We first saw Bruce when he was about two weeks old, in company with his mother (Killisport Mixed Spice) and his two litter brothers. I very much liked his grandfather Archie (Killisport Town and Country) and we had often met his father Sam (Kentwella Chevalier) in the ring, so the chance of a puppy from these ancestors was too good to miss.
After our first sight of the litter our as-yet-unselected puppy it was give a code by my wife Christine, who labelled him ‘BT’ this had nothing to do with telecommunications, but rather was short for ‘brown thing’, the colour of his coat still being very dark at this stage.
A month or so after our first sight we returned to make our selection. We sat in the September sunshine and watched the three pups playing for some three hours before we finally made our decision and no-one can know how many times each of the pups was selected before Bruce finally became our ‘BT’.
The public face of Bruce was most widely known in the show ring, although this part of his life was only a fraction of the total. He was a joy to take in the ring, having a natural desire to show off; the bigger the ring and the larger the crowd the better. He first made a mark at just over six months of age in a terrier club show where all terrier breeds were scheduled, by doing the ‘treble’ of Best Puppy in Breed, Best of Breed and Best Puppy in Show. If that wasn’t enough he repeated this in similar circumstances before his puppy days were over.
At Championship level he received his Stud Book number from his breeder Elizabeth Blower, something of which of course could not happen now, but anyone putting this down to favouritism quickly had that idea squashed just a few weeks later when Mary Sheppard placed him first in Junior Dog at Crufts. He went on to be a proud representative of the breed, frequently winning Best of Breed and Best Terrier at Open Shows as well as Best in Show and Reserve Best in Show accolades. His beautiful golden coat would glint in the sunshine and automatically draw the eye of anyone watching. The puppy ‘BT’ and the finished article were akin to the duckling and the swan.
As previously stated, Bruce’s show life was but a tiny part of the whole, so what of the rest? The people who wrote in the standard that a Scottish Terrier must be prepared to go anywhere and do anything must have had Bruce in mind.
He was an excellent traveller; indeed he loved going anywhere as long as he was with you. On one occasion he was entered at Birmingham Champ.Show when we discovered that our eldest son needed to be in Cambridge the same day. No problem, I drove the 240 miles to Cambridge, back to Birmingham for Bruce to show really well and be placed second in a large Limit class, back to Cambridge to collect our son and then home. A round trip of 700 miles and he loved it! He would often work his way through from the back seat of the car to sit on the front passenger seat, where he would survey the passing world until boredom set in and a lie down was called for. He was rather upset when we changed the saloon car for an estate car and put a dog guard behind the rear passenger seat. No matter, a Scottie nose can slip between the window and the bars and slide them across, giving access to the proper part of the car!
Go anywhere! Bruce was never happier than running free in the countryside or high on the fells. He did not need a lead and romped joyfully around, frequently accompanied by our Staffordshire Bull Terrier, Sophie, eighteen months his senior and the matriarch of our canine clan. They were of similar calm and reliable temperament and complemented each other perfectly. When running free they were never far apart and were a joy to watch as they explored their own areas of interest in the hedges and fields before joining up together again for a while.
At weekends the two dogs used to go with me to cricket. They were well known in the local league and they would settle down comfortably in a cool spot while I was fielding. Often members of other players’ families would take them for walks round the ground and even opposing players did the same while waiting their turn to bat. They were even known at County matches and the month before Bruce died I was at the Lancashire vs Glamorgan match it was too hot for the comfort of the dogs, so they were left at home. I was greeted several times with the question, “So where are the dogs”, and that was in a crowd of several thousand!
Go anywhere! Bruce even tried his hand or rather paw, at mini-agility, not seriously but in a recreational mode. Somewhere there is a photo of him trotting gaily along a plank about six feet off the ground, but his exploits in the tunnel were less successful because he believed that it was a game to hide and seek and as soon as I went to the far end he would turn round and go out the same way he had gone in.
Go anywhere! When Christine was taken seriously ill Bruce began to go to school with me, spending the day sitting happily in my office and wandering the classrooms when the children had gone home. Staff and governors became used to the extra ‘member of staff’ being there and he became well known to the children. The older children were allocated lunchtime telephone duty in the office and it became the first question from each child on the day’s rota to ask “Is Bruce in?” One boy was so attached to him that he persuaded his parents to buy him a Scottie! While Bruce was attending school the number of meetings demanded of headteachers mushroomed greatly and he found himself attending meetings with me in County Hall, in the District Education Office, in other schools and even in hotel conference suites! He might have become the most educated dog in Lancashire but for the fact that he had one advantage over me – an advantage of which he made the most use – he could curl up and go to sleep while all the nonsense was being dissipated!
Bruce’s temperament has been alluded to previously. He was indeed a calm dog, a fact commented on each time he saw a vet. He was never heard to growl at someone who he perceived as trying to help him and after the last operation he had (to remove a small growth at the end of his muzzle) the vet did not even put a collar on because she knew he would not scratch at the stitches. I have also mentioned his relationship with Sophie, but just as notable is the fact that even Toby, our Russian Blue champion cat would rub against him and treat him as a friend.
Without being aware of it, Bruce was involved in some humorous situations. Two spring immediately to mind. At a show without Scottie classes but with a terrier judge, Bruce won the A.V. Terrier Open class, beating a fox terrier into 2nd place. After the class the owner of the fox terrier challenged the judge. The conversation went something like this: Exhibitor: “What do you think you’re doing?” Judge: “What do you mean?” Exhibitor: “What are you doing placing that dog (Bruce) before mine?” Judge: “I happen to consider him the best dog in the class”. Exhibitor: “Rubbish! What’s it supposed to be, a Scottie? It’s not even black!”
Another occasion I recall was at the point of selection of Best in Show at an Open show. As we went into the ring Christine surveyed the winning dogs and said to me “If Bruce wins Best in Show from them I’ll eat my catalogue.” Oh ye of little faith. She still hasn’t told me what a catalogue tastes like.
Another amusing incident occurred at the Club Championship Show at Towcester. Bruce was entered and for a day out I also took Cleo (Krystalbrook Sweet Pickle) one of our top winning French Bulldogs. As Bruce and Cleo walked around the car park together Carol Annan passed by. She stared at the odd couple and made a single statement “Overtrimmed”. We still do not know to which dog she was referring.
It was a mark of Bruce’s appeal, that when I retired my staff presented me with a cake on which sat a map, a pair of boots and a marzipan Scottie. They also gave me a framed poem in which Bruce was mentioned by name and which has caricatures of him, one of which shows him sticking his head above a rock with a rucksack on his back.
Some of our last photos of Bruce show him with our current little girl Katie (Katie Birnie of Krystalbrook). They show how he could relate to her as well as so many others. He certainly related to all the people he met and it is a mark of this side of his character that when the time finally came for his to head for the great kennel in the sky we even received a letter of condolence from one of our senior vets. Thank you Bruce, for eleven great years. Rest happily.