The Dogs of War.

There is a dog in our neighborhood named Zeus, or something. I’m not sure of his name but my husband calls him Zeus because he is a giant of a dog. And he’s bred for warfare.

From Military History Now:

The first actual written record of war dogs comes to us from the ancient Kingdom of Lydia in modern day Turkey. The small empire’s first ruler, Alyattes, reportedly had his soldiers turn packs of dogs loose on Cimmerian troops in a battle sometime around 600 BCE. The Lydian attack dogs were particularly effective against enemy cavalry, according to one contemporary source. 

Around the same time Magnesian troops from Anatolia used their war dogs not against cavalry, but in conjunction with their mounted warriors. In a war against the Ephesians, Magnesian riders released their hounds on the enemy phalanxes to soften them up before a cavalry charge. 

Centuries later, the Roman army would routinely deploy their own war dogs. The Canis Molossus or Molossian was the legion’s preferred breed of fighting dog. In fact, it was specially bred just for combat.

Dogs of War

Dogs of War

Zeus looks like the above picture only he’s bigger.

I’m not talking about a German Shepherd. German shepherds and Malinois are used in combat and for police work because they are intelligent, easily trained, strong enough to catch bad guys, sensitive enough to sniff out explosives, and they can run a long long ways.

Dogs are no longer sent into battle en masse (as they were in ancient days) because they would be slaughtered by modern weapons. But if I saw a hundred Cane Corsos running towards me, or, uh, even one, I would commend my soul to God for I would surely die. If a German shepherd came after me I’d yell real loud and try to protect my face, but I wouldn’t assume death was immanent.

After I took Jake for a half-hour walk, hubs came home from work, watched a little basketball, and then took Jake for a longer walk, maybe around 8 p.m. Hubs takes a different route than I do. He’s willing to walk past Zeus’s house. I. Am. Not. Why not? Because Zeus is, as my husband describes him, a Mastiff-horse cross or something like that. When we walk by his house, Zeus stands up on his hind legs to bark at us and his entire head, shoulders and arms loom over the six foot fence surrounding his yard. I am terrified the old fence will break. If that were to happen, Jake and I would be dead meat.

Jake fears very few creatures, but he dreads the thought of a Zeus attack. At the very least, if I have to walk past Zeus’s house I walk on the other side of the street. Hubs is willing to make a leap of faith. He has faith in the fence. I have none. These particular fences were built back in 1979 or earlier and they weren’t intended to hold back a 200+ pound 7 1/2 foot tall dog.

But I digress. So hubs and Jake were walking in the dark. They were just a few blocks from home, walking past one of our neighborhood parks. As he headed up the hill past the park, my husband was a little surprised to see Zeus coming towards him, on a leash, of course, but the person walking him was a petite 110 pound woman. Neither of us has ever seen Zeus out of his yard.

Even hubs knew this did not bode well.

I would have crossed the street. In fact, had I seen Zeus coming my way, I would have crossed the street and knocked on the closest door to beg sanctuary for myself and my dog. But you know how men are. My husband figured if he walked up the middle of the street as he passed Zeus over on the sidewalk, that would put enough space between the dogs.

Wishful thinking.

Jake, who is quite fearful of Zeus, gave a couple preemptive stay away from me barks from his heeling position on my husband’s left. Zeus wasn’t having any of it. He attacked in an instant, hauling the poor woman after him. I mean, 200 pounds of pure muscle vs. 110 pounds of petite woman. C’mon. She had no control over him whatsoever and she was screaming in terror. He dragged her like a rag doll across the asphalt.

So my husband tried to stay between Jake and Zeus. He kept Jake behind him and he was brave enough to keep a hand on Zeus’s shoulder (thank God he wasn’t bitten) in an attempt to fend him off. All four of them, humans and dogs, became tangled. The woman was lying in the street and my husband backed over her, tripped, and fell to the pavement. At that point in time Zeus was so surprised he stopped in his tracks just long enough for my husband get to his feet. He and Jake made a beeline for the far corner.

The woman was still down in the middle of the street but hubs couldn’t go back to help because of Zeus. And of course he never brings his cell phone. She did finally stand up and it turns out she was okay. She suffered some road rash, as did hubs. Jake and Zeus were uninjured.

My husband called out- “If you can’t control him you probably shouldn’t be walking him by yourself.”

She agreed. You see, mountain lion aside, ours is a very safe neighborhood and many elderly people, and even families with young children, walk their dogs in the evening. I often walk Jake between 7 p.m. and 8 p.m. and we typically encounter the usuals: an elderly man with two golden retrievers, another elderly man with a small terrier, a young-ish woman with a yellow lab, a woman my age walking a black lab, an elderly man with a black labradoodle, a young man running with a Vizlas, and an elderly woman with an English bulldog.

All I can say is, thank God it was my husband. The elderly people would not have stood a chance. Neither would I, for that matter. Could have been a deadly encounter. Even my muscular husband said he fell so hard he was surprised he didn’t break his hip.

Big protective alpha-male dogs require some big protective alpha-male forethought.

I am strict with Jake because if he wants to misbehave he’s strong enough to drag me for blocks. Especially if there’s a squirrel or a rabbit involved. And I know how afraid people are of German shepherds. Even though Jake ignores most people, just the sight of a German shepherd can elicit fear so as I said, I’m strict with him. He heels unless he’s at an off-leash dog park or we’re at the beach. (He’s really a nice friendly funny dog. But I am aware that if someone is overtly afraid of Jake and acts weird around him, believe me, he notices. If someone acts in what Jake considers to be a suspicious manner, he pays close attention. He will protect me. It’s in the DNA.)

Jake didn’t seem traumatized by the events of last night. At least when he and I had gone out earlier he’d met a cute young female Malinois, a dog whose energy matched his own, and the two of them had a great time playing in that same park.

Ah well. I think everyone learned a lesson. I told hubs to knock it off with the leap of faith crap and maybe Zeus’s owner will have her husband walk Zeus next time.

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15 thoughts on “The Dogs of War.

  1. Diana Stevan (@DianaStevan)

    What an encounter! Zeus reminds me of the dog my daughter and son-in-law had. Jasper was a mix between German Shepherd and I don’t know what, but he was a dog that was hard to control. Good with adults but on the street, he would go after any dog. They sent him to a farm, that specialized in dog therapy, but there was little improvement. Then, when our granddaughter was born, Jasper became very jealous. It got to the point, where we all worried about her safety. Because of that, my daughter tried to find him a new home, put up posters everywhere, even contacted the Franciscan monks in NY state who took care of animals, but no one wanted him. In the end, they had to put Jasper down. It was such at tough decision, as they loved that dog. But because of their daughter, they couldn’t keep him.

    When I told my husband about your hub’s experience, he suggested you guys carry pepper spray.

    Liked by 1 person

    Reply
    1. juliabarrett Post author

      Diana, your husband is not the first person to suggest pepper spray to us. Jake is not aggressive but just the sight of him brings out the aggression in other dogs. I’m sorry about your daughter’s dog. My sister owned a similar dog. When she had a baby, we all worried about her son’s safety. When he was a year old, the dog bit him and ripped his ear entirely off. A plastic surgeon reattached it.
      We tried so hard to convince her to get rid of the dog, so did the police and her doctor. At last she and her husband decided to medicate the dog. The dog was on tranquilizers for the rest of her life – six years.

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  2. Jaye

    Just one adventure after another, eh? Thank goodness nobody was seriously hurt.

    We have two mastiffs on our street. One is a Tibetan mastiff–look it up if you want to see an incredible (and incredibly big!) breed. He’s always letting himself out for a walk. Fortunately he’s got a God-complex and all lesser beings (dogs and human) are beneath his notice. I’ve never seen a dog so self-contained and able to ignore everything going on around him. The other mastiff, however, is a Neopolitan. I’ve never seen him out of his yard–not even on a leash. I would be terrified if he ever got out. He sounds like he wants to kill something.

    If you want to read more about the history of war dogs (or the dog in general, or essays, articles and stories about dogs) get THE DOG BOOK edited by Jerrold Mundis. It’s an incredible collection.

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    1. juliabarrett Post author

      I know you’ve had big dogs, Jaye. Wasn’t your boy part Mastiff? They are impressive dogs. Two walk together at the off leash dog park. They seem invincible. They do tend to ignore everyone else. Jake avoids them. He’s afraid of these giants.

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  3. Alicia Butcher Ehrhardt

    I can’t run. I can barely walk. I’m terrified of dogs. You only have their owner’s word that they are ‘usually’ well-behaved – which makes it your fault if one barks at you, takes a run at you, or decides to knock you over. One good fall, and I’ll be broken forever. I’m not even talking about aggressive behavior – that’s worse. Claw marks on legs by an enthusiastic puppy are still claw marks on legs.

    You never know when you’re going to run into a dog (bundle of teeth and claws) that has not been properly socialized (not Jake – you’re good with him) and is not under the control of the idiot at the other end of the leash. I have neighbors who simply do not believe their dogs need to obey.

    I can’t believe that woman would walk a dog she couldn’t control. People are such idiots.

    Liked by 1 person

    Reply
    1. juliabarrett Post author

      Well, Alicia, it’s because of everyone else that I have worked my ass off to train Jake. He’s a big strong dog and while he may not intend to hurt anyone, he is capable of hurting someone. But little dogs are equally capable of hurting someone. Which is the long way of saying that I believe owning a dog means being responsible for said dog.

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      1. Alicia Butcher Ehrhardt

        “being responsible’ – now, what a concept! Maybe if more people sued? I hate to suggest an even more litigious society, and often the offending dog belongs to a friend, but I shouldn’t be afraid of trying to walk around my block.

        One of my neighbors had the nerve to tell me the dog couldn’t attack me because they were training it wiht an invisible fence. No sign, no warning – and that thing came galloping from the back yard, no neighbor in sight – and I’m supposed to hope there’s an invisible fence and the animal is not willing to pass it?

        Common sense isn’t.

        Liked by 1 person

  4. Ray Plasse

    I wouldn’t trust a dog that size and temperament with Hulk Hogan. I’m glad your husband and Jake were okay. I would have been dead meat in that same situation. Take care.

    Liked by 1 person

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  5. virginiallorca

    I had a gimpy little old cocker I walked daily. New residents had a very scary Rott that would go ballistic as we passed. I knew he could clear the fence if he tried. I started to carry a knife for protection. It made me feel less scared. Unfortunately I selected a fruit knife from the kitchen. Everything was fine for weeks until I leaned over to tie my shoe one day and stabbed myself in the thigh. It really hurt and it was so hard to walk home clutching my thigh.

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  6. Marylin Warner

    The name Zeus made it hard to concentrate, Julia. We have two dogs in our neighborhood named Zeus. One is a cockapoo puppy, cute as a furry button, and the other is a blind-in-one-eye bloodhound who is almost 18 and walks in a circle when he gets excited for a treat.

    Liked by 1 person

    Reply
    1. juliabarrett Post author

      Ohhhh, how sad and cute, Marilyn! I love it when little dogs have big names. Eighteen is a long life for a big dog.

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  7. anny cook

    Marylin…I had to laugh at your comment! Julia…heh. I KNOW it’s not funny. But poor Zeus. He’s not the one who decided to be a war dog. Sometimes you have to wonder about humans with no sense. Jake–you did GOOD!

    Liked by 1 person

    Reply
    1. juliabarrett Post author

      I know, Anny. It is funny when little dogs have giant names. I don’t blame Zeus. He’s being Zeus. But I, personally, would never attempt to walk a dog like that. It’s hard enough to hold Jake at his 88 pounds when he sees a squirrel.

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