Our First Dog – Playboy

. . . the only dog I really knew as a child was my grandmother’s dog, Fluffy, a German Spitz.

My daughter with Playbox.

Both my husband and I grew  up in  urban environments.  The only dog I really knew as a child was my grandmother’s dog, Fluffy, a German Spitz.  My family lived in an apartment which didn’t allow pets, so I never really got to know the nature of dogs, nor the concept of breeds and their characteristics. My mother-in-law had a cat, but it wasn’t a pet, it was a mouser.  Following WWII, my husband received vitamins from, he thinks, the Marshall Plan.  He fed them to the cat which became big and fat and stopped mousing to his mother’s great annoyance.

So here we were down on the Eastern Shore of Maryland in a cottage on a farm.  There was a crossroad of two dirt roads and every day except for hunting season, the dogs of all the neighboring farms would come to that crossroad to play.  In our first spring – when I had planted my tomato plant – we noticed a little black dog that had joined the group.  We shrugged our shoulders and thought, someone’s gotten a new dog.  But when hunting season came and all the dogs went hunting, the little black dog remained.  We asked our landlord whose dog it might be, he said he assumed that it was our dog.  We said no.

“Well,” he said, “it looks like you have a dog now.”

We were both nonplussed and delighted.  It was so easy and all the decision-making had been done for us.  We couldn’t have done any better – and could have done much worse I suppose – if we had gone through a big rigamarole looking for a dog.  He was such a happy playful little dog that we named him Playboy.  It suited him well.

We took the dog to the vet to get his shots.  The vet estimated that the dog was Labrador retriever/beagle mix, which meant nothing to us.    It turned out that he was an outside dog mostly.  He came in at night and wanted out the first thing in the morning.  He would come home once in a while during the day to see if there was anything going on.  If not, he would be off again on his adventures.

It was when we moved away from the Eastern Shore that we learned the reality of a Labrador/beagle mix.  In our suburban community, he could no longer be an outside dog.  For the most part he made a good transition to a house pet with no complaints.  When the doorbell rang, he would trot along side us to welcome the visitor.  BUT, every once in a while, when the door was open just one second too long, he would run out the door and be off.  Our lives then turned into situation comedy.  We would raise our hands frantically and yell “the dog is out, the dog is out.”  My husband and I would pile into the car and take off.  When we found him we would entice him into the car and he clearly thought that we were taking him for a ride.  But  he figured out before long that instead of taking him for a ride, we were taking him for a ride and we  were just taking him home, and our adventures trying to capture him became more and more difficult.  For ten years of his 15 years, once a month or so we spent saving him from the dog catcher.

The last two years of his life was plagued with arthritis.  In his fifteenth year, we rented a house at the beach that allowed pets.  We were down there for five weeks.  Playboy seemed rejuvenated, running which he hadn’t done for a long time, sniffing everything.  It seemed like a new world for him.  But when we returned home, he literally fell apart on us.  I took him to the vet and he said, “you know, this is a very old dog, you might want to think about putting him to sleep.”

“What? Kill my pet?”  I was mortified.

The vet was very understanding and gave me some pills saying they might help him.

But, of course, the vet was right.  By the next morning it was apparent that nothing would get better and I began to feel guilty for not putting him out of his misery.

I called the vet and told him he was right and made arrangements to bring him in.

I was carrying him wrapped in a small sheet and stayed with him, dry-eyed, while the vet put him to sleep.  But when it was over, I just bawled.  There was only one way out of the office – back through the waiting room.  I was bawling and dragging the sheet after me.  The poor people in the waiting room clutched their pets to them as the pastiche of high drama of pet owner and empty sheet passed before them.

If you read a profile of the beagle breed, one of their chief characteristics is being an escape artist.

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