I was waiting for my suitcase at the baggage carousel at Logan International Airport’s Terminal E, having just returned from Iceland with my son and daughter.
From across the room, I spotted the beagle. He was heading in my direction.
I recognized him as an “agriculture canine” trained to sniff for prohibited foods that could be host to pests or diseases. Wearing a US Customs and Border Protection vest, the dog was sniffing his way through the crowd of passengers, his K-9 handler right behind him.
My stomach sank. I was carrying contraband — to wit, a banana. I knew he’d find it since I’d been busted by a beagle once before, in New Zealand, when I’d naively packed a piece of banana bread in my bag, never thinking it counted as fruit. Dozens of people watched — many of them smirking — when the dog detected it. I was mortified, and now I’d done it again.
In the spirit of full disclosure, let me say that I love dogs but detest beagles. In my experience, nothing good has ever come of an encounter with one. They hound me, quite literally.
I was 10 the first time it happened. I’d begged my parents to adopt a dog from an animal shelter, and we agreed on a beagle. She was a 40-pound misanthrope named Jolly, and she hated most people, including me.
One day, I bent down to pat her. With one ferocious snarl, Jolly leaped up and chomped on my nose, holding tight even when I stood up, screaming. The police were called. I was rushed to hospital. When it was all over, I still had my nose, but (thankfully) no more beagle.
So when I spotted the beagle in Terminal E, I had a strong sense of dread, and déjà vu. Not that I didn’t deserve what was coming. I’d knowingly stowed the banana in my backpack that morning — a double offense, actually, since I’d lifted it from our Reykjavik hotel breakfast buffet, ignoring the not-too-subtle warning printed on my paper placemat saying the meal was to be “enjoyed in the restaurant.”
I’d planned to eat it before we got to Logan, but forgot. And then it was time to fill out the Customs Declaration, which asked if I was bringing “fruits, vegetables, plants, seeds, food, insects.”
I hesitated. But I was hungry and tired, and there was a storm coming, and no food in the house, and who wanted to shop for groceries in a snow storm after a long flight from Iceland? Maybe, I reasoned, that banana was all that stood between me and a miserable night on an empty stomach. I ticked off the “No” box.
Besides what harm could one little Icelandic banana do?
And who’d know, anyway?
Roscoe knew. That was the dog’s name, according to Sean Smith, the public affairs officer for the US Customs and Border Protection Boston field office.
I kept my head down while Roscoe sniffed his way around the room, grateful that neither of my children was there to witness this. (My son had flown to Toronto and my daughter had wandered away.)
He moved quickly, deftly steering his handler through the crowd. He approached me and looked suspicious. He sniffed and then sat down, staring meaningfully at my backpack as though to say: “Once again, another idiot.” I remained deeply immersed in the suitcases rotating on the carousel.
“Are you sure, buddy?” the handler said, no doubt wondering how a woman old enough to be his mother could be capable of smuggling. I pretended not to hear.
He asked me if I was carrying any food.
I feigned a look of surprise. Why I did that, I don’t know.
“No,” I said politely.
He asked me to check my bag. At that point I should have just produced the accursed banana. but I was suddenly gripped by a mischievous impulse to let this play out as far as it could. I couldn’t bear to be shamed by a beagle, not again.
I made a show of rummaging through my backpack, and emerged with . . . a cookie, wrapped in a napkin. I’d snatched the cookie from the buffet table too. “I have a cookie, “ I told the guard. “Maybe that’s what he’s smelling?”
“Nope,” the man said.
Defeated, I surrendered my banana, mumbling a lame excuse about not knowing how it had gotten there. I was overcome by embarrassment, and by an urge to explain what I’d done in a way that would let me save face. But what was there to say? You mean, bananas are fruit?
Instead I turned to the beagle. “Good dog!” I said, feeling ridiculous.
The man gave the dog a treat. “Don’t. Bring. Fruit,” he scolded me, before turning on his heel. With my banana.
I was very lucky. Sean Smith told me I could have been fined $300.
Later, I texted my son to let him know we’d arrived safely. I added: “I got busted by a dog who sniffed my banana.”
He texted back three emojis: A dog, a banana, and a police car.Linda Matchan can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.