Baxter escaped from home at least 310 documented times in 2020—you know me, of course I was documenting that—but none was worse than the final time. On New Years Eve, despite driving rain on the verge of turning to a wintry mix and bitter Texas cold (mid 30s), Baxter blasted his way out the garage door while we were carrying in groceries around 1:10pm. I figured he’d realize how cold and wet it was and turn back, so I didn’t immediately pursue him, but he darted off at warp-speed down New Boston Bend.

Most days, someone would be out in their yards and see him and read his tag and call us, heroically saying they had rescued our dog. I would come pick him up either by foot, bike, or car and the neighbor would remark what a good boy he is, while I act surprised that he managed to escape, or aloof, as if I never even knew he was gone at all. “Huh, I wonder how he could have gotten out?!” 90% of the time he is found and returned within ten minutes.

This time, though, no neighbor was outside to find him. One hour passed, then two, then three. Lauren and I each made trips out driving around searching for him. Before dark, I went out in the van with both kids onto busy Parmer Lane, asking the kids to search for Baxter “napping” in the ditch or median. I fully expected to find a dog carcass. If Baxter really was dead, I wanted to soften the blow as much as possible for the kids, and started asking if we should get a new dog to replace Baxter. And if so, what would we name it? That turned the kids’ concern into eagerness. “Let’s name the new dog Frosty!” cried John. Edie agreed. And so it was settled. Upon returning home, the kids raced into the house smiling ear to ear. Lauren assumed Baxter had been found, but no. “Mama, mama, we’re getting a new dog and naming him Frosty!” “What?! Where’s Baxter?” “He’s gone forever!”

So, yeah, I thought for sure Baxter was either dead or had a new home, and we would maybe get a new dog named Frosty at some point. I wasn’t really sold on a new dog, and in fact want no pet responsibility ever again. But if Lauren and the kids were truly going to do 100% of the work, and it would save us from a lot of tears, I could live with it.

Before giving up all hope, I put up a neighborhood Facebook post stating we had lost the little shit and were hoping for a New Years miracle! To my surprise, many neighbors went out in the rain in search of Baxter. Soon, dozens of neighbors were tuned into the post, hoping the dog would be found before the New Years fireworks started up.

We went next door to our quarantine pal Plumpes’ house for the family friendly New Years Eve gathering, still with no dog. Over five hours had passed. Life without Baxter would be a little weird. Who would clean up under the table after the kids?

But then, nearly six hours after his escape, I received a call from a neighbor one block from our house saying Baxter had shown up on their doorstep. I drove over and picked him up and he spent New Years Eve at the party. Where the hell was he for six hours?! We’ll never know. My guess is he got stuck in someone’s backyard and perhaps the blasting of fireworks spooked him and he hopped over a fence to freedom. Fireworks are a huge thing on NYE in Austin, especially in our little unincorporated neighborhood that is not technically under any city jurisdiction.

This dog is just the worst, in some ways. We can’t take him for walks. As soon as he gets on a leash, he freezes and refuses to budge an inch. Walks typically consist of him stopping at the edge of the driveway, sniffing a patch of grass, and stopping for good. I will literally drop the leash and leave him there, do my own walk, and return to him still in the same spot, then walk him back inside. I don’t know if we accidentally trained him to do this as soon as he’s on a leash, but it’s infuriating and can’t seem to be changed. Sometimes he’ll come along for a walk, but it’s a struggle for everyone. Yet if there is the slightest crack in the fence, door, garage door, gate, window, car door, etc. he is GONE. You’ve never seen anything run faster in your life. Maybe he hates it here?

So just take him to a dog park to get exercise, people say. We can’t take him to dog parks. Every single time he finds the youngest dog and humps it non-stop. He just becomes utterly fixated on one single dog and that’s all he can think about. The dog’s owners obviously don’t like it and I break it up and take him home. 100% of all dog park trips are like that. He never, ever behaves. He belongs on a farm. He would love living with Grandma and Grandpa in South Dakota.

He still jumps at every person who enters our house, knocking them violently to the ground. Most every kid cowers in fear at Baxter now. Several friends won’t come over unless he’s locked away. People can’t believe he’s almost ten. Friends who have known him since he was a puppy are in disbelief he still has the same, or more, energy. Everyone thought for sure he would calm down over the years.

Those who say he might be escaping and being bad for attention might be onto something. The kids take up all our energy. Baxter may just get the attention he seeks when he runs away. Yet when I do try to give him attention with walks and parks he is just awful. Just absolutely awful.

Yet, when we thought he was gone, the family did appear fairly sad. Lauren even said “I want my little beagle back.” He is good at a few things, after all! He’s always alerting us of danger of innocent passersby, and squirrels in the yard had best beware. He will kill bugs and cockroaches if we corner one. He can now stay home alone and not destroy the house or have to be crated. And yes, he is quick to lick up most kid table scraps.

2021 has started just like 2020 ended, though. In two days he has already escaped four times. You are probably reading this thinking I’m the world’s worst dog owner, and you might be right.