Titus Benton

My dog’s name is Louie.

We named him in honor of Saint Louis. It’s my wife’s hometown and a city where we did a lot of living before moving to Texas. Plus, you know, the Cardinals and all that. It just felt right.

Louie is a beagle, or some sort of beagle-hound mix. He’s seven or so, but we’ve only had him four years. He is a rescue animal, found at the corner of Clay Road and some other street here in Katy, Texas. The organization that found him named him Clay. I don’t think we should name things based on lostness. It seemed demeaning. So we named him a name that stood for home.

As I mentioned, Louie is a hound dog. This means he brays any time the neighbor cat comes close to the house. I don’t hunt, but he can tree a possum along our back fence should one dare to traverse our suburban backyard. He’s killed more than one that tried to cross our little postage-stamped sized lot on the ground. He gathers up socks and hides them places — in the ground along the side of our patio or in the crevices of couch cushions. When he’s feeling playful, he tosses them up in the ground with his mouth and then bats at them in the air with his front paws.

He’s a good-natured dog, but ornery, so he fits in pretty well at the Benton place.

The thing Louie does that is the most annoying is run away. He’s a hound dog, which means he likes to track stuff with his nose. We live in the middle of about six million people, so there is plenty to smell. We walk him every single day for exercise, but I don’t guess we get it all out of his system. If my son takes the garbage to the curb and leaves the gate open, Louie will leave. If the door passing through the laundry room to the garage is ajar, he’ll push through it and get out of the house that way. He used to dig under the fence to escape. I buried a two-by-twelve in the ground all the way around our fence, so he can’t do that any more. But still, if he can, he vanishes.

When we first got him this caused great amounts of concern. We’d hunt all the cul-de-sacs in search for our wayward pup. We’d spot him, get out of the truck, and call him over. He would sprint off in the opposite direction, playing hard to get.

Eventually we’d catch him, tackling him in desperation, in some cases. A treat might lure him close enough to grab. More than once some other kind soul would take him in, look at his collar or answer our post on social media with a kind and neighborly “I think I’ve got your dog, here.” We’d go over and pick him, and he’d just look at us with that dumb, blank stare that dogs give their owners sometimes.

More recently, though, we’ve discovered something quite remarkable.

Louie comes home.

This shouldn’t be shocking. Out in the country pets roam and, if they survive highway traffic they always come home. But that wasn’t our early experience with Louie. He’d just keep running until we captured him or someone else did. He never came back. But lately we’ve not been chasing. Sometimes it’s because we didn’t notice he got out — a gate got left unlatched and off he went, but we were oblivious.

Sure enough, a couple hours later there would be a scrape at the front door. There stood Louie, a similar dumb, blank stare, begging for re-entry. I guess he was thirsty.

All this has got me to thinking. It might sound strange, but I wonder if you and I aren’t all that unlike the pets we keep. I tend to think that animals take on the personality of their owners, but maybe it’s the other way around. Or maybe we just share some characteristics because we’re all alive, dogs and cows and people.

Of course Louie likes to get out of what must feel something like a prison to him. Sure, we rub his belly and take him for walks and give him his heartworm medicine. But it must be quite dull for a hound like him in our suburban enclave. There are only so many socks to hunt down and conceal. Every now and then he must itch for something more, something exciting, something adventurous.

So he runs. He sniffs and sprints and chases cats and pees on fence lines and eats apple cores that someone tossed out their car window. He goes as far as he can go and — if no one picks him up or we don’t chase him down or he doesn’t get hit by a truck — he eventually realizes that he’s wet or cold or hot or thirsty, and he realizes the adventure is over.

Because he’s a smart dog, he points his nose back toward home. It may be kind of dull sometimes, but it’s where the belly rubs and cool water and beloved socks are. So he jogs back, retracing his steps, until he smells and sees our street. And then he approaches the front door, jumps up on his hind legs, and scapes at the glass with his paws until we come and let him in. Then he saunters into the kitchen, bends his head down and gets a big old drink. He’ll drink a whole bowl full and then look at us with the big dumb look, asking for more. And he’ll drink again.

Life offers many adventures, he seems to understand.

But there’s no place like home.