It’s nearly two months and counting since our beloved shaggy mutt Shakespeare died.
Like his literary namesake, Shakespeare was the canine bard of our family, the leader
of our little troupe of four-legged friends. He held center stage by right of civility as well
as seniority–and when the old dog departed, we all mourned, animal and human alike.
For me, Shakespeare’s passing marked the end of life as I knew it, coming as it did
on the heels of losing my job and my youngest going off to college. I was bereft.
But Freddie, our feisty, frisky, fearless beagle, took the loss hardest of all. His howls
sharpened into cries, his snores stiffened into snorts, his wagging faltered into flailing.
He slept poorly, ate unenthusiastically, and whined continually. He stuck to my ankles
stubbornly wherever I went, precipitating more than one nasty fall.
I tried everything I could to cheer him up: his favorite doggie treats, regular hard
scratching behind his silky ears, long walks through the cranberry bogs. Nothing
seemed to work. Not only was Freddie uncharacteristically lethargic, the eight-year-old
hound was also regressing to his former troubled puppy self, constantly nibbling at his
feet, gnawing at his belly, niggling his private parts–and lack thereof.
He was, in short, depressed. Our vet, the venerable Dr. B, confirmed that Freddie’s
despondency at the loss of his constant canine companion and mentor was to be
expected. The only cure, for people and beagles alike, Dr. B told me, is time.
So we’ve carried on our grieving together, the little beagle and I. I treat myself to long
bubble baths and Freddie to short doggie showers with special shampoo to soothe his
sensitive skin. I stay close to home, and work with Freddie at my feet. We continue our
tramps through the peatlands, albeit at a more leisurely pace. I used to hurry the stout
hound along, pulling at the leash whenever he dug his nose into the dirt, refusing to
budge. Now, whenever Freddie finds a deliciously pungent smell, I give him his ground.
I practice patience as I admire the swamp sparrows and red-winged blackbirds darting
about in celebration of the early spring. I wait until the dog is ready to move on.
Fifty-three days later, Freddie shows signs of improvement. He races up and down the
side yard, barking at the construction workers building a new house on the adjoining
property. He yelps at our tabby Ursula when she swipes at his nose just for fun as she
slinks by. And he upends the trashcan in search of scraps whenever I turn my back.
Our hapless hero is rebounding–and I with him. We still miss our Shakespeare, but we
remember him as we march into the bogs every afternoon, Freddie nose to the ground,
I eyes to the skies.
As it turns out, Dr. B was right: Time heals all wounds, and all hounds.
Paula Munier has been a dog person her whole life. Raised by a father with a penchant
for Weimaraners, Vizslas, and Great Danes, on her tenth birthday she got her first dog
of her own—a black miniature French poodle named Rogue. Since then she has shared
her life with numerous dogs, cats, fish, and a bearded lizard, all of which together
caused far less trouble than just one small beagle named Freddie—a hound so ornery
she wrote a book about him. FIXING FREDDIE: A True Story about a Boy, a Mom,
and a Very, Very Bad Beagle is available online and at bookstores everywhere. Learn more
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