Old Dogs, New Tricks

Maggie’s  jumping days are over.

We have a 102 year old beagle.  She has cataracts and she lost her hearing completely about six months ago.   I read recently that a beagle’s sense of smell is about 10,000 times stronger than a human’s.  This may be why she can still smell a bacon flavored strip that’s been left in her dog dish no matter where she is in the house.  These days,  when she’s not looking to score Beagle Crack, she moves from room to room, looking for new places to rest her weary old bones.

I spent years kicking her little beagle butt off the furniture.  She was the canine equivalent of Goldilocks and I was all Three Bears.  I growled about her hair and her paw prints constantly. Especially in the living room, where I had two new chairs.  I thought they were perfect, and so did the dog.   Every time I walked into the living room, she was in one of them.  For weeks, I tried everything to keep that dog off my chairs.  I purchased sprays with names like Doggy B-GONE!  She would just wait for the smell to be gone.  As soon as it was, she’d be bookin’ it right back to the chairs.  Next,  I tried physical barriers.  She’d push the giant throw pillows off with her nose, do a couple of circles, and plop down.  After that, I tried shame.  When she could still hear, I yelled, jumped around, and clapped a lot.  She’d jump off, stare at me like I was out of my mind, and leave the room.   But as soon as I went downstairs, she’d be back on a chair.   She was quite skilled at listening for the sound of me coming upstairs.  Whenever she heard my foot on the first step,  I’d hear the jingle of dog tags and the soft “Whump!” of four feet hitting the floor.  I’d run up the stairs and look into the living room and she’d be sitting there looking at me at me as if to say, “What??? What’s going on?  Is there a PROBLEM??”

This went on for at least a month.  Finally, in total frustration over the fact that I couldn’t control whether she was on the chairs, I came up with the perfect plan.  Mousetraps!  Under cookie sheets!  Under towels!!  I figured I could scare her without hurting her and she’d finally get the message.

One day, I waited until she was down in the family room.  The plan was to place set mousetraps on a cookie sheet and then very carefully place another cookie sheet on top.  This took some time.  I learned that it is hard to be stealthy where mousetraps are concerned.  And that mousetraps hurt.  A lot.  Next, I hid my Weapons of Beagle Destruction under bath towels.  And then I waited.

My plan went off without a hitch and the stunned look on her face after the snapping and banging ended that day was You-Tube worthy, if I do say so myself.   Mission accomplished.   I had finally outsmarted the beagle!


Maggie avoided the living room entirely for the first  two weeks that the really scary Bang! Rattle! Towel Things were there.  Every so often, she’d walk past the room, peek in worriedly, sigh loudly and then go back to her doggie bed.

I was beside myself with glee!  I’d done it!  I’d won the war!  I began to imagine a life free of dog hair and dog smell and muddy paw prints.  I told anyone who would listen how I’d solved the problem.   One morning, three weeks after setting my WBD,  I figured it was safe to take everything off the chairs.  Then, I sat down on one of them, closed my eyes, and raised my smug, grinning face toward the sunbeam coming through the window next to the chair.  Bliss.

By noon,  Maggie the Beagle was peacefully basking in the sunshine, too.  You have probably already guessed where.

Old habits die hard.  We continue doing things the way we’ve always done them because it’s comfortable. We try too hard to control too much in our lives and ultimately, control very little.   We take for granted gifts both simple and miraculous.  Seeing a sunset.  The way rain smells.  The voices of the people we love.  Legs that work.  The companionship and loyalty of old friends.

These days,  Maggie sleeps in her doggie bed.  Sometimes,  I watch her back legs twitch as she yelps in her sleep, dreaming of younger, sweeter days of running after bunnies for hours and I finally get it.  Whether in dog years or human ones, life’s too short.

An old dog named Maggie taught me that.

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