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November 21, 2017
From the Archives: “Lost and Found”
December 1, 2017

Adventures with the Real Robert the Bruce

At the beginning of Eye of the Moon, Johnny Dodge blames his troubles on Robert the Bruce. Percy asks whether he is referring to the Scottish King or Johnny’s English Bull Terrier. Johnny replies that the source of his predicament is the dog. That a dog could be the cause of his troubles seems like a stretch, but then you have to know the breed to understand how that’s even possible.

I was the owner of one for some 11 years, or perhaps she was the owner of me. Looking back over those years, the latter may have been the truer.

English Bull terriers come in two colors for the most part: white and brindle. Robert the Bruce is white. Mine was brindle, a mixture of black and brown with patches of white on her stomach. Her name was Lisa. Why Lisa? I cannot say, other than that she came with that name when I got her as a puppy. She was supposed to be a show dog, but her head was too narrow. I didn’t mind. Traveling to shows was not my cup of tea anyway. To me, she wasn’t just a dog but a shocking adventure walking about on four legs.

If you want some excitement in your life, I can think of nothing better than owning one of these dogs. Your life will be turned upside down in so many ways. They have an extraordinary need to chew, particularly when they are young, and have an inbred perverse fascination and taste for underwear. Again, I have no idea why. They just do. I learned that hampers are a necessity when such a dog is around. I cannot forget the time I came home from work one evening only to discover that Lisa had managed to chew every piece of underwear I owned other than the pair I had on. She had managed to get into the cubby they were stored in. They lay in soggy strips strewn about the carpet. I thought she’d gotten into some toilet paper. I was mistaken. We had words.

As a rule, these dogs need plenty of exercise. They are enchanted by tennis balls, the older and moldier the better. I would take Lisa out for a walk twice a day with several balls in my pockets and let her off the leash. Ignoring the one I threw, she would usually scour the underbrush until she found another. It was a given, and then the games would begin.

Did I mention letting her off the leash?

When I first got this dog, I had no idea what I was doing. She was very cute. She would sit on her haunches, or in a sphinxlike position and gaze at me through dark brown beady little eyes that displayed absolutely no emotion other than a steady gaze. She seemed a quiet, obedient creature. I took her out to the beach to let her run around. What could she possibly do, right? Right.

The smells, sights, and sounds entered her mind, and anything else was lost in the sensory overload of sand and ocean. I cannot possibly estimate the number of miles I ran that day, and that was even before I took up marathon running. That I was able to catch her was more luck than my instant hobby of persistence hunting, harkening back to ancient ancestors that ran down prey over long distances. I think I almost died. She stopped only to relieve herself next to some nice family sitting on a beach towel. Typically, being a newbie, I was not versed in the dog etiquette of always having a plastic bag to hand. The only good news was I managed to stagger over to her and attach the leash. The family looked at me and then at the surprising result little Lisa had managed to produce less than three feet from their towel. Necessity is ever the mother of invention. I managed to scoop the mess up using the sand as a tea tray as I moved slowly with Lisa reluctantly in tow toward the ocean. I can tell you that one shouldn’t build or carry anything on sand. It will run through your fingers like… sand.

And thus began a long, enchanting, but nonetheless trying, relationship.

After this episode, I decided I needed professional help. I immediately signed her up for an obedience class. We did the course some three times with what I can only say were “mixed” results. I learned from the hard-looking German woman who ran the class that the lessons were for the owners rather than the dogs. Canine ability is not the predominant factor in obedience. I must admit Lisa and I were never at the top of the class. In fact, the instructor mentioned I was courageous to the point of being foolhardy for taking on such a dog, given my dog-owning experience. Over time I could only agree. Lisa wore me out, and a day did not go by without some extraordinary adventure.

Looking back on our relationship, I am pretty sure it was karma, payback for my troubling behavior as a child. Such is life. She was a blessing nonetheless.

Have you ever had a Lisa in your life?

2 Comments

  1. Alicia says:

    What wonderful (albeit gross) memories. Lisa sounds like a blast, and she was clearly quite a character! You captured her personality marvelously in Eye of the Moon.

    My Robert the Bruce was named Peter the Great, but my family called him Pete for short. He was an AKC registered smooth fox terrier with a black & white coat, and he was completely insane. He probably thought his name was “Pete! No!” because he was always getting into trouble.

    Imagine if Lisa had scoured the brush for decomposing animals instead of moldy old tennis balls. That was life with Pete. True to terrier form, he was always on the hunt for small creatures unfortunate enough to wander onto our property, and he would hide his trophies all over the yard. It was disgusting.

    When he wasn’t terrorizing local wildlife, he could usually be found attacking the garden hose. If the hose was in use, he would also attack the water emanating from it. It’s a wonder he didn’t drown. Needless to say, tending to the flower beds was nearly impossible with him around. I can still see my exasperated mother dragging a choking, gasping Pete off her hopelessly squashed impatiens.

    Aren’t dogs the best?

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