When I was a kid, pets – mostly of the feline variety – were always part of our household.
So years later, now married and with babies of my own, it wasn’t a huge shock to me when my DB arrived home one day with an eight-week-old beagle puppy tucked under his arm.
She was adorable, this little pup, and her soulful eyes made you just want to pick her up and hug her. I named her Tish and immediately began setting her up to live with our growing family.
At the time, Baby Boy was barely two years old, and Baby Girl was just learning to stand up by herself.
As I mentioned, I had lived with plenty of cats when I was growing up; and even though I had never actually raised a puppy myself, I assumed it must be pretty much the same process. After all, how hard can it be?, I thought to myself.
With two babes-in-arms in those pre-Internet days, who had time to go to the library and look for information on how to raise a puppy? It was 1972, after all. In that era, you got a dog, brought it home, put out a dish of dog food, and it lived happily ever after with you. End of story.
Ahh, the depths of my ignorance….
Tish was a sweet and good-natured pup, but she seemed a bit high strung to me, meaning that she piddled on the floor whenever she got excited, which amounted to about once every five minutes.
As a result, I had to tie her on a long leash, with all her toys, in a corner of the kitchen to restrain the piddling to one area near the newspapers so Baby Girl, our crawler, wouldn’t keep wandering into wet spots. It wasn’t a great fate for an exuberant puppy, but I didn’t know any better at the time.
Before long Tish, who I now know needed to run and sniff and jump and chew the way she needed food and sleep, found herself a delightful new game. Every time our Baby Girl, who was just at the stage of attempting to stand up on her own, managed to haul herself upright within the boundaries of Tish’s leash, Tish rushed over, jumped up on her, and knocked her down.
I expect Tish thought it was a terrific game with some kind of animated toy. Baby Girl, whose every attempt to stand was enthusiastically squashed, most emphatically did not agree.
Imagine it: one toddler, one crawler, and a small canine dynamo. Oh yes – and one now frazzled mother. I began to worry that my little crawler would never learn to walk at that rate. What on earth were we thinking, I wonder now.
As you can imagine, being tied up in the kitchen (even when her humans were there, which was most of the time) when there was so much to see and do in the rest of the world, must have been anything but Tish’s idea of a good time.
I, on the other hand, couldn’t figure out why Tish was so restless. This had never been a problem with the cats. Independent almost from birth, they ate, used the litter box, sat on laps, played with their toys when the urge overcame them, and slept. And slept. And slept. Easy as pie, raising kittens.
Still I didn’t clue in. I suppose I was too busy trying to keep up with the puddles and crying babies.
As all such situations do sooner or later, the problem soon came to a head. Early one fine morning, I walked into the kitchen to discover that Tish had found another outlet for her puppy energy: chewing off the bottom of every kitchen cupboard within reach of her 8-foot leash.
When I saw the chaos, I also saw the light. It finally became clear to me that our beautiful little puppy was meant to be living another kind of life, with the freedom to run and explore, not caged in a kitchen and bored out of her intelligent mind.
Love her I certainly did, but was I able to give her the necessary opportunities to exercise and learn and explore? And could I begin the training that this growing puppy clearly needed? Sadly, with two other babies to look after, I knew that the answer to both questions was no.
There was only one logical response, so we bit the bullet.
DB found Tish a new and much more suitable home with good folks on a nearby farm, where she had plenty of room to run and jump and follow her keen nose wherever she wished. She would be free to do all the normal doggy things she needed to do to grow into a healthy and happy adult, for the rest of what I hoped would be a long and exuberant life.
Tish loved it from the first moment, settling in immediately. Clearly she had found a home that suited her lively temperament, and my ignorance of her needs hadn’t done her any permanent harm.
And wonder of wonders, Baby Girl actually did start to stand up again once she realized that it no longer meant being bumped right back down onto her fanny. In the end, it turned out to be a win-win situation.
But I could have saved a good deal of time and wasted effort, not to mention difficulties, had I known more about what beagle puppies need to be healthy and happy.
I suspect ignorance of their pet’s needs for appropriate upkeep and training could be one reason why some pet owners consign their pets to animal humane societies for behavioural issues.
Perhaps their caretakers didn’t bother to find out what the consequences might be of taking a particular breed of animal into their home and lifestyle.
Or maybe, like me, they had no idea there was anything they needed to to learn in the first place.
As for me, I found out the hard way that to “ASSUME just makes an ASS of U and ME.”
Beagles are difficult dogs. They have such a strong instinct to sniff and hunt that training them is challenging for anyone. Unfortunately for them, they are also the cutest puppies on the planet and grow to be a nice size for most people. I had one as a little girl — she ended up actually getting arrested for killing chickens. People also don’t realize that letting their kids and the puppy grow up together is hard. My beautiful golden retriever, Kelly, was bought as a pup when some people had their baby. That didn’t work. A three year old golden retriever would have been perfect. People also don’t realize big dogs are calmer than small dogs and girls are easier to housebreak than boys. Siberian huskies were bred to take care of children and they are SO good at it! But I don’t think anyone should adopt a Siberian husky unless they know a LOT about dogs.
We didn’t know anything at the time about beagles, or we wouldn’t have decided to keep Tish – but oh my, Martha, what an adorable little puppy she was! Thank goodness the story had a happy ending and Tish had the chance to live in the country where she could be the scent hound she was born to be. Beagles are second only to Mals in my heart of hearts, but it’s been quite the experience learning to hand a Malamute properly. Not only that, but this is happening at a place in my life when I have the time to follow up and try to do the trainings properly, which I never would have had if we had kept Tish when I had two small children as well. I think Tish would have wound up a very unhappy dog, and I’m glad there was a place for her elsewhere.
I now believe that anyone thinking of owning a dog should, ideally, research the behaviours of the diffent breeds in order to find a breed that matches them, even if the animal in question is a mix. And for big, strong dogs – especially the independent-minded ones – training of some kind is an absolute must. As lovingly as we do it, they have to learn that we are the alpha. Lyko has been trained this way every day since he was born (first with his mother and now with his new pack, using a single tiny kibble as a reward for good behaviour), and he’s a wonderful little guy to have around. (It never fails to amaze me how eager that pup is to go through the paces for a single kibble. Obviously, it’s the principle of the thing: a reward is a reward, no matter what size it is.) 🙂
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