The Thirsty Beagle: Saying goodbye to the original Thirsty Beagle.

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Saying goodbye to the original Thirsty Beagle.

I've been writing this blog since 2008, and over the years, people have often asked how I came to pick the name "The Thirsty Beagle."

The story goes like this:

In and around the 2001 to 2004 time frame, my girlfriend (later my fiancee and now my wife) and I started to branch away from the Keystone Lights of the world that we consumed during college.

As we graduated from Oklahoma State and settled in Oklahoma City, we started seeking out more flavor-forward beers as our palates evolved.

At that time in Oklahoma City, you had very few choices when it came to expanding your beer world.

One of those choices was TapWerks. We had frequent dates there so we could try new beers, and we often lamented the severe lack of places like that in other parts of Oklahoma City -- especially in north OKC and the Edmond area.

Right about that time -- in the spring of 2004 -- we adopted a puppy. A beagle puppy to be precise. We named him Buster the Beagle (we actually had that put on his dog tag). We always thought it would be great to have a beagle. They're totally cute and we thought it would be a lot of fun. Hold on this thought for a second.

***

Back to lamenting the lack of good craft beer pubs in Oklahoma City. My wife and I started daydreaming about opening our own pub. I pictured an old-English style pub, with rich wood and copper and brass -- probably not all that different from what TapWerks looked like.

What would we call it? Immediately, The Thirsty Beagle popped up. We had a beagle, and what a great fit for an old-English-inspired pub -- since beagles have the bloodlines of royal-type hunting dogs. And thirsty made sense, since it is all about consuming beverages, and because Buster had a habit of spending long stints at the water bowl.

Alas, the daydreaming never really evolved into any kind of concrete plan. But that name always stuck around in the back of my head.

Fast forward to 2008. I had been at The Oklahoman for almost six years, and as the paper efforted to expand its digital footprint, leadership there encouraged the staff to start blogging. I was on board since I enjoyed writing but didn't get to do as much of it following my promotion to an editor role in 2005.

I pondered the idea of a sports/satire blog, but we already had numerous sports blogs at the time and the market seemed a little too saturated.

After sports, the thing I liked to dabble in the most in my spare time was beer. No one at the time was writing about beer at The Oklahoman, or anywhere in the state for that matter. It all seemed to fit together. The only question left was what I would call the blog.

Naturally, I went with The Thirsty Beagle, and launched the blog in September of 2008. It's safe to say that name wouldn't have been born without the existence of Buster the Beagle in our family.

***

That beagle.

My wife and I always wondered if there was something we didn't know about beagles. We'd tell people we had a beagle, and we would always get this wistful "I used to have a beagle" response. They'd have a far-off look in their eyes. Everyone always "used to have a beagle." Why did everyone not have one anymore? Was there something we didn't know?

My god, yes. Buster quickly established a reputation as a giant pain in the ass. Cute as hell, though. He had big brown eyes and bigger floppy ears. He was a beautiful beagle. He seemed like he could have won dog shows with his textbook, prototypical, perfect beagle form. His bay was the stuff legends are made of.

But he was also stubborn as hell. And temperamental. And loud, persistent and endowed with an endless fondness for either reaching up to the kitchen counter to steal food or sneaking into the bathroom to eat the trash.

We were so frustrated with him at one point -- we made it through very few nights where he didn't wake me up in the middle of the night for one reason or another -- we debated handing him over to a beagle rescue.

But we couldn't. He may have been a giant pain in the ass, but as my wife has said, he was our pain in the ass. Over the years -- he turned 13 in March -- we realized we couldn't get rid of him if we tried. He had grown on us. And as he got older, I think we grew on him, too. He was never an overly emotional dog -- he owned a stoic gaze and only really got worked up when he was mad or felt like he wasn't getting what he wanted (read: he bayed endlessly until he broke you down). But as he got older, he would grant a gentle wag of the tail when we walked into the room, or he'd offer a quick lick on the leg as you let him in from the back yard.

We came to peace with one another over the years. And really, there was at least one trait you couldn't help but admire in Buster.

In spite of all the grief he caused, he had one overriding quality. Embedded deep in Buster's beagle soul was the spirit of a tremendous fighter.

About the time he was seven or eight, he started developing arthritis in his lower back. There were times walking was difficult for him. Although the worst symptoms would come and go in spurts, you could tell things were gradually declining over the years. Still, he loved walks. He loved jumping up on the couch -- even though sometimes it took him great determination to do so. He just fought through it.

Not long after the back issues arose, the vets began warning us of his tremendously high liver enzymes. What was causing them, nobody was sure, but they were a telling sign of his imminent demise, they said.

We ran him through countless tests, two ultrasounds and one biopsy surgery to try to get to the bottom of it. None of those efforts revealed any cause to the enzymes. Didn't bother Buster; he just kept on fighting.

One time I took Buster to our dog boarder. He walked with his trademark amble -- it was hard for him to bend his back legs some times. The boarder nearly refused to take him, citing his poor form. She was convinced that's what dogs looked like right before they kicked the bucket. That was like five years ago! He just kept on living!

In the past few years, he would have moments where he was really slowed down. We'd think, "this might be the end for Buster." Nope. He'd bounce back and sneak off and eat the bathroom trash the next day, up to the same old tricks he's been up to for years.

There were a lot of those occasions where we mentally prepared ourselves. Either Buster was going to pass on in his sleep, or we'd have to make the call, but one way or another, this was going to be it. Every time, he bounced back. He fought back.

In the last couple weeks, Buster went into a really creaky phase. He wouldn't try to get on the couch anymore. The dog who over the years single-handedly attempted to eat the back of our house -- window screens, siding, trim, the door, patio furniture, the grill, you name it -- wouldn't scratch at the back door to come inside. He signaled his want to come in by simply whimpering, seemingly unable or unwilling to lift his paw to carry out the action.

I thought, "He'll bounce back." The running joke at our house was that he was going to live forever.

Buster did not bounce back. For once in the 13 years and two months that he was alive -- more than a third of my entire life -- I had to concede that the fight may have finally left him.

On Monday evening, we made that call.

***

How do you know? How do you really know if it's the right thing to do? I don't know. I go back and forth between thinking maybe we waited too long to make the call, and maybe we didn't wait long enough.

It all makes me so sad. And then I have to remember, it's only because of that dog's reputation as champion fighter of all time that there even is any doubt. I will cherish that part of him, and -- as corny as it sounds -- I hope when life gets me down that I can embody that trait myself in spirit and action.

In the end, I think we made the right call. Buster was in a rough spot, and no matter what my heart says, my brain could see what was happening.

Truth is, having had a couple days to reflect on it, and in taking the time to write this, I think one thing has become more clear to me: It's not actually the uncertainty of the call that makes me sad.

It's that I miss him.

That beagle. I think that's the beauty of it. I'm sad because I miss him, and that's the way it should be.

Wherever you are tonight, give your dog a hug. And raise a glass of beer to Buster the Beagle, the original Thirsty Beagle.

Cheers buddy.

3 comments:

  1. Such a beautiful tribute. Thank you for it. And so sorry for your loss.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Thank you for sharing this. Great tribute to a great member of your family. Cheers Buster the Beagle

    ReplyDelete
  3. Great story. I love beagles (I've had three over my lifetime), but they can be challenging. Cheers for keeping him through thick and thin.

    ReplyDelete