The leaves are turning nicely and the nights can be quite cool, so we decided after all these years that The Big Man should come in the house at night. The Big Man is Chandler, our resident tiger-stripe brindle Bullmastiff that was abandoned several years ago and ended up in the hollow with us. We do not know what his name was previously but since his arrival he answered to Big Man though he also quickly learned his name as Chandler.
We call him Big Man because he is pretty big, though not huge. He tips the scales at about 110 pounds, but just looks like a big dog. With his wide chest and massive head he appears bigger than many dogs that are more sizeable.
We also do not know Chandler’s age, but Bullmastiffs are a short-lived animal, often only lasting six or eight years. He is arthritic in his hips and shoulders and sometimes has trouble getting around, except when trouble strikes. If the coyotes get too close at night or a strange vehicle shows up at an odd time, he goes into protection mode and the years melt away. Adrenaline is an amazing chemical and the transformation can be impressive. Chandler will stand in such a way with his elbows out and his head high and pulled back to display his thick, muscular neck that his size seems to increase and he looks quite intimidating. He saves his “big dog bark” for just such occasions and I have seen the littler dogs hide behind him in scary situations.
But The Big Man is mostly a polite sweetheart. With his British ancestry and self-effacing ways, we imagine him as a proper English gentleman speaking in a rural English accent, wearing a flat cap and plaid vest and smoking a long-stemmed pipe. He would say, “Dear boy, pass those biscuits this way. That’s a good lad.”
When it cools down in the evening, he comes in the house and heads straight to his big pillow about eight feet inside the front door. He does not leave it for any reason. Occasionally he will stand and turn in circles finding a more comfortable position, but he has never once attempted to explore the house. He is so polite that he would not wander even with an engraved invitation. And he can sleep, sometimes twelve hours at a stretch.
So hopefully Chandler is enjoying what may be his end stage of life. We hope he carries on for many years to come but recognize the grim possibilities. Though he no longer accompanies me on hikes in the woods, he is still as loyal and remarkable as ever, whether he is warning coyotes to stay away or just curled up in his bed, his snoring vibrating the floor.