Gone Away ~ The journal of Clive Allen in America

Brutus and the Bully

In all my previous posts about dogs, I have not mentioned the greatest Staffie of them all. Her name was Josie and she was the first of my own dogs; all of the others I have written about were my father's. One day I will attempt to tell her story but she has a role to play in this particular post as she was the reason I acquired Brutus.

Jo was the perfect Staffie, all speed and strength, enthusiasm and temperament, intelligence and heart, but she had a weakness. When it came to doggy males, she was a complete and utter tart. Whilst fully aware in all other areas of her special standing as a Staffie, she had no discernment at all in potential mates; if it was male, she would flirt with it.

Her reputation must have spread throughout the neighborhood for we often had large male dogs leaping the fence to visit Jo and she would go tearing around the yard with them in her version of a flirtatious romp. Apart from the fact that it was annoying to have these strange mutts visiting, it was galling to see such a lack of taste in Jo. I decided that she needed a more suitable boyfriend, not necessarily to become the chosen mate, but more to dispose of her other suitors.

And so I began to look for a male Staffie. Brutus was the ideal solution, being four years old and very big, easily as large as an English Bull Terrier. He had been passed from owner to owner all his life and had some strange traits as a result but, essentially, he was a true gentleman. I became his latest owner and introduced him (carefully - separating fighting Staffies is a difficult art) to Jo.

There was no need to worry, as it turned out. Josie asked just one question: is it male? When the answer turned out to be in the affirmative, she accepted him instantly. And Brutus assessed the situation correctly right from the start. He understood that she was the reigning monarch and he merely her consort, a Prince Albert to her Queen Victoria. His experience of being passed from home to home had given him a low opinion of himself and he was happy enough to accept such a secondary status, if only it meant that he could stay.

The strange thing was that Jo never flirted with Brutus. She seemed to think of him as a wise old uncle, acceptable since he was male, but certainly not husband material. And he adopted this role without complaint; it suited his more sober view of life. He did succeed in the task for which I had acquired him, however.

At the time, we were living in the house described in my post, Thunderstorms. A large, black Alsatian-cross lived further down the hill and had been in the habit of jumping over our fence to visit Josie. He was the most immediate factor in my decision to get Brutus; I had become tired of chasing the interloper from our yard.

So we awaited the first meeting between him and Brutus with interest. Within a few days of Brutus' arrival, it happened. The black dog jumped the fence and started to look for Jo. Instead, he found Brutus. And Brutus lost no time in letting him know that his presence was not required. There was a short kerfuffle and then the black dog headed for the fence with great speed, leaped over it and headed homeward. Brutus watched him go and then returned to the house, well satisfied with his handiwork.

The black dog never again jumped into our yard but he did make one mistake that led to another encounter with Brutus. He seemed to think that our fence was too tall for a smaller dog than himself to get over and we would often see him wandering in the road outside. One day he had the bad judgement to become involved in a fight with another dog just outside the fence. Hearing the commotion, Brutus trotted down to see what was going on.

There is one thing about Staffies that has to be seen to be believed; they can jump many times their own height. And Brutus was no exception. Often after this incident I saw him walk right up to the fence, crouch slightly, and then bound upwards like a spring released, sailing clear over the fence (about five feet in height) without touching it. But this was the first time that he showed his unexpected talent.

On arrival at the fence, Brutus assessed the situation immediately and decided that it was just too tempting. He bounced over the fence and joined in the fight. The other two dogs quickly forgot their quarrel and united against him but they stood no chance against a Staffie intent upon a bit of fun. In seconds they were running homewards and Brutus was master of the field. He seemed slightly disappointed in the quality of the opposition but gathered himself up and leaped back into our yard.

Not once after that did the black dog come as far up the hill as our fence. I was pleased that my plan had worked so well but aware that potential trouble loomed from another quarter.

Our neighbors on one side had an English Bull Terrier named Oscar. And he was the largest Bull Terrier I have ever seen. Typical of the breed, he had established a reputation for being a fighter and his owners had done their utmost to prevent his escape from their yard. But Bullies can be very determined and, every so often, Oscar would get out and cause mayhem in the neighborhood. I watched him and Brutus eyeing each other up through the fence and feared for the day one of them decided to pay the other a visit.

It was a long time before the event occurred and, when it did, I was inside the house, alerted to it only by the cries of, "Help! Oscar's in our yard!" I locked Jo into a room and ran outside.

Oscar was trotting down towards the front fence, looking very pleased with himself, and I followed, intending to corner him at the bottom of the yard. Then I saw Brutus making his way up towards the house. They were on a collision course, the dreaded meeting now inevitable. Too far behind to catch Oscar, I could only look on as events took their course.

As they caught sight of each other, both slowed their pace. Their chosen path meant that, unless one turned aside, they must meet. Being who and what they were, pride dictated that they not deviate from their route an inch, and they continued, at walking speed now, to approach each other. The distance closed and, eventually and incredibly, they passed each other only inches apart, both apparently ignoring the presence of the other. Then Brutus continued towards the house while Oscar sauntered down to the fence.

It was so clear what had gone through the minds of those two dogs as they saw each other. So often had they assessed each other through the fence that they knew they now faced the strongest challenge they would ever encounter. And, in that instant, both had decided that discretion was the better part of valor. They were prepared to fight if they must but only if the other started it. Honor insisted that they not back down but, if no insult was given, then no battle was required. It was the clearest demonstration of mutual respect I have ever witnessed.

I caught up with Oscar by the fence and returned him to his own yard. Never again did he cross into ours and Brutus did not use his fence-jumping skills to explore Oscar's territory. They had drawn a line and accepted that there was too much at stake to risk arguing over it.

In a way, the incident gives support to the Mutually Assured Destruction policy of the Cold War; when both parties stand to lose everything, war is unthinkable. On a hot African afternoon, two dogs showed that, when respect is mutual and boundaries accepted, peace must be the only option.

I'm just glad that Josie wasn't there to complicate the equation...

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Date Added: 09/03/2006

Gone Away
Thank you, Fin. :)
Date Added: 09/03/2006

That would have been one nasty fight to seperate. I've pulled a Staffie out of a fight but I'd hate to have to split a large staffie and a large bully. Who do you grab first?
Date Added: 09/03/2006

Gone Away
Interesting question, Mad. It might just have to be the one you can get closest to!
Date Added: 09/03/2006

A more-than-worthy elucidation on the old maxim, "It's not the size of the dog in the fight, it's the size of the fight in the dog." I've always found it interesting that a dog seems to select his owner much more often than the reverse.
Date Added: 10/03/2006

Gone Away
A good saying, Spider, and these were two giants! But as for selecting owners, I always thought it was cats that did that... ;)
Date Added: 10/03/2006

Talking of cats. your tale (or is it tail) has reminded me of my first cat Snooky.

As you will no doubt remember he was a black tom not overly large but more cunning than a bag full of foxes. This is the cat that used to raid the fridge, nothing special in that i hear you cry, and you would be correct if it wasnt for the fact that my parents, being irritated by the cat eating all the meat out the fridge, had placed a one gallon scrumpy bottle filled with water in front of the door. This never appeared to hamper the cat in anyway shape or form and to this day we have no idea how he moved it to access the contents of the fridge.

Anyway i digress. At the time we also owned a dog, a scruffy mongrel called Bristol.

Our neighbours from up the road had an Alsation (ive never liked them, horrible animals) and would take it for a walk off the leash at the same time everyday.

It was a frequent visitor to our garden during these walks where it delighted in bullying poor Bristol who didnt have an agressive bone in his body. The dogs owner didnt seem to care that his animal was beating up my poor dog (which maybe also says somthing about alsation owners) and so this happened like clockwork everyday. Everyday that is until Snooky decided he'd had enough. He sat just around the corner off the house and waited. Sure enough the Alsation bounded up the path with the nonchalant stroll of the top dog in the neighbourhood, he turned the corner and was met by the claws and teeth of the cat who wrapped himself around the dogs nose and bit for all he was worth. The Alsation shot down the path at a hundred miles an hour emitting muffled yelps. His owner careered after him shouting abuse at the cat. I watched from my window laughing so hard i thought id bust a rib. From that day on every time the alsation got near our driveway it crossed the road and wouldnt cross back until it was safely 2-3 houses away.
Date Added: 10/03/2006

Gone Away
Hey, I remember Snooky! I also remember the lengths your parents went to in their attempts to keep him out of the fridge. :D How good of Snooky to avenge the wrongs done to Bristol, the dog - surely a case of family sticking up for one another.
Date Added: 10/03/2006

They were practically inseperable. The relationship that cats and dogs can form is quite remarkable considering they appear to naturally detest each other. Im certain Snookys actions were a deliberate revenge attack.
Date Added: 10/03/2006

Gone Away
It certainly sounds that way, Keef.
Date Added: 10/03/2006

Clive, Your comment piqued my curiousity, and so I had see what was up. What a great read. As with the other post I read, your reflections on Jo remind me of another author whose books I loved reading during the summer when I was eleven. Terhune's descriptions of Sunnybank and his collies where among some of my favorite stories about dogs and animals. It is good to see you write with the same poignancy and conviction.
Date Added: 11/03/2006

Gone Away
Thank you, Scot. I always value your comments highly and it means a lot to me to know that you've enjoyed a post of mine.
Date Added: 11/03/2006

Wonderful work
Date Added: 13/03/2006

Gone Away
Thank you, Janus.
Date Added: 14/03/2006

Bit quiet over here isn't it?
Date Added: 16/03/2006

Gone Away
Been away for a few days, Mad. Should be something posted today...
Date Added: 16/03/2006

Best wishes for a lovely St. Patrick’s Day tomorrow!
Date Added: 16/03/2006

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