By the time we said goodbye, the only parts that still worked well were her nose and her stomach.
Both got her into a lot of trouble throughout her life. But she couldn’t help herself. She was a beagle, after all. Her lineage forced her to do things that other dogs who are not cursed with hound genes can usually stop themselves from doing when the humans in their lives tell them to knock it off. Very bad things like running into the woods without looking back, chasing bunnies, and howling. She did this a lot as a younger dog.
She spent the first year and half of her life living in a barn with a black lab who never let her eat. After she adopted us from the Humane Society, whenever we walked her and she passed a black lab, she’d let loose with her trademark howl, proving that even beagles are capable of holding grudges.
She hated rain and the vacuum cleaner and taking baths. She loved rotisserie chicken from Walmart, ice cream, and anything that even remotely resembled or smelled like bacon. The only heroic thing she ever did was snatch a bat out of the air at the cabin one summer night when she was still young and agile enough to do it. But mostly, she lived only to sniff and eat for the seventeen years she lived on Earth.
Last week, on a perfectly sunny mid-August afternoon as a cool breeze came through the windows in our screen porch, we said goodbye the only way we knew how to….as a family. The boy and girl she loved best were there with her at the end. The mom and dad, too.
And now, there’s a hole in the middle of our family where a beagle used to be. We are filling it up with memories and tenderness and hugs, the way she’d want us to. It’s going to take a little while, though.
As humans, we’re trained from an early age to spend our entire lives hoping that there’s some place better to look forward to once we’re gone. Dogs are smarter than that. They know that even when you’re very old and can’t hear your people or even see them very well and have a bad Ticker to boot, that a warm bed on a cold night, ear scratches and under -the- collar scratches, rotisserie chicken, new smells, and the sun on your back as you take a walk after dinner can be more than enough to make life worth living. They know that sometimes Life is just too lovely to leave.
A very old dog named Maggie taught me that.