She is an unlikely fairy princess with her pronounced underbite and her arthritic, bowed legs. Dainty she isn’t. She can snore like a whole chorus of chain saws and has a gas issue that is …. well … astonishing. Still, there are elements of Bert’s story that are the stuff of fairy tales: a dark prison, a wicked stepmother, two pampered and spoiled stepsisters gussied up in Malty-poo costumes and finally—and best of all!—a handsome Prince Charming.
Jim might seem an unlikely Prince Charming—a tall, martial artist with a mellow-bass voice. “I’m not always a terribly nice person,” he says with a laugh. (Although that is not true.) Jim is kind. And his heart was touched by the geriatric English bulldog imprisoned in his sister’s Connecticut cellar.
Bert, originally the pet of Jim’s brother-in-law, had apparently been living in the cellar for some time. First one and then the second Malty-poo entered the household and became the darlings of the residence. The wicked stepmother claimed that Bert did not get on well with the spoiled stepsisters; perhaps that was her justification for keeping the old bulldog imprisoned. And perhaps it is unfair to cast Jim’s sister in the role of wicked stepmother (but we have to make this fairy tale work.) Still, it took all of the Prince’s charm and patience to wheedle Bert out of the dungeon by convincing the stepmother to turn her over to him.
One might question Jim’s willingness to take on this new responsibility. Still recovering from a recent canine bereavement—the loss of his long-time shepherd Zach—he had to ask himself if he was ready to accept another elderly animal and the attendant emotional baggage. Veterinarian records list Bert’s birth date as 1997, and her present age of twelve is exceptionally old for a girl of Bert’s breed. But the thought of that bulldog shut away from the light of day and from family interaction made Jim’s decision a non-issue. Act, he would! And act he did.
The castle that has become Bert’s new home has two resident cats and a pair of cocktiels—as well as Prince Charming, of course. And these six roommates have themselves around a bit to adjust to one another.
Now-a-days Jim rolls out the red carpet for Bert in the form of an old sofa cushion that provides a step to aid her clambering on and off the furniture. The bulldog can enjoy, at her whim, the screened porch or the air-conditioned living room. She accepts visits from the birds who walk up and down her back as she snoozes on the sofa. The tomcat licks her ears, which she regards as pleasant therapy, although she draws the line at chewing. Prince Charming has concluded that Bert’s deafness is entirely selective and when she chooses, she responds perfectly well to his verbal requests and questions. And regular dollops of yogurt have helped the gas problem, to the greater comfort of all
The Moral of This Fairy Tale: animal rescues can happen in all sorts of situations—through rescue organizations, shelters and formal adoption groups. But they also happen by chance meetings and in unexpected places—like cellars—where you never know what Cinderalla may be sitting in the ashes. All it takes is a Prince Charming.