The Bully Pulpit

After years living in a crate, with little human interaction, Capone the English bulldog enjoys the run of a house and love of adoring ‘parents’

Photography by Jules Moore

Haley Wilson loves the way Capone, her 6-year-old English bulldog, shakes his little tush when he’s excited — when he wrestles with her husband Chris, rides in the car, or runs around the back yard and splashes in the kiddie pool.

Capone, selected by Palm Springs Life as the Cutest Pet of the Year, and his daughter Brooklynn enjoy a privileged life with the newlywed Wilsons in Cathedral City.

Life wasn’t always this good for the dogs. Before the Wilsons rescued them, Capone and Brooklynn lived in Beaumont, where they spent more than 10 hours a day in kennel crates with little to no attention from their owner, who conceded he didn’t have time to properly care for them.

A client of one of Haley’s co-workers told her that the dogs needed a home. Two weeks after she and Chris were married in La Quinta in 2011, they rescued Capone and Brooklynn.

The first year was rough.

“At first, we kept the [crates] out, but unlocked,” says Haley, a licensed massage therapist. “They felt the need to sleep in the kennels, and they would come out and play. After a couple of weeks, we put the kennels away, and they would roam the house, doing their thing.”

Although they were settling in, their health needed attention. Capone hadn’t been neutered, and Brooklynn hadn’t been spayed. A long time had passed since the dogs had their nails cut. Brooklynn often looked like she was having seizures, but she actually had nerve damage in her tail, which was apparently docked too short. And Capone had severe allergic reactions to reseeding and pollen. “Capone had hot spots all over his body,” Haley says, adding that Capone also had surgery for kidney stones. “He came back better than ever.”

Capone now eats a prescription diet and daily fish oil supplements. He exercises daily with a morning walk around the block, and likes to play laser tag. “He and Brooklynn chase the light like crazy,” she says. “He’s winded after 10 minutes.”

He even enjoys going to the veterinarian. “He loves the staff,” she says. “I’ve never known of a dog that likes going to the vet.”

Haley, who grew up with golden retrievers, attends lovingly to the high-maintenance nature of her English bulldogs. “They have to be groomed regularly,” she says. “You have to clean their ears and their wrinkles. But I love the breed — their personality, their faces, the whole package. It’s great to come home, and you know there’s going to be those faces. We are very lucky and grateful.”

The experience has taught the Wilsons patience. “There’s this love that you have — it feels like you’ve been raising them since they were puppies, but it’s less than two years. It’s good practice for when we have kids,” she says, carefully avoiding the suggestion that caring for the dogs is anything like raising children.

The Wilsons took Capone and Brooklynn to the Festival of Lights in Palm Springs last December. “They did fine with all the people,” she recalls. “Capone was a little freaked out by the drums, but they both sat in their chairs.”

Their good behavior was put to the test again July 14 at the annual Pets on Parade luncheon at the Doral Desert Princess Resort. The event benefited the Humane Society of the Desert and Pegasus Riding Academy for the Handicapped.

Capone was selected from the picture Haley uploaded to the Pets on Parade photo contest. The dog was standing in his kiddie pool, looking up at the camera with his tongue out — the picture of happiness. “It’s one of our favorite pictures,” Haley says. “I put it on Facebook and got a lot of positive reaction to it. I posted it [to Pets on Parade] just for fun.”

Capone will be fêted with a documentary video of his Palm Springs Life photo shoot and his prize for being selected as the cutest pet of the year.

The luncheon audience will see Capone’s excitement in his stubby little tail. “He does a booty shake,” Haley says. “Then he loves to turn around and sit his booty on something. He wants to be a lap dog at 55 pounds. He’s a mamma’s boy — a puppy at heart.”  

Buddy Love: The popular choice

Buddy Love, a 2-year-old Bichon-poodle mix rescued from Palm Springs Animal Shelter, won the voters’ choice award in the Pets on Parade Cutest Pet photo contest. He met his admirers July 14 at the Pets on Parade luncheon at the Doral Desert Princess Resort.

The event benefited the Humane Society of the Desert and Pegasus Riding Academy for the Handicapped.

Buddy’s prize package includes a three-day, two-night stay at the luxurious and pet-friendly Islands Hotel, where he will enjoy a welcome treat of Fiji water and biscuits, a plush pet bed, and turndown pet service. In addition to the accommodations, his owner, Frank Roman, takes home a gift certificate to a fine Palm Springs-area restaurant and a one-year subscription to Palm Springs Life.

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