by Julia Buckley
I never understood why my father didn't seem to return the dog's undying love. But flash forward about thirty-five years and meet the Beagle in the picture above. That's Simon. My son waged a campaign for a few years before we relented and got him this little fellow as a companion. Simon reminds me of Buffy in many ways. They share a Beagle heritage, and his brain power is often reminiscent of Buffy's low-wattage efforts.
Simon loves my sons with typical doggie devotion; he seems fond yet wary of my curmudgeonly husband. But Simon simply loves me, perhaps because he knows that I'm a hard sell in my older years. Like my father, I'm the one responsible for the dog's room and board, and while my sons walk him intermittently (read: when they feel like it), I have to be sure that the dog gets a healthy amount of fresh air and exercise. There are five pets in our family and my husband and children are content to rely upon the fact that I will keep all of them alive.
Simon and I had a rocky start to our alliance. We got him as a six-month-old pup, and we were assured that he was potty trained. When we returned home with him two days before Christmas, though, we found that this was not true, and that Simon preferred to make his deposits in the warm indoors rather than in the icy back yard. This fact significantly lessened the joy of my holidays that year. :)
Simon has spent years trying to get us to adapt to his indulgences--all of them rather gross experiences that he has when he follows his unusually long nose into trouble. Because he wouldn't leave our garbage alone, we had to start putting the can on a high chair. This worked for several years, but in his older age Simon is becoming either canny or desperate. He has found a way to tumble the kitchen garbage can off of its chair so that he can munch on its contents.
"Simon!" I yelled. He trailed slowly into the kitchen, knowing that he was in trouble, and went right outside when I opened the door. Simon gets a lot of time-outs in the back yard, but I think he feels safer out there than he would in a room with my stewing anger.
Eventually, though, he barked at the door, as if to say that he'd had enough. My sons had been ordered to clean up after their dog, and for once they did it without complaint, obviously fearing that I was about to drive Simon to the pound.
Instead, I let him in and glared at him as he trotted past.
In our family, though, I am the one whom the dog worships. He lies at my feet when I type at the computer (as he is doing now); he waits for me at night before retiring, and we go upstairs together like an old married couple. We learned long ago that his upstairs basket (yes, he has two) must be near me, or he will simply get out in the night and stretch out near my side of the bed. When I leave he whines, and when I return he celebrates. Because I find him handy as a food-cleaner-upper, he regularly seeks snacks from me, and if he doesn't get them he growls in his throat until I meet his gaze, and then he jumps up and down as if to say, "Let's go get my food!"
The dog is often in a state of ignominy, at least with me. On more than one occasion he has come close to breaking my legs by running past me while I'm climbing or descending the stairs. He doesn't smell great, even after his bath, and he barks at every darn thing.
Still, I am used to him. When he finishes his doggie dreams, he'll get up on his sturdy little legs and start sighing at me to feed him or take him for a walk. And I'll do it, because someone has to, and he looks really cute when he's trotting down the street with his adventurous expression, peeking over his shoulder now and then to make sure I'm at the other end of the leash.