We were in between countries when our firm decision started to get a bit wobbly. Our eldest little traveler had become ridiculously terrified of dogs. The reason I say ridiculously is she was not only scared of small fluffy white dogs but she'd started to include cats, birds, guinea pigs and basically anything of the "pet" variety to her list. It started to get somewhat comical when her fear was then transfered on to the other little travelers. I guess they figured with her age and experience, she knew something they didn't. On a trip back to Australia, every visit made to friends and family resulted in a slightly awkward "do you mind putting your dog away" conversation and usually finished with an "oops the dog got out" apocalyptic style event with 4 little travelers running towards me screaming and crying, using my body as a way to get to higher ground.
When we arrived in Houston the decision was made that the only way we were going to get the little travelers over their fears was to get a dog, our own dog. It made sense that an Australian family who has spent a large chunk of their time in airports would feel a certain affection towards a beagle. The decision was made, it had to be a rescue dog, it had to be a beagle, enter the Houston Beagle Rescue Association.
After a rigorous screening and interview process (we're talking 2 house visits and 3 phone interviews) I became determined that the Houston Beagle people were going to give me one of their unwanted beagles. I was like any hopeful adopting parent and was willing to do ANYTHING. We improved fencing and made changes to the backyard, we showed where the beagle could be walked and which vet we would visit, we were determined that the beagle association would see us as fit and responsible parents. They provided an alarmingly long list of the terrible habits of beagles, but like some delusional teenage girl in love with the school football star, I just knew my beagle would be different. I'd change him, he'd be different with me. There were many discussions about which discarded beagle would be the best fit for our family and we ran through what was on offer, there was the escape artist beagle, the neurotic beagle, the incontinent beagle, in my giddy state, they all sounded fabulous.
Eventually they suggested Roxie. Roxie was born in Austin, Texas and we'll never really know the real story of what happened. We were told Roxie's parents became too busy with a self run business and a new baby, they decided something had to go. I guess it was easier to find a new home for Roxie than the baby. In hindsight they must have had a really bad baby.
Roxie was 5 years old when they made the drive to Houston and dropped her with the rescue people. I imagine the above story was easier for them to live with. Easier than "Roxie steals our food as it's making it's way to our mouths, she eats butter out of the fridge, sheds her hair like a yetti, barks incessantly at anything walking by the house and will wee on our bed if we leave her alone for a length of time she deems unacceptable". The rescue people tell me that when Roxie's previous owners deposited her at the front door there were no teary goodbyes, it was more a rushed keep the car running, here she is kind of moment.
When G walked in to the house with Roxie we all immediately fell in love. The eldest little traveler chose to fall in love while standing on the dining room table, within hours though she was able to touch Roxie and even though she was a little jumpy, by the end of the day Roxie was sleeping on her bed. Something we vowed she would never be allowed to do.
In my mind Roxie speaks with a Southern accent. She's a cross between Dolly Parton, Olympia Dukarkis and Sally Fields. She smokes long cigarettes in elegant holders, wear false eyelashes and has a part time job singing in a bar. When she forgets who she is and has one to many mint duleps she gets very very naughty.
All beagles have issues. Roxie's issue is food. There will never be enough of it. The vet tells me that Roxie doesn't have that switch in her head that other dogs have. The one that says after eating the completely frozen chicken off the kitchen bench and dragging the garbage bin in to the lounge room to empty its contents over the brand new carpet, I probably didn't need to then eat all of the little travelers school snacks out of the pantry.
Roxie does tricks. She can find a full packet of (hand carried from Australia) Freddo Frogs and unwrap them, eat them and then hide the wrappers under the little travelers pillows. She can open a fridge door. She once dug a WW1 style trench to a neighbours backyard solely because there was a garbage bag of hamburger scraps on the other side. On a good week Roxie will only eat one full container of butter, on our bad weeks she's made it up to 4.
She's learnt how to sit underneath the table and quietly accept the bits that no one else will eat, she's the perfect dinner companion for the 8 year old that wont eat their broccoli. On our last trip to Australia Granny Max remarked on the constant pile of vegetables found after each meal under her table. Roxie wasn't there to remove the incriminating evidence.
I often joke that Roxie probably wonders what on earth she did wrong when she was made to endure a 17 hour flight from a green and lush Texas to a dry and baron desert home. Then I catch sight of her daily life.
Each morning as we pile in the car, every traveler will perform an absent minded touch of her head or give her a kiss and hug before they leave. She's been dressed in tutu's, had make overs and starred in their music videos wrapped in silk kaftans. Each night she divides herself between all 4 of the little travelers, starting with the eldest she then moves to numbers 2, 3 and 4 until she eventually makes her way to the foot of our bed knowing that's where everyone will end up in the morning.
Every time I feel guilty about our lack of dog parks or her insular life on the compound I'm reminded of the people from Austin that left her because they were too busy. A few days ago our 4th little traveler asked me to come and have a look at the "dog hotel" he had designed. I looked at the beagle shedding her hair all over my favourite cushions, the remnants of someone elses nuttella sandwich on her nose and came to the conclusion that it doesn't matter where the beagle lives, as long as she has the 4 little travelers she'll be just fine.