Families that choose to adopt an animal from a shelter or as a stray probably will never know the past of the pet they welcome into their homes. Unlike getting a puppy from a breeder or another home that obtained the dog after weaning, strays only carry their past in their behaviors or physical problems. This is the case for me with Winston (The Wonder Dog).
I had no intention of adopting another dog since I already had four rescues in a small home and smaller yard. In addition, I had a past learning about various breeds as part of the hobby of owning show dogs and personally felt English Bulldogs to be the most worthless breed currently in existence. The reasons I feel this way is that they do not tolerate heat or exercise well, they are high-risk for ANY surgery because of their smushed up noses, they are difficult to breed and birth, they drool (euw!), they shed/smell/snore/fart a LOT, food allergies, they can develop serious medical problems, and they take oodles of DAILY care. So why do I own an English Bulldog if I don’t like all these things about them?
Simple. Someone dumped him to die by starving or being hit by a car if a person like me didn’t take him in. I had a decent idea what I was getting into, but I took him into my home and my heart without a second thought. I was driving along a highway that had an entrance to a park when I spotted this dog standing in the driveway without anyone apparently around. I whipped my car around and pulled up next to him. He was just standing without moving. I petted him and talked to him and saw no collar. I put him into my car and took him home. At the vet the next day, I was told the black and white English Bulldog was large for his breed at 80 pounds, he had no chip, he was full of fleas, and he was both blind and deaf probably because he didn’t get the medical care he needed. At age 36 if he was a human, he had been dumped on the side of a highway with years of life left ahead of him because 1) he was too much trouble, and 2) no one loved him enough to save his life.
It is a sad situation that in San Antonio, the shelters are so full, they cannot take animals. If they do, they charge $100 and the unwanted pets may still be euthanized unless the shelter is no-kill. I found a puppy last fall and was told I was just going to have to keep him (I re-homed the cutie), but the chances for this big guy finding someone looked very slim to me.
I named him Winston because he looks like Winston Churchill. I have had lots of problems integrating Winston into The Pack because the other dogs don’t understand that when he wanders into their sleeping area or charges into their food dish that he only has his sense of smell and touch. We have had more than our share of fights, some of them scary serious, but after four months, we’ve settled into a routine. Winston LOVES food and has no issues with charging in mouth first when he smells it. He eats in the bedroom. He sleeps with me. Other times don’t seem to be a problem.
Let’s talk about my experiences with the reasons NOT to get an English Bulldog.
- They don’t tolerate exercise or heat very well. While this makes a Bullie a good pet for apartments, it also means kids will exhaust them. Winston takes a walk four houses down and four back and sometimes has to rest along the way – Lord knows, I can’t carry him! I worry about him outside in Texas summer because of his inability to breathe very well which may quickly cause a heat stroke. I never turn the AC higher than 70. When he starts to pant, I start to panic. The reason is that characteristic squashed nose that makes it hard for Winston to breathe. Even when he’s comfortable, he sounds like he has asthma.
- Bullie dogs, like boxers and Pekes and other breeds with smushed-in noses, are high risk for surgery. Winston is “intact” and when I discussed this with my vet, he said if it isn’t causing a problem, leave him alone. He told me that when starting anesthesia, a doc has about 15 seconds to get a breathing tube down that itty, bitty hole before the animal would start to suffocate. Too risky for this mama just for him to be neutered. But all the rest of The Pack are. On a different note, half of all the dogs that die while flying on airplanes have noses just like my Winston. Road trips for you, Buster!
3. Making baby Bulldogs is almost inhumane. Winston is frequently too tired to lift his leg to pee because his other hind leg is too weak to carry all that weight, so he will squat like a girl (Don’t feel bad, buddy, Jax the Dane does sometimes, too). When it comes to sex, though, the same is true for “doggy-style”. His weak legs just won’t hold him. So the English Bulldog mama is artificially inseminated. Sorry, Winston. With purebred Bullies ranging from $1400 to $4000, there will be people still wanting to breed them. But this isn’t easy, folks. Because the heads of the puppies when they come to term are so big, about 90% of them have to be delivered by C-section.
Yikes! No wonder they’re so expensive! The vet bills start before they’re born! After they are delivered, the babies have serious statistics for birth defects like a flat chest, requiring them to be put down. Heartbreaking! Thinking of making a litter of cute little bullie dogs? Please don’t. I’m begging you.
4. Bulldogs can flat out drool! Again, this is a result of breeding that makes it hard for the big undershot jaw to let the dog swallow. I’m lucky with Winston because his drooling is sort of a way to tell me what’s going on with him. First, any time there is food around, Winston thinks he’s getting some of it and produces ropes of drool. Just yummy. However, he also drools when he’s anxious and I can spot any social problems or soon-to-happen bowel issues and get a change in location. I understand other bullie owners have dogs that drool, like, ALL THE TIME!
On a positive note, I don’t snack in bed anymore because I not only get 80 pounds of Winston dive-bombing my chest, but the slobber makes me lose my appetite, anyway. Fortunately, he has his own pillow, which he adores and most of the drool ends up there. Best $3 I ever spent. Winston sits under my desk while I work and rests his chin on my knee. Little by little, as he dozes off, I will get a trail of slime down my leg until he drops off to sleep. Good thing I love him so much.
5. The amount of negative body actions is amazing. The misshaped body and inability to really chew his food gives Winston runny stools and gas so bad, the other dogs will go outside. In the four months Winston have been the Big Kahuna in the house, I have yet to see solid stools from him on Poop Patrol. I am also surprised at how much he stinks. Now, I love the smell of dog. I better, since I have five. But if I don’t bathe him about every week or two, he makes my nose wrinkle. Just a Bulldog thang. With a Husky in The Pack, I was also surprised that Winston sheds more than Hondo. I brush him every day and I still get a dusting of Bulldog hair on the floor.
6. Food Allergies. The first time I became aware that Winston had problems in this area was when I noticed his compulsive licking of his front paws. When I found him, he had a pecan shell between his toes that had caused an infection and the vet was lovely enough to show me how the hole went completely through. A round of antibiotics cleared it up along with some Neosporin, but he now gets icky boils between his front toes. The licking and the boils are from food allergies. Food allergies are also probably to blame for his loose stools and highly offensive gas. It may also have caused his deafness because it can make ear inflammations a real problem.
7. Hip dyspasia. Due to too much weight on an insufficient skeleton.
8. Many, many health problems. Let start with Winston’s blindness. Like other breeds, his eyelashes started to turn into his eyes and scratched the cornea. There is medical treatment for this, but evidently Winston’s previous owners either didn’t know this or didn’t want to spend the money.
The wrinkles the dogs were bred to develop to allow them not to suffocate when killing bulls (yes, that’s what they were for) will also grow yeast if they aren’t kept clean. Any liquid from drinking water to eyes watering can cause this. Oddly, my rescued bait dog likes to like his eyes and wrinkles and I let him. It’s actually very sweet.
Crusty noses that look like a burnt cookie. These will flake off and become sensitive.
Bullies have a pocket under their tail and over their anus that can collect dirt and get infected. Yup, you have to clean your bullie’s butt pocket. Enough about that . . .
“Cherry eye” is a blob that is caused by a gland in the eyelid that pops out. Winston has one. It’s very unattractive, but my vet said not to surgically remove it unless it causes problems. Remember being high risk for surgery? It may be possible to get the blob to go back with eye drops and a warm compress.
8. Lots and lots of daily care. For the shedding, brush daily. For the smell, give a bath when you can’t stand it anymore. For the cherry eye, eye drops and compresses. For the gas and loose stools, try Fromm dog food or just experiment with no-grain options. Clean that butt pocket and the wrinkles. Soak his feet every day to remove dirt from between the toes and treat foot boils – if you use hydrogen peroxide and Neosporin, put a sock of that foot to stop licking and good luck with keeping it on. Keep tissues around for the drooling. Olive oil for the nose every day and try to keep him from licking it off (good luck with that, too).
Funny things I didn’t know about English Bulldogs before Winston came into my life.
- First, he has no waist. This means the only way he can scratch is putting his back leg over the front leg on the same side to get the side of his chin. Sometimes, that front leg keeps pushing the back leg out and he doesn’t seem to understand the problem. Hilarious! He also will scratch his tummy with a back leg for about two seconds before he starts to fall over. It also means he can’t turn around in small spaces. He will back in like a semi truck! I laughed and laughed the first time I saw him do it, but fortunately his feelings weren’t hurt because he couldn’t hear me.
- Because of the farting and snoring and snorting and drooling when he sleeps, its like sharing my bed with an old man with sleep apnea and other health issues. Wait! I do those things, too! Never mind . . .
- He thinks things are going on that really aren’t. My Helen Keller dog will stare at a bookshelf or a door or a pillow and then start to growl or even bark. I don’t know what he’s seeing, but it’s funny as heck.
- I know Winston is blind, but he still acts like he can see. When he smells me eating, I get the same “puppy dog eyes” I get from the others. For some reason, it’s even cuter on him. Winston also will use his nose to find where the edge of the bed is before he starts to climb. This results in a “Kilroy” picture of him “looking” over the edge of the bed. Again, cute, cute, cute.
- Bulldogs cannot jump. Not surprising if you think about it. To get up on the couch or bed, Winston will put his front paws on the surface and lunges forward, swinging one of his back paws up. First one, then the other in a crane sort of motion. It fascinates me.
- While Winston obviously was not born blind and deaf, it doesn’t seem to bother him. He continues to act like he knows he’s walking into a door and missed the opening in the gate. I never have to worry about him running away from me because he has one speed . . . slow. So if he goes off course, I just head him off and steer him in the right direction.
- Winston is a food slob. I can’t put his food into a dish that is too high because his neck is too thick. He also can’t get into corners of a pan with edges. So I feed him on a plate. He plops face first into the food and inhales it like a python. Then he vacuums over the surface until he thinks it’s all gone – which is usually isn’t. Fortunately, when he seems finished, the other pups will come in and clean the plate. After I pick up the plate, they clean the floor. Nice. He also dribbles water for about ten feet after drinking. It’s those lips. Plus the remaining water will have mud at the bottom from his wrinkles so when he gets a drink – and he drinks about a quart at a time – I have to mop and change the water in the bowl. Taking treats from my hand is like a crocodile grabbing an unsuspecting victim – if he doesn’t get the whole thing in the first bite, he tilts his head back and opens his mouth to let the rest fall in.
- Winston likes to lick his front paws. He can only do this by lying down or propping one front paw on something like a chair, wall, or door. At first, I thought he was scratching the wall, but then I figured out that since he has no waist, he can’t bend over to touch his toes. He has to forget about the back ones.
IN THE END, as much as I adore Winston, the breed needs to go extinct. Between problems breeding, health issues, and people not understanding how much work they are and taking them to a shelter (or a highway by a park – grrr), English Bulldogs should go the way of the passenger pigeon and the dodo bird and end the suffering of these dogs and owners. The American Kennel Club is taking steps to change the standards of the breed to make them healthier, but it will also change the way they look. Tell me in the comments if you disagree or think I’m on the right track.
In addition, if you are thinking of getting a dog that is blind or deaf or both, Winston is really no more trouble than the other pooches in the Pack, but he’s very, very special to me. And don’t let anyone tell you that a dog doesn’t know you saved his life. Mine show me every single day. Check out my blogs on “Living with a Deaf Dog” and “Living with a Blind Dog” in the Winston the Wonder Dog section. If you are thinking about adopting a dog (and you should be!), consider one that has a “handicap” because it will change your life
Winston if he were brown
If bulldogs were bred to kill bulls, are they vicious? No. They are almost across the board calm and even-tempered. Let me preface that. Winston got tired of the Kids (my three 1 year olds) picking on him and showed them what a bulldog can do and I almost lost Sweetness. Winston rolled to his back so his jaws had access to the throat when his opponent leaned forward. Fortunately, I was there to pull Sweet off him. I also saw him charge forward and use his head to thrust up Sweet’s chin to get at his throat.
Once those jaws clamped shut, there would be no getting them open. Otherwise, he is the sweetest dog I have ever owned. And the two male Kids have learned he won’t back down. And he’s blind and deaf. Can you imagine just hanging out and being a dog, thinking whatever thoughts a Helen Keller dog thinks, and someone jumps you? I think he may be the most fierce fighter I’ve ever seen, but only when he’s pushed.
Why does the bulldog have webbed feet? Winston has webbed toes which makes cleaning them so important. However, purebred bullies don’t have them. They are an indication of crossbreeding with a dog that swims, like a poodle or a Spanish water dog. Crossbreeding may also be where Winston got his weight. He’s about 20 pounds heavier than an English Bulldog should be.
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