You only need to spend a day at an animal shelter to discover there are a million excuses for abandoning the family pet. Some are legitimate but others, not so much. They range from having a baby, moving to a no-pet-zone, sudden allergies, sudden new lifestyle, to no patience, no conscience. . .the list goes on. I remember the owner of an aging white shepherd actually complaining the dog no longer matched the white sofa. Sasha’s fur was starting to yellow in her old age.
When it came to Elmo, a 13-year-old beagle, the reason was summed up in three short words – ‘Wife has cancer’. Who could question that? And yet, in time, I would.
Within a few days of his surrender, the shelter staff came to the conclusion Elmo was at least partially deaf. He slept solidly and that’s no easy task in a shelter. He was thin, a bit wobbly, and his coat seemed unhealthy. Aside from that, he was perfectly scrumptious. Maybe not scrumptious enough for the average adopter but enough for the staff to do all they could to save him.
And so they called me, founder of Big On Beagles (BOB) Rescue, otherwise known as ‘The Beagle Lady’. Elmo was described as old with possible health issues. In other words, just my type. I like fixing broken tails, especially old ones.
Elmo’s tail didn’t need fixing as it had a mind of its own, but the rest of him definitely needed a tune-up.
I met Elmo (and his tail) at a park along Lakeshore Blvd. BOBateer Karen had kindly scooped him up from the shelter, assuming the first leg of his transport. I would then deliver him to our vet for the fine-tuning.
A lot can happen to a person in the time it takes to drive a little old beagle to the vet. Riding shotgun beside me was a dog, suddenly without his family after all these years, bright-eyed and waggy-tailed as though on some big adventure. The shelter staff should have told me to lock up my heart that day because he stole it like he’d been in the heart-heist biz all his life.
I get why people think puppies are cute. A baby anything is cute, even gorilla toddlers. But I go bonkers over an old dog face. Elmo’s face, when he finally looked away from the passenger side window long enough for me to see it, turned me to mush. It might have been how his mouth puckers like he’s eating lemons or it could have been that funny ridge of fur on the top of his head that makes him look like Foghorn Leghorn’s little buddy, Chickenhawk. It was probably everything, even if his breath could sink a ship. Love is blind and scentless.
However, all the oversights of a fool in love came into focus at the vet’s office. Until then, I hadn’t noticed the long-suffering neglect. The tune-up revealed the ugly behind the cute. Elmo’s coat looked so bad because it had been ravaged by a past flea infestation left untreated. Bald patches on his rump were the result of him chewing frantically. Elmo’s war-torn ears were likely due to a battle with Jack Frost. What lurked behind that puckered mouth was the worst of it. Even his lymph nodes had been affected by one of the most horrendous cases of rotting teeth our vet had ever seen. There was no doubt Elmo was in much pain. Every single tooth had to come out.
And so, that adorable pucker mouth became even more puckery post-surgery. It’s been a week now and Elmo finally knows what it is to be pain-free. He thought he knew how to wag a tail before.
I’m ashamed to tell you this, but I had actually considered changing his name. Being mostly deaf, I didn’t think he’d mind. I wasn’t digging the Muppet reference, even if Elmo is famous for being the sweetest Muppet to ever stroll Sesame Street. But my Elmo isn’t some stuffed shirt reliant upon a human to move his parts or talk on his behalf. Like I said, the tail has a mind of its own. As for his mouth, toothless and all, he loves to say “howlo” to the people in his neighbourhood!
But before I dubbed him Thurston Howl the First, a Google search made me ponder the legend of St. Elmo’s fire. Not the 80’s coming-of-age flick starring Rob Lowe, but the real thing. St. Erasmus (Elmo for short) is the patron saint of sailors. During thunderstorms, sailors would often see a mystifying glow surrounding the tops of their masts. That light gave them comfort. Elmo has that light.
Folks like you and me have a million excuses for never giving up our fur-bearing family members. Some are reasonable but most border on crazy, like how we think muddy pawprints on the couch adds character.
Elmo is an adorably toothless 13-year-old beagle with a saintly disposition. Come bask in the glow of our St. Elmo’s fire at Big On Beagles (BOB) Rescue, www.bigonbeagles.ca.