I have always loved dogs, though because of work and other commitments I haven’t always had a dog myself. But I’ve still enjoyed friends’ pets, shows on the Animal Planet channel, and the annual Westminster Dog Show.

This year’s program brought back some memories for me because of the winner. The charming 15-inch Beagle Miss P took Best of Show. And why not? She was truly a beautiful little dog prancing around the arena and drawing oohs and aahs from the audience. A perfect example of the breed according to the commentators, and this triggered the memories.

As a boy our family had had some dogs, but they were “family dogs,” everybody’s dog. Then one day my mother got a call and a relative had a dog he wanted to give me. Me, my very own dog. But my mother was reluctant. I begged and pleaded. I would take care of the new dog, it would be my responsibility. Finally, probably because she was tired of hearing from me, my mother gave in. The day was set for the new dog to arrive.

I waited at the front, checking each car that approached. Then one stopped and out of the door sprang a Beagle tugging at the leash frantically but not in any particular direction. Down the steps I went to greet my new puppy. Well, not exactly. Turns out the dog was more than 2 years old, and quite frankly didn’t look much like Snoopy of comic strip fame and now thinking back on it, not at all like Miss P, either.

His name was Zek and he was quite overweight, in those days we called it fat, and he was soon demonstrating a reluctance to do anything other than his own agenda, which mainly consisted of sleeping and eating and not an awful lot else. My mother was not pleased.

But he was my dog and my responsibility, and I stuck to my promise. This included exercise. While on leash Zek acted like his tail was on fire, and he did like to run around our fenced-in backyard. I had read that Beagles might dig under a fence, but not Zek. Too lazy.

A friend’s dog would bolt every time a gate was opened, but not Zek. However, anytime my attention was diverted he saw his chance.

Zek had sized things up. Where the fence met the back porch he could climb over, drop down into the driveway, and off he’d go. It went like this. I would hear my grandmother yell “the dog’s out” and I would grab his leash and be down the drive in hot pursuit.

After the first couple of times, even if he was way ahead of me, I knew which way he went. He always headed toward downtown. Not because he was going shopping, but because it was down hill. Every time, left. One lazy dog. Even with that head start, Zek was only good for about three blocks. The climb over the fence and that first block of sprinting really took it out of him. Somewhere before Beacon Ave. he would give up, find a shady spot and collapse, and refuse to get up, so I would carry him home. That only worked a couple of times. I was not pleased.

Well, that went on for a while but soon my mother made a phone call and my very own first dog was back where he belonged, somewhere else.

Mike Newman

Mike Newman is a native Texan, born and raised in east Dallas. After serving as a photographers mate in the U.S. Navy, including one tour of duty in Vietnam, he moved to Plano and joined the newspaper...