Nobody likes me, Everybody hates me, Guess I’ll go eat worms – Sean O’Boyle
It was a Saturday. Mom was off visiting Grandma and Grandpa, and Dad had this project underway, building new pillars to hold up the back porch roof. He was pretty good with concrete work and bricklaying, and our one brother was old enough to be of use mixing mortar and stacking bricks. So Dad put my other brother and me in charge of the dog. We were instructed to take him for long walks and try to teach him stuff. Sit, roll over, play dead, and so on.
Of course we know now that he was just trying to get rid of us. Because it was no secret that Duffy was not the brightest beast in the animal kingdom. In fact a majority of local life forms, including vegetable and mineral, could run rings around him in the IQ department. You’d stand a better chance of teaching a sack of potatoes to roll over. Not being as challenged as our canine charge, we realized even then that the strategy behind our appointment as dog wranglers was to keep Duffy – and us – as far away from Dad’s construction project as possible. And we were okay with that.
When you take a dog for a walk, especially a beagle, he always seems to think you’re going hunting. That nose hits the pavement immediately and no matter how many times you tell him to relax, he’s determined to sniff out a rabbit for you. So naturally Duffy does his best to pull our shoulder out of its socket, because once he picks up a scent, it’s just a leash and brute force that keeps him on or near the sidewalk. We finally got to the woods behind the school where there might really be some wildlife, and once off the leash, he decided it would be a good idea to chase birds and bark at them. The birds would flee to a limb beyond his reach and watch him, maybe a little nervously but, heck, they’re birds, and he’d stand there woofing at them like maybe they’d surrender or something if he just kept it up.
We found some nice fetching sticks and tried to arouse his interest in them, but, as we were later to learn, hounds in general and beagles in particular are completely oblivious to the third dimension of reality. What might pass overhead holds no interest for them. They are focused on the two dimensions of the field they find themselves in, the plane, if you will, and the creatures to be found therein. It’s actually simpler than that. Beagles want to provoke a rabbit into running away from them and subsequently induce and encourage the said rabbit to run right past you. So you can shoot it. A persistent and well trained beagle will run the same rabbit past you multiple times, in case you aren’t too good a shot.
Duffy wasn’t interested in fetching anything.
We tried teaching him to “shake”. When you hold your hand out to a beagle’ they just want to smell it. They want to smell everything. So, having explored the woods, climbing a few trees ourselves in the process, we got to thinking we would probably never really “bond” with Duffy, and decided to head home. Dad heard us thundering into the kitchen and, making sure we couldn’t reach his work site, suggested that, after all that exertion, we ought to feed our dog. And keep him in the kitchen. He didn’t have to say, “and don’t bother me.”
Only after Dad disappeared, did we realize that we had never fed him before and didn’t even know what he ate. There we were, 10 years old and at a complete loss about what to do with a hungry animal that had placed its complete trust in us. We got him some water and started looking for dog food. We were pretty sure it came in a can so we rummaged through the pantry, ruling out the ones with pictures of vegetables on the label. Finally we found a promising one. The label said “Dash”. We grabbed the can opener and went about opening it. It had a nice, hearty and pretty powerful aroma. We got a spoon and got some out for inspection. It looked alright.
To this day, we can’t be sure whose idea it was to taste it, but we suppose we had worked up an appetite too. Let’s just say it was sufficiently appealing that we broke out a box of saltines and worked through half a can. We can still remember our wiseguy older brother appearing in the doorway, half startled and half amused, and shouting, “Dad, you better get in here!. They’re eating dog food!”
And that, friends, is why you will never see us eating cicadas like those freaks on TV.