Living with a mastiff is tantamount to sharing your home with an extremely affectionate baby cow. Don’t misunderstand my use of the word “baby.” Our mastiff tips the scales at a whopping 190 pounds. Think about that for a minute. When Wes steps on my foot, it feels like an injury. Wes’s head is bigger than my own. His belly is too. Oh, and his heart. His heart is huge.
The breed is incredibly loyal, stoic also, and unbelievably dependent. As I type this, Wes is lying on my feet. I don’t mean near my feet or next to my feet, I mean that whenever it is possible for him to be ON me, he takes that opportunity. It is adorable and warm but also somewhat painful and very messy. My boyfriend owns shirts that say “drool is cool.” Imagine what my pants look like after Wes lays his big, adorable head in my lap. Sometimes, the walls and ceilings display drool spots, like cool modern art.
Wes hates that we both work full-time. He waits by the door all day long. We enter slowly so he has time to get out of the way. He turns in circles and jumps and drools and his tail wags so hard against the hallway wall that I’m certain the neighbors mistake the noise for construction. When we are home together, he is my shadow. He follows me three feet into the kitchen, turns and follows me to the table, tracks me over to grab my computer and stalks me back into the kitchen. There is never a lot of space left in a hallway or elevator when Wes is there, so he takes these opportunities to lean right up against you, to feel your reassuring presence on his body.
Wes has no idea the destruction he leaves in his path. He forces himself into small spaces so he can lean his head against my leg. Drool and hair everywhere. When he drinks, water drips from his face in torrents. When he coughs, food particles go whipping through the air. If I get frustrated with him, his big eyes grow bigger and his droopy face gets droopier and I can’t. I just can’t ever stay mad. He rolls onto his back, tongue lolling out to one side, begging for a belly rub. Who could resist?
Wes goes on a hunger strike whenever we go away, willing us to return. Of course, we leave him in very trusted hands. One friend of mine dogsat for us and, when she tried to sleep on “my” side of the bed, Wes moaned and fidgeted so much she had to find a different sleeping arrangement. Our poor friends have come to understand that they’ve done nothing to offend him, he is just. so. emotional. Wes is also a dog who never, ever, has accidents at home. And yet, he gets so excited when we return from a trip that he pees out of sheer joy. Has anyone ever been so happy to see you that they lose control of their bladder? Didn’t think so. Hope not. But Wes makes it endearing.
And just when you think Wes is the biggest softie, an enormous dog with no ability to protect, he reminds you. One bark will shake you. From deep within the depths of his massive midsection, Wes releases a noise so strong and serious, it will stop any man or dog in their tracks. Often, he is silent, sweet and affectionate with strangers. But we know when there is a problem. Dogs are so intuitive. So while he normally cuddles up into a puddle on the floor, if he senses danger he puffs out his chest, lifts his head high and releases a roar befitting a lion. He will step between me and anyone getting too close for comfort, shielding me with his size.
And so, despite his sweet temperament and utter adoration for his two doting owners, Wes will always be the man of the house. He is, indeed, the man of our building. People gasp in fear when he steps out of the elevator until he saunters right up, wagging his tail, waiting for a pat on the head. And then, they exclaim “he’s so cool!” and “look at that face!” Never will I have a friend in life who is simultaneously so imposing and so loving. So needy and so protective. Never will I have a friend so loyal. And never will I be able to tell him thank you.