Most people will never admit to having ever felt anything other than love for their dog. For a time though, I despised mine.
Heavy B is a shit machine, and occasionally, an evil mind that plots destruction.
I’d always wanted a Newfoundland because they are enormous, head-turning animals. The idea of walking down a crowded ski town street, and meeting the snow bunny of my dreams after she stopped to pet my big bear of a dog, very much appealed to the 26-year-old attention whore I was.
Newfs are bred to rescue people at sea. They are insanely powerful animals that propel themselves through water like Coast Guard cutters. I wanted to spend the rest of my life chasing big whitewater around the American West, and therefore needed an animal companion who could handle it, as it was unlikely I’d find a woman willing to spend her summers sweaty, dirty, and waterlogged.
A purebred Newf wouldn’t work though. Their stamina isn’t the best on land, and I wanted to spend my time off the water in the mountains.
That’s when I found Elrik, the Mormon Mad Scientist.
He’d posted on the local Craigslist page, advertising Newf/Husky mixes. A combination of power, speed and stamina. Plus, chicks love huskies. Perfect.
A few days later I was cruising through the Utah desert, on my way to pick up my new best friend/adventure partner/lady bait.
Elrik’s ranch was a massive canine zoo. As my van stumbled over the rough rock road, a horde of gray-faced poodle mixes descended upon me. Chained up at various spots throughout the property were Great Danes, German Shepherds, Pointers, Huskies, St. Bernards—countless breeds.
When Elrik came to greet me, he wrapped my hand in his massive bear paw, shook violently, and asked me to walk with him. He explained how he’d spent years crossing different breeds for different purposes, attempting to create uniquely gifted animals. The pride and joy of all combinations he’d created though, was the Anatolian Shepherd-Newfoundland mix.
Elrik bulldozed my attempts at discussing the Husky mixes, and after surmising that I had a pretty good understanding of what Newfs brought to the table, went into a deep analysis of Anatolians.
A breed of superior intelligence, engineered to conquer rugged terrain and serve their masters with undying loyalty. Known to have the strongest bite of any canine, they were bred in Turkey to scare off bears, jackals and entire packs of wolves. It was a seemingly endless monologue, delivered while shoeing an angry horse that kept looking at me sideways. Elrik noticed me staring at the animal’s undercarriage jealously, where a menacing pair of testicles the size of nectarines dangled.
“Watch yourself now. Ya might get kicked.”
The preposterous scrotum and its contents made me uncomfortable, as did Elrik’s monotonous sales pitch. But the Anatolian cross did seem cool, and I desperately wanted the ear beating to end, so I could get away from Dr. Frankenstein and elephant balls. The second he stopped to take a breath, I cut in and said I was sold.
To the corral we went, where only two remained from the most recent litter. Both were enormous, weighing almost 100 lbs at only eight-months-old. One was calm and lacked personality. But the bigger one jumped at the sight of me, thumping his white paws on the fence, and snapping at a full-grown Great Dane that attempted to steal some of my attention.
This was my dog.
A beast. Pure power and speed. Elegance and aesthetics. A shining black prince, with big, clumsy white paws and absurdly gorgeous orange eyes. A regal creature. My new best friend.
He sported a red rocket the size of a kielbasa, and astonishing testicles that rivaled those of Elrik’s horse. Already, father and adopted son had a lot in common.
Elrik and I agreed on $500. I paid the canine eugenicist, and drove off with my new monster riding shotgun.
A mountain-loving master of seduction, and his young, fur-covered apprentice, with nothing but open road and possibility in front of us. I christened him Heavy B and set our course for a campground outside Bryce Canyon National Park.
The camping trip went relatively well. He tore two holes in my tent, attempted to fight a golden retriever, and made me chase him down a mile of desert trail after he ran off. But I chalked that all up to normal puppy behavior.
I expected him to be nothing but love going forward. Instead, I got dinner plate sized dookies.
Leaf Hound and Canned Heat thumped out of the van’s stereo, as we cruised down a two-lane highway, curving through red rock and deep grey mountains. I felt the wind on my knuckles and nothing but bliss, breathing in the scent of desert sage and smiling, thinking about the life I’d build and the women I’d meet with the beast in the back seat.
But the soothing sage was suddenly overpowered by a vile odor. Bile crawled up my throat and I gagged.
Glancing in the rearview, I saw that Heavy B was mid-squat and grinning, as he deposited a steaming, mustard-colored monstrosity right on top of my most prized possession—my father’s old pack frame from the 80s, which I had intended to one day take to the top of every 14,000-foot mountain in Colorado.
In a burst of rage, I yanked the wheel and almost crashed into a cattle guard.
The shit itself was a crime against humanity that truly defies description, but I didn’t hold it against B. The pack frame was fine after being washed. And despite his size, he was just a puppy who didn’t understand acceptable defecation locations just yet.
Our next stop was Southwest Montana. I’d been named head boatman of a raft company and was tasked with managing logistics, organizing each business day, and training a dozen rookies to keep people safe on the river.
I was entirely unqualified and unprepared. Deciding to throw a massive, untrained animal with full-on puppy brain into the mix didn’t help. My world soon devolved into chaos
Sometimes it was funny. I returned from the river once to find a bunch of drunk guides and Driver D chanting Heavy B’s name. When I got closer, I realized it was because he had been leaping into the air, catching starlings that were swooping down from their nests, and swallowing them.
B looked my way with a single wing hanging out of his mouth just as Driver D turned to me.
“Look at this fucker go, man! You got yourself a goddamn killing machine!”
He chewed once, scarfed the bird down, and burped like a human.
Not exactly what I was looking for in a dog. Thirteen birds didn’t need to die that day. But it made us all laugh nonetheless.
He began to test my patience by running off. I received numerous phone calls from ranchers or motel managers asking “Do you have a dog that looks like a bear?”
After the sixth or seventh call, I started locking him in the cook shack whenever I was away. He answered by dropping a deuce that looked like the fat end of a baseball bat in front of the oven while we were loading boats. After a scolding, each time he got locked in thereafter, he’d pick a window, leap through the screen, and take off. Within a few days, every window on the building had been busted out.
After pulling his face out of a rotting elk carcass a half mile from guide camp, I shifted to locking him in the broke down bus that served as my apartment. He responded by chewing through almost $600 worth of river gear.
I’d been advised by a vet not to neuter him until he turned three, but considered taking a pair of tin snips and doing it myself right then and there.
I tried leaving him with whatever guide had the day off. But river folk are naturally carefree people, and often forgot about him after the first bowl pack of the day. He shit in front of the boathouse. He shit in the boathouse. He shit in my van. He shit in front of the beer fridge. If there was an empty, inconvenient place, anywhere, he shit in it.
He chased herds of elk and our neighbor’s horse. Traffic was stopped more than once when he decided to sun himself in the middle of the nearby highway.
I was run down from dealing with the day-to-day of aspects being manager, and from the unending stream of complaints regarding Heavy B’s behavior. So, I bought a lead line. If he was going to be a prick, he’d be a prick all alone, with only ten feet of space to do it in.
Unfortunately, that ten feet still gave him enough room to climb onto the hood of my boss’s Audi, dance all over it, and leave claw marks from top to bottom.
I wanted the goddamn dog gone. I was in over my head, and had to bring him to a shelter or find someone to take him in. Clearly, I wasn’t qualified, nor did I have the time he required. I thought we’d be adventure buddies, but he was just bored and mischievious, while my patience and bank account were being bled dry.
I was at my wit’s end with Heavy B and the raft company, ready to get rid of him, quit managing, and start selling drugs. I resigned myself to drinking beer and letting him do as he pleased, because Dickface the Dog simply wouldn’t listen.
But a quadruple murder spurred me to action.
Up on the hill behind guide camp, an ancient rancher had cattle, draft horses, and a massive chicken coop. Often, as I played Beer Ball and Stump instead of training him, I’d see B staring longingly in the direction of the old man’s land.
I don’t remember how it happened. I was likely drunk or busy chewing out that one rookie with the cliché tattoos and vape pen. But B got loose, and from up on the hill, came a hundred petrified squawks and the sound of wood snapping.
Before I could think, I was barreling my way there in the van, then kicking a door open.
Inside, it was a burst of feathers and fear. Hens scattered this way and that, flailing and bug-eyed, as they fled my blood-crazed pet.
I stepped into the center of the hen house, and there the fucker came, confidently strutting his stuff, orange eyes ablaze—stubborn, glowing embers set deep in his velvet face, mocking me, all big dick and bad attitude. A frantic, feathered victim squirmed in his teeth, and fowl’s blood coated his boxy muzzle.
This fucking dog.
I stepped forward cautiously, and tried to play hostage negotiator.
“B,” I whispered “put her down buddy. C’mon now.”
He turned his gargantuan head to the side, as if to ask “really, bud?”. With a violent, defiant twist, he snapped her neck and dropped the poor thing. Then a grin, a turn, a shake of his ass in my direction, and off he went to find another victim.
I lunged after him, enraged, and slipped in chicken shit and wood shavings.
He picked up chickens one by one, looking at me, shaking them to death, then continuing on to the next. By the time I caught up to B, and delivered a beating I still feel bad about, four hens had been snuffed.
I got him out and into my van just as the rancher arrived on an ATV. He was stupid old, a reanimated corpse with one gray eye. He limped over to me, just loose skin hanging off brittle bones, robbed of its luster by cigarette smoke and dust. Rage burned in his one working eye.
I apologized, to him and to his grandson who stood at his hip, and said I’d pay for the chickens. I peeled a wad of tip money out of my pocket and asked how much each was worth.
“Twenty five,” he grunted and spat.
I placed a hundred bucks in his sandpaper palm, apologized again, and strode back toward my van, carrying the chickens and thinking I might be able to make it to the dog shelter in Bozeman before they closed.
But the rancher wasn’t done.
“I’ve shot dogs,” he said.
“I’ve shot dogs. Yours chased my horse. Now he’s killed my chickens. If I see him on my land, if I get a chance, I’m gonna shoot that damn dog.”
Any thoughts of a shelter or rehoming B went out the window. He was instantly blameless in my mind. He’d been acting out, wreaking havoc, not because it was in his nature, but because his deadbeat dad hadn’t been fulfilling his responsibilities. I hadn’t put the time in. I hadn’t done everything in my power to make it work, to make him the best dog he could be.
Resentment, frustration—it was all gone in relation to B. There was just overwhelming anger for the rancher, kicking at my insides. He had every right to protect his property. But I suddenly felt what I guess was a small fraction of what parents feel in relation to their human children, and was overcome by an intense desire to put everything into protecting my titanically-testicled fur child.
The rancher had guns. I didn’t. But I stalked within a few feet, shot my finger towards him and said “You shoot that dog, and I’m coming up here to put a fucking bullet in you.”
The crypt keeper wobbled and his gray eye clammed up tight between crusty lids. A thousand curses shot through decaying teeth, and his grandson winced.
He bent down to grab something in slow motion, like some antique machinery that hadn’t been oiled since Eli Whitney and the cotton gin had kicked off the Industrial Revolution.
The grandkid pleaded with him “Papa! Please no, Papa!”
I was 26-years-old, and somehow now found myself the villain in an episode of Little House on the Prairie.
Ol’ Dead Eye reared back with a baseball-sized rock in his hand, and launched it my way.
It traveled no more than two feet and dropped with a lifeless thud.
Seeing a man clearly on death’s door, and not wanting to break an elderly fella’s hip, I just laughed in the rancher’s face. That wonky eye searched the ground for more rocks, and he tried to hobble within striking range of my windshield as I fired up the engine. The grandkid cried as I backed out with B riding shotgun.
He had called the sheriff, and I expected B to get taken away as a result of my shortcomings as an owner, or to be cuffed myself. But the officer on duty knew me from fights I’d broken up while working the door at a local bar. I got a break
Back at guide camp, I gutted the chickens with Driver D’s guidance—
“That’s it! Ooooooh you got a good grip on that piss sack and pulled it right out boss, nice work.”
We dined on murdered birds and B slept soundly on a belly full of chicken innards that night.
I didn’t become the perfect owner thereafter, and Heavy B didn’t instantly morph into a Westminster Best in Show winner. That wasn’t the last time I neglected him, and it wasn’t the last time he caused trouble.
I made him sit through an 8-hour drive, and B got a lifetime ban from a buddy’s apartment after repainting the floor and walls with doggy diarrhea. He earned himself a 3-night stay in the animal ICU and a $4,000 bill for me after I left him unattended for too long and he got into a jug of antifreeze.
But, when I made an effort to be better, The Big Braciole got better too. Our life together has improved tremendously and we’ve definitely had the adventures I hoped for.
He’s lived in 7 different states. He’s chased me on snowmobiles, climbed a 12,000-foot peak, and logged close to 70,000 miles on the road. He’s scared off bears and the worst kind of people. And yes, he has gotten me laid. A true head-turning prince he is.
But I never ended up using The Beast to con a snow bunny into running off with me. I’m actually chasing a girl right now who isn’t a hardcore skier, or a boater, but is the rarest of the rare as far as human beings go. I don’t know if it will work out, but I’m not using B as a pawn in the process. I’m just being me, and B is being B.
He does seem to approve though, and I trust his opinion, because through all the headaches, he’s been my steadfast friend.
Which is why I’m letting him keep those big ol’ balls. No witch-doctor will ever mutilate this magnificent creature.
I intend to breed B with the right lady dog, and to have his bloodline in my family for generations, if only to smile as I watch my grandkids try to clean up dinosaur-sized dumps.
All you bleeding heart spay-and-neuter advocates can kick rocks. He won’t create strays, as he’s with me at almost all times now. And I’m not going to remove his most striking feature in order to change his behavior. I just have to be a better dad.