When I first met Prince, he was anything but sweet toward me. He was Amanda’s protector, and he took his role seriously. His growling bark sounded vicious, and his facial expression backed up the idea that this was not a way of saying hello- it was more of a “stay the fuck back, asshole” vibe. He would eventually allow me to come in after some coaxing from Amanda, but it would be years before he truly trusted me, before we trusted each other.
When I met Amanda she had 2 dogs. The other was a giant husky named Phil. Phil’s size should have been the most intimidating thing about entering her house, but Prince was so fierce and seemingly determined, so it was a bit terrifying. I mean I grew up with Rottweilers, dogs over a 100 lbs, but Prince was next level. He seemed quick, agile, athletic, and did I mention determined? He was like 50 pounds of violence with his sights dead set on me.
In a way I was impressed. He scared me, which wasn’t easy to do. I mean I had been living at a correctional facility for the past 4 months.
Fast forward more than 2 years, Amanda and I are engaged and about to move in together. We had, for a reason I can’t recall, decided to move her and Prince into my duplex with myself, Mookie and Hank. Amanda’s other dog, Phil, had recently gone to the Rainbow Bridge, so it was a very difficult time for the two of them already. In retrospect, it’s possible that we could have found a way to make this easier, but we didn’t, likely a decision that I pushed us into.
That being said, Prince who, to be fair, was not at all comfortable being around anyone he wasn’t already extremely familiar with, was going to be around a LOT of people he didn’t know, in a completely unfamiliar territory. A confined, unfamiliar territory. With another alpha dog (Hank) and a small dog who, sometimes foolishly, wasn’t afraid of anything (Mookie) and a new owner (me). I also lived on a very busy road so there would be no more going out in the backyard freely for Prince.
We knew it wouldn’t be easy, so we started trying to introduce the dogs a few weeks in advance of the move. I think the first meeting lasted for 5 or 8 seconds. It was in the driveway of the duplex. We started out there so there was more open space. I had Mookie and Hank on leashes and Amanda had Prince in the car. Before he even got the leash on him he was losing his mind. Terrified, posturing, or just pissed off, Prince was having no part of this little meet & greet. We also learned during that experience that despite Mookie being relatively small, I couldn’t handle both my dogs during these introductions. Mookie would bark and bark and that would put Hank on alert and Prince was going crazy wanting to kill all of us- it was bananas. So we started inviting my bravest friend to hold Mookie’s leash. Hank and Prince were the only ones who could do real damage, but we needed someone to be able to take Mook dog out of the room if he wouldn’t shut up. Still, Prince seemed like he was going to eat everyone in the house, so finding volunteers wasn’t always easy.
Progress was slow and frustrating at times. Eventually we made it inside the house. Prince would sit facing the walls and not look at anyone. After while we started to let the dogs walk around on their own, but kept leashes on them in case we had to pull them apart. We had to pull them apart a LOT, mostly Prince and Hank. It was clear there was going to be an issue over who was the dominant one. Prince was quick to bite Hank on his head when they fought. Hank would just bull into him until he had Prince cornered and Prince would bite and hold until we could pry them apart. There were lots of these interactions with Amanda screaming throwing things or splashing them with water. I was always oddly calm when the fights happened and would wait for an opportunity to pull them apart without being bit.
It felt like this forced relationship between dogs was going to be impossible. I do think that most people would have given up, but I am an addict. I love to repeat unsuccessful behavior. I have an odd comfort with insanity, and at that point in my life I was very familiar with the idea of doing the same thing over and over, but expecting a different result. Also, we really didn’t have much of a choice. I wasn’t going to get rid of Hank, Amanda wasn’t going to get rid of Prince, and we weren’t going to call off the wedding. On top of all that, Amanda’s house sold really quickly so we were out of time. We all had to move in together.
We brought one couch from Amanda’s house, hoping it would help Prince feel more at home. It didn’t work out how we planned- he just peed on it every time we weren’t looking, making sure that Hank and Mookie knew that it was HIS couch. Once the two dogs fought so bad that Hank had to be stitched up. The vet basically told us we were crazy for ever leaving the dogs alone together, that some day we’d come home to find a dead dog. Once again, we were hard-headed and somewhat out of options, so we pressed on.
What they didn’t know, that Amanda and I did know, was that there was a big bright light coming at the end of this tunnel. We had found a home with 2 acres fenced in. Soon these dogs would be able to run and run and run, and they could stay as far apart from each other as they’d like.
Well, we made it. As exciting as it was to be buying a home together, I think we were both just as excited to see these dogs reaction. They ran- a lot like small children do when they come here- they run and run and then stop and look back at you, wondering why you aren’t yelling for (at) them; why you aren’t chasing them with that “Please God, don’t let my dog get hit by a car” look on your face.
We all love it here, but Prince really seemed to come alive here. He has a natural instinct to be a protector., which he was able to do freely here. He could guard the fence line and chase away anything that tried to enter. He was allowed to kill varmints out here. He had his fair share of kills.
I still remember his first kill. We had just moved in, hadn’t really had time to adapt to the country life. Amanda woke me up yelling “Robb get up quick, Prince killed a possum and I don’t want the dogs to eat it! You have to do something!” As I got up I could see the possum laying in the yard. I asked Amanda if she was sure it was dead and not just “playing possum,” to which she was completely confused. She had never heard the expression and had no knowledge of the possum’s #1 defense tactic, playing dead. As I was trying to explain it to her the possum popped his head up, looked back and forth to see if Prince was still nearby, and then made a run for it under our deck. Amanda was not impressed by this at all. She was very uncomfortable with the idea that a critter might be living under our deck. I still laugh. I am laughing as I write this.
The next day I found the possum dead, dead. Fool me once, you can’t fool Prince twice.
Maybe it was the killing, getting his fix of it, or maybe it was the space, the ability to run, or maybe it was the fact the myself, Mookie and Hank are all really cool, but Prince really came around. He was always loud and scary looking to newcomers but over time his barks became more of his way of saying hello and less of him warning you of you mortality. He and I got pretty close. I could roughhouse with him, and he would play much harder with me than anyone else. We trusted each other.
Eventually he learned to play with Mookie and Hank without it turning into a fight. It was always so fun to watch. We put so much work into that relationship, so much work into socializing Prince away from being a single woman’s protector and into being the protector of the farm. The Head of Brown Dogs Security. One of the founding dog-father’s of Brown Dogs Farm.
Prince passed away December 17th, 2018.
We buried him in our backyard. Facing the sunrise. We made a little grave for him with a couple of solar lights and a statue of an Angel. People tell me the angel is a little weird. Well, I am a little weird.
I could write another 2000 words about Prince, and I am sure there will be things I wish I had mentioned but to know the whole story we’d have to ask my wife. He was her dog and always will be. That dog was entirely devoted to her. It’s not the same without him watching out the window for her, or waiting out by the front gate to see her car. It’s not the same without him leaping out of the chair and flying out the dog door barking as soon as a car gets near our gate. Now how do we know when someone is here? Hank is trying to pick up the slack, but Prince’s paws are big paws to fill.
I would be remiss to finish this story without explaining that despite what I’ve shared with you, Prince was also a very warm and loving dog. He loved to have his belly rubbed or his hind legs scratched. He was also very loving with the other dogs once he accepted them. We’d have to ask him to stop cleaning their ears and eyes quite often. He had a quick tongue and could give you a smelly kiss in a flash it you weren’t paying attention. He had bad breath and hated going to the vet.
There are many things I will miss about him. The way he would bark at me if he wanted attention. The way he kept things moving in our home. The way he put his paw on your leg or flash his scary teeth when he wanted more attention. Most of all, I will miss the way he was with Amanda. He was always at her side.
He was a really good boy.
He was the best guard dog.
“Now cracks a noble heart. Good-night, sweet prince;
And flights of angels sing thee to thy rest. ”
― William Shakespeare, Hamlet