Monday, February 13, 2012

Amahd (Pt. II): Trixie

A man and his dogs: Pondering the relationship between humans and dogs.

Read Part I, Match made in heaven, here.

A mournful look
My family adopted our beagle, Trixie, from a breeder who ran a place outside Medford, Oregon. The five of us, Dad, Mom, Eric, Paige, and I made the mid-winter drive over the pass from Klamath Falls in our VW bug.  We set out to find a new member for our little family.  A dog.  I was eight years old.  The year was 1970.  Although Mom and Dad may have suspected, we kids had no inkling that the event would be one of the last for that incarnation of our family.  Mom and Dad divorced shortly thereafter.

We drove to the place, as I recall it was a farm, with horse stables, and Mom went with the breeder to choose our dog while Dad waited with the kids in the car.  The first time I laid eyes on Trixie, it was from the back seat of the Volkswagen.  Mom and the breeder were picking their way through the snow toward us.  Mom held a tan and black puppy with long, floppy ears.  She was Trixie, our beagle puppy.  Trixie, our little princess.  She was the runt of her litter which I suspect is what endeared her to Mom.  Eric, Paige and I instantly adored her.

In those early days, Trixie was the object of all the love and kindness we kids could muster.  Our world was coming apart and I believe Trixie gave us something --someone --to care for and console.  In our childish minds, we consoled and protected her in the way we may have wished we would be consoled and protected. Those were troubled times for us.

Clowin' around while Trixie snoozes on the couch in Klamath Falls
Trixie was a beagle, alright.  Beagles are bred to be hunters.  They have extraordinary noses and enormous baleful voices.  They are strong-willed and determined.  And they're adept at making their way through tangled, dense terrain.  Chasing foxes across the countryside requires all of that.

Well, Trixie had it in spades.  When she got to baying, she put up a caterwaul that could be heard up and down the street.  There never was a fenced yard that she couldn't find her way out of.  She leaped off high walls; scrambled under wire fences; climbed, burrowed, and wriggled. 

Mom contends that Trixie had some phobia, some canine neurosis, that caused her to panic at confinement.  But I'm of the opinion that Trixie was being a beagle.  That's what beagles do.  If she went missing for a day, which she occasionally did, we were sick with worry.  But she always came back and when she did, we were flooded with relief and joy.

She was mostly a gentle dog.  But there were a few occasions when she nipped someone.  And there was a particularly traumatic instance with a squirrel.  

Rollin' in the grass
It was Trixie's fate, I'm afraid, to have become a part of a family in transition.  When Mom, Eric, Paige, and I moved to Salem so that Mom could return to school, Trixie came with us.  From there, she went with us to Redmond when Mom graduated college in 1975.  When our family split up again, in 1976, she went back to Salem to stay with my grandparents for a while before finally going to live with Paige, Mom, and Mom's husband Doug in Gig Harbor, Washington.

In all that time, though, she never lacked for love.  Mom, Eric, Paige, and I had our squabbles, our tearful, angry dramas, like all families do.  But there was never an angry thought or a harsh word for Trixie.  She was our little princess.

She died on November 15, 1977.  It was the day before Mom's birthday.  Trixie strangled herself trying to escape from confinement at Mom's house in Gig Harbor.  I got the news when I called the next day to wish Mom a happy birthday.  (Eric and I were living in Klamath Falls at that time.)

I was grief-stricken, of course.  But I'd been through so many transitions by that time that I suppose I was ready for it.  Or rather, I knew how to adapt.  Yeah.  Go with that.  I knew how to adjust to terrible news.  Just one of those things you learn.

But I still miss my little beagle sometimes.

To be continued...

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