Meet the REAL Bingley
The interwoven top flaps of the well-used cardboard box were quivering upward with growing urgency. The sides alternatively flexed outward and then receded. It was obvious, what was kept in the corrugated package could not be contained. Soon a prominent black puppy nose split the seam between the flaps. Twitching with discovery, the bristling fur surrounding it also cleared the makeshift crate. Almost instantly, the whole muzzle burst forth with the innocent exuberance only an eight-week-old puppy could possess. There was no stopping him—he had to see what was going on! Somehow, lid now open, Barb kept him within its four walls, but to this day, I don’t know how she did it during the forty-five-minute car ride home. The day we picked up Bingley he was all excitement and affection regardless of our status as strangers. Confident and adventurous, cute and happy, we fell in love before we reached our garage that day.
We wanted a substantial and tough dog, not a giant breed nor a toy. We wanted a versatile dog with a hairy coat for less shedding. Research of various breeds seemed an obvious obligation, one to be taken seriously if one was to find the perfect canine companion. Boy, did we love what we read about Airedale Terriers—loving but protective, smart but mischievous, brave and tenacious. I remember reading “won’t usually start a fight, but will finish one.” Some people from their homeland of England called them “the canine nanny.”
When do you name your dog? Some dog crazy people like us, work on name ideas for weeks or months prior to the anticipated date your fur baby comes home. So it was with Bingley. Named after a town in the Aire River Valley of England, which was purportedly where the first ever Airedale Terrier show occurred, we came upon the name while researching the breed—Bingley then was the necessary name for our first Airedale Terrier.
Now decades gone across the rainbow bridge, he was to us the ambassador of
Airedales leading to three more ‘dales added to our family over the years. Handsome, intelligent, confident, playful, loving, and more. His fur was rough and wiry but the top of his muzzle and his cheeks were so kissable, my mother-in-law would often bark out to me, “quit kissing that dog!”
Bingley excelled at obedience class, soon he mastered all the verbal commands and hand signals as well. But most of his focus was on loving loyalty to me and my wife Barb. He had a remarkable innate desire to please. We did not spoil him—we did our best to give a command only once and make sure it was a command we could enforce—a necessity for anyone adopting a member of this breed. Rather quickly he learned to respond promptly, consistently, and effortlessly. We worked hard to socialize him with other dogs and people. Before he was even one year old, we could take him most anywhere and his behavior would be appropriate.
But true to so many canine companions, under his love and obedience lay the protective heart of a wolf. One early evening when Barb took him on a walk, three rather mature teenage boys walked toward her and Bingley, three abreast, blocking any potential of sharing the sidewalk. From his mistress’s side, he broke heel and stepped forward. Suddenly, as Barb described it, Bingley puffed himself up, expanding his chest, stopping to stand his ground. Baring his teeth, he locked eyes with the potential villains. The boys intelligently realized discretion was the better part of valor that day. They yielded the sidewalk, taking to the grass parkway. Bingley and his mistress, turned his charge, had won the day.
A similar event happened to me. While walking on a beautiful summer evening I heard the sound of an aluminum screen door thrust open along with the panicked voice of some calling “stop.” The owner’s call was useless, a black lab was making a beeline for me and Bingley. Being an amateur trainer, I wanted to take control. I commanded Bingley to halt. He did not. My obedient pet knew when protection was necessary. In what seemed to be less than two seconds the lab was lunging for us. Bingley cocked all four legs and threw himself at the attacker. His mouth must have been open, then shut with force because the lab’s charge was instantly rebuffed as the aggressor let out a loud yelp as his body lurched to one side, its head being forced sideways. The attacker turned and ran back to his home. Bingley had gone for the throat of the larger dog, who probably outweighed him by at least twenty pounds. His temporary assignment completed; we returned home to tell Barb the tale of our protective ‘dale.
By contrast, we were amazed at Bingley’s tenderness with children. Visiting our friends Rob and Joan at their home when the dog was just a bit more than one year old, Bingley became warmly interested in their young son, Jason who was around two. Following the child, his proud tail wagging with delight, the boy petted and hugged Bingley and the two could not get enough of each other. Giggling and nuzzling Bingley like a stuffed animal, our ‘dale could not have cared less about the toddler’s affectionate mauling—he was reveling in it. After a while they newly made pair of friends tired. As Jason lay on the floor for an impromptu nap, Bingley gently laid against him. When he placed a furry foreleg over the boy in a loving and protective hug, everyone in the room cooed with the warm emotion of the moment. Somehow in his very pack nature, the vulnerable young child he had just met deserved protection and warmth.
This is who he was, our renaissance pet. He was all we had hoped for and more. This is why he was chosen as the narrator of The First Wolf Pack. Bingley’s tenderness and courage provided inspiration to many of the characters in my novel, especially Fic, the tender and insightful wolf who became an unstoppable force in battle when called to duty.