After thirteen years of living in a townhouse, my husband and two sons and I moved into a single family house with a large fenced yard in October, 1999. Our son, Billy, had been wanting a dog for years, but in a townhouse with no fenced yard, we just didn't think we could manage it. We always told Billy that someday, when we moved to a house with a fenced yard, we would get a dog. Now the time had come to make good on our promise.
I had a beagle named Claude as a child. When I thought of a family pet for us, I knew that a friendly beagle would fit right in. There was a problem, though: our younger son, Scott, is autistic, and terribly afraid of dogs. Every time he saw a dog, he would scream "no no" and jump into our arms, or run away, and shiver with fright. After much thought, I decided that since the rest of us wanted a dog so much, Scott would just have to learn to adjust.
In March, I went to our local animal shelter several times to look for our dog. They had all kinds of large dogs, but no beagles. There, at the animal shelter, I found a booklet that listed the breed rescue organizations, and called the telephone number for the Beagle Rescue Education and Welfare League of Northern Virginia. Laura Johnson, the co-director, wasn't home that day (probably out with some beagles), but her husband directed me to the BREW web site, where I printed out an adoption application, and faxed it in.
Laura called me a few days later, and we talked about our unique situation. There was a beagle named "Peter" she wanted me to meet, and I made arrangements to meet her at the Crossepointe Animal Hospital, where he was being boarded. When Laura brought him out for me to play with, I could see that this beagle reminded me in temperament and size of my childhood beagle! Apparently he had come to BREW as a stray, but he didn't show any hesitation in letting me cuddle him right then and there.
Laura and I laughed when we agreed that I didn't need to see any more beagles: "Peter" was the one! I had to tear myself away from him to be home in time to pick up the kids from school. Billy was thrilled when he found out that on Saturday, we would be going to pick up our new dog. I printed the dog's picture off the BREW web site, and showed it to our autistic son, and told him that the dog would be coming to live with us. Of course, he said "NO."
We brought the dog home on Saturday. Billy named him Happy. Scott, as expected, was terrified. For many days, Scott refused to even go in the same room of the house as Happy. If Happy approached Scott, tail wagging, Scott would flee in panic, and climb on top of the dining room table, and shiver. For several weeks, I would lie awake at night and worry whether Scott would ever be able to adjust to Happy.
I needn't have worried. One day, I came upon Scott sitting on the sofa, very cautiously petting Happy on the back. Ever since then, it has been a love fest between Scott and the dog. The child who once wouldn't even be in the same room with Happy now insists on Happy being in his bed for the bedtime story every night. And Happy has learned to ignore the many strange noises and movements that Scott makes.
Autistic children, sometimes, cry for extended periods for no reason. It's called "inappropriate affect." One day, Scott was crying and crying inconsolably. Happy came up to Scott and just started licking him on the face, and continued licking and kissing him until Scott's tears had turned to laughter. Now, Scott can't even walk past Happy sitting on the sofa without stopping for a quick "doggie kiss." And believe me when I say that Scott kisses Happy back enthusiastically!
While walking Happy around our neighborhood, I have run into many "baby-boomers" who exclaim in delight when they see Happy: "he looks just like the beagle I had as a child." Happy has a friendly wag of the tail and "perky ears" for them all. All the books I had read on choosing the perfect dog for your family said that beagles adore children. And the feeling is mutual! Happy is one special beagle who loves "his boys," even though one of them acts a little differently. We are all grateful to BREW for matching us with our beagle.