the Thanksgiving vacation was over, I realized in my little self-absorbed teenage brain that this was all for the best. Kim the Beagle would never be a happy, well-behaved city dog, especially with people who didn’t have the time for an energetic puppy. She needed other dogs, children, discipline, training. She needed a place to run free, to chase rabbits.
I got frequent and glowing reports on her from her new family through the years, but I never saw her again. I didn’t want to.
It would have made me sad if she didn’t remember me.
It would have made me sadder if she did.
To all the dogs I’ve loved before, this blog’s for you.