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WRINKLES BIG ADVENTURES


(My Life With An English Bulldog)

People often see me walking my beautiful English Bulldog. Children want to pet him and Wrinkles loves the attention. Adults frequently ask if they are good pets and whether English Bulldogs get along with children. Sometimes they are considering buying an English Bulldog. I generally shrug and say that they are good with children and are very lovable, which is quite true. These brief encounters do not allow enough time to tell the whole story. But if you have ever considered, or know anyone who is considering, purchasing an English Bulldog, here is the whole story.

Seven years ago I was faced with the question of whether to buy an English Bulldog as the family pet. Both children had wanted a pet for several years, but we managed to stall them with the usual excuses about cost, taking care of a pet and vacations. We did have almost pets, like mice, rats, and a hermit crab. There are benefits; the veterinary bill is non-existent; food cost is practically zero, they are quiet and easy to bury. But procrastination came to an end and I get the credit for purchasing an English Bulldog.

Why an English Bulldog? My family has been associated with Mississippi State University (MSU) since 1907 and the mascot of MSU is an English Bulldog. Family alumni include yours truly, my wife, son, father, cousins, an uncle, brother and the list goes on. What a great idea, to have a dog like the actual mascot of the alma mater. After all, a dog is a dog, right? Wrong. An English Bulldog, at least ours, is not just a dog. Another child educated at an Ivy League School would be cheaper.

The adventure began in Columbus, Mississippi, when we picked out our dog. Actually we picked him up, but he picked us out. Three pounds and the smartest, friendliest, most outgoing dog of the litter. You might say he was the pick of the litter. That is now my first rule: Never pick the pick of the litter.

Before leaving with our dog, we paid the nice lady $500. It turns out that this was only a downpayment. He easily fit in a small box and rode to Atlanta in the back seat with our daughter. Because he was a little dog in lots of wrinkled skin, we named him Wrinkles. His AKC name is Rip Vann Wrinkles. Three pounds of wrinkled cuteness and not a hint of what was to come. Our daughter held and played with him for hours. Wrinkles was destined to be a great addition to the family.

At first there were only routine visits to the veterinarian. Wrinkles whined at night and wet everything in the house, but we expected that. He was reasonably healthy and growing. Wrinkles did lots of growing, he grew and grew and grew, eventually reaching over 80 pounds. This tiny dog which I used to pick up with one hand could drag me around the neighborhood. This brings me to rule number two: Never buy a dog you cannot throw across the room.

Wrinkles was trained to go outside and take care of his “business,” but there was still the bother of actually taking him out. The job gets old in a hurry, especially since they always need to go out when you are busy watching a football game on TV or some equally important activity. What to do? A fence in the backyard would be nice. Yes, and it only cost a $1,000. A thousand dollars is certainly cheap for not being interrupted to go outside in the heat, cold and rain and missing the big play in a football game. Wrinkles won’t outside if it is raining, but who knew?

I had a harness made in Bellfontaine, Mississippi, by the same folks who make the real mascot’s harness. It had MSU embedded in the leather and it only cost $50. The harness looked great and my wife would walk Wrinkles around the neighborhood on a leash attached to his new harness. We were proud pet owners. Of course Wrinkles continued to grow and get stronger which led to the first catastrophe.

I didn’t know a dog that strong should have a choke chain, that is, if you intend to lead and not follow. The MSU harness was great until the day Wrinkles went after a ball, pulling my wife with him. She was talking with a neighbor when a child threw a ball and Wrinkles decided to get it. My wife wasn’t watching when he took off and pulled her over some railroad ties causing an unknown amount of damage to her right ankle.

Somehow, with the help of neighbors, she got Wrinkles to the house and called me for assistance. We went to the local “Doc in the Box “and their diagnosis was a sprain. Unfortunately the sprain did not heal and several days later my wife saw an orthopedic surgeon. He said the ankle was broken and would require surgery. My wife had never had surgery and the thought of it did not appeal to her at all..

The surgery was done on an outpatient basis, this means they bring you in early and send you home before you are ready. My wife came through the surgery well. After a few months she was off the crutches and we got a choke chain for Wrinkles. In the interest of Wrinkle’s comfort she later modified this to a wide strap which fits around his neck. We also began paying more attention when walking him. Thank goodness he can only take a few minutes of walking at a time.

We had nothing big enough for Wrinkles to ride in. Even a Bulldog owner deserves a vacation and simple chores, like taking Wrinkles to the veterinarian, were difficult. What to do? Well a van would be nice to take Wrinkles around and he could go on vacation with us too. The Mazda MPV cost about $18,000.

Wrinkles would ride in the back of the van, leaving the middle seat for other family members or friends. We packed the luggage on one side and Wrinkles on the other. This brings me to a decision I made when purchasing the van. For $795 you could get a second air conditioner for the back, I didn’t. Surely an $18,000 van would be cool enough with tinted windows and all. WRONG. It turns out that Bulldogs don’t do well in heat. It wasn’t long before my lovely wife decided that the back was no place for Wrinkles. Wrinkles would get too hot and he now rides in the middle seat.

vacuum

You might think this is all much ado about nothing. If so, you have never spent four hours vacuuming the hair and cleaning the slime that an English Bulldog leaves behind when traveling. (For all the good it does, we do cover the seat with a quilt.) If we want people to ride in the van, I spend hours cleaning up after Wrinkles and still worry that our guests will look like they rolled around in dog hair. It is especially noticeable on black. If you buy a dog, throw away all of your black clothing.

A repaired ankle, a fenced yard, and a van were only the beginning. Like most new dog owners, we planned to keep our pet off the furniture. An English Bulldog causes the same problems with furniture as with the middle seat of a van. However, keeping Wrinkles off the furniture proved more of a chore than we imagined. The dog does not take no for an answer and we eventually gave up. Wrinkles would crawl up on the couch and spend many happy hours, drooling and shedding. Of course the couch was cleaned before anyone came over but cleaning was not always successful. I remember my daughter’s prom date sitting on the couch in a black tuxedo. He got up looking like he just came from the dog pound. We spent some time with masking tape trying to get the hair off.

Rx
Did I mention that Bulldogs have a number of medical problems? Well they do. Wrinkles has allergies, lots of allergies. We took him to the School of Veterinary Medicine at MSU for testing. They suggested allergy shots. Guess who got to give those shots and pay $75 for each vial of medication.? How would you like to give allergy shots to a bulldog? Me too. Then there was the unfortunate problem with eyelashes growing under his eyelid. I didn’t even know there are veterinary opthamologists, but after two surgeries to freeze the errant lashes I am well aware of this specialist. My wife doesn’t like to discuss Wrinkles’ medical expenses, but these surgeries probably ran about $500.

Let’s discuss for a moment Wrinkles’ food, beds and toys. Remember the allergies he has? Well, they include food. This means that he can only eat the most expensive food. For a while he was eating deer meat imported from Australia, but the pet store owner advised there was a drought and they couldn’t get it anymore. Now he eats special food that is prescribed by, and purchased from, a veterinarian. With all of the former prescription only medicines becoming over the counter, surely they could allow dog food to be sold without a prescription. Over the years we have bought many beds for Wrinkles. The kind you see in Wal-Mart which are similar to mats. Save your money. He tears them up before you get your credit card bill. And finally, toys. You can buy chew toys from the pet store for $3 to $8. You can buy similar toys from the dollar store for $1. It makes no difference, they all last about 15 minutes. Bulldogs have strong jaws.

But all of this pales in comparison to the neutering. The local veterinarian told my wife that if Wrinkles were neutered he wouldn’t get cancer, and that was it. She took him in for another surgery ($300). Shortly after the surgery Wrinkles became very sick and we rushed him to the emergency room. It turns out that he had a bacterial infection, probably from the neutering. Wrinkles had emergency surgery in the emergency clinic. Several days of waiting and he recovered, but I never recovered the $2,000 cost. However, even I felt sorry for him walking around with tubes sticking out all over. It ain’t over yet.

The good news was that Wrinkles stayed on the main level of the house and we slept upstairs. This all changed with an unexpected transfer to Washington DC.

With the kids gone, it was just the three of us to move. Because we were not planning to be there but 16 months, rental property seemed appropriate. Talk about discrimination, you almost cannot find an apartment in the DC area that will take dogs, especially ones which weigh 80 pounds. We did fudge on that one and told them he weighed a mere 60 pounds. Eventually a condominium owner accepted Wrinkles and that began a new chapter in his life. No downstairs, no fenced yard and people actually expected you to clean up after your dog. You haven’t lived until you take the dog out with three feet of snow on the ground in 10 degree weather. He wants to play around and you want to get back inside. But don’t forget to clean up.

We had the opportunity to travel and Wrinkles went along. He once had a bad experience while being boarded and my wife will not board him again. A book listing most of the hotels that would accept pets was essential to our ability to travel with him. Wrinkles in Philadelphia, Orlando, Denver, Dallas and points in between. The dog actually travels well, but it does change your habits. You can’t eat lunch at a restaurant if the sun is out, because the car will get too hot. You both can’t go in many places when it is hot because someone has to keep Wrinkles out of the car. You have to plan carefully.

The Washington experience came to a close and we are now in Mississippi with a home of our own and a fenced back yard. There is, however, no downstairs and my wife thought it would be great if Wrinkles could sleep in our bedroom, the other three being empty and all. So far we have been able to keep Wrinkles off the new couch and love seat. The old sofa, where Wrinkles used to sleep, was taken by the kind people who delivered our new sofa. The old love seat is currently installed in our bedroom and Wrinkles now sleeps on his “bed” next to ours. Did I mention that English Bulldogs snore?couch

Things have evolved into a pattern. Each night Wrinkles goes into the kitchen on his own about 9 p.m.. If no one comes into the kitchen, he barks or whines until my wife gives him his medicine and vitamins. I have long since quit wondering what she gives him or how much it costs. A few minutes later Wrinkles goes into the bedroom, gets on his bed (love seat) and begins to bark. He does this until my wife goes to bed.

Wrinkles is now seven years old. Everything I knew about English Bulldogs has been debunked by Wrinkles. Bulldogs are lazy and sit around most of the day. This should definitely be true when they reach the age of seven. Wrinkles does generally like to lay around during the morning, but after that he expects play time. Since there are no other dogs around he wants us to play with him. So several times each day we play rope, a game where he pulls the rope and runs from my wife to me and back. The play is not optional. If you don’t play with him he gets in your face and barks or he lies down next to you and whines until you do.

Lest you think that this is all my fault and that I just need to know how to handle a dog, let me relate one final Wrinkles experience. Having returned to Starkville, home of MSU and the MSU School of Veterinary Medicine, we immediately enrolled Wrinkles as a patient. Certainly there are no better trained people in the world to deal with Wrinkles than the entire student body and staff at the MSU School of Veterinary Medicine. The visit began quite well, Wrinkles was friendly to the student veterinarian who was to examine him. They walked together to the back of the facility where the animals are examined. We waited for some time in the “waiting room.” The student veterinarian returned to say that everything was fine and that it would only be a few more minutes. After another 15 to 20 minutes the veterinarian came out. He explained that they had put Wrinkles in a cage and couldn’t get him out. Of course we knew how. We went back to the cage and got a ball to bounce in front of him, and out he hopped. You may recall this painful and expensive lesson which we had well learned. Wrinkles likes balls.

Recently my wife had a sign framed which I had purchased at the dollar store. It pretty much sums up our household. The sign reads as follows: “THIS HOUSE IS MAINTAINED ENTIRELY FOR THE COMFORT AND CONVENIENCE OF OUR DOG.” Truer words have never been spoken.

You probably think these kinds of things can never happen to you. You are too strong willed; you know how to handle dogs; you are the master of your house. All I can say is, maybe. But if some night you are exhausted from a long day’s work and all you want to do is sit on the couch and rest and an 80 pound bulldog is barking in your face, don’t call me.

Well that’s pretty much the story up to date. As I finished writing this my wife was yelling in the den, “Wrinkles, don’t you dare chew that rocking chair.” There is only one more fact you should know, we still love our English Bulldog.

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THE MOST EXPENSIVE DOG IN THE WORLD PART TWO

Wrinkles, our cute, lovable, cuddly, 77 pound English Bulldog, recently turned eight years old. It was a time for both celebration and reflection. Eight years with Wrinkles gives you plenty to think about. Here are some of my fondest memories, worst mistakes, and a tip or two on surviving with an English Bulldog. For a little over a year we lived in a condominium in Fairfax, Virginia. My wife would take Wrinkles for a walk every day. He really looked forward to these walks and if she was late taking him, he would lay on the floor and whine until she relented. On one of his walks Wrinkles spotted a basketball some kids had left on their porch. In a flash he was gone, across the road, and onto the porch.

With the large jaws of an English Bulldog, he quickly chewed the ball to shreds. While we immediately replaced the ball, from then on when we took Wrinkles for a walk the neighborhood kids would hide their toys. Wrinkles never forgot this experience and during every walk he would pull toward the neighbor’s porch, always hoping for another lucky find. It was clear that Wrinkles thought looking for an abandoned toy was part of the fun of his daily walk. It’s also hard to forget the time my wife cracked opened the front door to call me and Wrinkles felt the need for some fresh air. He pushed the door wide open and ran out. Unfortunately a neighbor was just opening his door and Wrinkles saw an opportunity for adventure. He ran into the neighbor’s condominium, past the startled family eating dinner and to the back bedroom.

My wife was more than a little embarrassed as she chased him through their home, captured him in the bedroom and led him out These nice people were Oriental and spoke little English. One can only wonder what they thought when a huge English Bulldog forced his way into their home, ran past the dinner table and into their bedroom. If that weren’t enough to spice up the meal, the sight of my wife, who they had never met, chasing him through their house must have made them wonder about their new neighbors. After this experience we noticed our neighbors always looked around before opening the front door.

Wrinkles loves to travel and we have taken him to many states. Our visit to Richmond, Virginia, was certainly memorable. We had taken Wrinkles to the grounds of the State Capitol while some members of our party took a tour. The beautiful and well manicured lawn was dotted with trees and made a wonderful place for Wrinkles to explore. It was a perfect day and there were many people walking about, sitting on benches and more than a few were having a quick picnic lunch. Soon Wrinkles led me to the most open area on the Capitol lawn, only a few yards from the guard shack. It was there, much to my chagrin, that he assisted the grounds keepers by fertilizing the lawn.

This retrospection also gives me time to wonder just how certain things have come to pass. I wonder, for example, why we buy bottled water for Wrinkles. The rest of the family drinks from the faucet. Can you really be allergic to chlorine?

Just the other day I ran out of shampoo. Someone jokingly suggested that I use Wrinkles’ shampoo. It dawned on me that I pay 99 cents a bottle for mine and $10 a bottle for Wrinkles’. I can’t afford to use his shampoo.

This is also a good time to review mistakes and offer a few tips on living with an English Bulldog. Prior to bringing home your new pride and joy, go through your closet and take out all of the black clothes you own and give them away. This will save you countless hours of frustration as you try to remove hair from that nice cocktail dress or your spiffy black suit. It will also prevent the embarrassing question, “What is that all over your dress?”

When you buy that van to transport your English Bulldog, and you will, get the second air conditioner. One air conditioner won’t keep your Bulldog cool enough to ride in the very back of the van. By putting your dog in the back, you will save all the work it takes to clean the middle seat every time you wish to transport a human passenger. Some of you are no doubt thinking that covering the seat with a quilt or sheet would do the trick. Wrinkles usually manages to squirm around enough to make contact with the seat. Even if this were not so, there is the slime on the windows and doors to deal with. Trust me on this one.

Soon after bringing your new Bulldog home, purchase one or two expanding gates. They will allow you to keep your dog in a particular designated location within the house when you have guests. It is hard for us Bulldog owners to understand, but some people just don’t care for slime and hair on their clothes. Our guests seem to appreciate this set up. These gates are also great to put in front of the furniture. Wrinkles, and I suspect all Bulldogs, draws attention. My son once took him on the MSU campus to meet girls. It works. We are thinking about renting him out to some of the male students for walks past Sorority Row. When I take Wrinkles for walks it is not unusual for people to come up and call him by name. Often I have no idea who these people are, but they know Wrinkles.

What if, rather than purchasing Wrinkles, I had invested in an ordinary mutual fund. And throughout the last eight years, instead of food, medicine, operations, veterinary care, fences, toys, beds, bones, and furniture I had added to that investment. Would there be a bigger house, a better car or more vacations? Maybe, but what would life be without Wrinkles?

This original articles was published in the January/February issue of Good Dog Magazine and is reprinted with their permission.

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JUST ROCKING

A true Southerner may be lucky enough, once or twice in a lifetime, to hit upon a solution to one of the problems that vex the "new" South. It was my lot in life to have such an experience recently, and I feel it my duty to share this vision with others.

It all began on the front porch of a Cracker Barrel in Marietta, Georgia. The Cracker Barrel seems to serve the closest thing to Southern cooking you can find along the interstates these days. They all look pretty much alike and serve darn near the same thing. Along the front porch of the Cracker Barrel there are usually a large number of oak rocking chairs. That's where I was when it hit me quite unexpectedly. "We just don't rock enough anymore". That's right, that's it. At first glance it may not seem exactly like a message from God, but hear me out and then decide.

Can you remember, like I can, hot summer nights on the front porch in a rocking chair? There were no televisions, no radios, just crickets and dogs and cows for background sounds. Maybe an occasional car, if you were that close to your neighbors or the road to their house. Much of the time it was me and my grandfather. Other relatives were too busy making a living, keeping a house running, or resting up from doing all of that. But sometimes, even they would take a while to sit and rock.

There really can't be much purpose in rocking for it to be beneficial. Most of the serious topics of conversation are dealt with at another time. Rocking time is for talking about the past, the past day, the past year or the past 50 years. It is a time to enjoy what you have lived through no matter how much or how long that is. You can sneak in a word or two about politics or your plans for tomorrow, but mostly you just need to rock and enjoy being a small part of a large world.

Rocking is about time. It is about taking time for yourself. It is about taking time for your family. It is about taking the time to just be. Today in the South we judge ourselves by what we have accomplished today and what we plan to accomplish tomorrow. We worry about doing things; doing things for ourselves, doing things for our children and other family members. We don't take time to enjoy the very fact that we exist and that we really don't have to be doing something all the time.

For those of you who take my advice to heart, there will be great rewards. You will learn more about everyone who takes the time to rock with you. I cherish the memory of my grandfather and the stories he told me while we rocked. You will learn more about your wife or your husband, maybe even your children or grandchildren. You will certainly learn something about yourself. Properly done, rocking will lower your blood pressure and give you a sense of well being. You may not live longer, but you may appreciate the time you get a whole lot more.

Warm summer nights on the porch in a rocking chair will give you time to think. I know its a novel concept in this "new" South, but it is a way of life that was passed on to us and one that we should pass on to our children. If you don't think this is the solution to the problems of the "new" South, go on out to the porch and rock a while. Come up with your own solution, and some day when we are rocking on the porch, you can tell me about it.

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