I was a bit apprehensive about our first meeting, I admit. I had heard how he warned off some of Mum’s carers with a snap and growl, when they bent to pat him suddenly and I feared similar rejection, although I know enough to let a dog make the first move.
To my relief, when we met, my brother Rob announced, “Look at that! Bruce took to Belinda right away.”
I felt honoured and special, until our friends the Ashtons visited later that week and he immediately jumped onto the couch beside lovely young Nel--and rested a paw on her knee. You would almost think he had an eye for the ladies.
Bruce, a 3 year old brindle Staffordshire bull terrier came to my nephew John, Rob’s son, like Brenda’s Molson, as a gift. Both are purebred dogs with champion blood flowing in their veins, and both needed loving homes.
Bruce’s first owner, Jo, had a baby and worried about his aggressive, protective instincts, so they looked for a new home for him. In April she wrote to Rob, “It was the hardest thing I had to do. I miss him every day and think of him always.” She also wrote that he loved to be rubbed under his collar and have his ears rubbed too. Her letter made getting to know Bruce so much easier.
My first afternoon in Alvechurch, I went with Rob and Bruce to The Meadows—playing fields and a park in the village—and Bruce’s favourite place. There, after carefully scanning the horizon for other dogs, Rob let him off the leash. 40 pounds of power in a compact muscular body rocketed after a huge stick, running with it, shaking it and hanging from it as Rob lifted it in the air. I wore myself out chasing after him and the stick. His energy is boundless.
The next day I offered to take Bruce for a walk on my own. Rob was grateful. He has back and foot problems and can only take him for short walks. Rob told me to be careful—that Bruce is a darter—after birds, other dogs, anything that attracts his attention. He also warned me to be careful of other dogs, especially if they are loose.
Every walk begins with a valiant attempt by Bruce to head for The Meadows. He is like a child, longing for the freedom of running free and until all hope is lost, his feet try to scamper in that direction even if we are going the opposite way.
We have walked miles together in my first week here and it has been a daily adventure. Britain is a nation of dog lovers and dogs and their owners are out and about everywhere at all times of the day. Bruce’s auto-responder is set to “fight,” an inbred trait that has yet to be tempered with training. I am used to having 80 pounds of sunshine bounding along by my side. I am getting used to 40 pounds of solid muscle pulling in the opposite direction or suddenly and without warning, attempting a “dart!”
Without him I would just be walking the roads of the village. With Bruce I can cover hills and trails, country roads and canal banks in perfect safety.
He grunts and snuffles his pleasure as he strains forward into the walk, soft ears folding back over his big head as he trots. And he seems to know to wait, when I want to stop to take a photograph.
This afternoon on the way home he suddenly began to snap, snarl and lunge. Across the road was a white haired man in glasses with a little white Scottie dog. I stopped, holding tightly to Bruce, ready to wait for him to cross and go on ahead, but he shouted, “No, you go first.” As I went to move forward, Bruce leaped ahead and I lost my balance, falling into the road, first on my knee with a sickening bump and then my rear end.
“Are you okay?” shouted Scottie man.
“Yes,” I shouted back, trying to assume some semblance of dignity. I wasn’t okay though, I was shaken, bruised, and my knee was skinned. But I limped home determined to look up “training Staffords” on the internet.
We have a week left. Can I become the Alpha dog?