Until I was 10 years old, I grew up in Los Angeles through the 1950s, Studio City to be exact. And as you can see, Goodland Avenue is a nice gradual hill that goes up from Ventura Blvd, almost across from the Sportsmen’s Lodge.
Since my family didn’t have a dog (which is almost mandatory for suburbia), that was on the list. My father’s fraternity brother from UCLA (living in Westchester) just happened to raise beagles, and the beagle during the 1950s was the most popular breed from 1953-1959.
It’s probably why Charles Schultz, in starting his comic strip Peanuts, made Snoopy a beagle.
So when Herb’s dogs had a litter, we went down to Westchester to pick out a puppy.
Only as time went on, we learned that Sam had a particular quirk.
He loved to roam.
And when I say that, I mean that whenever we had to open the front door, we had to do a quick sweep of the living room to make sure he wasn’t there.
Because if he was within a 20′ radius, he would bolt out that door faster than you realized what he had done.
He really was an escape artist.
One Saturday when my parents were working in the yard, they thought that they would outwit him. They put a cowbell on his collar.
Ever hear a cowbell?
They were created so you could hear your cows in the next county.
He apparently learned how to walk without ringing it and within 30 minutes, he was gone.
When Sam made his escape, the task turned to me, from about 7 years of age, to catch him as he was happily running down the hill on Goodland.
And there was an added inducement to catch him. In 1958, the City of Los Angeles would fine you $50 if they caught your dog after the 2nd escape.
$50 in 1958 was nothing to sneeze at.
Now, after repeated years of dog ownership, I have come to the realization that if a dog doesn’t want you to catch him, you aren’t going to catch him.
So, how does a 7 year old catch a running beagle?
Sam had one weakness – food.
Only when he bolted I didn’t have any time to get food – he was like a guided missile.
So I would chase him down Goodland yelling his name – and occasionally 100 yards ahead he would stop, turn around and look at me.
I swear that dog was laughing.
I quickly learned how to improvise – and make a finger look like it was a little tasty morsel.
The dog would stop, look, and I could see the gears turning in that head.
“I’m sure he is trying to fool me – BUT WHAT IF HE ISN’T?”
After a minute of coaxing he would start to walk hesitantly until I could grab him by the collar.
The food was a ruse, he finally realized. You could tell in by his expression.
I’m glad that dogs have short memories. Because that trick worked numerous times.
So today I am thinking and realized I have something in common with Sam.
I don’t get to travel a lot these days, but when that door’s open I bolt.
Sometimes I hit the road not even knowing the destination.
I have several advantages over Sam.
Food is not an enticement for me to stop my wandering ways.
And they’ll never take me to the pound.