This week I thought I would take Tess and our beagle, Watson, over to our local library branch to exchange some children’s titles.  No sooner had I tied up Watson and stepped inside the library than the neighbourhood was overpowered by a series of cries and howls the likes of which had never been heard.  The seniors in the community centre next door came pouring out to see what travesty had fallen upon this poor animal.  Was it being brutally beaten or attacked by a rottweiler?  Had there been an unthinkable encounter with oncoming traffic?  Nope: it’s just an irate beagle that suffers from terminal separation anxiety.  Nothing to see here, folks.

Sometimes I wonder why we subject ourselves to dog ownership.  The vet bills.  The muddy paws and dirty floors.  The endless bits of fur deposited on every square inch of our home.  The destroyed furniture.  The inability to jet off for a quick week end away on a whim.  Oh yeah, and my personal favourite: picking up crap in public.

Watson screams uncontrollably when a car pulls into our driveway, a behaviour that seriously disrupts our sleeping baby.  He refuses to slumber anywhere except the choice spot on our undersized master bed.  Then there was the time last summer when we let him out for one more washroom break before bedtime and, after a brief skirmish in the raspberry bushes, a foul stench filled our home.  We spent the next two hours covering Watson with toothpaste in futile attempts to eradicate the unmistakable odour of a skunked K-9.

Such an inconvenience, and yet I couldn’t imagine life without him.  He is the first to greet you after a difficult day.  He could care less if you’ve gained ten pounds or haven’t showered.  And his unconditional love for our family never ceases to amaze me.  He happily trots beside my husband on his morning stroll, proudly displaying the unbreakable bond with his master to all in our neighbourhood.  His antics are the shortest route to a smile reappearing on Tess’ face after she’s fallen into a fit of hysterics.

From the day we moved in together, my husband and I had always known we wanted a dog.  We crept around our local parks, stalking the neighbourhood dogs and praying for the opportunity to pet a happy pup and gaze into a pair of big loving eyes.  We truly believed that adding a dog to our family would transform our house into a home.  And as soon as we had some semblance of a backyard we rushed out as soon as we saw an ad for beagle puppies.  When we arrived he looked up at us and it was love at first sight: he had picked us as his new family.

Watson turned five this past January and has been with us through some important family milestones.  He was there when we got engaged and we joked that he was no longer our bastard son.  He curled up beside me on the night I found out my parents were separating, with occasional kisses and nudges to let me know he was there for me if I needed a shoulder to cry on.  He helped us pack up our first home and move across the province for a fresh beginning.  And most importantly, he patiently and affectionately observed as we became freaked out new parents of his baby sister.

As annoyed and humiliated as I was during the library incident last week, I emerged with Tess to see a beagle overjoyed that his family had returned.  As I bent down to untie him I was showered with sloppy kisses. Here was this furry, four-legged member of our family, so filled with love for Tess and I that his pure, unadulterated affection could not be contained.  He pushed me to the ground and I submitted to his slurps while Tess giggled at the sight and onlookers watched with judgmental bemusement.

What can I say?  I’m a dog person.