While I was gardening

The art of gardening and the science of life.

Best in Our Show

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The 2015 Westminster Dog Show chose a beagle as Best in Show.  Easy decision, in my opinion.  Of the few dog breeds I know well – Cocker Spaniel, German Shepard, Golden Retriever, and Toy Poodle – the Beagle is the breed that grabbed my heart and hasn’t let go.  I’ve written about our beagle, Pippin, many times in this blog and those stories just scratch the surface of his charming, multifaceted personality.

In my experience, a beagle’s most conspicuous personality trait is tenacity.  That, and a desire to chase.  It took years for Pippin to accept that our cat, Taggy, really didn’t want to be chased around the house – or around the yard, up a tree, or down the street.  It took many years of being scratched on the nose or face before it occurred to him that when the cat hid under a bed maybe she wasn’t having the time of her life like he was.  After all, he loved chasing her throughout our small house, skidding on the hardwood floors, chasing her down the hall and under the furniture, and then seeking her out.  Under a bed was her favorite hiding place, and it took many years for Pips to realize that if he dove head-first under the bed after her, pain would ensue.  And it always did.

A favorite game of his was to run after anything moving whenever I would open the garden gate to bring him back inside the house.  One particular time comes to mind after a morning of helping me garden (he dug holes for me).  I opened the gate just as Taggy walked down the sidewalk from the front door.  Before I could leash him, Pippin took off after Taggy as she ran across our yard and into the neighbor’s yard.  There came Pippin barking and baying, followed by me running after him with leash in hand, yelling “Pippin come!”  He didn’t.  My neighbor across the street happened to look out her kitchen window in time to see Taggy being chased by Pippin who was being chased by me.  Pips and I ran around the house twice before I caught him.  Taggy didn’t come back to the house for hours.

Beagles are known to be very creative, especially when food is involved.  Pippin certainly lived up to that reputation, but added a bit of deception to his creativity, as well.  A favorite trick of his was to sit at the front door and whine to be let outside.  As soon as I would reach for the door he would shoot behind me to the kitchen, where we fed Taggy, and wolf down the food she had not finished.  Although he was successful with this trick only once, he tried it repeatedly before finally giving up.  Almost one year after his first and only success he tried the trick again, apparently hoping that I had forgotten his intent.  I hadn’t.

Beagles are known for their love of any small, furry, fast moving creature (aka squirrels) and Pippin was no exception.  I’ve never seen a happier dog than when an apple fell out of our tree, followed immediately by the squirrel who had been eating it, directly in front of Pips as he laid in the grass chewing a bone.  An angel in the shape of a squirrel!  And I’ve never heard a louder bark than the Call to Chase that Pips let loose with on that warm summer day.  The chase was short, sweet, and so memorable that Pippin sat in the same spot under the tree for the remainder of summer waiting for another squirrel to fall from heaven.

He had one other memorable encounter with a squirrel, but this one left him stunned and depressed.  The two of us were out walking on a late fall morning.  Apparently wildlife had been active during the previous night and early morning hours because Pippin was sniffing something to ground (he never did find it) when a squirrel ran down a Doug Fir on the opposite side of the street.  Pippin didn’t realize it for a moment and I hoped that he wouldn’t notice it at all.  But the squirrel saw Pippin and froze in place.  That caught Pippin’s attention and he looked up and saw the squirrel.  He gave the full-body shake that preceded a good chase.   I held tight the leash.  The squirrel stared at Pippin, the dog stared at the squirrel, the squirrel looked to its left, then right, and for reasons I will never understand, ran directly towards the dog.  Oh boy!!  Before Pippin could make a move or sound, the squirrel ran across the street and directly between the dog’s legs, then up a tree behind us.  Pips stood still for a moment and then looked up at me as if to say “Where’d he go?”   As it dawned on the dog that his new best friend was not coming back, his tail drooped, he hung his head, and he sat down.  After a pat on the head and a small biscuit, all was forgotten and our walk resumed.

When Pippin was 5 months old, he joined me and my daughter on our annual vacation to Cannon Beach.  Not being familiar with the surprising strength that a 5 month old beagle can conjure when enticed by something new to chase, I learned a valuable lesson that summer.  My daughter and I checked into our room, gave the dog a snack and some water, gathered the tools for sand castle building, a large blanket, more snacks and beverages, and headed for the beach.  The hotel we stayed at supplied beach chairs for their guests, and we found one in a good location.   We spread out our blanket and set out our tools to begin our building project.  I tied Pippin’s leash to the chair and gave him a bone to chew on and a squeaky toy to play with. The day was sunny and warm and the beach was fairly crowded – families with dogs, people walking their dogs, people sunbathing with their dogs resting next to them – the scene was calm and relaxed, and the dogs were well-behaved.  My daughter and I had been involved with our building project for some time when I heard a commotion down the beach – a dog barking, seagulls crying, and people laughing.  Then a man called to me, “Lady, your dog got away!”  I looked up and saw Pippin running down the beach with the chair in tow chasing a flock of angry seagulls.  I took chase after the dog just as my husband’s best friend and wife saw us (neither family knew the other was there).  My husband’s friend retrieved Pippin and took him on a long walk down the beach after returning the chair while his wife helped me and Rebecca put our blanket and supplies back in order.   Pippin slept well that night.

If you’re wondering which dog breed would be a good fit for you (whether you have a family or are single), you won’t be disappointed by a beagle.  They are loyal, funny, creative, very loving, good with and protective of young children, gentle, and sweet-natured.  The breed tends to be healthy, easy to care for, and not destructive when left alone as long as they have a window to look out of and toys to play with.  If you have a garden, they are always willing to help!  If you have a cat, a beagle will make sure it gets exercise!

So it was no surprise to me that a beagle won Best in Show.



Author: dphare2014

Horticulturist, Lead Steward Carkeek Park Demonstration Gardens, Author

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