Friday, August 10, 2012

B is for ...

B is for Beagles.

I have two- Frances, a research lab rescue, who is according to her papers, purebred (we think she must have a little basset hound in her), and Minchy, who is a beagle- Jack Russell mix and probably something else tossed in for funsies, whippet maybe, or italian greyhound?

When I worked at our SPCA, I got a reputation as a beagle lover. I did not know that that wasn't a universal thing. How could you not love beagles? Look at those faces!! Those are the best doggy faces of all time. Ever.

Okay. So they are massive food junkies and will eat until they literally explode. So they're not too bright and don't exactly learn commands well, or at all. (But pretty! So pretty!) And yes, they howl, and it sounds like someone stuck a rusty pair of scissors into their side. It really is a godawful sound.

But they're friendly, playful, easygoing, affectionate and eager to please.

Unfortunately, because of that, they are the breed most often used in labs for research. I'm not against research per se; I understand it's necessary to find ways to fight illnesses and other things to help pets. But it still requires the animals to be kept in a cage and treated as a subject- a thing- not a sentient, feeling, living being. Frances wasn't poked or prodded (we don't believe) or had shampoo squirted into her eyes, but she suffered the effects of being treated like a subject and not a dog. She suffers them still to this day.

For the longest time, she didn't understand treats. The only thing that made her excited was dry kibble, because it was the only good thing she ever had. She still really doesn't understand play. She'll go after Minchy sometimes but it's just because she's imitating what he does or he's really pissed her off and she's out to smack him down. She doesn't understand that it's supposed to be fun.

It's harder work than bringing any other kind of dog into your home (except for the badly abused or rehabbed dogs, like those rescued from fighting rings), but if you are so inclined, I would highly recommend rescuing a research lab dog. There is absolutely no greater reward than seeing them start to come out of their shells and realize what it's like to be a real dog. Frances is so much more livelier, affectionate, expressive and animated than she was in the first two, maybe even three, years she joined our family. And nothing feels better than knowing you made a difference in a dog's life.

Facts about Beagles

  • Origin. The modern day beagle originates from England but the first ancestors of the breed can be traced to ancient Greece.
  • Popularity. More popular in the states and Canada than in its country of origin, the beagle is well-liked for its pleasant personality, good looks and suitability as a family dog and hunter.
  • Size. Beagles are small to medium size dogs. Males reach a height of around 14 – 16 inches, whilst females can be 13 – 15 inches high.
  • Build. The beagle is a muscular, athletic dog that requires a lot of exercise to keep in shape.
  • Color. They come in a variety of colors ranging from black, white, tan, red, lemon and blue mottle. The tricolored variety is the most common.
  • Temperament. Beagles have been described as even tempered, neither aggressive nor overly timid, friendly, loyal, sociable, curious, cheerful and somewhat stubborn. They are good with children because they are gentle and playful, whilst being sturdy and protective too.
  • Abilities. Originally bred to hunt for hare, fish and game birds, the beagle has an acute sense of smell. They are strong, athletic and have plenty of stamina.

Fun Facts about Beagles

The Beagle is an interesting dog with a fascinating past.
  • Snoopy. The beloved Snoopy dog in the cartoon Peanuts is the most famous beagle.
  • White tipped tail. The tip of a beagle’s tail must be white or he is not considered a true beagle. The white tip or flag has been selectively bred into the dog to make the beagle visible when his nose is to the ground. His tail sticks straight up when he is actively following a scent.
  • Super smellers. One of the most interesting facts about beagles is that they have some 220 million scent receptors. Man has an average of 5 million.
  • They follow their nose. Beagles are wanderers by nature because of their highly developed sense of smell.
  • They change colors. Tri colored beagles are almost always born black and white and change color after a few months to a couple of years. Some lose their black coloring altogether.
  • They like to be in a pack. Beagles are happiest when they can be with other dogs.
  • Celtic for small. It is thought that the name beagle originated from the Celtic word ‘beag’, meaning small.
  • Pocket beagles. They used to be small enough to fit in a pocket or saddlebag.
  • Will do anything for food. Beagles love their food and are very protective about it.
  • Royal dog. Queen Elizabeth 1 and King James 1 loved beagles.
  • Star quality. Beagles have featured in literature like Shakespeare’s works, famous paintings, comic strips, cartoons and films.

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