Ferdinand came to us as a foster dog from the Texas Gulf Coast Bull Terrier Rescue over three years ago. He was an old guy who had been found wandering around the east side of Houston. The vets suggested he might have been about ten years old and certainly his rotten teeth, callouses, and scars on his back reinforced that assessment. After a couple of days, we transported him to what was planned to be his new “forever” home. Introductions went well and Ferdinand got along with the young children in the house. We left him in their care, but before leaving we reminded Ferd’s new family that if they had any doubts, they should just call us and we would return and collect him. About a week later, we had a call explaining that Ferd had integrated with the children but the mother felt that four children were enough and she just didn’t have capacity for five. Having failed as bull terrier parents many years ago when we were much younger, we understood her concerns. I was also very impressed with her readiness to admit that the decision to adopt an older bull terrier might have been a mistake. Many prospective owners are too proud to admit a mistake and so they keep a dog they don’t really want and can’t properly care for. The result is an unhappy family and a neglected (and often abused) pet. So, it was with some delight that I collected Ferd and brought him home. We took on the role of Ferd’s foster parents again but soon after we admitted to being “foster failures” and we formally adopted Ferdinand.
Ferdinand was the perfect bull terrier: he settled immediately into our home; he didn’t chew furniture; he never destroyed anything, and he seemed to enjoy just being with people in general and us in particular. Ferd’s only problem was his health. His appearance spoke of a hard life. He had callouses on most of his joints, probably from years spent lying on hard concrete. He suffered from kidney problems, dry-eye, heartworm infection, high blood pressure, terrible halitosis, and problems with his spine (spondylosis) which caused him pain and distress. Yet in spite of these problems, he had a sweet personality. Ferd’s previous owners may not have provided much physical comfort for him but he was certainly never abused and seemed to have come from a loving home. Although he was perfectly mannered and walked well on the lead, he did not respond to any of the usual commands. Even a simple “Sit” was totally ignored. We thought that perhaps he didn’t speak English, but he also ignored similar commands in Spanish, Chinese and Hindi from our neighbors. He certainly was not deaf. He exhibited that ability all Bull Terriers possess: deafness to instruction but able to hear the rustle of a package of treats from fifty paces. We often wondered what happened to his owners but never found any information. We always hoped that somehow, they knew he had found a loving home and was well looked after.
Ferdinand’s halitosis was a sign of terrible teeth that undoubtedly caused him pain. This was the easiest of his health problems to solve and in hindsight, should have taken priority instead of waiting until his heartworm infection had been treated. After we visited the local doggy-dentist who removed those rotten stumps and teeth his demeanor visibly improved. And, if the gaps stopped Ferd getting a good grasp of some of his toys, he still enjoyed our daily tug-of-war sessions after his morning and evening meals. As time passed, Ferd’s general condition improved, and regular visits to the vet and multiple medications kept other ailments in check. Ferd enjoyed his morning walk after breakfast and his evening stroll after dinner. We usually met squirrels and ducks on these walks. When he first arrived, Ferd chased the squirrels and ignored the ducks. He quickly learnt that chasing squirrels was a waste of energy – they just headed for the nearest tree. Ducks offered more enjoyment, especially when they rushed around officiously. Towards the end of his life, Ferd ignored all squirrels and scattered ducks whenever they crossed his path while reserving his full disapproval and disdain for possums. Those that tried to cross the garden in the evening risked the full ire of a fifty pound bull terrier who seemed to shrug off the effects of old age as he protected his property from invasion. In the end, we usually performed a tour of inspection before Ferd emerged for his evening visit before bed – just in case. Those times when we detected a visitor hiding in the hedge or on the fence, Ferd and I kept to a different area and maintained the peace.
Ferd looked forward to his walks (even when wearing a raincoat or winter wooly) but he really enjoyed just lounging in the sun. In the heat of Houston’s summer, he was happy to lie outside and cook in the sun. During winter months, he would stand waiting for assistance to climb onto a kitchen chair to soak up sunbeams coming through the kitchen window. In the evenings, he would curl up beside me on the sofa. He slept there until bedtime while I surfed the web, constructed this website and watched TV. As he got older, his health deteriorated and a day came when he was unable to jump from the floor onto the sofa. The problems with his spine made him uncomfortable if he was lifted. We searched Amazon and found a small step that provided the assistance he needed to clamber back onto the sofa each evening. But there was no way to turn back the clock. The damage caused by Ferd’s early life could not be undone and his health deteriorated. He still enjoyed his food and his walks after breakfast and dinner but the distances got shorter and our pace slowed to a quiet amble.
Ferdinand departed this world not long ago. He crossed the Rainbow Bridge to a land were both his mind and his eyes are sharp; all his teeth are restored; his blood pressure and kidneys are functioning perfectly; and that spondylosis of his spine that caused him those sharp pains and weakened his back legs is cured. Ferdinand is restored to perfect health and his body now reflects his wonderful personality.