We weren’t always intending on being a beagle house. I saw us as possibly a retriever or labrador house. No particular reason except that they were popular dogs. Figured the endorsement of millions of owners was good enough for me. That was until we ran into Jackson at the ASPCA and it all went downhill from there. Like seriously, it just got worse from that point on. Throw another beagle into the mix and then a Baby Ellison and it’s a full house. I decided it was best to give my dogs a healthy (and public) critical review as consumer products rather than simply as pets. The reality is this: everyone and everything in this house must pull their weight now. If you don’t, then you’re dead weight. And we donate, scrap or willingly dump dead weight. Every product we buy, every item we own and every gadget we keep has a function. And as a dog in this house, you can no longer just “be a dog.” Nope. You have to be a team player. If you’re not, then you’re a poor product and we’ll have to find a better place for you.
The beagle is known for it’s fantastic temperament, beautiful coloring and easy-going attitude. Usually great family dogs. I suppose that’s one of the key items we were drawn to when we thought of getting one. And, when we thought of getting Tucker, we thought we were getting twice the great family dog. Since, though, they’re apparently under the impression that they run this house, that they’re owed everything and that we can’t get rid of them. So let’s take a critical look at these two dogs and their contributions to the house.
JACKSON WYRICK (aka JAX)
Jackson was our first. We picked him up at the shelter where he had just arrived an hour earlier from nearby Canyon where he was being fed on a daily basis by a woman who determined that she couldn’t maintain the feeding so she brought him in. His exact origin is unknown. We made up stories about him escaping an abusive owner in some valiant and brave battle where he broke himself free from the tree he had been tied to for months while enduring countless abusive attacks. Once he escaped, he ran his ass off until he got to Canyon where he ate out of trash cans until the day this woman found him and began feeding him on the front porch. Since she knew nothing of the dog, she never let him inside and when he ate that poor lady into debt, she brought him in. That’s the story the way I tell it. Whether an ounce of that is true or not, we’ll never know. Sometimes I wish he could speak and I’d just have him sit in my lap and tell me his story. Okay, that was weird. He was a year old when we picked him up. Took him a while to warm up to my lovely wife and I and, in fact, for the first month or so, we thought he was sick because he’d just stand there stoically like he was about to die and stare at you as if he was saying, “Save me from this life.” Turns out he was just freakishly shy.
These days, Jackson is no longer that dog. He’s animated. Demanding. Lovable, at times, but mostly hatable. Let’s go to the tape and see where Jackson measures up. Jackson is a very ornamental dog. He looks damned good in pictures with the family. That’s one thing about him. He’s a freaking calendar dog. He’s an effective sweeper in the kitchen. So much so that he’ll lick crumbs off the floor that weren’t there in the first place. You can act like you’re brushing crumbs off the counter onto the ground and Jackson will lick that area until it’s clean. He licks his bowl clean for thirty minutes after done eating in the morning and evening. So he’s good for picking up any food that’s tossed or dropped. He’ll sniff out anything too. Additionally, he’s got good history as a therapy dog for kiddos. He’s not aggressive towards humans at all. In fact, he adores humans (mostly) but is not a big fan of dogs. He has a protective side as well. When my lovely wife was pregnant, he stayed closely by always wanting to know where she was and what she was doing. He’d sit outside the hall bath where she would be getting ready for work. Where mom is, Jackson’s not very far behind. Lastly, he was easy to train. He knows his tricks like crazy. Sit. Shake. Rollover. Speak. Stay. Heel. Get up your hind legs and do triple axels. He’s potty trained like crazy too. We once went to a bed and breakfast and left him behind in doors for sixteen hours and he didn’t piss once. A sixteen hour bladder is a beautiful thing when you’re feeding a baby and can’t get up to let a doggy outside with Green Mile pee pains. Beyond those qualities though, he sucks.
His barking is incessant. We thought we’d never get him to bark when we first got him and always heard how vocal beagles were. Once we got him to speak, we couldn’t shut him up. In fact, in his age, he’s barked himself hoarse. He sounds like Tom Waits now. But he can still roll with the best of them in the hunt. His bark gets him in trouble constantly. In a house where there’s a sleeping baby, we demand silence of our dogs. Jackson, apparently, thinks he’s somehow exempt from these rules. He hears a pecan fall in the backyard and he’s running through the house and out the doggie door in a full-on roar. Jackson is completely negligent of the sleeping baby. He could care less. If it’s not the barking, it’s his collar rattling. He’s shaking that collar constantly and, almost without fail, he’s waking up the baby if he’s in ear shot of her. Also, after about three hours past his last meal, he begs constantly. He acts like he hadn’t eaten in days. It starts with staring and then turns into physical contact where he perches himself on your knee and paws at you. This is incredibly annoying and if he does that to a baby with food, he’s gonna find himself an outdoor dog permanently. Also, this dog is creepy. He stares at people. He’ll sit five feet away from you and just stare through you. It’s freaking weird. I’ve warned him about it and he persists. You think he’s looking at a ghost right over your shoulder. I hate it. He’s anti-social. Guests come over and he disappears to a back bedroom. And if he’s in front of people, he’s demanding that you pet him. He’s not lovable. He doesn’t give you anything to love. He demands you pet him and, if you don’t, he packs up and goes away from you. It’s like a pouting child. That’s why he doesn’t really care about Ellison. If she can’t pet him, then she’s no use to him. He can climb onto counters. He knocks over trash and strews it everywhere. He’s got killer breath. I liken his breath to the stench of a port-a-potty. Something went rancid in there. I think it could’ve been that first year of poor hygiene when he was eating only God knows what to get by. And, lastly, he’s mad manipulative. Dude will only do tricks when he knows there’s a treat involved. Otherwise, he wants nothing to do with you. It’s like you can see him sizing up the situation as to whether or not it’s a good payout for the effort. He’s a punk. Then there’s….
TUCKER WYRICK (aka TUX)
Tucker came from a breeder in Canadian, TX. We met his parents, his owners. It seemed to be pretty decent breeding quarters. He came from a loving home. Never had a single day when he wasn’t loved. That’s probably why he’s so freaking lovable himself. He’s got personality for days and hasn’t met one person he didn’t like. He’s unassuming and, actually, incredibly naive. It’s a quality that’s sometimes annoying, but mostly endearing. He wants desperately to be around family and he wants to generally be pleasing to the family. He’s happy to see you when you get home and doesn’t resent you and the ground you walk on like his older brother. He is very interested in Ellison, often sticking his head into the baby seat when it’s at his level to see the little baby, but being very gentle. His spirit is forever young. He still has the same bounce in his step that he had when he was a puppy even though he almost died twice. Once when he fell deep into a rain gutter and the other when his torso was sliced wide open in a freakish accident requiring more stitches than you could count. Now that’s some crazy resilience. When you almost died twice and have those kinda road miles on you, you’d think he’d walk around moping like he was Johnny Cash. Nope, he’s more like Elton John everywhere he goes, singing “Crocodile Rock.” That’s our boy, Tucker.
The downside to Tux, while limited, it mostly attributed to his young spirit. His bark is as boisterous as you’ll hear out of a beagle. You can hear him zip codes away unlike his laryngitic brother who can barely muster up a bark scary enough to scatter a pack of squirrels. Tucker will give you a heart attack with his bark. His bark is like one of those weapons in the old Atari games where when you use it, it kills everything in site. His bark can kill houseplants with just minutes of exposure. Not good for a sleeping baby. Secondly, if anyone’s crapping on the floor, it’s Tucker. For all the accolades that you could credit Jackson with in his concentration and abilities to “pinch it for fifteen more miles,” Tucker will give you three barks at the back door and then let ‘er fly. We’ve seen him endure it probably eight hours max. Most of the time, though, he’s either empty or overflowing. He’s also scared of thunder. One such storm had him nearing a full-on panic attack where we thought he was going to have a stroke and die. Ellison didn’t even peep through the whole storm. She slept through all of it. That brings us to Tucker’s separation anxiety. It’s a double-edged sword, really. You want him to love his family, but you want to him to be alright alone. When he’s alone, like all alone without his parents and without Jackson, he barks like he’s been shot and is bleeding to death. It’s embarrassing. When we take them to get groomed and they cage them separately (because they’re required to) we get the exasperated call saying, “They’re ready,” and you can hear Tucker through the phone because he can’t see his brother. Tucker licks his paws all the time, too. Could be an allergy or could be anxieties. Switching food seemed to help a little, but that food was freaking expensive. Since we now have a baby on formula that costs more than most street drugs, he’s back on the same stuff his brother eats and he’ll have to lick his way through it. The last downside to Tucker is that because he’s built like a beagle-rhino hybrid, he’s always running into things. He thinks he can go lower than the lowest branch on the Christmas tree and ends up breaking ornaments. He thinks he can fit between a couch and an end table and gets stuck. He’s just not that size. So, on top of everything else, he’s prone to clumsiness.
In the end, they need to really be evaluated together since they’re never anywhere alone as they’re connected at the hip. They’re great family dogs if our family was two parents, two dogs and a ten year old, but we’ve gotta little baby. These beagles are like a petri dish for germs and trouble. Together, they’re as effective at starting trouble as two fourteen year old boys. If they had opposable thumbs, they’d probably be in jail. We don’t know sometimes whether or not they’re in for the long run with this family. We often get the feeling that Jax is done with this family and he’s gonna hit the trail again and take Tucker with him only because Tucker can’t stand to be alone even if it’s just long enough for one of us to come home from work to discover that Jackson left. Tucker’d go with him. We love them, but they’re terrible with a baby. They fight and play constantly. They follow too closely. They stink. They’re loud. And they can’t be trusted around food.
For that reason, we’re going to give the beagle unit of Jackson and Tucker an appropriate but miserable rating of, count ’em, two Black Elvises.
In the meantime, we found the best dog for Ellison.
Jackson and Tucker, let that serve as a warning.