Iwas told in no uncertain terms by the breeder, when I first dared inquire after a Bull Terrier puppy, that one does not "just have a Bull Terrier, you have a Bull Terrier experience." Then, of course, there is the question of who actually has who. The Story of Bill Brodsky, a longtime Bull Terrier owner, was conveyed by illustration.
Bill Brodsky said, "Bull Terriers? Had 'em all my life. I was twelve before I realized the dog wasn't my brother."
In the beginning, I did not quite understand what Bill was getting at. .
For the first three months of their lives Bull Terriers are more piranha than puppy. Underneath that loopy nose lies a mouthful of miniature harpoons in search of a juncture to puncture.
It took Wally less than an hour to rip the voice box out of the fuzzy-wuzzy squeaking teddy bear that was to have been his first toy. And he would have eaten that had I not risked my digits to pry it away.
That's the other thing. Bull Terriers will eat almost anything.
In Wally's first week at the farm a number of things went missing. For instance, the rubber lamb nipple on the bottle I keep in the barn to feed milk to orphan lambs.
Where oh where could it be I wondered, until the mangled nipple turned up in Wally's stool.
I am still looking for a blue sock. And there is missing lingerie that I do not wish to discuss.
Nails, rocks, tree branches and car keys are just a few of the things that have been recovered from intrepid Bull Terrier guts. If they don't eat your wallet, as a consequence of these extreme gastronomic tastes, they can readily negate its reason for being.
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When Wally was a puppy he woke up one Sunday morning feeling a bit peckish. That is to say that instead of leaving the house like a Stealth Bomber launched off the front porch, scattering all the guinea fowl into the branches of the maple tree, he walked.
Because of its shape, the face of a Bull Terrier looks like a bicycle seat with eyes, I looked deeply into his. Normally, there is a certain look, a devil-may-care glint that now just wasn't there. All was not well in Wally's world.
He did not have a temperature. No agonized howls. Just not right. When he would not eat, I feared for his life.
I called Dr. Ron, my small animal vet at home. Dr. Ron loves Bull Terriers. If it were not for his allergies, he would probably have as many bullies as he has children -- which is quite a few. Having Wally as a client gives Ron great pleasure, but he did not like the sound of what I was telling him.
The upshot was that Moose and me and Wally ended up spending Sunday afternoon in the Emergency Ward of the University of Guelph's Veterinary Animal Clinic. If Wally had a blockage or an obstruction or something else too hideous to contemplate, the university, and one of the finest animal clinics in the world, would have whatever tools might be necessary to deal with it.
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That day we considered ourselves very fortunate to be living only 40 minutes away from Guelph. How ironic, I thought, that I should be revisiting my alma mater, where I first learned about sheep, with a dog who some people think looks like Babe, the sheep-pig of Hollywood fame.
When the doctor came into the examining room, Wally perked right up. Pretty women have that effect on him. His vital signs were good. His tail started wagging. Sprawled on his back, a trance-like ecstasy spread over his face when she palpitated his stomach. Then we waited for the diagnosis.
"There's no question he's got up to something but it's just given him an upset tummy," the good doctor said. "She had perched on the examining table, cross-legged. Wally was beside her, sitting as he does, like an old Italian gentleman with legs akimbo, contemplating a bocchi ball game.
The prescription was soft food, plenty of fluids. Wally lifted his head and looked back at her adoringly. Then Moose and I noticed that he was experiencing his first erection and the glint was back in his eyes.
All the way home, Wally rolled happily in back seat, yelping joyfully until he finally decided to rest his head on Moose's shoulder with his paws dangling behind the head rest. It looked as though Moose had grown a second head. Wally stared intently at the road ahead, as though he was driving the car. He remained in the position for the remainder of the trip back to the farm.
I was starting to understand what Bill Brodsky meant.
We never did find out what made Wally peckish. He ate a whole bowl of chicken soup that night and proceeded to hucklebutt the house.
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Hucklebutting is a bully thing. It involves running at top speeds, making impossible U-turns around table legs and rearranging cushions. Sometimes whole furniture patterns are rearranged. The dog resembles a snub-nosed torpedo with legs and a twisted sense of direction. It is all part of the "experience."
In keeping with the nature of his breed, Wally likes to dominant everything in his environment. That includes us.
We were told: Rules must be made and stuck to or the bully takes over as pack leader. "No" must mean "no," be firm but friendly, and so forth.
That worked with Wally for a while, until he caught on. Once he figured out how malleable companion humans can be, how putty-like in the paws of a puppy and how hopelessly flexible those things called rules are.
Yes, he sleeps on the bed.
Okay, he also sleeps under the covers.
And when Wally gets too warm, he tunnels to the bottom of the bed, pushes the sheet open and spills onto the floor in the middle of the night with an unceremonious "thud."
Shortly thereafter, he recklessly jumps across the pillows and tunnels back in place.
Wally also snores. Loudly. And he belches and does other things that are all too human.
Then there is this thing about balls and Bull Terriers. Anything round that has the potential to roll captivates them. The problem is that most balls cannot withstand bully play. Tennis balls can split, baseballs can shred, all of which can lead to a dreaded "blockage" if the remnants are swallowed.
Enthusiastic, loving chomps altered the form and function of dozens of basket, volley and soccer balls. After far too many trips to the sporting goods store, I decided to dominate.
The rule I set sounds demanding, but the power of the orb is such that Wally quickly learned and obeyed. He can play with a ball only if he has something else in his mouth to act as a tooth guard. And the only tooth guard strong enough to withstand an 80-pound Bull Terrier's jaws is a brutally tough rubber thing called a "Kong."
Wally has Kong's in various sizes and shapes. Black Kongs are for outdoor play, red Kongs stay inside. Kongs are not allowed in the barn. And without a Kong, a ball can not be in play. Simple.
There is nothing simple, however, about the way Wally plays with his balls. Having decided to abide by my rules, he has created a whole playbook of his own.
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Wally's game of soccer involves controlling the ball with his front paws and propelling it toward its goal with his nose. Throw it and he does headers as good as anything you will ever see in World Cup play. He leaps into the air, rising twice his height and smashing the ball with his head. He is without question the Pele of the dog world.
His field of play is the front lawn of the farmhouse. His boundaries are a walkway, the lane way and the shadow of a large cedar tree. Within these self-imposed confines, lies "the goal" a raised wooden flower box that runs the length of the front porch.
Human companion players should not set foot on Wally's field. They must stay in the lane way. Wally shoots the ball at them. If the human misses, he scores an automatic goal and wags heartily. Then the human must shoot the ball back, trying to propel it into the side of the flower bed goal while Wally fields and guards. As games go, I must say I quite enjoy it.
When he is not playing soccer, Wally also bounces tennis balls off his nose. And basketballs, volleyballs and even this fall, a football.
Another game is ball-in-the-pail. Wally started out rolling my plastic barn pails with his chest around the yard at a furious rate. This was most disconcerting, since it is the mark of a farmer that we never willingly part with a five-gallon pail. For the first time in my life on the farm, I began hanging my pails on hooks drilled into overhead barn beams.
Then Wally discovered my grain pans and such. A hard black plastic pail with low sides proved the perfect tool for Wally to scoop up his soccer ball. With the ball balanced in the pail, he proceeds to run around the property in ever-expanding figure-eights. Sometimes for hours on end.
Moose actually believes that Wally communicates with him through the ball, any ball. Bull Terriers raise anthropomorphism to a mystical level.
It is not a dog I would recommend to just anyone. Keeping up with "the experience" takes a certain energy and you have to have room on your face for a lot of laugh lines, but I have come to know exactly what Bill Brodsky was talking about.
As far as I am concerned, one can never have too many brothers.
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