He broke absolutely every cat stereotype--we managed to move him six times during the sixteen years that we owned him; he would come to you every time you called him; and he absolutely loved people, all people, without reservation. I loved the way his purr sounded like an idling diesel engine, and the way his stump of a tail (the result of getting hit by a car one summer while we were on vacation) would twitch wildly whenever he got excited chasing a piece of string across the floor.
But there really are two distinct classifications--cat people and dog people--and while a dog person, like me, might love and appreciate the occasional cat, dogs will always hold very special places in our hearts.
I love the way dogs always seem so uncoordinated, the veritable Bull in the China Closet Syndrome, when they get excited. I love a dog's unbridled passion whenever I walk in the door, whether I have been gone for five minutes, or five hours. I love the way a dog will follow me from room to room in a house for no other reason than to be close to me. I love the way that something as simple as tossing a toy across the room can turn into an unending game. Toss a toy across the room for a cat, and he'll just look at you, thinking, "You moron. You threw it. You go pick it up."
After living, petless, in New York for nine years, it was time to get a dog. My husband, Steven, who has never had a pet, argued adamantly against it. He just couldn't understand why anyone would want one. They were messy, required lots of attention, had accidents on the rug, needed to be walked, fed, bathed, and taken to the vet at regular intervals, and they had a much shorter lifespan than humans. He had seen what my parents and I went through in the summer of 2008 in my shih tzu Angel's final days, agonizing over the decision to put my 15-year-old dog to sleep. When Mom and Dad delivered Angel's cremated remains to me in an urn, which I promptly placed on one of the bookshelves in the living room, Steven just shook his head and chalked up as yet another reason not to get a pet on his internal scorecard.
But my persistence finally paid off, and Steven relented to adopt a dog, under two very strict conditions:
"First of all, I don't want no wussy dog!" he stated firmly. "No little fluffy thing that you carry around in your purse. Nope. No way."
"But, honey, I don't even carry a purse," I reminded him. He just held up his hand for my silence.
"And second, let's just remember this was your idea, which makes it your dog. You get to do all that crazy dog stuff that dog people do. Don't expect me to go out picking up poop. Nope. Not happening."
I just smiled and kissed him. "Whatever you say, honey," I agreed, then retreated to the office to start looking for our new dog.
Over the next few weeks/months, I scoured the internet for local shelters and rescues. We agreed right away that we wanted a rescue dog. Why perpetuate the cycle of overpopulation when there are millions of wonderful dogs who have been abandoned and are just waiting for a family?
We discussed breeds, temperaments, size, and decided that our house and yard would be best for a medium-sized dog, one that would adhere to Steven's No Wussy Dog Rule, but would be small enough that it wouldn't take over the house and feel crowded.
When Steven off-handedly remarked that he always thought a beagle would be a pretty cool dog, I jumped at the suggestion. I'd gotten so used to him just shrugging his shoulders and saying, "Eh, whatever you want," when I would show him photos of cute adoptable puppies, that I'd begun to suspect that he really was going to leave the decision entirely up to me. Now that he was actually expressing an interest in a beagle, I finally had something to set my sights on. With a few clicks of the mouse, I was on Arizona Beagle Rescue's website, oohing and aahing over photos of the happiest little dogs I had ever seen. It didn't take much to convince me.
I'd never had any beagle experience. My dad and Grandpa Felker had several hunting dogs growing up, but they were all labs or lab/retriever mixes. I'd gotten my shih tzu, Angel, as a Christmas present in 8th grade. According to everything that I was reading, owning a beagle was a whole different ballgame. Driven mostly by their insatiable appetites and their keen sense of smell, beagles can be a handful for people who are not prepared, scouring the countertops and tables for food left unattended, knocking over garbage cans and eating the contents. But, overall, a beagle seemed to be just the dog that Steven and I were looking for--medium size, loving, playful, energetic, extremely loyal and intelligent. We were a little concerned that most experts recommend never letting beagles off-leash, as they have a tendency to run off if they catch a scent to follow, but the positive aspects of the breed far outweighed the negative.
Thus began the adoption process.
To be continued...