When our daughter went away to college two years ago, we were supposed to become empty nesters. We would be footloose, middle-aged adults with no one to bring to the mall or stay up late waiting for. And then Hobbes, our then thirteen-year-old beagle said, “Ahem!” Or maybe it was, “Ahh-rooooo.”
Seven years ago, we were looking for a dog that would not bite us and couldn’t leap over child gates. We had been through a handful of dogs that had issues with one or the other. I’ll be the first to admit I was not a big proponent of getting a pet. But Hobbes was the perfect find.
Her previous owners had to move on from her because Hobbes, though eight-years-old, was quite adept at taking food from young children. The first week we had her, she leaped from under the table into my lap to try to steal my pork chops. She soon showed an affinity for waffles, tunafish, and pretty much anything that could be plated.
She was quirky. She was able to get in her dog bed and wriggle beneath the blanket by herself. She disliked car rides. On a two hour trip, she could maintain a level of fidgetiness and ill humor the entire time. She loved to lick sweat off of perspiring humans.
Hobbes couldn’t get enough of people. She would follow you around the house until you stopped moving and then she would jump on the couch and sit with you. She would watch me mow the lawn from the screened porch. She would watch from the door as your car drove away. She would sleep in bed with our daughter until she went to college.
And then the real fun started.
Hobbes was unable, or perhaps unwilling, to sleep alone. Not that we didn’t encourage a solo slumber. We did not want her in bed with us, plus our bed was too tall for her to jump into. So we moved her dog bed into our bedroom. For Hobbes, no body contact meant no deal. We tried propping up pillows and clothing to make it seem as if our daughter was in bed for Hobbes to cuddle up with. Hobbes thought this was, at best, a lame attempt to comfort her.
So we took turns sleeping with Hobbes in our daughter’s bed. One night on, one night off. The deal was that if you slept with Hobbes, you didn’t have to be the one to get up to feed her and let her out. That worked okay until her eating habits changed.
Her desire for breakfast began to get earlier and earlier. 5:00 a.m. became 4:30 and then 4:00. If you can connect the dots, you’ll know that eventually we were able to feed her before we went to bed. But, wait. Does that make it breakfast or is it now a midnight snack?
While her appetite went up, her ability to manage stairs went down. She could get up the hill like a reliable t-bar but she was a first time skier going down. The sleeping arrangement changed. If you slept with Hobbes, you got her for the whole night, including snacks, bathroom breaks, and general insomnia. Only now you had to sleep with her on the family room couch. And a beagle can really stretch out when it wants to.
Being a veganish household, we incorporated healthy foods into Hobbes diet. Nutritional yeast, steel cut oats, chickpeas, strawberries and blueberries have made their way into her bowl with varying degrees of success. Over time she went from practically tearing the food bowl from our grasp to chewing morsels here and there, sometimes making it last all day.
Lately, her front and back legs seem like they belong on different dogs. She needs help getting on the couch now. She still follows us around the house, but, sometimes when we stop, Hobbes keeps going as if looking for someone who isn’t there. She can be spooked just by a hand being raised to pet her. She experiences brief tremors. She wants to go outside but then seems to be wondering why when she gets there.
We know that someday soon we truly will be empty nesters. And this time it won’t include Christmas break visits or text messages. But we can at least take comfort in knowing that seven years ago, when we brought a younger-than-her-years beagle into our house, it was one of the smartest things we ever did.
Have you any pet stories? Please share…