This morning I told Jonathan and Rachel that Mr. Festas came to live with us 21 years ago today. Mr. Festas (Festas Hagen of Flatbush) was our first dog as a married couple. Jonathan would be quick to tell you that Festas was my dog. One week shy of our 1st wedding anniversary and living in a one-bedroom apartment in Plano, TX, we decided we needed a dog. I said the dog had to be short-haired and not shed excessively. We couldn’t have anything very big so we started looking in the paper. Beagles. We both agreed that Beagles were a good size. We had some Beagle mixes when I grew up in the country. Out in rural Arkansas, the dogs lived outside and ran freely. We decided to go and just see these Beagle puppies that were listed in the paper. They were seven weeks old. What could be the harm in just looking? Well, some four hours later we returned home with a seven-pound completely brown faced Beagle. A Beagle puppy is arguably the cutest thing on the planet and once this one climbed into my lap, I was finished. I wrote the check and off we go to our adventures with Mr. Festas. We didn’t have a bed, dish, food – nothing. We were ordinarily responsible people but those ears overtook our common sense. That first night he slept under a laundry basket.
The fun began when we left for work. Festas, it seem, didn’t like being alone. We put him in the bathroom and he howled. We put him on the deck and he howled. We put him in a crate and he howled even louder. He had a beautiful bay but the neighbors didn’t think much of it. To appease his howling we gave him free reign of our apartment while we were gone. He dug up the carpet, ate the furniture, opened Christmas gifts. We are glad that he was not like two of the friends he made, Orville and Wilbur. They were mutts who lived a few apartments over. The licked the dry wall in the pantry until it was soft enough to chew through to the adjoining apartment. He was good not to do “his business” in the house. He would run and run and then just stop and go asleep. The vet told Jonathan that Beagle puppies are doing one of two things: sleeping or getting into trouble. No truer words have ever been spoken. He needed to go out multiple times in the night. He would hunt for the perfect spot to do his business. There was no walking him. He walked you. People would stare as at us as this little ten-pound puppy would pull the opposite direction we were walking. He would gag and jump and twist and carry on and people thought we were killing him. Soon, he worked his way into sleeping with us. Jonathan declared that there was a reason a Beagle puppy was so cute: it is evolutionary self-preservation. Had he not been so cute, we might have killed him.
Shortly after Christmas, we moved to Little Rock and moved into a house where he could have a yard. This was better except of one little problem. Festas could climb a fence like a cat. Over the course of his 14-year life, he lived in four states and escaped many more times that I could ever count. We found another dog to be his friend so maybe he wouldn’t be bored and escape. His name was Chester. Festas and Chester were both Gunsmoke characters so yes you are seeing a theme here. Our neighbors were Mr. and Mrs. Chester Estes so we kind of felt like we were in a Dr. Seuss book. Companionship didn’t help though. We spent thousands of dollars on electric fences and contraptions to keep him “in.” He launched himself over a fence with the compost pile once. He somehow managed to get over a seven-feet tall cinder block fence. We had to have class for potential dog sitters because if the door was left open for even the fewest of seconds, he was gone and the dog sitter would have to spend hours hunting for him. For one lucky dog/house sitter, he escaped not once but twice. And he took Chester with him. The first time she found them few hours later. The second time, they stayed out all night. She called co-workers to help hunt. One friend made a wanted poster.
A 5:30 the next morning a gentleman called. Seemed when he opened his front door to get his paper; Festas and Chester ran in the house. It was about two miles away and across a major street. They were home safely by the time we arrived. It would be an understatement to say he was not fond of baths. Jonathan would put on camo clothes and hiking boots and would say, “I’m ready.” I would coax him into the walk-in shower and slam the door and lean up against to hold it shut while the bathing took place. After three of these adventures, we decided he would go to the vet for his baths. The first time he went, the office called me and said, “Mrs. Mast, we are afraid Festas is going to have a heart attack so we need your permission to sedate him for a bath. Did you know he doesn’t like baths?” Why do you think we brought him to you?
Festas adventures easily rival those of Marley. Unfortunately, I didn’t think about writing a book first or I would be rich. There are many more but the most important thing was that he was my spoiled, rotten-to-the-core beloved Beagle. He was my friend and companion through all those moves. He sat by me in the backyard when I learned that Rachel had Down syndrome. He slept beside me when Jonathan was at the hospital after his tumor was removed. He was always happy to see me. We had him nine years when Rachel came and I was kind of worried that he wouldn’t adapt, but he did. He just acted like she was supposed to be there, and he never acted jealous. He did get in her crib once but that’s another story.
I will blog a little more about Festas later. Today, I’m sitting here laughing about his antics and looking at those precious pictures we took of him with his momma, Noisy Einstein. That should have been our first clue?