There are Many Dog Stories in Easton. This Is Mine.

When I was a girl I saw a TV show featuring a talking Basset Hound named Cleo. The show, a sitcom circa 1958, aired on NBC. It was “The People’s Choice” starring Jackie Cooper. Cleo’s observations, wryly critical of her human co-stars, delighted me and from then on I wanted a Basset Hound of my own. My parents flat out said no dogs. And that was that. Subsequently, my husband Larry and I rescued a series of dogs, but a Basset rescue was a no-go. “They’re gassy and they’re stubborn and they drool,” Larry insisted. “Labradors are the way to go.”

Following the passing six years ago of our last beloved Lab, Hooper, I returned to the Labs 4 Rescue website and saw a photo of a Lab/Basset mix. This was my shot. Using all the charm I could conjure, I persuaded Larry to agree to the rescue of Bassadorable as he was called by his foster mom. “This is gonna be a mistake,” Larry groaned. But he couldn’t escape my endless burbling about the perfect compromise I was offering. After a lot of red tape and expense, we arrived at the designated pick up spot in the parking lot outside the Colony Diner in Newtown. The van pulled up and Bassadorable lumbered down the steps without much enthusiasm.

 Larry was stricken. “He looks like Toulouse Lautrec.” His short legs and enormous splayed paws were very Basset like, which thrilled me. The rest of him looked like a yellow lab.

We met our new rescue pup having no idea what was in store for us when we got him home.

We knelt down to get on his eye level, but at full height he was only a foot off the ground. Moreover, he demonstrated no interest in either of us, though he showed a slight preference for Larry. We drove back to Easton in silence until Bassadorable let go a noxious odor. We hoped it was nervous bad breath.

We walked him around the yard uneventfully. Inside when we unleashed him, he got an extreme case of the zoomies and careened around the house, stopping briefly to mark the corner of our bed and to poop on the only valuable rug in the house. He also knocked over a large ficus plant spilling dirt on that same rug and rolling in it for good measure. Larry went into the bedroom and closed the door behind him.

When I made it clear that finding Bassadorable another home was not an option, we decided to give him an appropriate name. Clemson, Toulouse, Leon and Irving were rejected. Larry suggested Knuckles– an instant hit with me and our son, Brian.

Though he was slender when he arrived, he grew thick and barrel chested in no time. His legs remained stubby and his paws outsized. On the leash he moved like a tank in the direction of his choosing and could not be persuaded to change course until he was good and ready. Commands simply didn’t move him and he had ways of making his feelings clear.

“No I won’t move. You move.”

I enrolled Knuckles in the obedience class at the Easton Community Center led by Jason Hoffmann, the nicest and most patient teacher, who worked diligently to bring Knuckles up to the level of the other students. Success was not in the cards. Knuckles did not stop barking during the class. Nor would he obey any commands. The only thing he did correctly was eat the treats, including those given to other dogs.

Despite the inauspicious start, things got better once we understood Knuckles’ world view. His primary objective was to own the family room sofa. This meant that neither of us nor any guests could occupy it. He made this known by barking, whining and squeaking until the interloper got up and moved. This was (and still is) his rightful spot. If he happens to fall asleep with his mouth open, he drools on the sofa pillow. But then, who among us doesn’t do that from time to time?

When we take our daily walks, he’s quite a merry companion until he catches sight of something of interest, beyond what a human can see. He lunges and twists with extraordinary force and bugles so loudly I think Danbury can hear him. He wants so much to give chase on those meaty little legs. When he’s not on the hunt he carries himself like a royal. Tail aloft, head high, convinced he is tall and elegant, unaware of his low slung physique.

This is like Knuckles’ corner bar. He likes to hang here waiting for gal pals Bailey and Penny to come out.

He has made friends on our street with Earl, Tucker, Penny and Bailey, on whom he has quite a crush. He has a bro, our son’s dog Boosie, who is a regular houseguest. Boosie appropriated the love seat in the family room in deference to his host. The humans have had to relocate to the den.

Though he still won’t obey commands, he can be quite a gent if vanilla ice cream is in the offing. We’re crazy about him, even though Larry was mostly right. He’s gassy and stubborn, but he rarely drools.

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Photos–Jane Paley

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