Published in the Shelter Island Reporter on September 15, and the Suffolk-Times and Riverhead Review on September 22, 2016
This election year has been strange and unsettling and not just because some members of my family are considering self-deportation in the event of a Republican victory.
I got a call the other day from my mother, now in her 80s with the sad news that her beloved beagle has died. His name was Trump.
My mother brought the dog home to her Reno, Nevada apartment in 2003 and named him Trump after my father’s childhood beagle. My father had died a couple of years before, and since my parents had both been only children, it seemed fitting that before and after they had each other, they each had a hound companion named Trump.
For the past year it seemed whenever my mother took her dog for a walk a passerby would discover the dog had the same name as the guy running for president. It often launched an exchange my mother preferred to avoid — did you name him after Trump to honor the candidate or to ridicule him?
Trump the beagle and Trump the man did have a few things in common. Both Trumps have done a lot of barking.
Like the politician, beagle Trump could be pugilistic. For example, there was the case of the man out for an evening stroll whose pants were torn after an encounter with my mother’s dog. There were witnesses, some of whom say Trump tried to bite the man and missed. Others said pants just tear sometimes. Who knows how?
Beagle Trump lived his entire life in a casino town and if there was ever a high roller of the canine world, he was it. A beautiful tricolor hound with plenty of ear leather and soulful brown eyes, Trump was a dashing canine sidekick and a fitting companion for my mother, a competitive bridge player with masterpoints and an active social life.
In his youth Trump was an escape artist, once fleeing from a woman hired to walk him. Thank goodness the dog-walker saw a flash of hound moving quickly away and had the wit to flag down a Reno police cruiser and persuade the officer to make chase. Trump came home in a squad car. From then on, when Trump went missing my mother started her search by looking out the window to see if a police car was out front preparing to discharge the fugitive.
Like Donald Trump, beagle Trump grew up in a household with caviar tastes. Stolen sturgeon roe was his favorite. A moment’s inattention, and Trump was scarfing down the black pearls as my mother’s martini sloshed on the table, swaying with the seismic undulations of Trump’s enthusiasm. Eventually she learned not to leave her caviar unattended when she went to answer the phone.
Like the presidential candidate, our Trump was the cause of a schism that separated people into warring camps. At the Christmas dinner of 2015, beagle Trump climbed onto the kitchen table and consumed an entire pan of cornbread stuffing while the family was gathering in the dining room hoping to eat it themselves. The theft was discovered when one of my nieces spotted him standing on the table near the empty pan. The family cleaved into those who admired the athletic ability of the old dog and his enthusiasm for good food, and those who saw the act as the ruination of Christmas and a total breakdown of civilization.
Candidate Trump never turns away from his most controversial positions, another trait that he and beagle Trump shared. Unlike most dogs, Trump went forward and back but never to the side. For example, when he decided he was finished sniffing behind the garbage cans and wanted to exit the garage, he walked out backwards.
In November, our country will vote on the question of whether to make Donald Trump president, or send him back to his boardrooms and penthouses, but Trump the beagle won’t be around to express his opinion. That good boy heard enough unseemly politicking and endured enough Trump jokes in the past year to kill anybody.
We miss him very much.