Paladin was a fawn English Mastiff. His mother, Pumpkin, was a gorgeous brindle English Mastiff and his father was a fawn like him. Paladin was born in a bathroom late night/early morning November 28, 1995. He had three brothers. The largest of the litter died shortly after his birth. Paladin was the smallest of the litter.
Pumpkin was very protective of the puppies. She’d let few people near them. I was one of the few that she’d tolerate for limited periods of time. On Christmas Day 1995, while visiting, the puppies were old enough to be let outside. I spent about an hour sitting on the grass with puppies crawling over me. Mastiff puppies are adorable. They are all clumsy little things that are mostly big floppy ears and huge feet.
By January, the puppies were finding homes. As Paladin was the smallest of the litter, he was the last to go. I was on the phone with Pumpkin’s owner, as the last of Paladin’s brothers was taken away. I could hear Paladin howling in the background. A day or two later, Paladin came to live with me.
Paladin was a tiny little thing. As I said, all ears and feet. The first evening, I took him for his first ride with me. I went to the corner store for a soda. He was very curious on the way to the store. He slept on the way back. After this, Paladin loved going places in the car.
When Paladin was a puppy, he became very ill and almost died. I took him to the vet and he had to stay there for a day or two. The vet saved him, but said his growth might be stunted because he had been so sick. As Paladin ended up being one of the biggest Mastiffs anyone knew of, I don’t think his growth ended up stunted. And if it was, the little runt of the litter would have been gigantic. He ended up bigger than all of his brothers as it was. He also ended up loving the vet. He adored the vet and was happy to go to the vet’s office.
When Paladin was a puppy, I had two cats: the famous Oliver and Dizzy. Dizy was an odd little tabby female who loved everybody-including dogs. Oliver was scared of dogs. I was worried about Oliver, but not Dizzy. Turns out, I was somewhat mistaken. Dizzy used to torture Paladin mercilessly. She’d walk up and smack him across his nose. She’d take his toys. She’d eat his food. And in so doing, the smart little cat taught Paladin that the kitties were in charge. Paladin got the message. He loved his kitties. In fact, he tried to act like a kitty. He’d make these odd noises in an attempt to purr. Because, when kitties made noises, they got picked up, you see.
Paladin was a very clean dog. He never made a mess in the house unless he was sick. When he was a puppy he spent nights and the time I was at work in the tile-floored bathroom. He quickly got to the point where he wouldn’t make a mess in there. Before he was six months old, he was allowed to roam the house at will and not be confined when I was at work. There were days when he was stuck in the house for more than 10 hours and he never made a mess. He was very good about that.
For Easter of 96, I took Paladin to San Diego for several days. He was very good on the long drive. At Barstow, a small child ran up to him and threw her arms around his head before I could do anything. Paladin just sat there and looked happy as though he was getting the attention due him. He loved kids.
On the same trip, Paladin was given a stuffed Easter Bunny. It was expected that he’d probably shred it. Instead, he carried it off in his mouth and held it. He never once ripped it. Thus, began paladin’s stuffed animal collection. He adored his babies. They made him happy. He’d carry them around in the house in his mouth, but never harm them. The only ones he would rip were one with squeaky things inside. He’d take them apart just enough to get the squeaky item out, and then, we could so up the stuffed animal and he’d continue to take care of it.
Paladin loved everything. He loved kitties. He’d let them eat out of his bowl first, no matter how hungry he was or how good the dinner smelled. Years later, when Marlowe came home in a box, Paladin was all excited. He bounced around, like “You brought me a new kitty! You brought me a new kitty!” He liked other dogs. When a roommate had ferrets, he loved them. If they got out into the house, he’d gently help herd them back to their cage. In fact, Paladin had a little ritual he’d perform. He’d get up and wander the house. He’d go from room to room accounting that all the people and animals were home safe and then he would go back to bed. He was very protective of his people and animals.
Paladin loved company. He loved it when people came to visit. He was always happy to see them. He liked visitors and attention. And though he became increasingly slobbery with age, as Mastiffs do, people liked him.
One reason Paladin loved company is that they had a tendency to bring food with them. He loved people food. Late at night, he’d try to convince people to give him leftovers. Clearly if food was brought into the house, the leftovers would be his. He particularly liked pizza. He could carry an entire large piece of pizza in his mouth without swallowing. Sometimes he would sing to get treats. Not howling or barking, but really, the dog version of singing. He’d talk to you and ask for them too. Again, not barking or howling, but talking, or as close as he could get. When he was younger, you could hold a dog treat as high in the air as you could and he would jump straight up for it, like a killer whale breaching the surface at a show. Very impressive given his size.
Paladin was the smartest dog I’ve ever been exposed to. He knew what a lot of words meant. He was clever. Once, he came into the bedroom and smacked me in the nose to wake me up. I awoke thinking my nose was broken and followed to see what he needed. When I got to the kitchen he bounded up to a box of Cheeze-its and the Evil Princess started laughing. Seems he had been begging for Cheeze-its and told him if he wanted any, he had to ask me. So he went and woke me up.
He was also stubborn. A function of his intelligence, no doubt. He got increasingly stubborn with age. He was well behaved and gentle, but he could get obstinate sometimes. Mostly just to express his dislike for whatever the plan was. That done, he’d grudgingly cooperate. Smart dog.
Paladin also liked Elvis. Elizabeth Bear discovered that Paladin would sing along to certain Elvis tunes. He particularly liked Elvis’ version of ‘King of the Road’. Sometimes, he’d shuffle around while he was singing along with Elvis.
Paladin loved to swim. I taught him to swim in a warm spring near the Valley of Fire. Once he figured it out, he loved it. He loved playing in water. We took him to Cold Creek once and let him jump in the pond. All that was exposed from the water were his eyes and nose. He happily swam about whenever we took him someplace with water. He was never keen on the ocean though. He didn’t like how the water kept coming in and out. He wanted it to stay in one place.
When Paladin was about 5, we found a companion dog for him. Signey was a terribly abused little great dane who needed a home. They took to each other instantly. They loved each other and ran about the yard and played and wrestled and were good for each other. Paladin’s only complaint was that he wanted a girl dog that had working parts. J
I said Paladin was smart and gentle. Once, when we took him to the dog park, a dog attacked him without cause. Paladin had just been lying on the ground when the other dog ran up and latched onto his face. He turned and stood up and grabbed hold of the other dog. Elizabeth Bear and I were trying to break them apart. She screamed, “Let him go!” and Paladin, in the middle of a fight, thinking she meant him, trusted his people enough to release the other dog. I managed to kick the other dog loose of him. He could have easily killed the other dog. All he had to do was bite down or shake. It was no contest. But he didn’t. As soon as the fight was over and I got him cleaned up, he wanted to go back about his business in the park.. He was that gentle. He’d have defended me or Elizabeth Bear or Signey or the kitties or my family with his life, but he was incredibly gentle.
Paladin was the best and brightest dog I’ve ever known. At his peak, when Elizabeth Bear was taking him and Signey to the dog park every day, he was about 240 pounds of solid muscle and wore a 30-inch calf collar as his collar-and it fit snugly. He was gentle and loving and charming and funny and goofy. Paladin was a good friend. He saw me through heart attacks, and job problems, and break-ups, deaths of friends and family, and good times and bad. He was always there for me.
Today, I needed to be there for him. He was almost 11 years old. He had been losing weight. In the last week, Paladin had stopped eating. He slept a lot and never wanted to go out or get up anymore. His breathing was bad and his heart, remember, he has my heart, was beating badly. I promised I’d never let him suffer. And though his eyes were still bright and he was alert, I was afraid he wasn’t enjoying his life anymore.
We spent about three hours lying on the dog bed together until I could take him to the vet. I held him and petted him and talked to him. I cried and cried and cried. He licked my face.
My mother and father helped me take him and Signey to the vet. The vet checked him over. He’d dropped to 150 pounds. And he was having heart problems. The vet said that he was going into cardiac arrest and I’d caught him in time before it became painful and he suffered. I held Paladin and petted him and talked to him while the vet gave him the injection. He went quickly and peacefully.
Paladin was the best dog I’ve ever known. He’s been the one consistent good thing in my life throughout the last 11 years. I don’t know how I am going to get by without him.