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Ten Unique Beagle Occupations and Activities

In This Chapter

  • Stories about real-life Beagles
  • Beagles in literature and pop culture
  • Other Beagle trivia

This chapter won’t tell you anything you absolutely, positively must know to love and care for your Beagle. It will, however, build on your love for this breed by sharing some little-known facts and stories of hard-working Beagles, chronicling a few ways that Snoopy-dogs — canine and otherwise — affect our lives.

Keeping Out Forbidden Fruit (and Other Stuff)

If you thought that winsome, big-eyed Beagles were the last dogs who could protect a nation, think again. These days, Beagles serve their country with distinction by making sure that illegally imported fruit doesn’t get past U.S. Customs inspectors. These hard-working hounds were once called the Beagle Brigade and worked for the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Today, however, they are called Agriculture Detector Dogs, and they are an important part of the Department of Homeland Security’s Customs and Border Protection (CBP) Canine Enforcement Program.

With the help of their human handlers, the specially trained, greenjacketed Beagles in this program patrol the customs areas at American airports and other border entry points, sniffing any luggage that crosses their paths. If a dog smells any sort of fruit, he alerts his handler by sitting down. The handler, who is a U.S. Customs officer, then asks the owner of the luggage for permission to open the bag. Much more often than not, the officer will find forbidden fruit or plants that could bear pests or diseases, which could devastate U.S. crops.

Technical Stuff

According to CBP, these dogs are responsible for about 75,000 seizures of illegal fruit, vegetables, meats, and plants every year. Nearly 150 Beagle/handler teams currently work in the United States at 24 airports, land points of entry, and major mailing facilities.

Shaming a President

Back in the mid-1960s, a Beagle demonstrated to no less than a U.S. president that a dog’s ears are not designed to be handles. The  Beagle’s name was Him, and he belonged to President Lyndon B.Johnson. During a photo opportunity at the White House in 1964, the president attempted to show that Beagles didn’t mind being picked up by their ears. American animal lovers felt otherwise, however. Even the Lyndon Baines Johnson Library and Museum acknowledges that the maneuver triggered a storm of protests. (If you want to see the picture, go to You can click on the “C311-7-64.JPEG” link to view a larger image of the photo.)
Him and his Beagle companion, Her, moved into the White House with the Johnson family in December, 1963, soon after Johnson assumed the presidency. Her died in November, 1964, after she swallowed a rock. Him died in June, 1966, after being struck by a car while racing across the White House lawn.

Inspiring Children

During a visit to Shiloh, West Virginia, children’s book author Phyllis Reynolds Naylor found a frightened, abused dog — and was so haunted by the experience that she decided to write about the dog. The story became the classic children’s book Shiloh, the story of a mistreated Beagle who finds a new home with young Marty Preston and his family. The book in turn inspired countless children to treat animals with greater kindness, to stand up for what they believed to be right, and to view fellow human beings with greater empathy than might otherwise be the case.
The book won the Newberry Medal, the most prestigious honor a book for young readers can receive, and spawned two sequels: Shiloh Season and Saving Shiloh. Two movies, Shiloh and Shiloh Two: Shiloh Season, were released in 1997 and 1999, respectively.

Nailing the Red Baron

Of all the characters in the classic Charles Schulz comic strip Peanuts, the most beloved may well be Snoopy, the Beagle who puts Christmas lights on his dog house, sleeps atop the same dog house, and fantasizes about being a World War I flying ace. In 1966, those fantasies inspired a singing group called the Royal Guardsmen to record “Snoopy Versus the Red Baron,” a song that stayed atop the popular music charts for many weeks. A video game of the same title is available for Mac computers; you can download it from the Web at Not to be outdone, the U.S. Postal Service unveiled a series of postage stamps featuring Snoopy in his flying ace regalia.

Flying in (Way) Outer Space

The television show Star Trek: Enterprise featured a canine character named Porthos, a Beagle who belonged to Enterprise Captain Jonathan Archer. The backstory of Porthos notes that he and his littermates were all named after characters in the Alexandre Dumas classic The Three Musketeers. Porthos appeared in more than 30 episodes during the show’s four-season run. A great image of Porthos with his best friend, Captain John Archer (portrayed by actor Scott Bakula), is available at

Comforting Other Dog Owners

Owning a dog can pose a considerable challenge to the most dedicated human. Not every dog behaves like Lassie does. Some canine miscreants steal underwear, destroy couches, and create all-around mayhem. If your Beagle fits this category, you may wonder whether you’re alone in your efforts to cope with your four-legged hooligan.
Emily Yoffe, author of What the Dog Did: Tales of a Formerly Reluctant Dog Owner (Bloomsbury USA, 2005), assures you that life in Beagle-land can be tough for any owner. Yoffe chronicles the capers of her beloved Beagle, Sasha, and explains how, despite the havoc Sasha wreaks, Yoffe and her family come to love the dog. The story of how Sasha enabled Yoffe to evolve into a loving dog owner will comfort anyone who wonders why her Beagle isn’t Lassie.

Knowing When to Mold ’Em

Mold is gross — if you can see it. When you can’t see it, mold can still destroy your stuff and make you feel icky. So how do you find the mold you can see? Never fear: Mold-detecting Beagles are here! They’re trained the same way Agriculture Detector Dogs are — except these doggies ignore forbidden fruit and sniff out molds instead. After you find the mold, you can take steps to get rid of it. Check out the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s mold Web page:

Turning Out Termites

If molds suck, termites suck even more. No homeowner wants to have these obnoxious critters literally eat his house from within. Trouble is, finding the termites can be difficult, unless your house is literally falling down around you. Enter the Termite Dog — which in all probability will be a Beagle. Experts deem the Beagle the dog of choice for this specialized role, which calls for the same scent discrimination skills the Agriculture Detector Dogs and mold-detecting dogs employ. And because termite infestations are often hidden, Beagles can find infestations that elude human pest control specialists.

Befriending the Famous

Beagles aren’t one of the most popular dogs in America for nothing. Their compact size, winsome good looks, and easygoing temperaments win them friends from countless unknown individuals, but a few persons of renown as well. Among the individuals who reportedly live with Beagles are Dr. Phil McGraw (yup, Dr. Phil); singer Barry Manilow (who has a fan club called the Beagle Bagels that raises money for various charities), and multiple members of the British royal family, past and present.

Taking Us to Our Pasts

Arguably, the most famous Beagle of all isn’t a dog but a ship: the HMS Beagle. The Beagle transported naturalist Charles Darwin to the Galapagos Islands and the western coast of South America on a voyage that began in December 1831 and continued for five years. Darwin detailed his observations in his book Voyage of the Beagle—a book that may well contain the foundations of ideas that Darwin later developed into his theories of evolution. An image of the Beagle in the harbor of Sydney, Australia, is available at
by Susan McCullough
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