“That dog had super-powers!” young Sean shouted.
I’d been telling tales about Brutus, the Wonder Dog, after our Thanksgiving feast. I called him “Wonder Dog” sometimes because he’d do something and you’d have to wonder why. Brutus is long gone now, but he left an indelible mark on my heart and soul. A pure-bred mongrel mutt, he came to me not once but twice purely by accident — but that’s another story.
First, let me tell you the tale that elicited Sean’s excitement.
We were living south of town, out in the country in a large old house sitting alone on the side of Farm Road 1327 just east of Creedmoor. Brutus was having the time of his life with fields to roam, little critters to chase, and a couple of roommates’ young pups to teach the tricks of the dog trade. He relished his tiny pack and his pack status as second-in-command (with me as leader, obviously). Then, I came out one morning to find his head swollen up half again its size, a lump the size of a grapefruit hanging below his nexk — and two fang marks on his forehead and realized instantly: snakebite.
Panicked, I bundled him into the van and barreled down the highway into town, trying to reassure him, though I was uncertain he’d survive. It was a 30-minute drive to the emergency vet service, and I fretted the whole way and rushed him in once we arrived. The vet examined him quickly and thoroughly, then turned and said, “Dogs are much more resistant to snakebite than humans. He should be fine, but we’re going to hit him with some anti-venom just in case, and that’s gonna make him as sick or sicker than the venom itself.” Turning back around to scratch Brutus’s ear, he added, “Brutus is gonna be fine, but we’re gonna have to keep him here at least 3 days to make sure he’s over it.”
The next morning, at 8am, the phone rang.
“Do you own a dog named Brutus?” Barking in the background.
“This is the animal hospital — he’s ready to be picked up.” Louder barking.
“Wait — they told me yesterday he’d have to stay there 3 days.”
“Oh, no, he’s fine.” Pause. “Could you please come get him?”
“Good — um…how soon can you be here?” Even louder barking.
“I’m about 30 minutes away.”
“Oh,” a note of disappointment. “Well, okay — just come as soon as you can, okay?”
When I got there, I discovered the reason for their hurry. It seems that when the kennel-keeper went in to feed and water the dogs, Brutus burst him past him as soon as his door was opened, and ran down the walk in front of the other cages, making all the dogs start barking. When the keeper chased him him, Brutus — small but scrappy — eluded him and bared his teeth just enough to let the guy know he was not going to be caught. Then, he trotted back down the line of kennel cages, pausing just long enough to pee on each one. Of course, the dogs were at the front of their cages ow, and they all went crazy, barking and snarling, as he peed on them standing there. The keeper had refused to re-enter the kennel run to feed any of the dogs until Brutus was cleared out. Brutus, of course, was delighted to see me when I arrived, and ran straight over, furiously wagging his tail. He even gave the poor, cowed keeper a mildly sympathetic (if still stern) look as we left.
Indeed, it is quite possible Brutus really did have super-powers. Sometime, I’ll tell you about how he survived my best friend running over him one time.