A dog story from yours truly!
Muscles was born into a drug house and watched his mother get killed right in front him. He was shuffled around to a few homes, in one of which he was terribly abused. But in a strange twist of fate, he ended up in a home that was just right. But this is just a snippet. The full story of his life is incredible.
I don’t know how old Muscles was when he died, because I don’t know when he was born. What I do know is that he was in a drug house, and that when he was just a puppy, his mom was shot in front of him. She managed to cling to life until police arrived.
Sometime after that, he wound up in a young woman’s home. Her sadistic boyfriend used to put him in a garbage can and kick it down the basement stairs. Thankfully this sweet ginger boy wasn’t there for too long.
Somehow Muscles ended up being my best friend’s sister’s dog. Chrissy and her fiancé Matt loved him. Matt would take him out for runs, and Muscles even adapted well when they had a baby. He didn’t mind having a clumsy baby occasionally roll on him or tug his ears. He was just glad to be part of a family.
When Matt joined the military, he and Chrissy had to move to North Carolina. Muscles wasn’t allowed to live in the housing, so they had to leave him in Buffalo with Chrissy’s parents.
My family had three dogs at the time – a German shepherd named Achilles, a Great Dane named Goliath, and a stumpy pit bull named Pandora. Pandora was found on the streets, and she represented her name to the fullest, because she unleashed all the evils under our roof.
All of our dogs until her had communal food bowls, and always got along. She did not. She fought over food constantly, and would go after our gentle Goliath any time her swirly brain told her to. She knew better than to mess with Achilles, but she stressed out Goliath. This was before dog training was really popular, so all we could do was to keep them separated as much as possible and break up the fights as soon as they happened.
Over the summer when Chrissy and Matt would visit her parents, they often brought Muscles. My best friend, Chrissy’s sister Maddy, and I would take Muscles over to my house, which was only four doors down. My yard was fenced in, so Muscles could enjoy the new territory and we could hang out. I don’t know why, but for some reason, Pandora took a real liking to him, and the feeling was mutual, so we often let those two play together.
When the newlyweds moved down south and left Muscles with my neighbors, they soon found that he did not get along with their sickly, crusty old Cocker Spaniel, Biscuit. Some people just have limited options and don’t know what to do, so while they considered taking Muscles to the pound, they kept him in their car. The windows were down and he wasn’t in any danger, but the situation was obviously not ideal.
They decided they couldn’t keep Muscles, and had to take him to the pound. When I found this out, I immediately said I would take him. I loved Muscles, and would always spend lots of time playing with him at his old house so he didn’t feel left out with the new baby around. He was such a sweetheart, and I couldn’t let him go to a shelter.
So even though we already had three big dogs (Pandy had become quite the sausage) in a small house, I convinced my mom to keep Muscles. Bad idea. We had only ever had him around Pandora, and he hadn’t hung out with Achilles and Goliath. I don’t know if it was from all the turmoil and upheaval in his life, but he did NOT get along with them. Even he and Pandy were fighting. So we had to keep him in the basement.
This wasn’t the worst place to be – my brother lived down there, and Muscles got to spend lots of time outside. Once inside, my dogs were more than happy to just veg, so the basement was a nice dog den for him.
Over the course of the next year, all three of our other dogs died. That July, in the middle of the night, Goliath developed bloat and died on the bathroom floor. He had been perfectly healthy and nothing was wrong when we went to bed that night, so we were shocked the next morning. Though it saddened us that he died alone, we were comforted knowing he at least died in his favorite room (he loved sleeping in the tub and scaring unsuspecting toilet users), and he was 10, which is a pretty good age for a Great Dane.
Pandora was next. At the end of summer, she and the dogs were outside in the backyard when all of a sudden I heard a terrible noise. I rushed out and saw Pandy stricken. She was crouching and screaming in pain. It was the most agonizing sound imaginable. I didn’t know what happened, but she was in a treacherous amount of pain and couldn’t walk. It is likely that her spine had been riddled with tumors, and that one had ruptured. Even though she was a rotten little dog who obviously had been traumatized before we found her, this was a devastating way for her to go.
Achilles went in January. He’d had hip dysplasia for the last couple of years and couldn’t use his back legs. But he was always very independent and determined, so we helped him by holding his tail up so he could go to the bathroom. Sometimes we could hear the joints crack and he’d temporarily be able to walk a bit on his own. Other than that, he still had an excellent quality of life and loved playing. He lived to be 12, and died in my mom’s arms at home.
It was sad that we lost so many dogs all in a row, but it did make room for Muscles. We love our dogs very much – they are definitely members of our family. They sleep in our beds and eat the food off our forks. And when it is time for them to go, we mourn them greatly and move on. There are others who need love, too.
Muscles was an only dog for a little while. He was mellow, but could be moody. He’s the only dog I’ve ever seen who would actually pout by sticking out their lower lip. With his wrinkly forehead and expressive eyes, we always knew what he was thinking. He loved basking in the sun, and would just lay in the front yard for hours. Since we lived on a small, dead end street with a field on one side, we didn’t have to worry much. He wasn’t a runner and he was always friendly with people. But we have always been a two-dog house, and it was time to get him a brother.
This was before we really knew about adopting dogs from shelters, and since the last two we had gotten were older, my mom yearned for a puppy. So she and my brother got a little spotted black and white pit bull puppy. Smart as a whip and ever the hunter, we named him Orion. I would have liked to have called Muscles Apollo, but I figured with all the other changes in his life, he didn’t need a new identity, too.
He may not have gotten along well with other dogs, but Muscles got on fabulously with Orion. For five years they were buddies and loved playing and going on adventures with us. But all good things must come to an end.
One night, Muscles jumped off my bed, and rather than land on his feet, he landed right on his torso. He then rolled over and got his teeth caught in a laundry basket, peed on himself, and began trembling and foaming at the mouth. I don’t know what happened. He calmed down, and I kept an eye on him the whole night. He would drink little bits of milk and water, but by 6 am he was no better, so I knew we had to go to the vet.
He was such a good boy, and obediently stood on their scale and let the staff examine him. They believed he might have had a seizure, and the X-rays showed tumors. Dr. Melissa Wadja callously told us that he might live another week, but that we’d be lucky if he saw the end of the day. What to do? Put him down right then? Take him home? The choices are so difficult.
We opted to take him home. He didn’t seem to be suffering (and we KNOW our dogs), and if he was going to die naturally, we wanted it to be in his home, where he was loved. And who knows? Sometimes vets get it wrong, and pets live longer than expected. Muscles was one of them. He actually lived another year and four months longer!
A year after his seizure, he and Orion got out and ran away. We don’t know how or why. Neither were ever runners, but they were avid squirrel chasers, so perhaps one caught their attention. It was January and bitter cold. Orion came back quickly, but Muscles did not. I made flyers and put them online and plastered the neighborhood with them. Someone said they had seen the dogs, and that Muscles had been hit by a car but kept going. I drove around crying and calling his name.
I searched every street in my neighborhood over and over, but he had vanished. What could have happened to him? It was well below freezing that night, and this was a dog that wouldn’t even go outside if it was sprinkling. I returned home, crying and praying that he would be ok and that he would find somewhere warm.
The next morning I got the call that made my heart burst with glee. Muscles had been found, and he was alive! He wasn’t even a 10-minute walk away, but he had wandered to a desolate part of a back street and ended up in a fenced-in parking lot. He was probably in shock, freezing, and couldn’t see his way out. The men who worked at the building found him when they arrived in the morning. They brought him in and covered him with their jackets. I couldn’t believe he survived, and that all in all, he was ok! No frostbite or anything!
Muscles lived another three months after that. He died of natural causes, right in my arms. It was very bittersweet to be able to feel his last breath, his last heartbeat. Before we took him to be cremated the next morning, we covered him with a sheet and held a wake in the living room. Several of our friends stopped by to offer their condolences, one of whom went white as snow when she came inside and saw that Muscles was lying right where he died (she didn’t know he’d still be there).
We think he was around 11 or 12. Given all he had been through in his life, it was amazing he got to the ripe old age he was. He might have even been older; we had him for about seven years, and he was already gray and grizzly when we got him. He certainly lived a full life, and was greatly missed when he went. Family friends who didn’t have dogs loved him as if he was one of their own. Hopefully we will see him and our other furheads again someday. But it is because of Muscles and his spectacular personality that my family fell in love with pit bulls. We currently have two ginger pibbles, both adopted from The SPCA Serving Erie County.
This was written by my brother, Eric James Stayer:
An Ode to Muscles
He was a dog of majestic pose,
Even with his long-tipped-toes.
His tendency towards a Jackal grin
Always hinted at mischief about to begin.
A hearty laugh came forth from his throat
When going outside was surely his vote.
When led to water, his delight was to guzzle,
Then greet you with a slobbery muzzle.
His appetite for cat was hard to hide,
But most of the time he kept it inside.
Whether awake or asleep
You could still hear him snore,
Such a sound as could surely
Lead one to sleep’s door.
Occasionally, his own fart
Would wake him with a start,
But that was just one more quirk
That did bond him to heart.
We loved him so dearly, never knowing quite clearly
When his time with us
Would come to an end.
But the end doesn’t matter so much, though it’s sadder.
For our memories are more
Of the love which we
Shared with our dear old Friend.
Orion died the year after Muscles. His death was the most heartbreaking of all, because he was only six when he died. We had no idea about the dangers of chicken jerky treats. Our dogs have always enjoyed the best food at treats – lots of bones, rawhides, etc. But after eating chicken jerky a number of times, Orion developed kidney disease. The tissue in his skull atrophied, and he became bloated. He was retaining water, but his hunger and thirst were insatiable. When he stopped eating and drinking, we knew his time was up. Eric and I came back home to spend Orion’s last days together with our mom. We wanted him to die at home, and found a vet who made house calls. He arrived when we had taken Orion outside to relieve himself. He came back inside, smiled, and wagged his tail. Then he lay down and crossed the rainbow bridge. He was another tenacious one, and he went on his own terms.
It is always hard to lose a beloved pet, especially due to sudden circumstances. But when one door closes, another one opens, and another dog is ushered in. After Muscles died we got Spartacus, and he and Orion loved each other. He took it almost as hard as we did when he got sick. But now Spartacus has a rambunctious little brother named Loki, and they are just two peas in a pod.
Our current tribe: Spartacus (bigger and older) and Loki.