My childhood pet was a beagle, and I am starting to suspect that beagles tend to be functionally retarded at the best of times. Adorable, big brown eyes, eager to please, total doggie derps with not two brain cells to knock together inside their empty little heads, beagles may be the canine world’s Inbred Jeds. At least they are sweet-tempered beasts.
Charlie Brown’s dog, Snoopy, was a beagle. Everything you learned about Snoopy is a damn lie. Snoopy is portrayed as being creative, smart and clever. I know Snoopy is imaginary because he is a comic strip character, but still, it is false advertising. I can count the number of beagles I have met on one hand (with fingers to spare) that showed any sign of intelligence.
Brandy, our family dog when I was small, was the least smart of them all. Now, Brandy was sweet, and loving, but her total lack of smarts used to drive us crazy. I actually saw her walk into a wall, look at it accusingly, as if to complain that it shouldn’t have jumped out in front of her like it just did, back up, and then promptly walk right back into it again. This is a dog with normal eyesight who wasn’t senile. She was just that mentally challenged.
Brandy was also fucking LOUD. Hounds have a special kind of bark-howl that non-hound-owners are unfamiliar with. Brandy would greet us enthusiastically with ear-piercing howls of joy whenever we came home. Alas, she was so incredibly dim that she interpreted someone leaving the room and coming right back as a signal to cue Joyous Homecoming Arias.
When the family moved into an apartment complex, we were so used to Brandy’s enthusiastic and high-decibel greeting style that we were shocked when neighbors started pounding on our door, trembling with outrage, and threatening to tell the ASPCA that we were beating our dog. We’d have to spend an annoying length of time explaining that no, we did no such thing, we loved the fucking dog, though sometimes we wondered why, and if the neighbor seemed the least bit dubious, we’d only have to open the door and go back inside, neighbor by our sides, to cue Brandy’s bark-howls of ecstasy. We’d be twenty feet away and she’d still be howling like an air raid siren and about to wet herself with delight. No one ever complained twice.
We tried for five years to train the dog. The only command she mastered semi-successfully was coming when called. She didn’t always put two and two together and realize we were actually talking to her, but if you made eye contact, she would lumber over most of the time for some petting and ear-rubbing. The dog was just retarded beyond belief. I have owned smarter gerbils, and a typical gerbil has a brain the size of a frozen English pea.
Beagles, like most hounds, live to eat. In addition to being a typical beagle with an insatiable appetite, Brandy was incredibly lazy. You didn’t take Brandy for a walk, you took her for a slow drag, or an even slower inch by inch inspection of every blade of grass in the yard. My brother and I would try to think of things for the dog to do that might induce her to get some exercise. We’d walk her up and down staircases, up and down off curbs, and around and around the neighborhood, and she’d eat anything she could get into her mouth while trudging along half-heartedly behind us.
She was too stupid to play fetch. You’d throw a ball, and she’d decide that it ceased to exist once it flew over her head, and would just sit there, stupidly, wondering what we were going on about. We tried to get her to fetch sticks. If she managed to clue in that we wanted her to go get the stick, she’d occasionally manage to find it by accident a half hour later, and settle in for a mid-day snack and eat it. Every scrap.
By the time the dog was a year old, it was obvious that she wasn’t plump from puppy fat, she was just fat. By the time she was two, she looked like two beagles glued together. By the time she was five, she was a barrel supported by four tiny furry toothpicks. We were baffled. The dog was on diet dog food, exercised, and she still ballooned in size. The Goodyear Mutt. Meanwhile, the cat didn’t seem to ever gain much weight. Clever detective work revealed that the dog was just bright enough to wait until there were no human witnesses before eating the cat’s food and then her own.
We started to feed the cat on top of the clothes dryer in the utility room. The dog started to eat the plastic dishes and aluminum pot pie pans her food and water were served in. We switched to ceramic, and she managed to break and eat chunks of those, too. We finally moved on to thick metal bowls, and she was thwarted, but only for a while. She found other things to eat.
I could write a book about the bizarre things the dog managed to consume. We always considered it a miracle that she didn’t ever eat our cat. Socks was a lot smarter than Brandy, however, and that may have been what saved her.
(On an ironic note, I was in first grade when we got the animals, and, being an advanced reader, I’d already read a lot of Beverly Cleary books. Socks was named after the book (what else) “Socks”. Brandy was originally going to be called “Ribsy”, after a dog in another Cleary book, but my mother loudly vetoed that idea and named her (I suspect) after a particularly wet top-40 song she had once liked about a fine girl who would be a good wife, if only her cheatin’ tramp of a sailor boyfriend could stop dicking around and leave the Navy (or whatever) once and for all and settle down.
Calling this dog “Ribsy” would have been the equivalent of calling a really big, tall, fat guy “Tiny,” or referring to George W. Bush as “Einstein.”)
First of all, Brandy was a coprophage. Many dogs are. She was a dedicated coprophage, though, and would harass the cat while she was in mid-poop, just to get those delicious cat brownies in the cat box. On the plus side, we didn’t have to change the cat box very often. Brandy would not only eat the poop, she’d eat most of the pee-soaked litter. During shedding season, we never had a problem with fur getting on anything, because the dog licked all the shedding fur off of herself and the cat.
One fine day the dog found a box of crayons, one of those enormous 128-color boxes, the largest size Crayola made. It had been left unattended for ten minutes while the child coloring with the crayons went to the bathroom. When the budding artist (me) returned, the crayons were gone. Accusations of sibling theft flew back and forth, a brawl broke out, every corner of the house was ransacked, parents were prevailed upon to restore order (and the crayons), all to no avail. This huge box of crayons was just gone.
The next day, and for the next several days, the dog’s crap came out in a rainbow of colors. Red and yellow and pink and green, purple and orange and blue, she could shit a rainbow, shit a rainbow, shit a rainbow, too. On day five, the crayon sharpener that had been built into the box emerged, jauntily perched atop a perfect sky-blue-pink turd swirl. The mystery of the missing crayons had been solved.
The dog discovered that my mother used old-fashioned Kotex pads, and wrapped them in toilet paper and put them into a straw wastebasket. Used Kotex pads were apparently a delicacy, because the dog ate them, ate the other things in the wastebasket, and half of the wastebasket itself. More than once.
The dog ate a dead lightbulb.
The dog ate the air fern my mom had been fussing over that sat in a prominent place in the living room that you would never believe a fat dog could reach.
The dog ate entire rolls of toilet paper plus the toilet tube and the toilet roll spindle.
The dog ate bottles of lotion, shampoo, conditioner, toothpaste.
The dog ate several fuzzy bathmats.
The dog ate stinky “OdorEaters” insoles and orthopedic arch-supporting cookies our of shoes, if for some odd reason she chose not to just go ahead and devour the entire shoe.
The dog pried up chunks out of the wooden parquet floor and ate them.
The dog ate two rubber doormats made out of recycled tires.
The dog ate toilet cakes and the little plastic baskets they dangled down from.
The dog once ate a metal Hot Wheels firetruck. It was never seen again.
The dog ate several hundred pot pie tin pans that we used to feed the cat, as occasionally one would get nudged to the edge of the clothes dryer.
The dog ate toothbrushes, hair brushes, and entire tubes of lipstick (which emerged whole, cap still on, days later).
Our dryer never had a chance to eat our socks, the dog would eat them first. Brandy was also fond of underwear, pants, shorts, t-shirts, and anything else that she could scavenge out of the laundry hamper.
The dog ate most of the Tinkertoys, Lincoln Logs, plastic toy vehicles, stuffed animals, Barbies and books she could find.
The dog pretty much ate everything that wasn’t nailed down, and then started in on the nailed-down stuff, too.
It was after it was estimated that the dog had eaten approximately $5,000 worth of household goods, clothing and toys that my parents decided to confine the dog in the kitchen at night. The dog ate two square feet of linoleum, chewed up and ate several baby gates, ate the legs of the kitchen table, ate several legs of the kitchen chairs, dragged the new wall-to-wall carpet under the babygate and ate a hole three feet wide and two feet long out of the carpet and underliner, and ate knobs off the cabinets.
Again, the vets could not find any physical ailment to explain the voraciousness, and just said that “all hounds do that.” I don’t know…I’ve known a lot of hounds, and they do eat whatever they can, but they tend to prefer actual food items.
Please note that I’m only giving you the highlights, here. The dog ate things that no one would ever believe could be eaten, and she did it on a nearly daily basis. We weren’t untidy people, and some of the things this four-legged furry Jell-o mold managed to find, acquire, and then eat had to have involved doggie teleportation or telekinesis.
The most infamous episode of inappropriate eating occurred during a posh cocktail party my parents were throwing. My mom slaved for hours making a huge sherry-infused cheeseball, rolling it in sliced nuts, and baking it in the oven so it was approximately 500 degrees Fahrenheit right before the guests arrived. She popped a maraschino cherry on top, stuck it on a cutting board with crackers and toast points, and as she set it onto the coffee table, the doorbell rang.
As my mother let the first guests in, everyone heard agonized yelps coming from the den. Everyone ran to see what the horrible noises were, and there was the dog, eating six pounds of piping hot molten cheese, and crying out in pain because it was burning her mouth, throat and stomach, and the dog was too stupid to figure out that perhaps eating a boiling hot cheeseball was a bad idea and to STOP.
Her craps that week became an epic event for all the neighborhood kids to point at and marvel over, so prodigious was their size and length. She was pooping dachshund-sized landmines everywhere for days. I don’t mean poops equivalent to poops a dachshund might poop, I mean poops that just needed legs, a collar and a tail to be mistaken for actual dachshunds. How her butthole didn’t go on strike, I don’t know. It is a mystery. It was a hot topic of discussion even at the neighborhood bus top–”those kids’ beagle made the biggest poos in the world, it might be a Guinness Book World Record-sized poo, the poos were almost as big as the dog, but that dog might well win a record for being the fattest dog ever to roll into a backyard to drop a load”…you get the idea.
How the dog managed to fit six pounds of cheese into her belly was a mystery to me, as she also ate four pairs of pants (crotches, mostly), one sock, a left shoe (all but the heel), six pairs of underwear (including elastic), and the covers and most of the chapters from two textbooks (which had foolishly been left on top of my bed) the same night.
It was at this point that I threw my hands up and disowned the dog.
Just to prove that ignorance is bliss and only the good die young, this dog lived a looooooong, loooooong time, eating new and bizarre inedible things of greater size and strangeness, and finally ended up dying peacefully of old age. Not once did her crazy eating habits cause her any gastrointestinal dismay.
I may sound like a bitch, but even though I loved the dog, I don’t miss her one bit. I no longer worry that when I come home, something expensive will have vanished into Brandy’s voracious and indestructible maw. Really, I am just too poor to pay for all the inevitable vet bills.
Rest in peace, Brandy.