It was at a shelter that we encountered our first beagle, a sweet, tiny creature who had been found wandering. We put in a request for it, but the owner retrieved it. We had now been programmed for beagle ownership, so we discovered a local group that finds new homes for mistreated beagles and went to its adoption fair.
There's something about being surrounded by roomful of abandoned creatures that makes you realize you'd adopt a wart hog under the right circumstances. When my daughter saw shy, scrawny Sasha (then known as Conchita), I knew I was headed for years of late-night walks.
Sasha has lived up to the one promise the head of the rescue organization made about her: She was completely unhousebroken. OK, we've gotten over that misery. But when we took her to the first session of our six-week dog-training course, I had one of many cat-person-with-a-dog sinking spells when the instructor explained how dog training was a lifelong process. All I could think of was the process of training our cats: "Fellas, here's your litter box." End of training.
Walking a dog has been a revelation. Who knew so many of my neighbors, most of whom I'd never seen before, owned dogs? It was like discovering that at 11 every night, people all around me were running out to go ballroom dancing or attend Communist Party meetings. There is also a strange etiquette to dog-owning: We don't introduce ourselves, just our dogs. So Sasha knows Pundit and Woody and Linus, but I have no idea who their owners are. When you walk a beagle, you also find out about half the population used to have a beagle when they were kids. Which makes me worry that a message went out about 30 years ago—"Don't get another beagle!"—that I somehow missed.
So now I'm a dog owner. Given that Sasha was a year old when we got her, I only have 14 or so more years of late nights to go. I have to admit she's wormed her way into my heart (although not while I was giving her de-worming medication). I even forgive her for eating the phone charger, the entire family's slippers, and my favorite bra. (No, I wasn't wearing it at the time.) As I was writing this, she crawled under my desk so I could rest my feet on her. If only she could purr.