Hardest Dog

And here’s where my ex would begin to roll her eyes at the superlative stories. Though Rollo has kept me busy in management, he’s nowhere near as “hard” as Zeus was. My old boy was hard in every way. I never saw him back up from anything, never flinched in fear or from sudden movements or loud noises. He looked like Colby line to me.

That dog towed me swimming with his entire shoulder girdle out of the water for 36 minutes at which point I pulled him out fearing he might suddenly sink. I didn’t own a dog life jacket back then. I’d been tossing a ball as far out as I could, he’d tow me to it and I’d again throw the ball. I wore the life jacket. I couldn’t keep up with him even wearing fins.  I often wonder how he’d compare to Olympic swimmers. For distance, no contest – well, maybe Jack Lalanne.

My brother was on shore when we came out and Zeus was still so eager for the ball my brother said, “It’s scary how much he wants that.”  His intensity was that, so sky high it was unsettling.

Zeus was extremely dominant which ultimately led me to euthanize him.  He’d bitten me 4 times on separate occasions by then, had squared off and growling, tried to prevent my passage down my own hallway. The day I brought him home he “mounted” my head and neck as I drove the car.  He was neutered.  He was that dominant. He looked a bit like he was on steroids he was so muscular – even neutered. If I petted him on the couch in the evening he’d start with growling then show his teeth. He growled at me if I moved him in bed. Dominance issues in dogs often peak at night.

Despite all that, he showed very clear signs that he loved me deeply. He just wanted to be in charge!

At first I kept him on wide, thick leather collars made for cows but trimmed short. But the more I saw of him, the more cautious I became. Later he wore an extra wide double thickness nylon web collar and two Herm Springer chokes for security anytime he was outside. And bite? He could destroy one of those huge ultra mega Kong type toys, but harder ones than Kong makes, in a matter of days. I’ll bet his mouth was as hard as the rest of him.

My old girlfriend at the time saw us together and said, “You’ve got something for this dog.” After I’d euthed him, I felt remorse and guilt even though I’d gotten so I didn’t feel safe in my own house. It was the hardest death I’ve ever experienced because I took his life away in his prime. My reality shifted in the days after I had him put down. I wanted to dig him up and keep him in the living room. I missed him terribly, cried for a year, and can still cry at the thought of losing him.

What brought him to mind this afternoon is that I prepped, cleaned and set up Rollo’s basement cage, then gave him a shakedown cruise in it for half an hour. Not a peep. Decidedly angelic. (I won’t mention how he broke skin biting my forearm in ever increasing cycles of escalation this afternoon.)

But Zeus in a cage? When he’d shown me his teeth several times or growled in bed, I put him in the cage out of concern for my own safety. Back in bed I’d hear him down there letting out screams of rage. I’ve never heard a dog make that sound. He actually began chewing a hole through the chain link prompting me to wire in another layer of heavier gauge stuff.

Like Mak, Zeus was ungodly strong. Mak has semi-crappy shoulder conformation and all his drive comes from his near perfect hind end. Zeus, on the other hand, would pull with his upper body as well.  He’d get his sternum about an inch off the ground and pull with both forelegs while driving with his hind. Never seen another do quite like it. Now that was a dog! You couldn’t shoehorn more life, vitality and herculean strength into a 55 lbs. package. Plus, he was bad to the bone.

Writing this has caused me to tear up. I’ll never get over the loss of my old boy. And even though I could only have known Ty because Zeus was gone, I’ll forever regret doing what I had to do. Damn, was he a hard one!ZeusI


8 thoughts on “Hardest Dog

    1. Thanks for reading. Well actually, it turned into a full out cry after I was done. The worst thing about putting down a healthy dog is you can never know how things would have turned out. You can never bring them back. After writing, I looked at a photo of him lying in his coffin on a blanket with his partially destroyed super hard rubber toy and I could remember how his ears felt. Waterworks! Like I said, I can easily cry just thinking about him these 16 years later.

      1. I think I did the right thing but it also taught me that I have difficulty with dominant issue dogs. Which is why I’m extra careful about how I’m managing Rollo. Unneutered Rottie’s are known for dominance issues.

        Even if I know in my mind that I did the right thing, in my heart I know I killed my beloved friend – on purpose. I wish I’d had more experience then. During my cry (okay crying again now) I kept telling him out loud how sorry I was for what I did to him. I wish I could bring him back and hold him.

      2. Unaltered male dogs period are known for dominance issues.. That isn’t just a rott or Pitt problem.. I’m sorry about Zeus.. You did what you felt was right and after reading what was happening, I agree with your choice.. Not that my opinion matters..

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