Be steadfast, keep your nose to the ground, and don’t be afraid to take on the skunks: lessons from a newshound

Beulah the newshound died last Wednesday.

She was my daughter’s dog but we felt like she belonged to all of us.

Saranac fell in love with her Beulah the way Samuel Clemens fell in love with his Olivia — by looking at her picture. Both had enduring love stories.

Saranac was a reporter at The Altamont Enterprise — her first job after graduating from Cornell — when she saw Beulah’s picture on her computer.

Saranac called the local rescue group that had posted Beulah’s picture and learned Beulah had been abandoned in Tennessee and was facing death. 

Beulah made the trip north in a sort of overground railroad with a series of volunteers transporting her and a pack of other dogs for various parts of the journey.

Beulah arrived at the drop-off point, Stuyvesant Plaza in Guilderland, covered with fleas and unkempt — but nevertheless magnificent.

Saranac’s father and I watched as our daughter drove off with Beulah in her car — windows down. They were headed for Saranac’s apartment in Schenectady’s Stockade. Beulah stuck her head out the window and her ears and jowls were lifted by the air current, spread wide. She was flying.

As Saranac and I worked long hours at the Enterprise, Beulah stayed at our house where she became fast friends with our Airedale terrier, Rip Van Winkle. We took our dogs on long walks — Beulah always with her nose to the ground — as we debated and discussed news stories and how we would cover them.

Similarly, the two dogs tussled endlessly but were always companionable.

Beulah from the start was a constant companion to Saranac, steady in her love and devotion. But she had a wild side.

She would lunge at dogs she didn’t know and howl like the hound of the Baskervilles. Once, when a dog walked on the street beneath Saranac’s second-floor apartment, Beulah crashed through the huge picture window. She looked offended that the glass had gotten in her way.

It was the dead of winter and Saranac had to quickly replace the shattered glass with help from her father.

Saranac took Beulah to a teacher to be trained. The teacher had set up a kerosene heater to warm her garage for her dog school. After several lessons, the teacher brought out her own well-trained dogs so that Beulah could demonstrate her new manners and newly learned self control.

Beulah went berserk and, in lunging at the dogs, managed to catch her tail on fire — she often waved her tail like a flag — and this time it was a burning banner. In her excitement, she didn’t notice the flames.

Beulah followed her nose. Once, she tangled with a skunk in a Schenectady cemetery — you can take the dog out of the country but you can’t take the country out of the dog.

When Saranac got a job at a daily in Philadelphia, Beulah of course went with her.

Beulah mellowed with age and made friends wherever she went. Especially cops.

Once, when Saranac and I had parked illegally to move Saranac’s belongings out of one Philly apartment into another, we saw an officer approach us, our arms laden with stuff, and knew a ticket was in the offing.

But then the officer spotted Beulah in the passenger seat and just melted. As he patted her velvet ears, he told of a bloodhound he had worked with. No ticket.

In her Philadelphia neighborhood, Beulah had regular haunts were she was welcomed with smiles and treats. She was friends with all of Saranac’s friends. And she made friends of strangers on the street: a homeless person or a well-heeled urbanite — Beulah loved everyone.

I last saw Beulah this summer as I was in Philly to help paint and wallpaper Saranac’s new old house. An old dog now, Beulah lay in the center of the helter-skelter room I was painting, exuding a steady calm and warmth.

She was as much a center as the sun. In many ways, Saranac’s life revolved around her.

Years ago, The Enterprise adopted Beulah as our icon, our news hound, tracking the truth. We made ads with pictures Saranac took — urging readers to vote at election time, to paper train their graduates, to listen to Other Voices, to watch a rare eclipse when it occurred, to wash their hands (or paws) as the pandemic raged.

But she was more than just a public symbol; for our family, she was a private muse. For Saranac, Beulah was part of her heart.

Beulah shared every aspect of Saranac’s life as she went forth into the wide, wide world.

What is it about a dog that allows us to be our truest selves with them? 

After Beulah succumbed to lymphoma last week, Saranac brought her home to be buried next to her old friend, Rip. Beulah died on Wednesday night in the midst of Ida’s wrath. With Beulah’s body in the back seat of her car, Saranac headed home.

In the dark of night, she saw many abandoned cars on the road but forged on. 

On Thursday night, Saranac and her father and our friend Marcello dug a deep hole in the back of our yard at the foot of the Helderbergs. While they picked at the stoney soil, I prepared a dinner to celebrate Beulah.

Well into the night, we toasted Beulah’s many attributes — her finest parts and her finest hours.

Beulah is, as they say, gone but not forgotten. We will continue to honor her on the pages of our newspaper as we track the truth and remember her loyalty and steadfastness.

— Melissa Hale-Spencer, editor

More Editorials

The Altamont Enterprise is focused on hyper-local, high-quality journalism. We produce free election guides, curate readers' opinion pieces, and engage with important local issues. Subscriptions open full access to our work and make it possible.