Bronco is one of the most likeable fellows in our town. Though not exactly handsome, a lean figure smaller than most, his short dark hair is turning grey, and whiskery beard hides his sunken chin. With his worn coat, some might consider him a shabby looking character. Yet these signs of age and misfortune haven't dented Bronco's pride. There is genuine spunk in his stride. You'll often see him out on patrol. He's one of the friendliest blokes you'll meet on our streets.
In his own quiet way, Bronco keeps an eye on us all -- he doesn't miss a trick and yet he's always on for a wag. He hangs out at the pub a fair bit (his girlfriend, is a voluptuous blond who lives there). Such philandering doesn't detract from his sense of civic responsibility. He's a jovial bloke with a nose for public affairs. You'll always get a laugh out of Bronco; he's a funny mongrel; a bloke's bloke, a man's best friend, and with a simple education from the school of hard knocks -- he's a qualified working class hero. Bronco is our town dog.
Bronco's legendary status arose from a life threatening experience. When he was just a pup he was dognapped. He was missing overnight during a time when the tide of town culture had reached its lowest ebb, and some element of this mysterious lowlife swept him away. However, Bronco made a heroic escape. Missing for several months, he arrived back at his owner's doorstep- minus half a tail and his whiskers prematurely whitened from the shock. This harsh introduction to human nature didn't spoil his relationship with people. Yet in the canine world, Bronco is a tough nut and never hesitates to assert his dominance over other dogs, large or small on his beat.
Despite his disfigurement, Bronco went on to forge a respectful position in local society. His civic career has spanned eight years, and this keen sense of duty is most noted in his active role as neighbourhood watch. In recent years he also distinguished himself as works supervisor when the new sewerage line was laid into Franklin. Bronco clocked on at 6.30 with the morning crew and never left the job until knock off. He even turned his paw to machinery operation. I saw for myself -- him riding tall in the driver's seat of a front end loader.
Nowadays, Bronco and his Labrador pal, Queenie, serve as Mayor and Mayoress of Franklin. They've been an item for a few years now. It's a de facto affair; they are still their own dogs.
The onset of age, hasn't forced Bronco into retirement. Being determined to make his mark on public works in this town, he soon became involved with the restoration work on the Palais Theatre and was clearly excited by the level of progress. Yet his avid nature caused him to be banned from this project, because every time he went inside the building he piddled on the floor. This misdemeanour has not stopped Bronco and Queenie receiving official invitations for other "outside" events such as boat launches and marina openings.
Nevertheless, it is with regret that I have to write of Bronco's recent fall from grace and subsequent incarceration. I suspect the onset of years has tested his patience with the younger generation.
When word got out that Bronco had bitten a three year old child, we could only assume it was in self-defence. Why, he'd always been a guardian of the town's youth, even serving a stint as "lollipop" traffic control for the children's road crossing. Sadly, Bronco's exemplary record did not wash with the wounded child's parents -- and the dogcatcher was called.
Without investigating the victim's report, it seems the scenario bears the marks of a similar episode I discovered in rural NSW. Again, it was a three year old child, who had spend many playful hours with the old family dog -- until one day, the child's curious fingers inserted an exploration into the dogs rear orifice. Understandably, the dog bit. Evidently the relationship between old dogs and children isn't all watermelon and wine.
Bronco was impounded overnight and released on bail with the proviso that he be condemned to life on the chain. It saddens our collective heart to see our sprightly old friend reduced to shackles.
Many of our townspeople believe this miscarriage of justice ought be rectified. Perhaps some other restitution could be made. For instance, mediation between dog and child might unveil a more suitable outcome. Sadly, local government legislation allows dogs condemnation without trial. It is a problem inherent in a secularised system, where a dog's honour counts for naught despite his years of loyalty.
If the system doesn't serve its citizens, without recognizing the shades of grey, then the system needs changing. The people of Franklin respect loyalty, they honour the good, and they honour their dogs. Bronco might look like a scruffy old mutt, but Bronco is our town dog.
In an unprecedented case, the people of Franklin will petition their local government to repeal Bronco's sentence.
© Gail Galloway 2000
The appeal is unlikely to succeed. The State Government, in a move sure to remind everyone of our convict past, has legislation requiring dogs to be kept in chains whenever they are in public.
Thirty years ago. Bronco's owner also had a famed daschund called Terry (Terry the Terrible). This dog supposedly had a penchant for water sports, and his regular attendance at the Franklin Rowing Club earned him a life membership with the club. -- Ed.
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© Jonathan Sturm 2001