Bayley the Beagle

The first time I met Bayley was the first time I set foot in Steve’s apartment in the Sunset in February 2000. Steve opened the front door and a beagle was on the other side of it. When Bayley saw the stranger (me), he looked at me, let out a loud, reproachful, prolonged howl of protest that this intruder was in his abode, and fled to David’s bedroom. I recall being concerned that he wasn’t what you would call a win-over-able dog. But I was used to big, slobbering, uncomplicatedly sunny and affectionate dogs like Rudy and Gracie, who I lived with for 10 and 5 years respectively (Rudy is a Lab/pit bull mix; Gracie is a mutt but predominantly Rhodesian ridgeback). Of course, I had never been a stranger to Rudy and Gracie, having gotten to know them almost from puppyhood, so I had an unfair advantage.

Beagles are different creatures: very affectionate, very trusting, very companionable, but on their own terms, and they need to get a chance to grow to trust you first. I suppose those traits could be said to apply to most dog breeds, but beagles seem to have those characteristics in sharper relief. I’ve grown to admire, respect, and love beagles because Bayley is such an exemplar of the breed.

He’s been through some scrapes, and he’s not the most social dog in the world—an entirely understandable defense mechanism, given that he had to live in the Bay Area, where a majority of dog owners seem to be just a few notches below sociopathic. Bayley was physically attacked several times by leashless dogs whose owners thought it was cute and clever that their dogs were not only unrestrained and untrained but were going rapaciously after a defenseless animal.

Despite those traumas, though, Bayley has remained an essentially even-keeled dog; unlike humans, dogs don’t hold and nurse grudges, and they don’t get capsized by inner demons. As Steve’s written, not much shakes Bayley. It’s good to come home after a long day and to see him waiting there or poking his nose out as I open the door, the same expectant expression on his face, a port in every storm. He still howls sometimes when I walk through the door, but these days it’s always a howl of happiness.