My husband Jim has always been partial to basset hounds because they are mellow. Low to the ground, he can usually catch them if they try and run away. The matter of their laid back nature is somewhat of a blessing. Any deficiencies in character – stubborn being one — are quickly compensated by the fact that the basset ultimately tires and surrenders to plain hanging out. Actually they are quite unique personalities. Since meeting my husband eight years ago they have dominated our pack of rescue dogs like none other.
Sam was one of those basset hounds who I happened upon when I worked as the Executive Director for an animal welfare organization on Whidbey Island. He was found wandering the island’s central highway and for us it ultimately was fortuitous that he did. We will always wonder why no one claimed him. He was smart and vocal, especially when chaos whirled around him. Like my husband, he much preferred a mellow, quiet environment and made it known when that wasn’t happening.
When we lost Sam last summer it was tough. A once agile, happy go lucky dog who loved to hike, he began to lose the use of his legs to the point he could no longer walk. We cared for him as long as we could. The decision to put him to sleep was heartbreaking.
Nature abhors a vacuum. For us, the loss of our Sam had us on every basset hound rescue site looking for a new friend within a matter of days. It was not realistic considering our dog count, but our grief could not be abated. We had to make room for another animal that might need us and help us heal. When I asked Jim what he would name our next basset hound, he answered Merlin.
Surprisingly, it wasn’t another basset hound who first claimed our heart. It was a then nine-year old Corgi named Sophie. Her master with whom she hung almost every day of her life had died of cancer and his widow wanted to find her a new home. The day we saw Sophie’s picture we drove to the woman’s home to meet the girl. It didn’t take us long to make our decision. Sophie, while given free reign during the day to play with her mistress’s new puppy, had been relegated to the garage and a lonely crate at night. Upon learning this, Jim and I looked at each other and knew instantly we had to take her home with us. No more dogs, we told each other after that. Famous last words.
Soon after Jim was on Whidbey Island visiting his brother Doug and checking on our other home when he received a call from his friend Jackie. There was this young basset on Whidbey named Winston. He needs a home, she told him. His first two years were spent with a woman who was never home. He had been rescued by a well-intended woman who already had eleven other dogs, but she was in over her head. Her dogs ate free range from a single trough and had a host of physical issues. Winston, the youngest and newest addition to the pack, usually got the leftovers, what they were. He was skinny, flea infested, filled with worms and had an infection.
The picture Jackie sent did us in. It was Merlin, the one Jim envisioned. Soulful brown eyes that said take me home. I told Jim to follow his heart. And Jim could not say no, which is so much why I love him. He took the dog and with the help of his brother and a vet tackled Merlin’s ailments with medicine and food not to mention love.
So, remember the laid back, mellow basset that appeals to my husband? Not Merlin. The name was inspired by a Moody Blues song Are You Sitting Comfortably? and in particular, the magician from Camelot. Since Merlin arrived we have not always sat comfortably or quietly. Jim had a rule – no dogs on the couch. In the matter of Merlin that rule was quickly broken. Merlin has wreaked havoc on our quiet household. His health restored, he has become a demanding, playful, mischievous wonder, capturing both our hearts and frustration.
Regrets? None. There is something about this dog that I can’t fully explain. He enchants me. I can stare out on the garden and see him in a corner looking at me and then I walk around and turn to another spot to find him again. Weren’t you just over there? I ask. He only looks back at me, intent, as if to whisper a secret I can’t yet hear. I’m waiting.