Six months ago, I was considering finding a new home for him. He came to us last May in a deal that cleared our old house of our grandson and his friend, but ending up making us the dog’s foster caregivers. After all, Nancy told me that we were only going to foster him for a while.
Alex, you may remember, is the grandson who left us with Juneau six years ago. For that I am eternally grateful, though I wasn’t at the time. Juneau is the perfect companion — constant but not intrusive. She likes everyone and their dogs, and everybody loves Juneau.
This time Alex was forced to move out after living at our house in Highland Square for a couple of years, during which time he did a great job of painting all the walls, waterproofing the basement walls, wallpapering some rooms and, in general, getting the place ready for sale. For that too, I am grateful. What I wasn’t grateful for, however, was his leaving us with Buster when he couldn’t find a home for him. And if you meet Buster, you may see why Alex couldn’t find a home for him.
Alex moved into our house and almost immediately brought home this five-pound, shy but obviously happy, puppy. Buster wagged his tail with great enthusiasm — starting at the shoulder blades and to the tip of his tail. In just two years he has grown to 65 pounds and stands two feet tall. He has the huge head of a pit bull and the brindle body of a boxer. He is a formidable looking animal.
Not too long ago, a neighbor, whom I didn’t know, came to my front door with a frayed broom in her hand and, boy, was she mad. Buster had busted out the front door for the umpteenth time and ran down the street by her house. She, the neighbor, was out sweeping snow from her car when Buster spotted her and started barking and getting closer. He has a deafening bark and the growl of a lion. He would scare the hell out of almost anyone. But that wasn’t what almost got him kicked to the pound.
For the first three months he lived with us, Buster and Juneau got into several fights over toys, territory and me. Juneau has been my constant companion for six years. She has had the place to herself, with the cat, Sarah. Juneau has been so protective of me that she won’t let anyone sit beside me. She somehow manages to squeeze in between me and whoever is trying to take that place. Sometimes it means lying across my lap if she has to. When Buster came on the scene, he took a liking to me too, and that’s where the fights began. For a couple of months beginning in June of last year, Buster and Juneau were in constant battles for supremacy.
Buster is of two breeds that dog people call “bully breeds”: pit bull and boxer. By nature, he tried to force his will on Juneau (and the rest of the family, for that matter), but Juneau would have none of it. She was here first, and no upstart puppy — no matter that he weighed 65 pounds and she only 25 — was going to take her place beside me. She was first mate, damn it!
In all, there were about five major fights in which I jumped to separate them. Out of that, I had a deep bite wound on my upper left arm from Juneau, three deep claw marks on my lower right arm from Buster, a bite wound through my shirt on my chest, arm and thigh. I had black and blue marks all over my body. I took photos of the wounds to show the authorities, if necessary. Everyone told me to get rid of him, send him to the pound … everyone, that is, except Nancy.
“Don’t give up on Buster,” she pleaded. She had fallen in love with the mutt.
We finally agreed to go to counseling — a dog trainer, that is. Ron Shannon, a short, purposely bald man in his mid-30s, had Buster totally under his command within the first 10 minutes of his training. He also taught us the skills we needed to keep Buster under our command.
Since Ron’s visit, Buster has been knocked down a peg or two. He now realizes that not only must he take orders from Juneau, but Sarah, our 17-year-old cat, also knocks him back from her food dish with a couple of quick jabs to his nose. He is beginning to know how to live in polite company, and we are beginning to know how to live with him. He is still loud and pushy just like the big puppy he is. I don’t think he realizes that he’s no longer that five-pound ball of wiggly flesh as he tries to sit on our laps. He lays his big head on our shoulder and sighs; he is very content.
I have not only NOT given up on Buster, but I love him and all his doggy ways. Pit bulls, it turns out, make excellent pets, and local dog sanctuaries have a good selection of them. They’re loving, smart, easily trainable and provide far better protection than any gun.
Don Baker, Jr.
Founder and Editor-in-Chief