The Story of Bo
"Who did this to you?"
It’s in his haunted eyes.
When I drove to the city an hour away, the anticipation of meeting our new dog was filled with wavering trepidation. There were three sweet beagles available for adoption through the Beagle Rescue: all three cute as a button. They had their stories, their photos, their details pasted on the front page of the website like a dating site. Bo’s face was turned a little to the side, and I could just make out the speckles that identify him as a beagle. His backstory is what sealed the deal for me.
One house of abuse would be terrible enough. Two houses? Bo was abused in one “home,” and then passed on to be abused in another “home” before the Tampa Beagle Rescue intervened. Paula (from TBR) told me that Bo would need extra care and a lot of patience because of his background, not a good match for a first-time owner. “He’s a bit skittish,” she said. Understatement of the year.
When I entered Paula’s house (she fosters the beagles), two dogs immediately bounced around toward the door. I didn’t see the speckled dog among them. He was sitting patiently on an ottoman, ears down, no spark in those huge marble eyes. I sat on the stairs and the other dogs jumped in my lap, happy to see another person in the house. Bo just crept up the stairs and viewed everything from above. He was hesitant, unsure.
Bo was going to need a lot of extra TLC. We signed the paperwork, put him on a leash, and he sat in my son’s lap on the way home. He didn’t move around much; just stared out the window. Was he scared? Did he feel safe? It was the canine version of Eeyore we were bringing home. Oh, no - Elektra! What would our other five-year-old pound puppy think of the new dog? We lost king beagle Max to old age months ago, and Elektra’s been alpha for some time now. A Belgian Malinois mix, she could be protective and bitey at times. She’s also about 30 pounds heavier than Bo.
The big moment arrives; it’s time to bring the newest member inside his new home. I’m holding him as I come through the door.
Elektra wasn’t having any of it. Her spinal hair stuck up and a low growl came out.
Up goes the baby gate separating the two until she calmed down. Bo has his own kennel which we keep up and open so whenever he’s feeling anxious, he can go in there. It’s dark, soft and cushy, and has his toys in there. He didn’t have much appetite because of the heartworm medicine he was on, but most dogs dig wet food. He had a a bite or two, a treat, and he went to sleep. New home, new smells, new sounds, new people – all of this can be overwhelming to an abused dog with trust issues.
A few days later, it’s time to take the gate down for some supervised visits. In a flash, there’s a doggo confrontation between the two, and just like that, Bo learns he is the beta dog. Once THAT was settled, there have been no more fights, and Bo could relax a little, allowing a bit of his personality to emerge.
He’s still food insecure. I feed them far away from each other. However, Bo dances and bounces as I’m putting the food in the bowls as if it’s the last kibble on earth, and Elektra now does the same thing. I swear this little dog can jump five feet high. In typical beagle fashion, he scarfs down his food. We’ve gotten the timing worked out so they’re finished at the same time and stealing food isn’t an issue. They go outside after they eat to do their business, and then it’s lap time.
Luckily for us, they’re someone home all the time. Whether it’s my husband who works night shift, my adult son, or me, there’s always a lap or a leg to lean on. Bo is also terribly afraid of being alone. Around my ankles, sleeping next to me back-to-back, or lying on couch with another human, Bo needs to be near people, touching them. Two houses of abuse; when I look into those giant marble eyes, I ask him, “Who did this to you? How could they do this?”
He has the same routine at night; every, single, night. He sees I’m going into the bedroom and runs in front of me; when I look down at him, he cowers and submissively turns over. I gently pick him and lay him down on his side of the bed. He waits for me to get tucked in, then he turns around exactly three times, licks a random body part of his, and curls into what looks like a croissant. This beautiful little dog was not always coddled and probably grew up outside or left alone in a garage.
That’s not what hurts me the most. It’s what happens about fifteen minutes after he falls asleep. He makes odd noises, ruffs and growls mixed with crying, something I’ve never heard from a dog. It’s as if he’s reliving whatever nightmare he came from. At five years old, this dog has been through things no dog should ever experience. I gently wake him up, reassure him (Does he know what I’m saying?), and pet him until he goes back to sleep. These episodes only last two or three minutes, but they’re heart wrenching to hear.
Bo is good beta dog. My husband yelled for me from outside that Elektra is fighting with something - we think it might have been a raccoon protecting its nest on our side of the fence. It was a loud aggressive fight, Elektra fierce and fast, when Bo comes howling outside to protect his girlfriend. I have never seen a dog take off so fast making a “SKRRRRRR” sound across the patio and out the door. Bo is a small beagle, and Elektra is rather big; Bo howled from behind. I could imagine Bo was shouting, “You GO, girl. GET IT!” Bo’s no dummy; he’s not getting into that business. Elektra was checked out – the blood on her chest wasn’t hers. Whatever was hiding in that woodpile disappeared.
They both love being outside as any dog would. Beagles are hounds, and their sense of smell is keener than those of typical dogs. Sitting outside in a faded Adirondack chair, I’ll have my morning coffee while Bo’s sniffer checks out the scene. His cheeks puff in and out quickly as he’s analyzing every passing air molecule. He checks out the perimeters, keeps an eye on his girl, and then commits some passive-aggressive moves. He takes aim at the fence between houses because he knows there are two ginormous dogs next door and not outside at the time. It’s his way of saying, “Oh, sorry about that, boys. I left you a gift.”
Bo, however, would really prefer if we kept the backyard grass trimmed. You see, Bo is what we call a low-rider. The high grass – ahem – interferes with his business, and he does not like it. He lifts each paw high up as if he were walking on nettles when the dew is on the long grass, dramatically emphasizing how high the grass is. “Imagine walking around and having grass tickling YOUR tummy?” he communicates to me. He looks at us with that “Mow the darned yard already!” face as he trots back toward the slider, always the first one back in the house.
They’ve grown to be best buds. The one time we had them kenneled, we made sure they were put together except for feeding time. Elektra waits for Bo to go outside or the other way around. They both hate baths, love treats, and destroy socks. They both hate fireworks, and bark loudly at every Amazon delivery. If Bo yelps for some reason, Elektra appears out of nowhere to make sure he’s ok. The once-timid dog is starting to become more beagle and less mouse.
He is a firm part of our household. He appears on our Christmas cards, has his own stocking during the holidays, and has taken our last name. To think that my husband, who grew up around large dogs, first scoffed at “Little Bo Peep” is truly ironic since it’s now my husband who talks to Bo as if he were his own baby. And SOMEBODY in this house is dropping people food for the dogs because whenever we get Dominoes delivered, they both scamper around and lose their minds, looking up, ears up, patiently waiting for something to “accidentally” fall. Because of Bo’s past, I am ensuring his future involves plenty of treats, skritches, and tons of love. And some pizza crusts.