Every time I turn around I am greeted by the site of another dog - bright expecting eyes, tuned in ears, wagging tails, hanging tongues, furry reasons to smile. And yet, the absence in the house is excruciating. There was a dog named Monster who is gone now. There was a dog that was always in the center of everything that we ever did as a couple, a dog that was the reason that we train and the reason that we rescue, a dog that there was no chance of ever being able to ignore his presence. Some dogs live a life as an animal, but Monster was always more. Monster was a presence. And now the absence of that driving life force has left this house full of dogs feeling so painfully empty.
Monster was going to be euthanized in the Yonkers shelter. He was just a year old, enormous and underfed, energetic and full of pent up energy and some aggression issues due to no help from his surrendering owner. Monster was given up for rawhide aggression and cat aggression, and undoubtedly from eating too much and taking up too much space. Monster was lucky enough to be pulled by a rescue and brought to the kennel where we were both employed. He came in all ribs and shiny white teeth, but his smile showed a love for life that had not been diminished, in fact hadn't even been touched. Monster was ready for his next chance at life and he intended to take full advantage.
Of course, only a human who could look into the massive force of a Monster and want to tame it would have ever succeeded with this dog. From the jump it was unrestrained instinct, all resource guarding and open mouthed possession of whatever smelled the best, usually some animal bone, and it took patience and acceptance and some primal intestinal fortitude by a man that only ever saw love in the eyes of Monster. Monster was Eric's dog. And so, within months, a house pet emerged. Of course his size made him feel more like livestock, but his manners resembled a well behaved pet more everyday.
Monster began his new life in a daycare yard with a hundred dogs and under the watchful gaze of his ultimate master. Eric had his attention and his heart from the start and it enabled him to bring Monster into any situation with other animals and humans and would never have to worry about his reactions. As long as Monster was following his master, which is what he lived to do, he was always there to bring his positive energy to the environment. When it came to other dogs, Monster also always had this sense of a need for social balance. He was always willing to meet a new dog, but would never tolerate instability. Yet he would never provoke an alteration. Due to his size and always being able to stand over the other dog, with only a few exceptions, he didn't feel the need to do more than posture to let the other dog know, yes you might indeed be dangerously unstable, but I am not going to allow that in the here and now. Monster never took his skills to the level of protecting or guarding his humans either, no matter what outside environment we were in. Monster was the reason that we started a dog training business and for years were able to visit people's homes with Monster in tow and always leave with progress made. Monster rehabilitated Pit Bulls for several years before his master began his mission in rescue.
Again, from the jump, Monster was there for us. Working primarily with rescued Bully Breeds, usually all with behavioral issues bad enough for another rescue to reach out for help. This scenario exposed us and our other dogs and our home to a constant influx of energy. A lot of that energy was unstable. Some of that energy had dangerous potentials. Never was their a hesitation when the biggest dog with the highest energy in the house, in the pack, was Monster. No one was going to try to take that spot from him. The ones who tried left Monster with his fair share of scars, but Monster was never in a fight that left anyone with more than some puncture wounds. Monster's fight would bring the peace and never to inflict meaningless harm. Monster may have been a beast, but he always used his powers for good. He was a warrior and lived a valiant life defending the peace and balance of a pack, his pack, our pack, our life with a Monster.
Over the years, Monster slowed down, as aging beings do. Both Monster and master have suffered the pain of a failing physicality. Together though, they have fought through every worthy battle that presented itself. The mission never faltered. The pack never suffered. With the strength and resilience of his master to motivate him, Monster went full force to his last day with us. Monster remained the willing center of any pack of dogs, room full of people, or even, in his final year with us a field or barn full of farm animals. Monster never stopped offering us every last effort he could make to be by our side.
And now that he is gone, I am having trouble even moving around the house and fixing my gaze on the sea of faces and tails. There is an awful absence that bleeds into every moment like a dripping wound that you feel might kill you. Our hearts are split open and gaping at the loss. How do you let go of such a full life? Every time I move, I feel you, or I don't and that void is killing me. And yet, in these bright expecting eyes, tuned in ears, wagging tails, hanging tongues, furry reasons to smile, in every one, I feel you. You are our always. Our Monster lives on.