Last week my sweetheart of a “beaglet” Gilbert died. This is his story.
Gilbert was 15 when he died. He was nearly deaf, mostly blind, fairly leaky, and had spinal arthritis. About seven weeks ago we learned he had a brain tumor. After prednisone treatment his tumor shrank a bit and he was able to enjoy an additional month of high quality life. But then last week, the tumor was back and it was time to say goodbye.
Gilbert spent the first nearly 14 years of his life living in a rabbit hutch. Some beagle owners believe that this gives them more hunting drive. I suspect this cruel practice is utterly ineffective.
Then his owner decided that he no longer hunted well and took him to a shelter. Some would have instead ended his life with a bullet, so Gilbert was relatively fortunate.
Upon arrival at the shelter, Gilbert had untreated rampant skin and ear infections, nails nearly growing into his foot pads, and a prostate tumor the size of a baseball. Like many animals forced to live in his own waste, he was also coprophagic (to put it delicately: waste-eating).
Our wonderful regional shelter quickly determined that he was not going to do well there, so they found a magnificent foster home for him with Beth and Sam. Beth says that Gilbert was initially shy and very weak physically – he would only briefly come out of his crate. He didn’t seem to understand affection. She lovingly worked with him to build his trust and house training habits.
After a few months sitting unadopted on the shelter’s website, he became part of my gang. Beth and Sam graciously brought him to my house and I got to know them as well as Gilbert.
By the time he came to me, he was an attention sponge, his skin infections were nearly gone, his tumor removed, and he was mostly house trained. My vet and I worked to mitigate his other issues, including his arthritis.
There was something very special about my beagle-boy. Everyone who met him fell in love with him. When I learned about his brain tumor last month, I realized how many friends he had who needed to know – not because they were my friends, but because he was their friend.
I can’t say what made him so charming. Perhaps it was his always-wagging tail. It might have been his insistence upon meeting every being (dog, cat, human) who crossed his path and his ability to loudly bay his frustration if they failed to perform the requisite greeting. Maybe it was his habit of peering intensely at everybody – trying so hard to see us through the cataracts.
It could have been his groans of pleasure when he got a belly rub. Perhaps his love of lying on his back on your lap and snoring himself to sleep.
It was challenging living with a nearly deaf and blind dog – I could only get his attention by touch, so he always he wore a short, light leash. For a dog that had had a prostate tumor and wasn’t house trained until nearly 14, he did amazingly well – even at his sickest he tried hard to alert me by going to the back door.
Gilbert liked to know where I was at all times and to be as close to me as possible. He learned that if he sat in the middle of my bottom floor he could usually “see” me coming – I’ll always remember him sitting there patiently waiting for me. Since he could not hear footsteps, if you came from behind you could pleasantly surprise him with a pet. There is no dog happier than a beagle to see you again whether you’ve been gone a week or five minutes.
Gilbert had different vocalizations – a traditional hunting bay when he picked up the scent of a rabbit or human or dog (such as someone walking a block ahead of us). A different bay if he wanted out of his crate. And yet another high pitched, rapidly repeated bay for when I came home. You can hear a sample of his bays on this very grainy video.
Rest in peace, Sweet Gilbert – you are missed. And I and a great many other people are grateful to have known and loved you.