Dogs are too smart to hold elections, and it would be presumptuous of us to do it for them. But if there ever were a vote for which breed to make class clown, the bull terrier would be a strong contender.
I say this having only limited experience with the breed — virtually all of it through a woman named Marilyn Bailey, and most of it in the last three days, during which time her two dogs kept a smile on my face, made me laugh out loud and even brought Ace out of his diarrhea doldrums enough to play.
Ace is better now, thanks in large part of Marilyn, who spoiled him with cottage cheese, eggs, rice and other forms of pampering, and to Browser (above left) and Ivy (above right), whose goofiness — though young Ivy is far goofier than old Browser — is, while laughable, also somehow soothing, like an old sitcom.
Marilyn and I worked together at a newspaper in Lexington, Kentucky. That was 30 years ago, and I believe her bull terrier then was named Hot Shot. In the interim, I’ve seen her maybe three times. Yet, when she heard about our travels, she invited us to stay when we came through Seattle, and she treated us like family — in the good and functional, kind and caring sense of the word.
She’s a serene and laid back sort, which can be an advantage when one is raising bull terriers, or when one is married to Carleton W. Bryant, as she is.
If Marilyn and Carl were a Chinese food entree, they’d be sweet and sour something.
If Marilyn is the epitome of graciousness, Carl is the personification of sarcasm, prone to hilariously biting comments, skewering those in need of a good skewering, and a bluntness that can leave you disarmed. Acerbic and gruff as he is, though, there are signs that, deep down, he’s actually a tender-hearted soul.
Marilyn is a copy editor for the Seattle Times, Carl is a media consultant whose current projects include a website he developed called MrThoughtful.com.
It offers a solution for those men who just can’t seem to remember to acknowledge significant dates — birthdays, anniversaries, etc. — with a card, or, at best, wait to the very last minute to do so.
The website serves as an automatic, surrogate card buyer.
Users register and create a profile of events and relationships — who in their lives they should send what cards to when. Then, as the significant dates approach, they receive by mail the appropriate card and envelope, as well as an email reminder to make sure it gets to the intended recipient.
Magically and with little effort, they appear to be thoughtful guys, fooling everybody. (There’s also a MsThoughtful.com, but the marketing pitch is slightly different. It’s for the woman too “busy” to buy cards, as opposed to just being a negligent oaf.)
But back to their dogs, dog show quality both, and members of what, to me — with their huge and sloping, football-shaped heads — is one of the more unusual looking breeds of dogs. It was rare, back in Baltimore for Ace to run into a bull terrier. The one time he did, he approached it slowly, almost as if he wasn’t sure it was a member of his species.
Browser, 11, is a mellow sort, content to sidle up to you and stay there — for days, it seems. Ivy, not yet two, is contagiously playful. By the second day of our stay she had Ace fired up. Of course, they chose to let loose in the formal living room, where she’d run up to Ace, jump on him, then scurry away, somehow managing, while traveling at high speeds, to slide her whole muscular body under the sofa, before repeating the process.
Ace, who likes to softly bite the legs of the dogs he’s playing with, or stick their entire head in his mouth, had some difficulty with the latter, but that didn’t stop him from trying.
Both Browser and Ivy have an endearing habit of approaching when you are seated, bowing their head and pushing it softly into our stomach. Ace will do this from time to time, but only for half a minute. Browser seemed happy to stay in that position for five minutes.
While speedy dogs, as Ivy showed, they are also very adept at standing still — perfectly still. It’s almost as if they become statues, motionlessly pondering what to do next and whether it’s worth the effort.
Both loved to snuggle, Browser for extended periods, Ivy only briefly before nibbling your ear, climbing your torso or scooting off in search of something more interesting.
Once seated in Marilyn’s lap at their home in Kirkland, though, she settles down, almost as if hypnotized.
Marilyn sent us off with a huge care package — sandwiches, beverages and apple cobbler for me, and for Ace, dog biscuits, atop which she spread peanut butter. Carl, who provided us with several great Seattle area tours, sent us off with a list of places to see on Oregon’s coast and one of his website’s promotional caps, allowing me to show the world just how incredibly thoughtful I am. Ivy and Browser — members of a breed whose faces seem to say, “Yes, I’m a dog, and I plan to engage in some dog-like antics. You want to make something of it?” — sent us off with a warm and giggly feeling.
One day soon, I’ll need to thank them for all that southern hospitality, Seattle-style.
Maybe I’ll send them a card.