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Battle by Richard F. Stratton
Boozer, my house dog of the past fifteen years of whom I wrote so much about in my last book, had the temerity to get old and infirm. We decided to have him euthanized, and it wasn't an easy decision. After all, when he was a pup, my boys were still living at home, I wasn't a grandparent, and everyone else was so much younger. (Of course, I haven't aged!) In any case, it was Boozer's bad back that made us decide that it was time for him to give it up. The old fellow had been the perfect house dog, and he would be a difficult act to follow. For that reason, I was perfectly willing to do without one. No dog could replace Boozer anyway. Unfortunately, my wife had other ideas.
Like many women, my wife loves dogs, but, unlike many, she wouldn't think of having anything other than a Bulldog. The sad thing was that we didn't have a litter on the way, and, in any case, I had a waiting list for pups. Nothing would do but what I had to get a pup immediately from someone. Even though Boozer had never been bred because our house dog never gets tested, I still was not inclined to have a dog that was not well bred. I talked with some people that had the type of dogs that I like. Unfortunately, none of them had pups of the right age for a house dog. Finally, I talked with Pat Patrick, and he had some pups that were bred along similar lines of some of the dogs that I have. That is, they had the same common ancestors, such as Hope and Tombstone. So I went over and picked up a female pup from him.
She was a red-nosed pup, and we named her Ruby. It is a good thing that we are not the type to beat our dogs, because poor Ruby was the direct opposite of the stately Boozer. She got into every type of mischief imaginable. For one thing, she could jump high fences as though she had wings. We started getting calls from our very patient neighbors that one of our dogs was loose. Each time that happened, she was placed in a kennel run for a specific time. The other thing that got her in trouble is that she loved to take my wife's undergarments and scatter them throughout our back yard. (Mind you, these were just two of the means by which she caused trouble; there were plenty of others!)
Finally, though, it seemed as though Ruby had learned. No clothes had been taken out for quite some time, and no neighbors had phoned us that we had a dog at large. Then one day, when my youngest son was visiting here, he returned from the back yard and told me that there were women's under garments all over the place. While my son gathered up the garments, I put Ruby in the kennel run and told her what a bad girl she was. When I returned to the house, my wife informed me that none of the garments were hers! I was now in the position of asking the ladies in my neighborhood whether they were missing any bras or underpants. Either that, or keep quiet about it and see if any rumors began to surface about some pervert stealing ladies' underwear! I chose the latter course.
In the long run, Ruby turned out to be a remarkably good house dog—even if she did require a longer training period than any of the others. When my old dog Bob, a son of Damien and the last living grandson of Hope, failed to produce a litter when bred to one of my tested bitches, Ruby came into heat. It is not my practice to breed to untested bitches, and I certainly don't like to breed to my house dog. However, this may have been the last chance to breed to one of the best dogs that I have ever had. So the breeding was made, and Bob proved he wasn't sterile by producing ten puppies. This helped whittle down the number of people on my waiting list for pups.
Although I normally stockpile females and breed to the best male available in the country (in my opinion) with good bloodlines (again, in my opinion), we somehow ended up keeping one little independent male. He looked so much like his sire that he was difficult to pass up. Bob has never been pictured in any of my publications, but he is a red dog with a black nose, and he looks very much like Behne's Clyde, pictured in my last book, the Truth about the American Pit Bull Terrier.
Like most Bulldog men, I don't believe in giving high sounding names to Bulldogs, such as "Warlord." Leave that to the keepers of those "pretenders," such as Great Danes and Bull Mastiffs. The way Battle got his name was that I had recalled a book that I read when I was a Collie fancier—back when I was about twelve years old! It was called Bob, Son of Battle. Since Albert Payson Terhune always wrote as though Collies were the greatest fighting dogs of all time, I assumed that the title meant that the dog was a fighter par excellence. Well, he was, in the story, but the title came from the fact that the Bob in the story was sired by a dog named Battle. With my perverted sense of humor, I thought that it would be fun to have a dog that was a pun on that name. He would be "Battle, Son of Bob."
Battle got a little time in the house, and he quickly learned some parlor tricks. But most of his time was spent in his kennel run. Unlike other pups, he didn't fuss when his brothers and sisters were gone. We kept commenting on what a nice house dog he would make for someone. We felt a trifle selfish keeping him for ourselves when he could live the good life being someone's house dog. Little did we know that is exactly what he would become for us.
It happened when Battle was about seven months old. Ruby became sick on the weekend—naturally. Two days and a thousand dollars later, she was dead. She had retained a pup in the uterus, along with some placental material. This created an infection that baffled the vets. We had never experienced such a situation before either. Finally, exploratory surgery was undertaken. When the trouble was found, the vet called for permission to do a hysterectomy. Naturally, that was granted. It was never really intended that she be a brood bitch anyway. She was doing well, and we planned to pick her up the next day. When I got home from the gym the next morning, my wife had the phone in her hand, and she was crying. Without asking, I knew that Ruby had died.
It was in that way that Battle got to be our house dog. And he has been the perfect little gentleman, not prone to some of the mischievous ways that his mother was, but, of course, being a Bulldog, he does have a bit of the Devil in him. I have to put him up at feeding time, as he will rail at the other dogs in their kennel runs and get them all fired up, too. Naturally, being a long-time Bulldog connoisseur, I understand this. The main thing I have to worry about is whether he will eventually fence fight with the dogs in the kennel runs. I doubt that this will be a problem, as, except for his father, the dogs in the runs are females, and they have become habituated to him, as he has to them. The other dogs are on chains behind a fence out back, so they aren't objects of concern.
The main problem with Battle now is that he likes to dismantle the pile of firewood for the fireplace and scatter it through the yard. This is something that is correctable. I may have to gather up the wood and stack it back up, but Battle is worth a few inconveniences. Not only does he brighten my days, but he is a son of Bob.
Since I am in my late sixties now, I have become somewhat contemplative about my life's activities and my life-long obsession with Bulldogs. Mind you, I have other interests, too, one of them being biology, to which I pretty much devoted my professional career. I also very much enjoy music and art; in fact, the interest in the latter helped me to more thoroughly research Bulldog history than many others had done. I also have an interest in every avenue of scientific inquiry, including particle physics. Some people don't think that my general interests square with my interest in Bulldogs. But I think that they are wrong.
I have always been interested in fascinating things. I love mysteries; hence, the reason I follow astro-physics and cosmology. Battle is and always will be a mystery. As a house dog, he will never be tested. Will he be game? I'll never know. But he is from a long line of some of the best pit dogs in recent history. Unfortunately, he will never be bred, just as Boozer never was. Still, he represents my attempt to attain the complete Bulldog, just as all of my pups do.
Even if Battle is never bred, he represents the end product of attempts by many generations of people to breed what they thought was the perfect dog. While he may not be that, Battle is already showing promise of being a good representative for the breed. In that way, he is a worthy successor to Boozer.
There is an addendum to this story. Battle is four years old now, and he suddenly became blind. I have never had that happen before with any of my dogs. Surprisingly, blindness is one of the faults that is in the breed, although it is rare. Boudreaux’s Blind Billy is well known, and he is in a lot of pedigrees. In the West, a well known dog was Heinzl’s Blind Ben. Howard always thought the dog may have become blind because of the fact that he was owned by a welder for a time; however, he admitted that there was blindness in some of the old dogs from which the dog was descended. We have to question Bulldog faults and how they could persevere in pit dogs. Shyness is one of the traits that are found occasionally in game bred dogs. Is shyness a drawback in a pit dog? Other things being equal, I think that it is, but there have been some great pit dogs that were people shy, and pit dog men didn’t shy away from breeding to them because of that trait. That was because the dogs were so good that the shyness was not an important factor. How about blindness? Obviously, the blind dog is under some handicap, in that he can’t see in order to grasp his opponent. Also, not being able to see the dog in the scratch can be a handicap. In fact, Blind Billy got his nose chewed on and was counted out trying to find the other dog, as he was searching the pit for him but couldn’t smell him, and the dog wasn’t making any sounds. Obviously, Blind Billy was considered good enough to breed to, as it was felt that he was an outstanding pit dog. The same was true of Heinzl’s Blind Ben.
In Battle’s case, I don’t have to worry, as he will never be bred. It is good that I am above temptation (in this case) because he shows every indication of being a good Bulldog in all other respects. People who visit here often think that he is the best of my dogs. Perhaps he is.
Although none of Battle’s litter mates has been matched, one sister has been bred quite a bit because of the fact that she tested out so game. She has already produced a spectacular one-time winner over a good dog in two hours and twenty minutes. Battle’s brother was considered extremely game and talented enough to match, but he was stolen before anything could come of that. Battle has never been touched and has not even been in an accidental fight, something of a record for my place–especially since Battle is all-too-willing to mix it up with the other dogs. Still, I am not inclined to ever check him out and breed him. The blindness to me is a serious fault, but he is still a remarkable dog, and he is a favorite of dog people who visit here.