Brianstorms  >  Various Articles  >  Escape from the Planet of the Bull Terriers

Escape from the Planet of the Bull Terriers
by Brian Dear

Originally posted in the WELL's news conference, 17 Sep 1998

Man oh man, what a day. I don't know where else to post this, so I'll post it here. Today was one weird day. I get to work, fire up my email program, watch it download mail from the mail server, and suddenly my screen goes black, then blue, and DOS-style text appears, and I think, geez, the blue screen of death -- I never thought I'd see this in my email program! And then I see that it's not my email program that's crashed, nor Windows 95, but, it's my virus scanning program, and it's discovered an incoming email with an Excel file attachment that contains some nasty macro virus. It's a first for me. So, needless to say, I delete the email (the sender's address was, conveniently, a .kr domain). So then I notice that my mail server machine's hard disk is thrashing and the ethernet lights are a'blinkin' and so begins about 7 hours of battle against spammers who have launched a full-scale attack on my mail server, using it to forward a spam message inviting the reader to some porn website. I'd shut down the mail server, then go back to work for a half hour or so, and then turn it back on and WHAM the instant it went back on, the FLOOD of spam resumed. So I tracerouted the spammer's IP address and found it was a UUNET modem in Detroit. So I called UUNET's Net Ops Center's Security team and they were very helpful and pinpointed the perpetrator and they shut him and and 5 mins later WHAM the SPAM was back, this time with a different Detroit UUNET IP address and a different UUNET account but the same SPAM mail. All of it going to poor AOL people. All day long this went on; I felt like I was plugging holes in a dike wall that was bound to burst any moment. Then my wife calls late in the afternoon and says look out the window, a co-worker of hers at her job says it's about to rain and hail and thunder and maybe I should run home and close some upstairs windows (I work about 0.8 miles from home, own my own company, so can leave if I need to when I need to) and let the English Bull Terrier out for a little bit too.

For those of you who have read about the trials and tribulations of our English Bull Terrier named Jesse, well, that's what this tale is about.

I go home -- it's really raining -- the first rain really since May or April. I get home, and take the dog outside to the backyard, which is a tiny little space about the size of a large room. Fenced on 3 sides. There's an enormous oak tree on one corner of our backyard boundary and it is so big and leafy and wide, the backyard stays dry when it rains. So we puttered around and sure enough, the English Bull Terrier, realizing the rain, realizing that meant "no big long walk today, that's for sure", did his business, "successfully", as I like to put it. Which is nice because he always mellows out after he's been, er, "successful." So the rain is going away, and I decided to put him in our little 6ft by 9ft fenced dog run, with its "Dogloo" igloo inside. So I put him inside, secure the gate, and go back inside the house.

I glance at him through the window inside the house, and he's watching me -- tail up, ears up, eyes straight at me. At his front feet is a big yellow leaf, that's fallen from the oak tree above (Seattle area seems to have two seasons, summer and winter, with extremely short springs and falls, and the leaves are dying fast already).

Remember, the English Bull Terrier's mission in life is to cause mischief, have fun, and be frisky. But the greatest of these is, "cause mischief." So he bites down on the leaf, which is very large. He knows I don't like when he eats sticks, or leaves, or grass, or rocks, or slugs, or frogs, or DEAD RATS (as the obsess.ind readers already know :-), so I went back outside to take the leaf from him. Which was exactly what he had in mind. I get inside the dog run, take the leaf from him, which he's furiously trying to swallow like a spy who's got the secret code on the piece of paper and has to swallow it so the bad guy won't get it... but I manage to rescue the big leaf which I throw outside the dog run. I then get him to stand at the far end of the run so I can get out without him escaping. He's very fidgety for some reason -- this is the first time the ground in the dog run is wet, and he doesn't like it... so I'm having a bit of trouble getting him to STAY on the far side so I can exit the run. I think I've got him to STAY, and I open the dog run's fence door, and WHIZ out he goes, into our back yard.

A loose English Bull Terrier. My WORST nightmare realized. He does a quick figure-8, his brain in full-fledged mischief mode. He runs behind our detached garage. It's fenced back there, and I know what he's going to do -- he's going to come out the on the other side. My only chance to catch him is to catch him there. I run for it, and he's too fast. He slips by. He runs down the driveway, banks right, and takes off like a bullet. I mean, like a bullet, he's sprinting. No looking back. Just about then, the words of the English Bull Terrier Breeder echoed in my mind: "If he ever escapes, he's G.O.N.E." These dogs don't come back. There are no happy endings. They wind up dead, or worse, within hours. Some other dogs hate Bullies. Even though our Bullie is the sweetest thing in the world, and loves all dogs, he's treated EXACTLY like Casper the Friendly Ghost by dogs: they freak with they see this muscular, Popeye-figured white creature with the black eye patch.

The south end of the local high school is just north of my house. The English Bull Terrier is bolting into the school, the entrance of which is all fenced in except for a road. He's running toward the school, and gaining distance from me very, very fast. Picture the world's champion Olympic 100- meter dash sprinter, sprinting. Then picture a F-16 fighter going by, full afterburners, Mach 1+ and rising. Now picture how fast the distance between sprinter and F-16 grows. This was the situation betweem English Bull Terrier Owner and English Bull Terrier.

It's 4:15 in the afternoon. The football team is practicing in the school's stadium field. Far ahead of me, I see a white blur, as it runs further and further away. He does not turn back. He has no intention of ever coming home again. It breaks one's heart. But every English Bull Terrier owner knows this feeling. It's the breed. You think, "if you love someone, set them free. If they never come back, it was never meant to be." So it is with Bullies. You have to cherish every moment you have with them, you never know how long they'll be around. You can give them all the love in the world, and they'll take it. They give a little back, and that little is so wonderful it's worth it, every bit, but you know deep in their hearts, they just want to be free.

Well, our English Bull Terrier was free. Which meant he'd be dead, or wounded, or kidnapped, very soon.

I am still running. I am getting out of breath. The blur of white is so far away, there is now way I can catch him. And even if I closed in on him, the moment he'd see me, he'd double his efforts at running that much faster.

If I keep running, I'm going to collapse. At this point I realize I have no keys. The house is unlocked. I am going to collapse from exhaustion any moment. The distant speck of white goes around a corner -- and is gone. He's about 1000 yards away and still sprinting. I stop. I need to keep some energy to get back to the house, call my wife (she works about 0.6 miles from home), see if she can sneak out of work to help hunt down the English Bull Terrier. I make it back to the house, and out of breath manage to exhale a semblance of English words to my wife, which she required repeating: "The dog is loose. He has escaped. Come help if you can. Last seen heading northwest of the high school." She says she's on her way.

I leave a leash at the door and hop in the car and peel out of the neighborhood and into the high school campus. Halfway through, it's blocked off, right at the spot where I last saw him. It's now T plus 3 minutes.

I retrace my drive back out of the high school, back out to the main road, up onto Main Street in Bellevue -- it's just starting to be rush hour -- and way back over to the neighborhoods north and west of the school. The school's campus is huge, it must be 50 acres. The dog is G.O.N.E.

At this point, I figure I'm going to a) find him tonight on the side of the road, dead and run over and bloody, or b) killed by an angry pet owner whose pet attacked my dog who in defense beat (and ate) the living shit out of the attacker (my dog would never attack another animal -- but he would fight to the death if he had to, and English Bull Terriers know how to fight if they have to) or c) we'd never, ever, hear or see the dog again, hours, days, weeks, months, years later -- nothing. G.O.N.E.

For the next two+ hours I spent driving around Bellevue, stopping at fire stations, gas stations, passersby, leaving them sheets of paper with a hastily scrawn message:


     White English Bull Terrier

     With Black Eye Spot

     [phone #]

     Brian + Pat Dear

and they'd look at me with the "bummer, man" look a stranger gives you when you seek their help as fellow humans. Street after street, block after block. I'd see a white flash in a bush or hedge behind a house and slam on the brakes only to realize it's a trashbin or piece of paper or a children's toy or something.

I'd see my wife pass by in her car; we'd exchange looks that said "no, I don't have him, keep looking" and drive by...

So it went. I discovered I was completely parched. I could not swallow. It felt like there was a huge clump of something mushy right past my tonsils, and I couldn't cough or spit it up, and my mouth was cotton-dry. Then I see the amber fuel-empty light go on in my car. Both me and the car, I think. So I go to a nearby Chevron station, get some gas and a bottle of water for me, which I chug. Ask the proprietor if a White English Bull Terrier might have passed by, quickly... no, sorry sir.

Thoughts of loss run through my head. My wife and I have no children. Jesse is our child. He's like our son. A permanently three-year-old mischief-maker. But he's our own, and we love him and cherish him and now he's gone, and he's probably going to wind up dead soon and we'll have lost him, our pride and joy. And we'll never get another English Bull Terrier, because the heartbreak will be too much to bear. Loss.

I keep driving. I feel like Arnold Schwartenegger in Terminator. I drive slowly through neighborhoods, my car windows down, my head scanning from left to right, trying to process every bit of visual and aural information as fast as possible, breaking the moment I hear a high-pitched tinkle -- was that the metal ID tags clanging on his collar I just heard? --- and then moving on.

I come across an old black dog, loose in the neighborhood. I stop the car right next to him. He's on the sidewalk.

"I am looking for Jesse. Have you seen him?"

He stares at me, right through to my soul. Old dogs have such deep, more-than-human eyes. He considers me. He's silent.

"Please help me find him, okay? Thanks."

He looks at me. I drive slowly away. He walks away.

Finally at 6:45, I catch up with my wife on a nearby street, and I tell her I am going to run home and check for phone messages... maybe someone I left one of the hastily-written notes with has seen the creature and has his whereabouts.

I hurry home, burst into the house, call the voice mail number, and there are two messages. I pray. I chant.


I call my wife on the cell phone. "HE'S OKAY. SOMEONE FOUND HIM. HE'S SAFE."

It's now 6:45 pm. I call the store. "THE PET STOPS HERE, CAN I HELP YOU?" Yeah this is the English Bull Terrier Owner. "OH YEAH WE HAVE YOUR LITTLE DOG."

This dog had run for BLOCKS and BLOCKS away from home. And he'd fooled me a second time. First with the leaf, a setup if there ever was one --- and now with where he'd been caught. He was a half-block from the Interstate 405 freeway. He was picked up far east of the house. Running around in the middle of a HUGELY BUSY intersection at 5:15 in rush hour. And he didn't get run over.

We are still astounded that a) he lived, b) we found him, c) he wasn't bitten, injured, bleeding, torn to shreds from dogfights, or otherwise out-of-kilter.

But most of all, we're astounded that the pet store he was brought to was called "THE PET STOPS HERE."

We are home now. I feel like I have been hit by a truck. I am physically in shock. My arms and legs ache, and I have shocked my system. I need to sleep.

But, he's Home. Thank god.

Good night. :-)


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