Brutus followed me everywhere. This was not always a good thing.
As a young pup, he showed a penchant for following me into the grocery store, taking advantage of the electric mats that opened the doors. I’d make sure to leave him outside in the van, but the next thing I knew, he’d be headed my way down an aisle inside, wagging his tail.
I would do my best to ignore him, hoping no one would notice him, and pretend he wasn’t with me if they did.
“Your dog isn’t allowed in the store.”
“He’s not my dog.”
A lot of people told me what my dog was not allowed to do when I had Brutus. As a t-shirt I once saw (and wanted) said: “Life is always intense with a bad dog.”
Brutus wasn’t really bad, though — just loyal. I did manage to train him to stay out of the store pretty quickly. That’s when he developed this routine of standing directly in the doorway, on the mat, keeping the door open so he could stand there looking inside in hopes of spotting me. People coming in or out had to make their way around him, as he would stay there (politely) till I exited the store.
I’ve already described how Mike took Brutus to work with him when the dog refused to be left behind, and how he followed me straight into the Pacific Ocean — until a wave swept over him. Even a loyal pup has his limits, I guess.
While we were living out at Creedmoor, I would ride bicycle out on the county roads that laced the rolling fields around us. Brutus wanted to follow me, of course, but those 2-lane blacktop roads didn’t seem safe for him, so I would double back to the house — with him following, of course — and tie him up so I didn’t have to worry about him.
That’s when he developed the sneaky habit of hiding in the high grasses along the road as he ran behind me for the first mile or so. I would think I’d left him behind, then look behind me, and here he came, grinning, with his tongue lolling out. I got so mad, I’d pedal faster and faster till I’d finally outpace him — no small feat when the wind blows strong enough to make you downshift on flat ground.
After I wrecked my van (that’s another story), I moved back into town and became a pedestrian for a couple of years. I was living just south of the river and started frequenting a place called Xalapeno Charlie’s (“It’s All HOT!”), a Tex-Mex place situated at the corner of Barton Springs Rd. and Bouldin, right at the base of the long hill leading up to my house
That made it perfect for a beer or two before starting the long climb upward — and often I could beg a ride up the hill from a friend who dropped in to this neighborhood hangout.
Brutus, ever at my side, understood he couldn’t come into the place, but he took advantage of the plate glass door to stand right there in everyone’s way and watch me the entire time I was inside.
Well, one day, Charlie’s was hosting some sort of party in the “back yard” — in reality, just a fenced section of the parking lot — so I had wandered out there for awhile and forgot all about Brutus.
A half-hour later or so, a waitress came out to tell me I might want to check on Brutus. “He got worried about you, I guess, and he wandered on inside. I went up to him and said, ‘Brutus, you’ve got to go back outside,’ and reached for his collar.” She said, “Thats when he turned his head back right quick and grabbed my wrist instead, and gave me a dirty look.” When I looked worried, she added, “Oh, he didn’t bite me — he just took my wrist in his mouth to let me know not to grab him. Then he went back outside.”
She smiled, saying, “I think he misses you.”
Brutus — more than just my dog: my best friend for many years.