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My First Beagle made sure he wasn't My Last.

1967. That was the year my older brother, Rick, got "his" Beagle from my parents after mom and dad were mesmerized with a friend's Miniature Beagle. He was a classic little guy with the white stripe down his golden head and white markings on his black body. Of course he was the best looking Beagle ever because he was ours.

Our Beagle, Rivets, 1967

"Rivets" fast became my best friend - he slept with me most nights and kept everyone entertained with our special game of "Toro". I would shake the blanket on my bed and yell, "Toro, Rivets!", which was his cue to come bounding in my room, jump up and land full speed in a heap of fluffy bedding. We'd repeat the whole thing many times every evening until we were both pooped. When we weren't playing Toro or going for walks, I was dressing him up in a homemade Santa suit or he was draped on my lap napping.

My family didn't vacation much until the summer of 1971 when my mom and her Seattle, Washington sister made plans to meet in Yellowstone National Park in Wyoming. We took a new canvas tent, a portable gas stove and a few other camping items in a rented trailer, and set off with my brothers Rick, Tom, Rivets and me in the back seat of a brand new Buick LeSabre.

After we took a wrong turn to end up in Colorado, my parents decided to stop for the night in a campground since it was already dark. We pitched the tent in the crowded location out in the boonies and spaced out our sleeping bags. It was time to sleep -- until I was rudely awakened by both my parents "whisper" shouting, ""Rivets!, Rivets!", outside our tent at about 4AM. Our furry family member somehow got the zipper up and escaped to go chase bunnies. Panic set in because I thought we had lost him for good - but a few of the "neighbors" helped spot him with flash lights and finally got Rivets cornered. Disaster was averted, but the real scare of losing my best friend terrified me. When we got to Yellowstone, I took Rivets to the car with me every night and slept in the back seat of that LeSabre so there would be no chance that he could go chase any more bunnies and get lost in the process.

Rivets was only 7 years old when he was diagnosed with terminal cancer. My brother had to make the decision to release him from pain since he couldn't even lay down any more for relief. At 18 years old and graduation only a month away, I was so totally devastated that I couldn't hold back the tears through several school days. Mom allowed me to stay home until I could face the world "alone". That time remains as one of the most painful - maybe because it was my first personal experience with death where loneliness was overwhelming.

Rivets was the first Beagle I had ever been around. He was fun, affectionate, loyal, charming and ornery all rolled into one. He was gorgeous - and really smart - and so much a member of our family that I knew Beagles would be in my future. Rivets made sure of that. Sleep well, my friend, I will see you again.

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