LARGO — Arnie is a dour 10-year-old beagle known for his eccentricities, not the least of which is a propensity to eat hundreds of dollars in cash.
Seven years ago, the dog devoured $150 that Largo residents Corey and Hope O'Kelley had left out on a coffee table. The money was a gift from Hope's father, and the couple managed to recover $100 intact after it had passed through Arnie's digestive tract.
A long time went by after that. Arnie, known to his human companions as "the weird one" — possessed of a misanthropic bent at odds with the affectionate manners of the O'Kelleys' other dog, Hoover — lived his own, quiet life, immersed in whatever thoughts eccentric, money-eating dogs like to think. In contrast to most members of his sociable breed, he disdained human contact, except with Corey, his original owner.
Then, last week, his hunger for greenbacks reasserted itself. Hope was given $300, again by her father, for swimming lessons for the couple's 3-year-old daughter. The money was inside an envelope, inside a wallet, inside her purse, atop a kitchen table.
Sometime while his owners were sleeping, Arnie overcame the limitations of his small stature and lack of manual dexterity to remove the money and eat most of it. On awakening last Friday, Corey discovered $25 strewn about; the rest was gone.
"The purse was open. The wallet was open," he recalled. "I realized pretty quickly that it wasn't as funny as I thought it was."
After following the dog around for a week, he realized he wasn't going to recover the money in easily usable form. The bills he found in Arnie's stool appeared to have been shredded before being eaten, a tactical evolution from Arnie's unsuccessful effort to destroy that hundred bucks seven years ago.
Hope said she was "shocked" by Arnie's Houdini-like extraction of her father's money. "He must have been able to smell it," she said. She is unaware of any particular resentments the beagle might be harboring toward her dad.
It's a long shot, but the O'Kelleys are trying to wash the tattered cash and piece it back together.
Arnie, meanwhile, has accomplished all this largely with impunity.
"We're kind of used to Arnie being a little bit strange and doing kind of quirky stuff," Corey said. "We scolded him, but you know, (dogs) don't really know."
That's speculation, of course.
Nobody knows what really goes on behind Arnie's wide, sad eyes.
Peter Jamison can be reached at [email protected] or (727) 445-4157.