It was 1984, and we lived in Silver Spring, Maryland. I worked as a Nurse at the National Institutes of Health; my husband, Paul, was active duty Army and stationed at Walter Reed; and with my three daughters-Mandy (age 7), Leila (age 6), and Amiee' (age 2)--we lived in the suburbs outside of D.C. Our only pet as a 13 year old Black & Tan English Shepherd, Lady Emory, who would leave our yard looking for canine companionship. So the decision was made to get a second dog.
"A Mastiff", Paul said. "what is a Mastiff?" I asked. "Why it is the most noble of all dogs.....If we are going to get another dog it will be a Mastiff." he stated firmly. Later, I found out that as a child he had always wanted a large dog but his mother would only allow small dogs in their home.
A few days later, as I was reading the classified ads in Sunday's Washington Post, I found an ad for a 16 month old adult Mastiff for $200. I called the number and got directions to the seller's house. It was here that I was introduced to Baron and to what I now know was a puppymill.
This "breeder" had 8 different breeds of dogs--mostly females with one male per breed. Baron had become a "problem"--he was getting to all the females as they came into heat and was breeding them. One of his "breeding" Mastiff females was the size of a six month old puppy. "She has a thyroid problem and didn't grow right." the owner told me. All of the dogs were in filthy pens, coats matted and dirty, and all acted scared of people.
Baron had ate through doors, tore out of crates, and broke through fences to breed any female in heat. The man had done a do-it-yourself vasectomy on Baron( he was so proud of himself--he was a surgical scrub tech) thinking it would solve his problem. Baron was underweight, covered with fleas and ticks, and infected from this man's home surgery. Upon questioning him as to where Baron had come from--I discovered he didn't have Baron's registration papers in his name; and he was the third person to own him. No one had ever bothered transferring the papers, so this man was breeding dogs to make dogs--"full-blooded Mastiffs".
Having seen enough to make me sick, I turned to leave. As I approached the gate, Baron came around me, sat down in front of me and looked up at me. His face was calm and dignified; his eyes looked straight at me and a voice in my heart told me to take him. I bent down to him,"Do you want to leave with me?" I asked him. He picked up his ears and "woofed" softly. I then knew he was a special dog worth saving. To the horror of my Army Officer Husband, I made the man give me his papers, I paid him $200 in cash, and I left with my dog.
It took about $750 and several trips to a Vet to treat Baron's most immediate problems. We had him neutered to clear up the gross infection he had developed from his home surgery. He was full of tapeworms, whipworms, hookworms, and roundworms. Thank God, he didn't have heart worms. He weighed less than 90lbs. on his first trip to the Vet. I told the Vet where I had found him. He contacted the authorities who confiscated the rest of that "breeder's" dogs.
Baron came into our home as if he had been there all along. He adored my girls, who hugged and petted him constantly. His favorite spot was on the floor with one or more of them lying their heads on him. At night, he slept upstairs outside our bedroom doors halfway between the children and us. If Amiee' awoke and was scared, he would go to her and curl up ion the bed and slept with her until morning. The girls built cardboard castles around him, put sheet tents over him, even dressed him up in clothes, and he bore it all with a calm dignity and patience. He would escort them next door to play with Jason, a cute little 8 year old boy, and lay quietly outside the door and wait until it was time to go home. He fit our family and our lifestyle.
Jason so loved Baron that he, too, wanted a dog. He begged his parents until they relented and went to the animal shelter and got "Bootsie". "Bootsie", a terrier mix, was the dog from hell; he didn't mind, would not come when you called him, never stopped barking, and would not stay in his yard.
One day, I heard a tearful Jason beseeching Bootsie to come to him. Bootsie had got out and was in the street and he would not let Jason or his Mom catch him. Poor Jason, he just knew his dog was going to get hit by a car. I went to the back yard and called Baron and led him out to the edge of the Street, "catch Bootsie", I told him. Baron ran out and pinned Bootsie with his mouth and front feet. I walked out and grabbed Bootsie and told Baron "Good Dog". Baron Turned him loose, "Back to the yard", I instructed him. Baron returned immediately to our yard. I handed Bootsie to Jason and he carried him home.
About 2 weeks later, the doorbell rang early one evening as we sat down to supper. I answered it; it was Jason. I informed him the girls couldn't play right now because we were eating supper. "Oh No," he said quite seriously, "I came to see Baron," "what do you need to see Baron about?" I asked him. Jason stood there looking down at the floor twisting his foot," Well....Bootsie is out and I can't catch him." I laughed and instructed him to go to the side gate and call baron, take him by the collar, lead him out to the street, and to tell him to "catch Bootsie". When he caught Bootsie, I told Jason, to pat him on the head and tell him "Good Boy" and to tell him to "Go Home".
Jason did exactly as I instructed him. As I watched from the window Baron caught Bootsie just as before, allowed Jason to pick him up, and then returned to his yard with his neck arched and his head held high knowing that he had done his job well. I had always knew Baron was intelligent, but that day he proved to me was a true treasure he really was.
Baron always rode with me to pick up my check when I worked at the Clinical Center at NIH. The PETA people were always doing something to decry the research done at NIH. After I picked up my check, I would walk Baron up to the door of my Credit Union, give him the "down stay" command, go inside to deposit my check, and he would wait patiently for me to come out.
One day as I approached the Credit Union door, a PETA person ran up to me and asked if I was "leaving" my dog outside. She stated that "didn't I know" that he "could disappear" into a research lab there at NIH and I would never see him again.
"Look , lady I work here. We do not use cats or dogs in research here. If you think you can take him, go ahead and be my guest. He won't leave with you." I did as I usually did and went inside. When I came back out, a local TV camera crew was filming this woman's efforts to get Baron to leave with her. He would not even lift his head. I gave him the "come" command and he sprang up and trotted to my side.
Baron wasn't perfect--he was deathly afraid of thunder, fireworks, and gunfire. If he was inside with us, he was OK. If he was outside, By George he was getting inside. I had to replace some brick molding around doors, until I learned to check the weather forecast before I left home. When he first came to live with us, He had a problem with listening (like most men), But a couple of sessions with the head "alpha Bitch" cured that problem.
He would come and sit in front of me and look at me when he wanted something. I would begin asking him Questions. "need a drink of water? Want to eat? Want to go outside? Want to go for a walk?" When I hit the right question, he would jump up and dance around me as to say," YES! YES! That's it!" Only smart dogs try to talk to their owners.
Often my Army husband was away for long periods of time, so Baron spent most of his time with the girls and me. Of course, he likes Paul, and was obedient to him, but it was the women of the house he loved. Paul would always tell me that "the dog loves me best." "Uh Huh" I would respond.
While Paul was stationed over seas, I taught Baron to say "Momma". So when Paul came home, we played a joke on him. One night when Paul began his speech about how Baron loved him best, I said,"let's ask him" I called Baron into the room, he came over to me and sat down in front of me. I turned my head to the side (that was his signal), and I asked him, "Baron, who do you love?" Baron looked straight up at me and said," MomMomMomma". "There you go", I said to my shocked husband "Straight from the horse's mouth. He loves me best." My husband never forgave me for that. Until the day he died, Baron would always tell you he loved "MomMomMomma" best.
Baron loved every kid that lived in our neighborhood. Each child took great delight in "walking" Baron up and down the street. When it snowed, he would pull a sled and ride each for hours at a time. Upon one occassion, a toddler reached over and grabbed Baron by his tender parts. He never growled--he just got a funny look on his face and laid down--which of course made the child turn him loose. He was alway happy to see this child, but he laid down and stayed there until she left.
There is so much to tell you about Baron. In actuality, he was poorly bred and raised--the product of a puppymill. He had been abused; poorly cared for and underfed. He had hip dysplasia, multiple health and behavior problems when I got him. To this day, I count him as one of the smartest dogs I have ever owned and trained. I feel that God sent him to me and my family and him to me. I have never regretted paying $200 for him, nor my decision to take him home.
He lived to be 11 years old. He was a feeble old man who went down one day. I knew it was time. I took him to my Vet, held him and we put him to sleep. Even now as I write about him and that day, I cry. As I held him and he drifted off, I thanked him for being my dog, and I cried. I took him home and buried him underneath a dogwood tree where he use to lie watching me as I worked in the yard. I placed him there knowing he would always be waiting for us to come home. Somewhere I know, he lies waiting quietly for us to come home to him.
Baron's story is typical of the abuse, mistreatment and pain these dogs endure while owned by a puppymill "breeder". Some never recover from the abuse, but most do if given a loving home and family. A rescue dog in not for everyone. If you have room in your heart, a place on your bedroom floor next to your bed, and love to give...give it to a rescue dog. The benefits you will reap will be ten thousand fold.
For those of you who wish to make a donation or look into adopting a Mastiff through Rescue--go to the Mastiff Club Of American(MCOA) website rescue section and it will direct you to a rescue coordinator near you. The Friends of Rescued Mastiffs (FORM) and Southern States Mastiff Rescue (SSMR) also have websites. The English Mastiff Trust Fund (EMTF) works to remove Mastiffs from puppymill and commerical breeding operations--go to their website and learn of the horrors these dogs experience.
Your donation can make a difference. Thank you. If you have questions about rescue, please feel free to contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.