92: Houdini Hound

92: Houdini Hound

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: The Dog Did What?

Houdini Hound

Dogs act exactly the way we would act if we had no shame.

~Cynthia Heimel

He was an escape artist of extraordinary skill. He would have been admired for his ingenuity if he had used his talent for good instead of evil. The neighbors would probably have forgiven the occasional cat pursued through their yards or a small memento placed in their flowerbeds, but not stealing! As his caregivers, my husband Ron and I were responsible for his behavior (or should I say misbehaviors). We knew something had to be done about it.

I’m referring to our Beagle, Brandy, and events that occurred during the autumn after we returned to town. We’d spent the first summer of the little hound’s life at our cottage in the country and Brandy, like Jack London’s Buck in Call of the Wild, had tasted freedom. He’d known the exhilaration of racing across vast meadows, plunging deep into thickets, and swimming wide rivers (wide in Beagle estimations). He was not about to relinquish all of it to fences or chicken wire enclosures. Digging up flower beds, swinging from clothing hanging on the line, and playing water tag with a spouting garden hose clamped in his teeth must have seemed deadly dull pastimes.

We already had fences—basket weave along the sides and chicken wire at both ends of our property. Those had always been sufficient to keep our pets contained. But then, we’d never owned a Beagle. By the time we’d returned to town in the autumn, Brandy had grown tall and strong enough to clear the chicken wire in a single bound. Thus began his career as a canine criminal and mine as his personal prevaricator.

Unfortunately, Brandy delighted in all creature comforts, especially food. Not just any food, but takeout food, party food. And therein lay the problem. Suburbia in early fall abounds with patio parties and kitchen doors left carelessly, invitingly ajar. Fertile ground for a bored and bottomless Beagle.

By the time the leaves had turned, I’d lied my way through the Case of the Cooling Cookies, the Pizza-Party Prank, and the Brazen Barbecue Raid. Worst of all had been the Crafty Crustacean Caper. Yes, Brandy had come home one afternoon with a large, freshly cooked lobster.

Before Ron could witness the little hound’s latest larceny, I seized the red-shelled creature, snapped a lead on the tricolored one, and headed for my neighbor’s. Earlier that day she’d told me she was having her boss over for a lobster dinner.

When I returned the stolen property to its owner, my face as red as the shellfish in my hand, and offered the explanation that the Beagle had misappropriated it, I thought I detected an amused smirk on Brandy’s face as he stood by my side.

“Dogs don’t usually steal lobsters, do they?” the victim asked, haughty annoyance coloring her tone.

“No, I don’t believe they do,” I said lamely as the little hound sat and cocked his head appealing to one side. “But Brandy is . . .” I searched for a socially acceptable word . . . “unique.”

“Really?” She took the lobster gingerly between her fingers and looked down at him. “He looks like just another Beagle to me.”

Brandy’s eyes narrowed. He’d understood, the wild idea fluttered across my mind. One day soon, Margaret Aims would suffer the full-blown ire of a Beagle’s revenge.

Though I tried to cover up this incident and other nefarious escapades, the Houdini Hound continued to escape. Eventually tales of his misdeeds filtered back to Ron through quisling neighbors. Stronger security precautions were definitely needed, my annoyed spouse informed me. That Beagle had to be contained. Thus began what I later entitled The Great Fencing Competition.

On the day after Brandy reportedly treed Margaret Aims’ cat, a delivery truck rolled into our yard and deposited several rolls of eight-foot-high green-plated chain-link fencing. Brandy, ignominiously tied to the clothesline, watched with interest.

He watched with continued interest that weekend when Ron installed steel posts around the perimeter of our property and stretched sturdy wire between them.

On Sunday evening, when Brandy was once more given the freedom of the newly secured yard, the little dog ambled around its edge, inspecting Ron’s handiwork.

“That should keep him out of trouble.” Ron proclaimed, a triumphant smirk curling his mouth.

Confident of the truth in his words, we went inside for supper. When I called Brandy to join us a half hour later, there was no response. And when I went out to the back yard to find him, he was nowhere to be seen. What I did see was a deep, gaping, freshly dug hole in the far corner of our lot beneath that beautiful new fence.

The next day a neighbor was overheard telling how an entire foil-wrapped, shrimp-stuffed salmon had disappeared from his barbecue the previous evening. It was purely circumstantial evidence that Brandy’s snout and breath had smelled of fish when he’d returned at dusk, I tried to convince Ron.

The Great Fencing Competition continued. The next day Ron bought tent pegs and skewered the fence to the ground. Brandy jacked them out with his snout (we believe) and again (allegedly) chased Margaret Aims’ cat. This time it was through her tomato bed, laden with lush, ready-to-harvest fruit. The purloined lobster incident paled in comparison.

Ron bought longer tent pegs. Brandy miraculously (because we never discovered how) removed them. Ron dug the fence into the earth. Brandy dug deeper.

Then came the day a big delivery truck backed into our yard. It roared and beeped and Brandy, once again tied to the clothesline, had the good sense to retreat onto the back step.

Two burly men alighted and began to pile cement blocks beside the house. Looking out the dining room window, I saw Brandy’s eyes narrow into golden brown slits. I recognized that expression. And shuddered.

That evening Ron, puffing and sweating, piled the blocks around the edge of the yard, on the bottom of the chain link, on top of the tent pegs.

Released from the indignity of the clothesline, Brandy inspected every inch of this new barrier. Finding it impregnable, he affected a blasé attitude, wandered over to the back door and asked to be let inside.

“Got him!” Ron was triumphant as he sank into a lawn chair and I opened the door for Brandy. “That will teach him not to mess with me.”

Fifteen minutes later we decided to go for a walk and went into the house to put on our sneakers.

“Got ya!” Ron couldn’t resist a victory tease. He bent to tickle Brandy’s belly as the little hound lay on his back, Snoopy-fashion, on the couch.

Brandy rolled over onto his stomach and watched as Ron stuck a foot into one of his sneakers. And yelled.

As Ron disgustedly withdrew his foot, the Beagle heaved a sigh and settled down for a serious nap. Using that Ron-scented shoe as a toilet hadn’t taken nearly as much time and effort as distributing those cement blocks.

Thus ended the Great Fencing Competition. While some might believe Ron had succeeded in defeating the Houdini Hound, I’m convinced it was a draw. Touché!

~Gail MacMillan

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