Beagle Tinder

As we clearly established in the great ‘Josh buys a snake‘ debacle of 2017, our family really is a dog family. But much like a tree-falling in a forest with no one around, is a ‘dog family’ without a dog really a family? Of course, the short answer is ‘yes’, but that’s not going to sustain an entire blog entry, so let’s go with ‘no’. So we decided that we would get a dog, after we returned from our trip to France and the UK. After all it would be very unfair to get a dog and then promptly abandon it for 6 weeks (also, I’m of the parenting style that strongly favours the ‘Why do today, what you can put off for an indefinite period?’ approach). While we were in France the kids got to interact with an aged Bernese Mountain Dog named Bacchus at our first accomodation, and they got to spend 3 weeks looking after the indefatigable Trevor and Darren in Arromanche-les-Bains. The kids passed the international canine test with flying colours, and so when we returned we set about looking for a dog to call our own.

OK, sure, there was that one time that Xavier lost the shirt off his back to a pair of streetwise King Charles Cavaliers

That was then, this is now

When Katie and I got our Beagle/Labradors (more on that later) Jasper and Ceilidh, we read through ‘The Trading Post’ (a weekly newspaper that listed things for sale) and called the pet store (what we would now call a ‘Puppy farm distribution point’) on our land line (like an iPhone…but with the 99.8% less functionality) to arrange a time to come and pick them up (this was a time before ‘Uberpets’ [the drone based pet-delivery system that I’m sure is only weeks away]existed).
This time we decided to get a rescue dog (as in a dog that had been rescued…not a dog that was capable of rescuing people) because we wanted to show people that we were better than them…but veganism just seemed like too much hard work.  Instead of waiting for Thursday to roll around so that we could go to the newsagent to buy the Trading Post, we simply logged into the interwebs and started searching for our new dog. The number and variety of dogs was almost overwhelming. There were Staffies, Greyhounds, Staffordshire Terriers, Irish wolfhounds, Staffies, Staffordshire Terriers, and some more Staffies. Plus, there was a dazzling array of terms to describe the dogs that didn’t sound too bad…but could also double as a defence in a court of law (eg ‘Energetic’, ‘enthusiastic’, ‘Full of beans’, ‘prefers to be an only dog’, ‘great singing voice’ ‘ate last owner’ etc,etc). I also discovered that there were a lot of different organisations offering rescue dogs, and so something like Pet Rescue that fed all of these different organisations into one website was remarkably helpful. But even then, there were a HELL of a lot of dogs out there. It was time to start focussing our attention. We knew we didn’t want a large dog (Great Dane, Wolfhound etc), we knew we didn’t want a working dog (Collie, Heeler, Husky etc) and we knew we didn’t want anything that would scare little kids (Bull Terrier, Rottweiler, Doberman, etc).
Both Katie and I had really loved our Beagle/Labradors, and so we settled on a Beagle and began a daily routine of checking in to ‘Beagle Rescue Victoria‘ to see what dogs were available.

The adoption process

After about a month we found a dog that we thought might be a good match for us, and so I decided to ‘apply’ for him. But first I had to fill in an application form. Now up until this moment, I had very much been under the impression that I simply had to put my hand up and say ‘We’ll take a dog’…and a dog would be sent our way

‘You get a Beagle! And you get a Beagle!’ via GIPHY

So when I downloaded the application form, I had assumed the questionaire would be just one question:

Are you an amazingly wonderful person?
A. Yes
B. Yes, but I’m too modest to say
C. All of the above.

But it wasn’t…it was multiple pages, with questions about how many hours the dog would be left alone, and how high the fences were, and had we ever owned a hound before, and what was my favourite season of ‘The Wire’ (actually they didn’t ask that, but that gives you an idea of just how probing the questions were). To make matters even worse, after filling in the application form and sending it off…we were rejected! Rejected from adopting a rescue-dog! I hadn’t felt this ashamed of my family since the first time I had to tell my boss that I couldn’t come to work because we had ‘Hand, foot and mouth’ disease. How could we go out in public now? People would be whispering behind our backs ‘There go the Riordans…not even rescue dogs want them.’ Oh the indignity.

Right on the Marnie

But we didn’t give up. If a series of letters could convince Katie to go out with me 20 years ago…a series of emails could get us a Beagle now! So I started sending regular emails asking about the availability of various dogs. Like a pimply teenager, I heard all of the reasons why I wasn’t the best choice; ‘we wouldn’t be home enough’, ‘the dog needs another dog for company’, ‘it’s not them…it’s you’, etc. But then one day Tam from Beagle Rescue Victoria said ‘I think we actually have just the right dog for you!’ ‘Really?’ I said, a bit perplexed, as I knew all of the dogs on their website, and couldn’t for the life of me think of the one that was ‘perfect’ for us. ‘She’s actually not on our website, as she’s so good looking that people would want to adopt her just for her looks, not because they’re the best match for her’. I explained that was the exact same reason I have so few photos of myself on the internet.
Tam asked for a few more photos of our fences and gates, and once they had the tick of approval, she sent through some photos of a dog named Marnie and we arranged a time for her to come and visit.

Marnie: The Regal Beagle

First date

There is nothing normal about cleaning a house to make a good impression on a dog. There is also nothing rational about screaming at your kids ‘Act normal…no, I didn’t say ‘do what you normally do’, I said ‘act normal’. Oh God, the dog’s going to hate us…quick, one of you cover yourself in dog treats!’ But then in a whirlwind of black, brown and white, Marnie (the Beagle), Tam (from Beagle Rescue Victoria) and Amanda (the lady whose family was currently looking after Marnie) arrived. Marnie was indeed too beautiful for the internet. She gave us a cursory sniff, and then spent the next hour furiously smelling the entire backyard.
Meanwhile the ‘parents’ talked, and one of the things we kept saying about Marnie is that she was so small compared to our Beagle/Labradors. Tam and Amanda asked to see some photos of our dogs (Jasper and Ceilidh) and so we showed them some. ‘Oh’ said Tam ‘Did you get these from *and then named the pet store where we got them*?’ ‘Yes’ I replied. ‘They’re Foxhound/Beagles. That’s why they’re bigger’. Now, when Katie and I were looking for dogs back in the Trading Post days, we wanted Beagles, but thought they would be too hard to train, so we thought that Beagle/Labradors would be perfect as Labs are a bit easier to train, and so when we saw them advertised at a shop in Croydon we headed out there. We then spent the next 13 years sanctimoniously telling people that ‘No, they’re not Foxhounds, they’re Beagle/Labradors…we call them Legals’.
So to every one of those people, especially that one lady at the Zwar Park who kept saying ‘I just can’t believe how much they look like Foxhounds!’, you were right, they were Foxhounds!!

But back to Marnie, just like any reality dating TV show, we proceeded to the next round…and on the next weekend Marnie arrived at our house for a 4 week trial.

Getting to know you

One of the big concerns about taking in a rescue dog is the the fear about what they have already gone through, and how that is going to manifest itself. I would hate to have a dog that snaps at other dogs, or worse, other people. So for the first couple of weeks we did everything we could to get her in situations where we could see her reaction. Katie walked her to school with the kids every day, we took her to the park as a family in the evening where she could mingle with other dogs, and she handled all of this really well.
But she is a VERY different dog to Jasper and Ceilidh. Where they were outside dogs who sometimes came inside, Marnie is definitely an inside dog. She barks at any man who comes to the door, but she will also wait until she’s told she can eat her food (with Jasper and Ceileidh you always had to do a quick count of how many fingers you had left after you’d put their food-bowls down). She REALLY doesn’t like being left at home alone, even if it’s just to go the market for 40 mins, and then goes absolutely berserk when you return (Jasper and Ceilidh just kinda figured it was cool that you were back).
But the thing that probably stands out the most, is just how seamlessly she has managed to fit in with our family. She’s the happy little face that greets us in the morning, the constant companion throughout our day, and the relaxed weight at the end of the bed when it’s time to sleep. It’s as if she’s always been here, and as we near the end of our trial period, hopefully that’s how she’ll remain.



Farewell my faithful hound

Earlier this week our dog Jasper died, he’d been with us for over 12 years and so I’d known him longer than my kids, my workmates…and Game of Thrones. He was the happy face in the morning when I fed him, and my constant companion when I took him for walks at night, and his departure marks then end of an era for our family.
So I think it’s only fair that I take this opportunity to say a few words.

The regal beagle
The regal beagle

In the beginning

Way back in 2002 Katie and I were planning our wedding, and while we certainly didn’t think we were ready for kids…we did think it would be a good idea to get a pet to see what our potential parenting skills were like. We wanted a Beagle, but knew how hard they were to train and so chose some Beagles that had been crossed with a Labrador…after all, my Dad’s family had had Labradors for years, and they were pretty easy to train…what could possibly go wrong? The short answer to this is that by combining a Beagle with a Labrador you create a beast that has an incredible nose, and a bottomless stomach. But we weren’t to know this, and so we got two (we knew that Beagle’s are pack dogs and destroy marginally fewer things if they have a playmate). Thus Ceilidh (a girl and named after a Scottish dance) and Jasper (the boy, named after the coffee) were brought home.
Now that I have kids I realise that the dogs actually provided some amazing insights into parenting. Suddenly you can no longer just ‘head off for a weekend’, you realise the importance of routine and consistency, and most tellingly you learn that suddenly you are responsible for the food that goes into someone else’s mouth…and the cleaning up and disposal of that same food about 12 hours later.
The dogs also taught me that two individuals can grow up in the same environment, and yet have very different personalities. Ceilidh clearly modelled herself on Katie and so was a stunningly attractive dog…who was pretty much 100% convinced that her idea was the best. Whereas Jasper was handsome, stoic and remarkably good at being told what to do…I don’t know who he was modelling himself on.

Photobombing...Beagle style.
Photobombing…Beagle style.

Over the next four years the dogs were our kids and we had amazing times training them, walking them, taking them to the beach and watching them tear around Chelsworth and Zwar park. I can honestly say that seeing them at full flight on the beach or at a park is one of my favourite and most indelible memories of the dogs.

Then the real kids came

As much as we promised ourselves that nothing would change when Josh arrived…it did. Suddenly the dogs had to sleep outside, I had to walk the two of them (which looked a fair bit like someone trying to waterski behind two jetskis…both pulling in different directions) and of course the dogs had to accept that there was a new member of the pack…and he was above them.
We were incredibly lucky to have my parents take the dogs on regular long weekends at their place where they were lavished with attention (grandparents need to use dogs to hone their grandparenting skills as well), and I was always convinced that it was only a matter of time before I was able to devote the same amount of time to the dogs that I did pre-kids.
But then Holly came along, and suddenly our pool of available time was even shorter. But the dogs never complained or acted up. They just adapted and took the belly rubs whenever they presented themselves.
Then just as Holly was starting to build a friendship with Ceilidh (Holly would help me feed her most mornings), Ceilidh died. It was bloody awful, and left a big hole in our family. It also made us realise that Jasper would now be more dependent on us for affection and attention.
Then Xavier came along.
Then we renovated the house.


The guilt.

I won’t lie. I’ve been feeling guilty about Jasper for probably the last two years. I have this fantasy of me taking him for his nightly walk and half-way through the walk he would stop and say ‘Chris, there are two things you need to know. The first, is that I can talk…the second is that I totally understand why you can’t devote the amount of time to me that you used to, I’m cool with it and I appreciate everything you do.’ But of course that didn’t happen. Instead his nightly walk was sandwiched somewhere between doing the dishes and getting the kids into bed. I would have had my headphones in listening to a podcast, and the only time Jasper would have taken a break from lurching from one side of the footpath to the other in search of what the TAFE students had dropped would have been when he was waiting for me to pick up what he had just done on someone else’s nature strip.
I was so convinced that I would eventually find the time…but I never did, and now he’s gone.

But remember the good times

For all my guilt…my memories are pretty much exclusively of the good times. Having people assume that he was a highly expensive Foxhound, and comment on what a handsome dog he was (with his muscly good looks and Ceilidh’s long lashes and fine features they could have made a Hollywood glamour couple from the 50’s)! Going for walks with Jasper and the kids and seeing them all revel in the fun of being a pack.


The 20 minutes of freedom his walk gave me every night, and the way it forced me to see parts of my suburb that I would never have seen otherwise. The way he would bound around excitedly every time we were getting ready to go for a walk, the way he would sit so regally…and then simply place is paw on your leg and let you know that perhaps it would be a good idea to pat him…and hey, while you’re doing that I’m just going to roll over so that you can rub my chest. The way that even though he was getting old, he would sit at my side whenever we came to a road.
But most of all, the way he remained so loyal and devoted until the end.

So farewell Jasper Jones my faithful hound, you made me a better person and better parent, and our family is poorer for your passing.

Boy and Hound