On Frances the Beagle and a Life Well-Lived

On Friday, after being with us for a little more than fourteen years, our Beagle Frances had to be put down.  While she was very much a part of our family, in a lot of ways she was not a typical Beagle - and was definitely not what we were expecting when we brought her home on that December morning in 2001.

We really should have known right away that she was going to be different.  After all, our oldest son noticed and picked her out because she was off by herself and not with the rest of the puppies in her litter.  The woman we bought her from also insisted she was registered with the AKC and handed us a lineage that was written on the inside of a cereal box.  No kidding. 

First, let’s start with her name.  This may be more a story about my wife, but the name Frances became a big part of who our dog was.  Most people had never known another dog named Frances.  Not many knew the story of how her name came to be. 

At some point early in our marriage, I confidently told my wife that we would have a daughter, name her Frances, and call her Franny.  After two sons, she must have decided that the risk of a third child being a girl was too great and named the dog Frances before we even got her home.  Well played.

Second, she was terribly carsick.  We dreamed of having the dog that followed us everywhere and ate baby ice cream cones with us in the DQ parking lot.  In reality, she couldn’t make it to the end of the street without practically being unconscious on Dramamine.  And we tried everything, from letting her hang out the window to keeping her on the floor and not allowing her to see outside.  Nothing worked.  But, she loved when we came home and made us feel missed every time we walked in the door.

She was scared of squirrels.  One summer afternoon I heard her cry out and went to the back door to find her cowering against a tree while a brown squirrel chirped at her from the other side of the yard.  Come to think of it, every kind of creature seemed to be at ease with her in the yard.

Which brings me to the subject of rabbits. 

According to Wikipedia, the “Beagle is a scent hound, developed primarily for hunting hare.”  The entry also says that beagle-type dogs have existed for 2,500 years.  With twenty-five centuries of breeding to hunt rabbits, you can imagine my surprise when I removed some debris in our yard a few years ago to find an entire nest of bunnies, along with their mother.  They were perfectly comfortable sharing the fenced space with a dog designed to basically chase them until they die of exhaustion. 

Frances also brought her unique brand of yard defense to the house.  Beagles are not known to be good guard dogs, but she loved everyone who came to the door.  Friends, strangers, solicitors, and vacuum salespeople all got the same joyful bark and wagging tail. 

Because beagles are curious and prone to follow their noses, owners are warned to never allow them off-leash in open spaces.  For this reason, we kept Frances on a leash or within our fenced yard at all times.  Except for the time that she snuck past us and out the front door. 

She’d made it out the door a few other times but we’d always been able to immediately catch or call her back.  On this one day, however, we were unable to locate her for several hours and into the night.  We were nervous and exhausted from looking and just falling into bed when the phone rang.  It was the neighbor across the street, calling to let us know that Frances was sleeping on her front porch. 

No doubt it was with a normal Beagle in mind that our vet told Frances, as she administered the medicine to help her along, to “go chase the rabbits.”  My wife and I couldn’t help smiling at each other knowing that if there were rabbits with her, she wouldn’t be chasing them.  They’d be driving the car to DQ, the wind whipping her floppy ears, in a place completely free of squirrels.

And, we never once called her Franny.