Jake and I still debate whose idea it was to get Bronson. The idea to get another dog was probably mine. But I swear to your god and mine that it was Jake’s idea to get a Rottweiler. I had never even met a Rottweiler. I had only seen them in the movies. A scary brute, silently guarding the estate or junk yard, available, if necessary, to kill or maul any intruder.
“All the rappers and pro athletes have Rottweilers, dad,” Jake told me. Maybe Jake knows how to play me, but I liked that. Rottweilers are badass.
When we got Bronson last October, I knew that Jake wouldn’t be around much longer to help take care of him. Jake would be heading off to college, the youngest of my four kids and the last one at home. Jake could help take care of the new dog for awhile, but then I would be on my own after Jake left. He would be my dog for the long run.
I could tell you tons of stories about Bronson. I could tell you of all the things he’s chewed up and destroyed, or how he bit Jake the night we brought him home. But let’s face it, no one cares. No one cares about your dog stories. The only people who want to hear stories about a Rottweiler are other Rottweiler owners. And I’m guessing that the intersection of Rottweiler owners, and people who listen to podcasts, is probably a limited demographic.
From my experience talking to other dog owners on walks with Bronson, there are exactly five things that someone wants to know about your dog. A. – The dog’s name? Secondly – Is your dog a pure bred? Third – Where did you get your dog? Fourth – Is your dog fixed? Finally – Is your dog dangerous? That’s it. No one cares about anything else.
Jake came up with the name Bronson. I wanted to call him Chops, but Jake was right, Bronson is better. You have Charles Bronson, of course, and apparently there is a rapper called Action Bronson, or something. Bronson suits him.
Secondly, yes, Bronson is a pure bred Rottweiler. Do you know that it is actually illegal to sell a purebred dog in Chicago? True story. You aren’t supposed to by a pure bred dog, according to some people. You are supposed to go rescue a mutt at the shelter, and if you don’t, people judge you for that. Well, that’s a nice concept, but you know what, fuck that, I wanted a dog who had been bred for the last THREE THOUSAND YEARS for certain traits. In Bronson’s case, that was loyalty, power, confidence, mellowness, intelligence and courage. I didn’t want some rando dog that I didn’t know what it was or where it came from. No thanks.
Third, people want to know where you got your dog. Again, you are supposed to get your dog from a shelter. Failing that, you are supposed to drive out to a farm somewhere in the middle of nowhere and get your dog from a respectable breeder. Well, I failed on that count too. I just drove out to Naperville one Wednesday night and bought Bronson at a pet store.
I get it that many pet stores get their puppies from “puppy farms,” where the dogs are mistreated and the mother dogs just churn out puppies from their uterus factory. I tried. I looked for a Rottweiler puppy from a breeder or someone on the internet for months, and couldn’t find one. They were either already gone, or you had to get on a waiting list for months. I am not a patient person. I’m also not gonna save the world one dog at a time. Jake and I have enough problems. Go ahead, judge me. That’s why we lose elections.
The third thing people want to know is if you are going to get your dog fixed. This one I truly do not get. It’s not like Bronson is roaming the streets at night banging other dogs. Plus, if your dog is fixed, then why does Bronson need to be fixed? I’m kidding on that one. Well, sorta.
But seriously, people are absolutely fixated on whether I am going to get Bronson’s nuts cut off. My buddy IJ badgers me constantly about it, telling me that Bronson will be a better behaved dog, that it is the right thing to do, blah, blah, blah, and on and on. He is relentless on the String about it. Admittedly, sometimes I send a picture on the String of Bronson laying around with his big balls exposed, just to get IJ riled up.
Bronson’s balls are also an issue on where I can take him to be boarded. At six months old, Bronson was expelled from the doggy day care when he had been going since I got him. They said he couldn’t come back unless he was castrated. A lot of places are like that.
One place that isn’t like that is the Chicago Canine Academy. Bronson is a proud graduate of the Chicago Canine Academy. Bronson learned everything he knows at the Chicago Canine Academy, most importantly, that breathing air is preferable to about anything else in this world.
When we walked in the door at the Chicago Canine Academy, Bronson was issued a choke collar. With a pull on the collar, Bronson could be deprived of air until he complied with whatever was demanded. When given a choice between compliance and oxygen, Bronson takes O2 every time. That’s the high intelligence element of the Rottweiler.
The Russian at the Chicago Canine Academy is also fixated on Bronson’s balls, but in a good way.
“Are you going to have him castrated?” the Russian asked me, when I picked Bronson up after his two week course in dog discipline.
“Yea, I guess so,” I answered. “That’s the thing to do, right?”
“Why would you mutilate this beautiful animal?”
“Well, what about him humping other dogs?” I asked, kind of intimidated by the Russian.
“If he misbehaves, do you cut his paw off? Same thing.” The Russian was very clear in his position on castration. I am going with the Russian and the experts at the Chicago Canine Academy on this one.
Finally, the last thing people want to know about your dog is whether he is going to attack them or their dog. For Bronson, he has never been aggressive toward any person, and loves meeting other people. When he meets people, he leans in to their legs, sometimes knocking them back a step or two. It is a very endearing move, especially when he looks up at them with his big dark eyes.
“He looks dangerous, but he’s so sweet,” a woman said last week, as Bronson crowded in and sat on her feet.
Although lovable, according to the experts at the Chicago Canine Academy, Bronson’s move is called “crowding,” and a way that some big dogs assert dominance. Bronson isn’t crowding in to get petted, he is crowding in to show who is boss.
Now, with respect to whether Bronson is aggressive toward other dogs, that is complicated. If the other dog is not aggressive, Bronson is fine, and would never hurt or attack the dog. However, Bronson loves to play with other dogs, and he plays pretty rough. If he can catch another dog, he will grab the other dog’s leg and try to get the dog on the ground, which will often result in the other dog squealing and barking. Also, when playing with other dogs, Bronson’s appearance and 120 lb muscular frame scares some dog owners. It also doesn’t help that Bronson growls very loud when he plays, which sounds scary. Some dog owners don’t understand that he is just playing.
One day at the park Bronson was chasing a husky, and finally caught the dog, which led to the husky shrieking and barking, and then the husky’s owner screaming that Bronson had attacked her dog. It was quite a ruckus.
I grabbed Bronson and pulled him off the husky. The husky came back for more, still playing, and yipping and snapping at Bronson’s face. I kept hold of Bronson, and got him calmed down. The woman kept screaming about Bronson attacking her dog, looking for bite marks or blood on her dog, of which there were none.
“Bronson did not attack your dog, he was just playing,” I informed her, holding Bronson back from further rough play.
“Yes, he did!” she shrieked.
“No, he didn’t,” I repeated. “If he was attacking your dog, your dog would be dead.”
That comment didn’t go over so well, and Bronson and I aren’t really welcome at the park anymore.
As for actual aggressiveness, many dogs snarl or snap at Bronson, especially smaller dogs. Smaller dogs do this to protect their space, and Bronson is fine with that. When little dogs bark or growl at him, like our other dog Bella or my daughter’s dog Louie, Bronson just looks at them, or swats them with his paw.
Other dogs are scared, or insecure around other dogs, and bark or growl out of fear. Some dogs just want to be left alone, especially older dogs, and communicate that by growling or snapping. Bronson can somehow tell when a dog is growling or barking out of insecurity or fear, or to communicate a desire to just be left alone, rather than actual aggressiveness. Bronson gives these dogs their space.
For dogs that are actually aggressive, that is another story. When Bronson senses that another dog is an actual threat, even from across the street, and that dog barks first, Bronson will go ballistic, barking with a loud, ferocious bark, and straining to get at the other dog. On these occasions, it is all I can do to hold him back and get him moving in the opposite direction. And like I said, Bronson prefers oxygen over attacking an aggressive dog.
So, in answer to the final question, Bronson is not aggressive, most of the time.
And that’s about it. If we are being honest, those are the only things that people want to hear about your dog. I could tell you a hundred more stories about Bronson, but you wouldn’t care. Your relationship with your dog is a personal thing, and it may mean everything to you, but other people just don’t care. I could tell you about the time Bronson attacked a chainsaw, but you wouldn’t care. I could tell you how Bronson wakes me up if I sleep too late by sitting on my head, but you wouldn’t care. I could tell you how Bronson will run from one end of the house and jump into me sitting in my chair, and then growl at me for petting him, but you wouldn’t care. That’s just the way it is with dogs, and our relationships with them.
It’s kind of like taking your last kid to college. That’s also something that is important to you, and a huge milestone in both the kid’s life and your own. But it doesn’t matter to anyone else, other than you and him.
After dropping off Bronson at the Chicago Canine Academy, my oldest daughter Alexa and I drove Jake to college this week. We helped him unpack his stuff, and set up his dorm room. We asked him if he wanted to go buy some supplies, or go to lunch. No, he said, he was good. So we said our goodbyes, and left.
And that was it. Jake is gone now. Sure, we will still talk often, or more likely text, but I won’t see him every day, and I won’t know where he is or what he is doing. I won’t be there to tell him no, it is probably not a good idea to go meet some friends at 1:00 in the morning after Lollapalooza. There won’t be any more baseball or football games for me to go to, at least not with Jake playing. Jake doesn’t need me anymore for the daily things in life. We are still Brothers in Arms, but now we live in different worlds.
But you know who does still need me? Bronson still needs me. No house is empty with a 120 pound Rottweiler running around destroying things, and demanding to be taken on walks, and demanding to throw the ball around. I’ve still got Bronson, who still needs me.