Delta Dog

My husband Jay and I have an American Bulldog named Trooper. He is our second bulldog. We intended to have a pair, but our first died of congestive heart failure at the age of 17 months. She was a beautiful animal, brindled and white, with the longest legs I’ve ever seen on an A.B. She was also the sweetest dog I’ve ever met. She loved everyone, other dogs, cats, and especially people. She was generally well behaved and knew all her commands. She walked at heel and sat to allow people to go ahead of her through doors. The one thing we just couldn’t break her from was jumping up on people when they came in, including us. She wanted to hug everyone, and she would run a kid down, then stand on him to lick him silly. We usually put her in her crate when people came over, at least for the first few minutes, till she’d had a chance to contain herself. I got a chuckle out of flinging open the door to let her greet solicitors, however.

I typically walked Delta around the lake near our house, since we lived in one of those new construction neighborhoods with no sidewalks, and she was so energetic she really needed to run more than walk. She was so much faster than me I gave up trying to run her on leash. The lake had wide sandy paths, and since it was on the back side of post, no one cared if you walked your dog off leash. People also fished, camped, and hunted out there. Range control gave it a diffident sweep every now and then, but as long as no one was doing anything blatantly illegal, they pretty much left everyone alone. This was Delta’s favorite place. She sprinted up and down the paths, greeting everyone she met, and jumping in the water at every access point. Someone had even hung a rope swing under a huge loblolly pine, and she would run at it, jump up and grab the rope in her mouth, swinging herself. I also gave her the occasional push. That dog grinned from ear to ear the whole time we were there, and we had to go everyday. She was inconsolable, not to mention uncontainable, if she didn’t get to go to the lake.

There are actually several such lakes on that particular post. One day, in an effort to give Delta, and myself, a change of pace, I took her to a different one. This was a smaller lake that had a long trail from the the parking area, with the lake hidden behind a natural berm. It was the middle of the week, and I didn’t expect too many people to be at the lake. I took Delta off leash once we were well down the path toward the lake. We came to the top of the berm and looked down to see every single water access point filled with fishermen. Delta stopped to survey the scene and locked in on the nearest group of fishermen. I knew what was coming. Just as I said, “Delta,” with a warning in my voice, and reached out to grab her collar, she took off. I landed with my face in the sand and could almost hear her shouting, “People!!” in her glee as she shot down the hill toward the men.

I jumped up and took off after her, frantically calling her name and yelling, “No! Come!” in my most firm, growling voice, to no avail. One of the fishermen heard me and turned around to see what was going on. When he saw the dog, he raised his hand, waved, and hollered, “It’s okay! We love dogs!” I thought, “You’re not going to love this one,” just as Delta struck their fishing site. Bedlam ensued. In her excitement and determination to jump on, lick, and greet every one of the men, she dumped their bait cans in the water, turned over their tackle boxes, and hopelessly entangled herself in their fishing lines. They frantically tried to contain her while trying to not fall in the water themselves. I arrived a few seconds later to only add to the chaos by rushing around trying to either grab the dog or rescue their bait and tackle boxes, all the while apologizing profusely. The man who’d been so friendly stood with his fists and teeth clenched, in the midst of the scene and said, “Just get the dog. Just get the dog!” I finally did manage to secure Delta’s collar. One of the men pulled out a knife and cut her feet free of the fishing line, and I dragged her a few feet away to secure her leash.

We immediately turned tail and headed back to the truck, Delta prancing and leaping happily about, relishing her adventure, while I muttered and castigated her for causing such a scene. Once safely back in the vehicle, I took a moment to calm down; then, since she still needed a walk, I drove over to our usual lake. Oddly, no one was there.

Delta and Trooper play tug

Delta and Trooper a month before she died. He still has the chew toy today, six years later.


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