The Truth, Mainly - 11/04/1996

The horrible truth: Blessing beagles an exercise in futility
by Leon Satterfield

If you like having the hell scared out of you and Halloween ghosts only whetted your appetite, let me draw your attention to a really hair-raising prospect: a beagle getting Divine Aid.

That was the terrifically appealing picture in the Journal-Star last month: the rector of Holy Trinity Episcopal Church blessing an 11-week-old beagle named Molly.

Molly was cuter than anything. Just the sort of dog you'd like to bless if you wanted to bless a dog. All 11-week-old beagles are lethally appealing. I know because we used to have one.

Now he's eight years old, he's pot-bellied, and he growls at us when we stop scratching his ears.

Ned, the one-eyed beagle with the headstrong personality and the mismatched jaws, deigns to live in our house so long as we do our inadequate best to keep his belly full. He was much taken by the photo of Molly being blessed. You could tell by the wicked glint in his good eye.

Here's what he was thinking: How can I get in on this scam too?

I don't want to be mean-spirited by making light of doing God's work, but blessing a beagle is a bad idea. Blessing a beagle is like giving your lunch money to Bill Gates. He doesn't need it, and beagles don't need Divine Assistance in their nefarious schemes. In the natural order of things they are already very good at making us look foolish.

Besides, there's pretty good evidence that dogs already have Ominous Resources We Know Not Of.

The London Times recently reported some truly alarming findings: 46 percent of dogs (compared to 14 percent of cats) know what their owners are going to do before they do it.

According to Dr. Rupert Sheldrake—and who's going to argue with a name like that?—dogs know when we're coming home up to an hour before we get there. And it has nothing to do with coming home at the same time every day.

Dr. Sheldrake got his data from 410 households in England. One belonged to Ms. Pam Smart and her dog Jaytee of Ramsbottom, Lancashire.

For 153 days, Dr. Sheldrake took video pictures of Jaytee waiting for Ms. Smart's daily return home from work. She returned at unpredictable times (mornings, evenings, afternoons) and by unpredictable modes (different cars, taxis, bicycles).

On 80 percent of those days, Jaytee went to the window at about 10 minutes before Ms. Smart, miles away, started for home; he stayed at the window until she got there.

On the other days, Jaytee was sick "or distracted by a bitch in heat."

We fixed Ned good so that he's not thus distracted. The result is that he can single-mindedly devote himself to eating our food while we're gone.

We drive in our driveway and there he is, furtively looking out the window while he gnaws on the frozen lasagna we've set out to thaw for our supper. By the time we get inside, he's swallowed the lasagna whole and he's on the couch, shivering from the inner chill, pretending to be asleep not giving a doggy damn when we come home.

Creatures like that don't need Divine Assistance.

Well, maybe black labs do, but beagles don't. My daughter has a black lab named Bud and he is without guile and wants nothing more than to please. He just doesn't always understand how to do it. He drools, then wipes his mouth on the arm of the couch—or on the arm of its occupant—fairly certain that he's being endearing. He may need heavenly help in manifesting his benevolence.

My friend Mary Smith gave us an angel for the top of our Christmas tree. The angel has a beagle head, complete with halo. Mary said the store keeps black lab angels in stock, but has to special order beagle angels.

We try to reform Ned with religious training, but it doesn't take. We counsel him about his priority deadly sin, gluttony, and tell him he'll end up in the third circle of Dante's Inferno where gluttons like Ciacco the Hog are punished by being made to wallow in steaming garbage, festering filth, and malodorous putrification.

Ned just grins a wicked beagle grin.

He likes wallowing in steaming garbage, festering filth, and malodorous putrification. He's not met Ciacco the Hog but he thinks he might like him too.

"But," we tell him, "in hell, there won't be anyone to give you a bath and wash away all your corruption."

He blasphemously bays his beagle bugle to the tune of the Hallelujah Chorus.


Lincoln English Professor Satterfield writes to salvage meaning from his confusion. His column appears on alternate Mondays.

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