Pieces of my heart BEAU
He was a tumbling black ball, squirming his way up to us. I picked him up, his breath still redolent with the sweet puppy scent. Daughter, Ellen, pleaded…”Oh, Mom, can we keep him, please, please…I will…. (Fill in the blanks)” The dog had wandered into the art room at the Monterey County Fair which Ellen was docenting with her friend. I was in charge of the show, but had gone home for a much needed shower. The Fair Grounds in the middle of September could be oppressively warm and dusty.
There was a couple visiting us fromOxnard, who chuckled when I said “No, way, we have four animals already”. We went to the person manning the sound system and the pup’s description was blasted over the noise of the carnival, crowds and hawkers. After several of these announcements, it was apparent that no one would claim him. I looked down at the appealing black puppy, who grinned up at me, his tail beating the ground. He may have been abandoned but not mal-nourished, his black body was rotund. A bright white patch was on his chest… He probably came from a litter that had traveled with a rancher toMonterey. It seemed his owner either didn’t want him, or more likely, didn’t miss him. “We will take him home and find a good family for him”…
He was named Beauregard, Beau for short after a character recently introduced on the Muppet Show. Our veterinarian determined that he was part lab and part pit bull. As a puppy he loved to roam, possibly coached by our Irish setter, Cinder, who was a rescue dog, Cinder ran as a door was opened, Beau in hot pursuit, over hill and dale raced the red haired demon from hell, her apostle racing behind. We would dive around the neighborhood and sight the little creature worn out, on the steps of a house. In the meantime his teacher was collecting left over roast beef from a kindly restaurateur. He accompanied us wherever we went, jumping up and down with pleasure at the idea of a ride, or a walk.
Cinder didn’t remain with us very long. We received calls from all over the city to come and collect her. We built a higher fence. She broke her leg doing a hurdle. Many dollars later and a cast on the errant canine, we breathed a sign. At last she was contained … I looked out the window and Cinder flew by, over the obstacle, right leg, encapsulated, straight in front. Several months later she disappeared for good; we advertised, called shelters and settled down with pleasure when ads were not answered. She was a beautiful animal and very friendly, so some unsuspecting dog napper thought he had stumbled on riches when he stole her. She was a gift that kept on giving.
Beau would eat anything that wasn’t nailed down. He once was subject to severe medical ministrations to prevent a pierced intestine due to the ingestion of sharp bones, procured from the garbage. However he had an amazing constitution, relishing the box of chocolates which our daughter had received from an admirer, with no ill effect. He learned to swim at an early age when he stood on one side of a swimming pool, we on the other. Not understanding the consequences he took a step onto the water and was shocked when there was no foothold. struggling to get to the edge on our side. After that there was no deterring Beau, if there was a pool, he needed to be restrained as many owners didn’t welcome dogs in their facility He loved the beach and ran up and down, jumping in and tossing the water around, mud pools were his favorite, his personal Esalon.
He loved to run and, if he thought his exercising was incomplete, would sneak out and stand in the driveway barking. When we would attempt an arrest, he would back up and bark some more
In the car we would jump and the chase was on. First Beau was the leader, racing around the block, we in hot pursuit. As he tired, his steps would shorten and soon he was racing behind us, ultimately falling exhausted at our front steps, or climbing wearily into the car… His best friend was Reggie, one of our cats, as black as his companion; they would play for hours on end.
Generally he would leave the house and wander the neighborhood; in those days of no leash laws canines spent most of their time, unescorted and unrestrained, visiting neighbors and hanging out with their buddies. Tuesdays, however, were an anomaly. Beau would leave depart early in the morning and return home near dark. We didn’t worry as he always reappeared for dinner.
One afternoon I received a call from a friend who lived a couple of miles down the hill. “Jane, do you know where your dog is” “No,” I replied, but I am sure he is fine” “He is down here at my house and seems to be with the garbage truck.” I drove to the location and saw the vehicle on the curve of the street. “Beau,” I called. He turned, looked and laughed returning to his mission.
A big African American man came over to me. “Is this your dog?” he asked. “Yes, I replied, his name is Beau”. “Well, mam, he sure is a good dog, and really helps us” It was revealed that for several months our pet had been joining the team when they entered the area and stayed with them all day, reminding them if they missed a can. It was fine with us and the practice continued for almost a year. Once when I was hosting a bridge game, a friend came in, clearly bemused. “Janie, I believe I just saw Beau riding in the front seat of a garbage truck” “Oh, yes, that’s what he likes to do.’ Everyone loved the dog and were thrilled about his “play-date” Our local newspaper wrote a story, accompanied by a picture. He was immortalized in a painting by Will Bullas.
The leash laws were instituted. For awhile it didn’t affect Beau’s Tuesdays as he was being carefully monitored by his companions in waste management, but the idyllic life ended.
Neighbors complained that it wasn’t fair that our animal could be out on the streets when theirs must be incarcerated or restrained. For a time, the boys would stop by the house on Tuesday morning, collect Beau for the day and return him in the late afternoon.
We received a ticket and decided that we would go to court (Beau could not accompany us to plead his case; we had to do it for him). The judge happened to be a good friend. We were certain that he would see the justice in allowing the lab his beloved activity. That was not the case. Judge Burleigh was most amused. “I sympathize with Beau, but it is the law that he must be on a leash when out and about” He dismissed the charges but determined that the animal would either be on house arrest or “shackled when walking. Gene, the foreman or the team, asked his supervisor if they could take Beau with them on their rounds. The request was denied.
By then the fear of Pit Bulls was rampant and we were becoming increasingly disturbed. While Beau had demonstrated no aggression, only love to people and his own four legged family, he hated small dogs and other cats, lunging and growling if they came in sight. Obviously we couldn’t get rid of our beloved pet so we watched him carefully Gene really wanted to take him and asked if we could relinquish him. We gave it some thought,
One day we were sitting in the dining room eating brunch with my husband’s parents who were visiting fromIowa. Mother Roland exclaimed “There is a large black man coming to the door”
People of color were rare in their farming community, in fact were looked upon with apprehension. “That’s Gene” I said “Beau’s friend”. Gene came into the house and we introduced him. “I wonder” he asked “could Beau come out to the yard with us next week?
We are going on strike and we would like him to walk the picket line with us. We will keep him on a leash, and bring him home later”
Our “man in garbage” had another day with his friends, but that was it. Every Tuesday, when he heard the truck, he would stand at the window and whine. Months passed and he forgot. Years went by and Beau slowed down. It became necessary for him to sit down and rest from time to time. We knew the end was in sight and dreaded the looming trip to take him for his final nap. He slept on the floor in our bedroom. On the Fourth of July we arose to see that Beau was very still, in fact he was gone, gone as he had come, sparing us the pain of having to help him reach greener pastures.
Not long after there was a small article in the newspaper about a man working at the garbage collecting yard who had been killed when one truck came too close to another,. His name was Gene Black. Now he and Beau are watching the trash collections in Heaven and laughing all the way.