Opinion: It’s a dog-beat-dog world


A beagle named Miss P is now America’s top dog. For the second time, a beagle has won the Westminster Dog Show. Tails and tongues are wagging. For me, this news is incredibly wonderful. Here’s why:

Twenty-five years ago this month, before heading out to do my morning TV show, I found a stray beagle on my front doorstep. Barney was sweet and loving but destructive and disobedient. “You can keep him,” said my wife, “but take him to work with you.”

So, I did…for the next 12 years, and almost 2,500 TV shows. When he died in 2004, I received 3,000 letters and emails. The front page of the Indianapolis Star headlined it this way: “WISH-TV’s Little Bandit Dies at 14.”

A few years later, I was asked to write a book about Barney’s exploits, but I was reluctant. It would be a lot of work—and a tough task for me emotionally, so I wavered until the very last minute. Here’s what changed my mind. Uno, an adorable little beagle, won Best in Show at Westminster. He also could have won noisiest in show—not to mention the nosiest. Finally, beagle owners had something to howl about. Yes, this was the first time a beagle had won the coveted award. The story goes that a beagle was a contender back in 2003, but he went outside for a bathroom break and didn’t come back for three months.

Whoever was in charge of the cosmic sign department sent me a clear message when Uno was crowned. I knew people would be adopting beagles, so I had to write my book quickly—before they all ran away.

And so, seven years after Uno’s win and 25 years after I found Barney on my doorstep, another beagle has claimed top prize. These past 10 years I was blessed with another beagle—now gone—who was just as troublesome as Barney. “What a good dog,” people always told me about Toby. “No,” I said, “a GREAT dog. Not a good dog.”

When Uno won in 2008, Gary Varvel of the Indianapolis Star drew a beagle wearing sunglasses standing on his hind legs alongside a newspaper declaring him the champ. A copy of that drawing hangs above my desk, signed by Gary.

I don’t think a beagle will win again for a long time. Three top dogs from the same family seems unlikely. However, Barbara Bush might not agree with that.