I have a long history with English bulldogs.
My father had the breed as a child and then planted the tradition for my brother and me with a long line of bulldogs. There were Margaret, Muffin One, Muffin Two, Otis, Seamus, and Toby. The only dog on that list with a scandalous history is Otis.
Otis was my dog. I bought him after I graduated from college and moved to Austin. A bit lonely and directionless, I did what many of us do: I fell back on my imprinting. Like a lemming jumping off a cliff, I bought myself an English bulldog puppy from a trailer park in Manor, Texas.
I loved Otis. Unlike most bulldogs he was muscular and active. He hiked, camped, fetched, and swam. He also saw me through the breakup with his co-owner.
It was during that breakup that I went home for Christmas to see my parents. I brought Otis to New England with me. My parents had Muffin Two at that time. Otis was quite taken with her and my parents’ soft furniture and stable life.
I should have seen the writing on the wall.
Because I was in the midst of reorganizing my life, it was decided that I would leave Otis with my parents while I straightened things out in Texas. The plan was for my parents to send me Otis after I moved to my new place and settled into graduate school.
Otis never set another paw on Texas soil again.
I will spare the details of my parents’ dognapping and its resolution. Otis lived out a most happy life with Muffin Two and my parents. My father still refers to Otis as the best present I ever gave him.
Revisionist history. It worked for my parents. For me the story was was lost in too much emotion and too many loose ends.
This past Christmas my family adopted an English bulldog puppy, Otis Two. There are very few redos in life. For me raising Otis Two is one of those rare events.
Our son Eli has wanted a micro-mini pig for years and as Christmas loomed he sensed my husband’s weakness for begging and pleading. We all joke that Eli is my husband’s inner child. If Eli wants something he knows where to go. I knew I was in trouble when I heard my husband talking to the pig expert at Texas A&M.
A pig sounded like a lot to take on. By this time I had watched one too many YouTube videos of pigs eating their owners’ homes, literally. Despite my threats, it looked like we were getting a pig. Pig breeders were sending us pictures and Eli had almost daily correspondence with one pig person in Dallas. I thought the lecture about pet responsibly and caring for a pig would scare Eli off, but no.
As a mother to four kids, I knew who was going to take care of that pig and started thinking of a Plan B.
It came to me that a pig looks a lot like an English bulldog. If I had to end up taking care of one or the other – the bulldog wins hands down. But then I hesitated. I’ve been to enough therapy to catch imprinting when I’m in it. After the first Otis, I have been the proud caretaker of two Rottweilers, a German Shepherd, and a Tibetan Spaniel.
I broke the English bulldog cycle, right?
Eli was not keen on the bulldog idea at first, but then I found a kind-hearted, reputable breeder in Arkansas who had a four month old male, Chi Chi, that needed a home. Eli warmed to the idea and the breeder and I exchanged references. Her mom was sick and she needed to get the dog to us quickly. She would meet us halfway in Plano.
On the drive, Eli and I were deciding on a new name for Chi Chi. Still circling around his pig issues, Eli was thinking of Wilbur. I suggested Otis once and then let it alone. To me it’s the best name for a male bulldog – but it was not my dog – at least not yet.
We were both nervous about the transaction. What if the dog had a bad temperament? We decided on a code word that either of us could use and I would immediately go into back-out-of-the deal-mode.
Nervously waiting in the hotel parking lot off IH-35 we saw a Suburban drive toward us. It had big bulldog magnets adhered to the doors, bulldog vanity plates, and a stuffed bulldog hanging from the rear view mirror. The breeder opened the back door and there in the crate was Chi Chi.
Eli looked at me and said, “I want to name him Otis, after your dog. He looks just like him.”
Otis Two is now everyone’s favorite family member. He is slow-witted, farty, snorty, and ridiculous looking, but he is pure love. I call him furry prozac because he calms the frenetic buzz that runs through our family. Eli remains devoted to Otis Two beyond my expectations and I have resisted the urge to win him over as his favorite. However, I do absolutely love him.
The circle is closed – gotta love the redo!
If it had not been for the dognapping, I would never have met my husband. After Otis One, I adopted a Rottweiler named Toby from another trailer park in Texas. At the time, my then future husband had a German Shepherd named Maude. Our dogs met at the 9th street dog park early one morning and were inseparable. Matthew and I married 2 weeks later and have been married for 22 years.