As I read the Times’ obit on the genius New Yorker cartoonist, George Booth, I was looking for one particular fact — confirmation that Booth had owned at least one Staffordshire bulldog in his lifetime.
You know, that crazy dog who, in two dimensions, is a star in Booth’s cartoons.
The reason I looked for Booth’s own, real dog is because years ago an odd large woman I knew told me Booth based his cartoon dog on his own dog. And she knew this because she had a Staffordshire and I guess Staffordshire owners know about other Staffordsire owners. It’s a secret sect, or something. Sect members call their dogs “Staffis.” Cute.
I met her Staffi one day. That is, I “met” her Staffi, name long forgotten. She owned a house in Brooklyn and lived in the lower duplex. Actually, no. She lived in the upper floor of the lower duplex; the Staffi occupied the entire lower floor.
I do not like bulldogs of any breed. A long time ago they were bred to kill and they look like they haven’t forgotten. How comforting, then, was the strong gate this woman had installed across the top of the stairway to her Staffi’s residence. He lumbered up the stairs to view us. I say “view” because he exhibited no interest in saying “hi,” not even to his employee (the odd large woman). He stood there, a massive beast, glaring at us.
The woman went over to address or pet him. She assured me she wouldn’t be letting him into our area because he was, well, unpredictable around strange people. Of whom I was one.
I didn’t doubt her story about George Booth’s Staffi. In any case, I couldn’t have easily checked it, given that back then there was no Google. So that’s what I was reading the Times obit to find out.
Well, that odd large woman was full of (dog) shit. Booth never had dogs at all, although he occasionally had cats.
The Times lavished the obit with Booth cartoons, some with that crazy dog. I laughed as much as I did when I first saw them in the New Yorker, but this time there was a little “ha ha!” edge in my laughter, over his non-existent Staffordshire.
George Booth’s memory will be more than a blessing. It’ll be eternal hilarity. Minus one live Staffordshire bull terrier.