Elvis shows Dudley his new backyard.
Most people who know me know that we have two fine basset hounds: Dudley and Gary. Unfortunately the time has come to change the tense of that verb.
We had two fine basset hounds.
Dudley came to us as a five-week-old puppy on Christmas Eve 2005. He was so small when we picked him up that I could hold him in my hand. He was an enormous comfort to both of us in those early months when we lived in the cabin in the woods, but he was especially close to Marlene. When Dudley was just a little puppy, he would curl up on Marlene’s neck while she sat on the sofa reading a book.
We inherited Gary two years later when Nick dropped him off and asked us to take care of him. It turned out to be a good match because basset hounds are intensely social animals and love having another dog around. Gary and Dudley were partners in all sorts of mischief, but mostly they ran around, barked, and they did the things that basset hounds do very well, such as shedding, drooling, and flopping on the ground.
For over seven years Dudley lived in our home. He was our dog and a member of our family. It is hard for non-dog lovers to grasp the hold that a dog has on your heart. I don’t claim to understand it. It’s not like I took Dudley hunting or did much more than make sure he didn’t poop or pee in the house, which he learned not to do at an early age. Dudley was an utter delight. I sang silly songs to him, and he came when I called him. On cold nights in Tupelo he would snuggle next to me in front the TV. When we came home from a trip, he was so glad to see us that he would run throgh the house barking and then try to jump on my lap.
Gary was larger than Dudley (70 pounds to 55 pounds), but Dudley was the Alpha Dog. He ran the show. Gary barked more and liked to hide under our bed, but Dudley would come when I called him.
Let me say it plainly. Dudley is the best dog I’ve ever owned. That includes the collies we had while growing up plus the beagles plus a dachshund named Colonel Klink plus two miniature schnauzers named Abby and Dixie. Those were fine dogs, but Dudley excelled them all.
Down deep I knew we had to let them go. Part of the problem is our travel schedule. We’re on the road so much that it has become very hard to take care of the dogs. That hectic schedule shows no sign of slowing down. I suspect it may even pick up when we move to Dallas.
So last summer Gary left us for some friends Nick knew in Atlanta. I have heard through the grapevine that he seems to have adapted well to his new home. The night before he left, I plopped him in my lap, told him how good he dog he was, and thanked him for all he had meant to us. I then sang my song, “Gary, Gary, what you doing to me?” and he was so moved that he licked my face. Saying goodbye to him was hard.
Saying goodbye to Dudley last Thursday wasn’t as bad, in part because I had seven months to get ready for it. I told Marlene a few weeks ago that my one reservation about moving to Dallas was that we didn’t have a good home for Dudley. I couldn’t bear to think about leaving him at the animal shelter.
A friend heard about our plight while she was on a mission trip to Costa Rica two weeks ago. The friend couldn’t take Dudley but someone else on the trip loved basset hounds. When she saw a picture of Dudley, she told her husband, “We need another basset.” Her husband said no, one was enough. Some how she talked him into it.
This family already has a basset hound named Elvis. Now if you consider “You Ain’t Nothing But a Hound Dog” and Elvis being from Tupelo and all, if that’s not a divine sign, I don’t know what is. Elvis and Dudley are even about the same age.
Dudley has known for a month that something was up because he could see us packing boxes, taking things off the wall, and generally making ready for the move to Dallas. The idea of it made him nervous. He whimpered a lot and he followed me wherever I went.
I think he sensed when the day had come because he was unusually nervous. When we took him to his new home out in the country, he didn’t want to get out of the car. Then the woman of the house drove up. You know how they say animals can recognize a friend? She smiled and Dudley went right to her. The husband seemed very friendly and glad to have another basset. We met their teenage daughter who liked Dudley immediately.
At length we introduced Dudley and Elvis. After the necessary sniffing and checking each other out, they bounded outside and started exploring the backyard together.
I knew then that Dudley had come to the right family.
I think he and Elvis will be fast friends within a week.
By then we will be far away in Dallas. The family promised to stay in touch and I hope they do. Even if we don’t see Dudley again, I am happy knowing that he has found a good home.
As I write these words, our house is almost entirely packed up. In a few hours the men come to load the truck. On Tuesday the truck leaves for Dallas. As we go, we will leave a part of our heart with a fine basset hound who gave us many years of loyal love and many hours of pleasure. If Dallas is the right place for us, the new home in the country is the right place for Dudley.
We will roll down the road, completely dog-less for the first time in over seven years, but Dudley and Gary will be snuggled next to my heart forever.