Like so many dogs, my brother Rob's Staffordshire bull terrier seems to have been "sent on assignment." So far, I'd have to say he is accomplishing his mission because for a small dog, he takes up a big amount of heart space.
Bruce had some big paw prints to fill when he came into Rob's life. Thirty years ago Rob had another Staffordshire bull terrier, the aptly named, Boss.
The first time Rob took Boss out as a puppy, he let him loose on a country path surrounded by fields, thinking that it would be safe. Boss took off like a shot, his little legs running at top speed down the path towards the road. He wouldn't turn back no matter how loudly Rob called, and the only way he could stop him was by overtaking him.
By the time he was two years old, Boss still wasn't coming when called, and Rob began to wonder what he was doing wrong. But finally he learned Boss's one weakness; he couldn't bear to be rejected. Rob discovered this when he became so frustrated one day that he shouted at Boss, "Go on, I don't want you," and then went and hid behind a tree. Boss panicked and when Rob appeared again and ignored him, Boss stayed with him and kept looking back to make sure he was there. He could even be seen springing up above the corn in a cornfield, like a springer spaniel, looking for Rob.
After Boss died, his place in Rob's heart was always empty. Over the years he thought about getting another dog, but never did.
Rob once expressed his longing to Mum: "If only I could have Boss back for one day, to cuddle him and inhale the familiar smell of his fur."
"Oh, but a day wouldn't be enough," Mum said.
One day Rob walked along the path where he used to take him, out in the country. He imagined Boss thundering across the fields as he used to. After checking to make sure no one was looking, he put his hands to his mouth and called out his name over the empty fields, just to hear the sound and imagine for a moment that he was really still there.
Perhaps the call carried beyond the fields to heaven, because not long after that, friends who lived on a farm in Herefordshire, called to say that they had to re-home their dog, a Staffordshire bull terrier named Bruce. They had just had a baby, and they felt uneasy about Bruce's behaviour around him.
On January 8, 2010, Bruce came to live with Rob. He arrived on the day that 30 years earlier, Boss had been born!
On Bruce's underbelly, he has a little white oblong patch that looks like a gift label. According to Rob it says, "To Rob from Boss."
A short while after Bruce arrived Rob was watching Bruce Springsteen on TV--the most famous "Bruce" in the world. And he suddenly remembered that Bruce Springsteen's nickname is "The Boss."
People who love dogs know that they are a better example of God's faithfulness, forgiveness and unconditional love than most humans.
And as for Rob, he says that his relationship with Bruce is a love story that gets him out of bed every morning!