We are owned by an English Bulldog. I used to think it was the reverse, but I was wrong. As a farm dog, he’s useless; as a source of amusement, he keeps us highly entertained. All he has to do is smile.
His name is Dozer, but I call him Bowser. Lito named him Dozer, as in bulldozer, of course, and after getting to know him, Dozer seemed more appropriate than ever, because he naps a lot. The bulldog’s trademark sour expression is balanced by his repertoire of engaging facial expressions. This breed features an overbite, which spotlights the two long teeth which frame the lower jaw, creating the appearance of a smile. He does it when he wants a tidbit, which makes him a jolly fellow indeed.
If the smile were not enough, when he really wants your attention, or if you are a newcomer to his world, he flashes the half-smile, where only one of those two lower teeth are visible. If we weren’t aware of his tactic, it would work every time.
The folds of skin on a bulldog’s face, help create the impression that he has a sour disposition, but nothing could be further from the truth. He is people friendly and requires a great deal of human interaction to keep him contented. If he is not happy, he will start to amp. He buries that massive head his, face first in the dirt, and hunts for rocks to gnaw.
That’s a sure sign that it’s time for a walk up to the top of the road. If he is not invited along, he pouts by dipping his head, straightening quickly with huge “doe eyes,” then dipping it again. Burying his face in the dirt also is a sure sign that we need to clean those folds of skin. Bulldog faces require constant attention to keep that fat, happy smile.
He first came to us, about twelve hours after Lito acquired him, because his arrival coincided with that of The Mendocino County Lightning Complex of 2008. That was the June onslaught of fires caused by an impressive display of Mother Nature, in the form of lightning strikes to the dry grass and timber. That also meant that Bowser came to stay with his grandparents. The timing should have alerted us to the fact that this was not an average dog, but he blindsided us with his personality.
After all, when I was growing up, critters were not allowed into our Southern California home at any time, it being perennially pleasant outdoors. It was nothing personal; there were simply too many kids.
When the boys were growing up, dogs were allowed in at the kitchen door, but were relegated to that little nook of the house. Hazel, our Golden Retriever, spent each of her thirteen winters, comfortably entrenched in the house, without ever venturing any farther into the house than the entryway to the kitchen.
Clancy, our Aussie, broke that barrier, and Bowser cracked the hardest nut: he sleeps on our bed, on top of the covers, using his fifty-two pounds of solid bulldog to effectively limit our use of covers to whatever we had the foresight to claim before he arrived. Otherwise, forget it.
It’s hard to get a word in anyway, with the sound of his snoring breaking its own barriers in our eardrums. When he isn’t snoring, he’s snorting, belching, moaning, snuffling, sniffing, grunting, groaning, panting, quaffing, burping, licking, and slurping.
Dozer is a wimp when it comes to heat. I know people who struggle, but they don’t usually go to quite the extremes that Dozer does. He plants his solid body in the most inopportune location, and pants. His water bowl is filled with fresh water, he has been banned from the outdoors, and I occasionally take a washcloth and dampen him with cool water, to help with the heat. Nothing replaces that dazed expression on his face, until the thermometer starts to relent, and the cool of the evening breeze brings relief.
Back comes the smile as the scent of dinner being prepared makes everything just fine in the world of a bulldog. That and a good ear-scratching, with a belly rub tossed in for good measure. I want to stay on Dozer’s good side, the one which allows me a chance at a share of the sheets tonight. It’s too hot for blankets.