Buster makes an appearance in Baker

By JASON JACOBY, Baker City Herald September 19, 2008 04:39 pm

A famous visitor walked into my office the other day and he came right over and licked my hand.

I have so few famous visitors, and no previous one had ever licked me, and so this incident, despite the saliva, made a routine day mildly interesting for me.

My guest was Buster. He is the most heavily publicized English bulldog I know.

He’s also the only English bulldog I know.

This is not of course any fault of Buster’s, and I don’t believe my inability to get acquainted with multiple bulldogs ought to diminish Buster’s celebrity.

Buster, as you might recall, was the subject of several headlines around here during late May and early June of 2007.

Buster’s owner, Forrest Keller of Vashon Island, Wash., rode to Baker City during a Memorial Day weekend motorcycle tour.

Unlike most motorcyclists, Keller doesn’t mind riding with a bulldog strapped on the gas tank.

Buster goes along with this, too.

Keller was pretty confident in the harness he designed for Buster until his motorcycle blew a tire while he was riding on Highway 7 near Sumpter on May 27.

Keller’s bike went down and Buster wriggled out of the harness.

Keller, who suffered minor injuries, blacked out briefly and when he came around Buster was gone.

For the next week or so Keller searched the pine woods beside the highway.

He never found Buster.

But John and Mariland MacDonald did.

The couple were driving toward Baker City from their home in Sumpter the morning of June 7.

Mariland saw a bulldog standing beside the highway. She hollered Buster’s name and the dog trotted right over to the couple’s pickup truck.

(Now that I think about it, “trotted” doesn’t accurately describe the situation. Bulldogs, with their awkward proportions, might not be physically able to manage the sort of gait that a reasonable person would define as a “trot.” Bulldogs can, however, lumber on their oddly bent legs with the best of them.)

No one knows where Buster went after the motorcycle accident, how far he traveled or what he ate to survive for 10 days.

I told Keller, while we stood in the newsroom on Wednesday, that I wished Buster had had a video camera attached to his collar so as to preserve the dog’s ordeal for posterity.

Keller figures maybe the coyotes and the cougars mistook Buster for a badger and left him alone. It could be — a bulldog at least superficially resembles a badger, low slung and loose-skinned.

Keller had brought Buster to the Herald office a couple other times but I wasn’t there. Co-workers told me about those visits and I was sorry I had missed them. I’m glad I was at work Wednesday.

Buster looked healthier than he did the first time I met him, which was last June a few days after the MacDonalds rescued him. He still had a couple bandages then, and his body lacked that beer keg rotundity that somehow looks just right on a bulldog.

Buster seemed quite hale on Wednesday. He strolled around the office with an air of authority, as though he was entitled to examine its nooks and crannies.

Keller said the accident didn’t scare Buster off motorcycles. The dog still relishes open-air rides, although he’s more securely attached now.

I suppose it’s possible that some other dog’s exploits will someday surpass Buster’s in the annals of local news.

I doubt it, though, and I sort of hope it never happens.

It seems to me a happy coincidence that the canine that claimed the front page as his own in Baker City would, of all possible breeds, be a bulldog.

I mean who wants to see a chihuahua at the homecoming football game?


Jayson Jacoby is the editor of the Baker City Herald.