About ten years ago, my mother presented my grandfather with a tiny beagle pup for Christmas. She put her right in his lap and the poor little thing trembled in a room full of revelry and noise and all the while, my granddad stroked it till it calmed down. In those magical few hours, the mystery of imprinting occurred and that dog became my grandfather's.
It's sort of unfortunate, because my granddad was a man of little outward tenderness. The beagle, they call her L'il Bit, grew up as strange and prickly as her acknowledged master. He was the only person she would allow to touch her at all. No matter who fed her, who gently coaxed and wooed her, she was adamant in her loyalty. At family gatherings, she'd skulk around the crowd, growling and beating a quick retreat from anyone that would try and pet her. My granddad, however, she would follow from one end of the farm to the next, keeping close to his footsteps. She became a fixture around the place - you'd usually see her dashing around a corner, away from anyone who wasn't her master.
All this time, my grandmother fed her until she grew ill and died in 2007 and then my mother took up the task. You couldn't touch her, only lay out some food and step away. Eventually, after you'd left, she'd sneak up and eat. She lived outdoors, shadowing the edge of the house. It's been this way for years. Occasionally, my grandfather would come outside and pet her a little. Rarely.
My grandfather died Saturday and we buried him yesterday. As we gathered at his house before the funeral, I noticed the little dog scoot around a corner. My mother inherits the house and with it, the beagle, but she isn't going to move there. I asked her what was going to happen to the dog and she said that she had thought about it and decided it was best to let her continue living at the house where she's most familiar. She'll be taken care of - at least as much as possible.
But the saddest story I know today is the little beagle who lives at the little farmhouse in the country - a house no one lives in - waiting around for granddad to come out the door one day and stroke her ears a little.