A loving tribute to an extraordinary dog that was born in rural upstate New York and died in a small English village after surviving moves, travels, and a perilous separation.
All loved pets are heroes to their human companions, who not only appreciate their virtues and their love but also rejoice in their essential being, and Martin (A Life of James Boswell, 2000) is no exception. The narrative begins in 1965 when the author was working on his dissertation and living with wife Cindy on a lake in New York State. Newly married, and living in a “dog’s paradise,” they decided to get a beagle, mainly because beagles are intelligent, middle-sized, and don’t shed. They acquired a puppy they called Perth whose owner, before selling it to them, insisted on tattooing Martin’s initials on its ear, an act that would have important consequences. Perth was a perfect dog for them: easily trained, independent-minded, and manifestly intelligent—Martin made a particular point of teaching her not to cross the road, a lesson that came in handy when they moved to suburban Ohio and then Florida. Perth adapted well enough to these changes, but one move proved too much. Needing to spend a summer in England doing research, Martin had to find a temporary home for Perth, who was not always tractable (she bit people who annoyed her). He settled on a camp in Vermont, where Perth misbehaved, and, sent to a farm where she was badly treated, she ran away. Martin cut short his visit and searched Vermont. Finally, after offering a reward, Perth, identified by her tattoo, was found. When the family decided to live permanently in England, Perth endured a grueling six-month quarantine, but, once free, took to the English countryside as joyfully as she had in New York. She died, at age 21, “larger than life . . . not your typical adorable dog,” but still very much missed.
A loving and intelligent grace note to a much-loved member of the family.