Good stories require strong characters. Authors use personalities to develop characters. Thus when inspired to write stories about Rocky and Bullwinkle, I simply wrote about the personalities of our two pets. (See the postings: Where do Hairy Dog Stories Come From? And Can the Shaggy Dog Talk?)
By chance, Bullwinkle and Rocky were the canine version of Abott and Costello. Not only were their sizes vastly different, but their personalities were not the same.
Bullwinkle was big and loyal. He was always ready to go on a walk. When he did venture out of the yard, he would usually come when called. He assigned himself the job of security and barked at anyone or anything that came within the boundaries. Of course, his concept of boundaries was that we owned territory to the other side of the street and for several feet on the other sides of the fences.
On the other hand, Bullwinkle was not very intelligent. He did not know what to do when Rocky walked between his legs to steal food from his dish. He could not figure out how to play with a ball or a frisbee. Often the ball would bounce off of Bullwinkle’s head. If I threw a stick, Bullwinkle would chase after it until it stopped moving. Then he would come back as if to say, “Where did the stick go?”
Bullwinkle would chase anything that ran from him, but in all his years, he only caught one animal, a little bunny. For all I know, he picked the little fellow up out of a cotton tail nest. Several times out on the range, he came close to catching up with a rabbit only to have the rabbit fake one way and go the other. Bullwinkle would run past the rabbit. Then he would stop with a quizzical look on his face.
On the other hand, Rocky liked to roam and would only come home if he thought he was in danger of missing a meal or being caught. Occasionally he would see one of us come after him and avoid capture. Then he would streak for the front porch and sit there as though saying, “I’m back home, you can’t spank me.”
Rocky assumed the job of rodent control officer. No mouse escaped his jaws. Not only were mice a good snack, but they required dexterity and tactics to catch. Rocky probably would have caught rabbits except that they could run faster than him. Rocky also chased cows and elk. We don’t know if the cows and elk presented a challenge or if he thought he would get a good meal if he ever brought one of the big animals down.
Rocky played games and caught balls. He quickly learned a number of tricks. Then he tried to train me to give him a treat. Now and then, he would beg for a treat. If we did not respond, he would go through his entire bag of tricks in hopes that we would reward him for one of the tricks.
Rocky was obviously very intelligent. He knew how to escape when he wanted to, and he knew his way home. Once on a walk he got lost and on several occasions simply got bored with our company. Of course we would look for him rather than desert him. Usually he got home before we did, or we would find him trotting toward home.
When I wrote the first Bullwinkle and Rocky story, I tested it on a class of forth graders. The students liked the story, but thought Bullwinkle was a weird name for a dog. Apparently they were too young to know about the cartoon characters. Thus for literary purposes, I renamed Bullwinkle, Black Bart.
I wrote Black Bart as big, strong and dumb. It hurt to think, but when necessary to come to the rescue of Rocky, Bart could use his head. Rocky, on the other hand is the brains of the outfit. He is limited by size and strength, but strong on thinking power. He can read and is bilingual. He is the one who sets strategy and makes plans. Black Bart is the one who carries out the plans.
I had a lot of fun writing about these two dogs. Of course, I couldn’t understand them even if they knew how to talk, but from their personalities I could pretty well guess what they were trying to say.