The pleasure of a story--in both telling and hearing--is in its predictability. However it may twist and turn, a story will still begin and end, and the ending is always predetermined. So if I tell you the beginning of this story, you will most likely be able to guess the rest. Still, I'll continue the telling, if only because this tale introduces another player onto the stage, one who will no doubt become a regular attraction here.
And the story begins like this: Me at home last Friday evening. The phone rang. It was Tabbatha. "What are you doing?" she asked, her usual greeting.
Nothing much. Um, watching Dragnet, actually.
"Sounds exciting. Listen, I'm at the Animal Rescue League in Southridge. There's a six-month-old Beagle here I think you need to take a look at."
"She's very laid-back and very sweet. I've just got a feeling about her. I think she'd be the perfect dog for you."
But I don't really need a dog.
"You love dog-sitting Brody."
Yeah, but that's for a day or two.
"And you always say you want to keep him"
But that doesn't mean I'm, you know, serious. I mean, I have a cat.
"Well, Delmar will have to adjust."
I'm not sure Del can adjust.
"Besides, this dog is nothing like Brody. She's way calmer. You need to have her. You should at least come and take a look."
The story continues: Fine, I said, I'd take a look. It was just a courtesy. I had to work last Saturday, and planned to take my car into the shop after that, but I had an hour and change to kill in between, so I took a swing down to Southridge Mall, to see the dog, at least, but with no real intention of doing anything more.
Let me pause here to say something about Beagles: I don't care for them. Not that I've ever personally known one, but as dogs go, they've always struck me as too calculated in their cuteness, what with the big floppy ears and soulful eyes and whatnot. They're the type of dogs that are ready-made to appear on posters with some sort of HOLD ON BABY, FRIDAY'S COMIN' message scrawled beneath. Besides, I prefer big dogs, your German Shepherds or your Golden Retrievers, dogs that look like, well, dogs. Beagles are just kind of there, and though they're better than tiny, why-bother dogs (though Isabella herself is pretty small, and I realize that by mentioning her name, I've kind of given away the ending of the story. But again, you've probably already guessed it by now, right?), they've never been my cup of tea. I'm pretty firmly a cat person, anyway.
I explained to the young woman at the ARL that a friend had told me to come take a look at a Beagle puppy, and she took me over to a cage. The sign said MISSY/BEAGLE/SIX MONTHS/VERY SWEET AND LOVABLE. Inside was a tri-colored puppy, black, white and brown, who did indeed have floppy ears and soulful eyes, eyes that regarded me with no particular interest. "You're just another one of them," the eyes seemed to say. "Another person who will look at me, get my hopes up, and not take me home."
I asked the attendant some questions, then--foolishly--asked if I could actually spend some time with her. She unlocked "Missy's" cage, took her to the play are in the back, took off the leash--and the puppy immediately jumped into my arms and snuggled her head against my shoulder. You're trying too hard, I thought, even as I felt my heart melting a bit. But not melting enough to actually want to take her home.
She went back into the cage, but foolishly, I lingered. "Missy's" cage was right next to that of the only other dog in the store, a Norwegian Elk Hound puppy, a larger, more imposing piece of work. I noticed that as people came and went, looking at the dogs, they ignored "Missy", focusing instead on the more dramatic creature next to her. Not that Missy cared. She stayed curled up on her blanket in the back of the cage, not even trying to put on a show, apparently convinced that no one would take her anyway.
Again, this was last Saturday, which, as it happens, was also my Mom's birthday. And as "Missy" continued to be ignored, I heard in my head a line from Mom's favorite song, Bein' Green: "People tend to pass you over 'cause you're not standing out like flashy sparkles on the water or stars in the sky." And somewhere I heard Mom's voice, too, asking me why I just stood there instead of accepting something that was meant to be. There was a puppy who needed my love.
And so the story reaches its inevitable conclusion: I have a dog. Her name is no longer Missy but Isabella--mostly just Bella--because there's no way in hell I'd ever have a dog named Missy. She is indeed the most wonderful thing in the world, and those floppy ears and soulful eyes are more endearing than I could ever have imagined. Even Delmar, my cranky, emotionally disturbed cat, is...well, he's not exactly under Bella's spell, but he's learning to tolerate her. I keep them separated when I'm not home, but I've noticed them drinking together from the same water dish, and Del even bats playfully at her tail. For Del to be so accepting, even borderline affectionate, is something of a miracle.
But I have a feeling that won't be the last miracle this little Beagle brings into my life.