Caesar…our pit bull

Yes you read right- we have a pit bull! Yep, a full pedigreed Blue Nose. At times because of his antics and personality we say ‘Hail Caesar’ – he’s the epitome of “Veni, Vidi, Vici”!

We happen to be dog-lovers, more so are my husband and daughters. And through the years we have ‘grown’ towards our favorite, large breed dogs. We started tiny with a chihuahua we named Poo Bear when the kids were younger- he was one heck of a yapper. Much like a friend in Florida who compromised with her Jordanian husband- and got a tea cup size something-or-other named Mickey, with a ‘Napoleon’ attitude, that wet can’t weigh a pound!

Our ultimate goal are two Great Danes- ‘for our later years’ as my husband says noting that their life spans are shorter because of inherent heart problems and their more sedate personalities. Yes they are huge. But then I truly believe Caesar may grow up to be quite big- with longer limbs, a more narrow face and sleeker than the Red Nose, which are short and stocky with bowed front limbs looking more like Bull dogs. His sire is on the high end of monstrosity…the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.

At 5 months (celebrated on the 6th of March) Caesar already is a good 2.5 feet in height at the shoulders. He’s got big paws which the Vet says is an indication that he’ll grow up to be a monster of a dog! Blond with grey blue eyes, he is an eye catcher. Has the appetite of a Wolf Hound, eating us out of house and hearth. When he arrived he was only 4 weeks old, miniature four legged fur ball! My how you’ve grown.

He is what you would say the equivalent of baby cuddle me, mixed with rebellious teen- hair raising! When very small he would get all into his milk and water- which we would wipe clean saying, ‘ok time to clean your schnozle’ meaning his mouth, nose, and paws- or when he would get his bath. Now he lifts his nose up when he finishes gobbling his dog food- expecting the same treatment- ‘Hail Caesar’!

One day when Caesar was about two months he was in my arms while I was on a rocking chair and I would hum to him, when I noticed he was humming back to me! Or the day I found myself having a full fledged argument with him- me talking sternly and he yapping back- my husband was laughing so hard, I swear the neighbors were thinking the Yemeni next door had gone over the deep end. Or the night we realized his weeping during deep sleep sounded strangely like whimpers of a child in the grips of a nightmare.

Caesar can be a handful when he is super hungry (starting to think it’s his full time job) or has to go for his walks. We have three large parks surrounding the area- so there’s plenty of turf for him to map and mark out. He is a tad ‘racist’ though, won’t have anything to do with small dogs- no butt smelling in that quarter! He loves to meet and greet kids and with the parade of teenagers revolving through our doors, he is not short of love and affection. My daughters have friends who also own Pits so there is plenty of advice and dog sitting to go around.

But of course being a Pit, has many people nervous around him, especially when he’s outside. He is a good deterrent though- no one ever gets near the girls or me when we walk him. Yet they are considered ‘nanny Dogs’ by breeders. When trained correctly they are not the monsters the media makes them out to be- but are furiously loyal.

You would ask- How could Muslims ever have dogs in their homes? Is that allowed? Well in my husband’s case he grew up on a Yemeni mountain fortress-like compound that was and still is heavily guard by dogs. On the outside perimeters are chained ones- quite vicious because they guard against wild dogs and cats that roam in the night. Hunting the stray sheep, goat, cattle, camel or lone human fool enough to walk in these isolated and almost impregnable mountains (there are still areas that can’t be reached by jeep). I learned their distinctive bark that meant my husband should, and did, take rifle and small flash light in hand- heading into mind, numbing darkness. Next thing you’d heard were the shots that ended any meal, seeking predators.
On the inside of the compound unleashed dogs warn against intruders and unfamiliar guests, the canine guardians of those who live in the compound. They are ones that follow us all over the mountain when the live stock are out let out to pasture. Stuff happens on these remote peaks. Our house sits at approximately 9,900 feet give or take a 100 feet, one side carved in against the wall of the mountain. The closest set of lights is the next mountain peak or the valley below that is the ‘town’ in those parts- all ten streets of it.

Imagine, Sana’a sits at 7,000 feet above sea level and we consider it flat low land!

So these dogs are a must for fortress living; and the stepped agriculture that is traditional in highland Yemen. The best rendition for comparison would be Machu Pichu in Peru. Quite a lot of other similarities for such distant peaks. In Yemen, like Peru, the area is arid most of the year and wet for another (this getting increasingly sparse as the water table diminishes and increased Qat planting eats up the opportunity to plant sound, rain-making trees and food- my husband’s pet peeve). It is biting, jaw chattering cold at night. Year round we have heavy fur like quilts to cuddle under. In the last few years snow has dusted the mountains! But if you blink you’ll miss it, so leave your skiis and snowboard at home.

To think to the south is the scorching heat of Aden and Mukhallah- just 10 to 12 hours drive away -the getting down and out of the mountain range takes the bigger junk of the journey… And to the east the dead zone, that separates Yemen from Saudi Arabia and Oman, with its life sucking desert. I tried it once riding cross country to see a camel race-stating at one point ‘my kingdom for an air-conditioner’!

Caesar however, is king in his kingdom called our apartment. It is a humongous place- pre World War I- almost palatial (can mean a lot if you know NY apartments). We have lived in it longer than most marriages ever survive and then some. So he literally has a room to himself. When we say ‘Home Caesar’ he knows he’s being banished to his quarters! Then starts the weeping and mewling that says ‘but why’? He has, we’ve learned, different barks, like his counter parts in Yemen. He has barks for danger, feed me, I just got to go to the bathroom- open the door and get the leash now, why do I have to have a bath precisely this minute, yo man it’s cold out here, sorry I haven’t finished prancing around, can I please play in the snow- there’s a snowman I have to ram through?!

He is careful not get too exuberant around me he knows I mean business. Walks with me are sedate and dignified. All hell brakes loose with my youngest because he knows she’s got energy for the both of them. After those sessions he’s so pooped out he takes in water like his life depended on it and lands on his pillow splayed, lights out! She taught him to give her ‘low five’ pat with his right paw when she says, ‘give me some dab’; which he also uses to placate her when she gets upset with him… He’s the one who calls her in almost human-like voice early morning, since she feeds and walks him before heading out for school.

My eldest daughter is ‘miss popular’ with a bee hive full of friends. When they are in, he loves to be in the mist of it all, or as my daughters say: ‘all in the Kool-Aid’, beating his tail to the music they blast in her room. He is the calmest when there are tons of kids in the house a daily affair with us.

With my husband, he’s the ‘let’s curl up at your feet’ in a stately manner as my husband reads his monumental pile of Medical journals… All we are missing are the wing-back chairs and the fire place to complete the scene.

He has yet to experience my son’s presence since he has been in Iraq all these months, and just recently has been stationed in Dubai awaiting new orders. That will be an interesting interaction when he comes home on leave.

All around he’s loved- even when he gets into mischief- he has a penchant for pulling out CDs and DVDs from one of the library shelves when no one is paying him attention! That’s when my husband, arab style, will throw him a slipper to get him to stop with a stern ‘leave it’! And the subsequent mumbling of, ‘what!? He wants to go in the music business?’ from a tired doctor whose had too many hours on call. That’s when we intervene and say ‘home Caesar’…

He is particular with his food. The seemingly two ton bags of hard dog chow “better be the ‘Wellness’ brand with lamb, beef, and chicken- or I’m not eating”… he actually snorts at the bowl! And water a plenty! Guzzles like a 6 cylinder old Ford Chevy… Or as my husband notes, ‘a Humvee’. Because he’s eating hours are different from our family meals, he doesn’t get fed from the table- he is in his ‘quarters’ during those times. No exceptions…

But he’s amazing for sure, with a personality to rival his namesake. My youngest, I know is his absolute favorite, playmate that she is. Yet all of us get tones and shades of his ‘self’ that can makes us scream, cuddle, or just shrug and say ‘Hail Caesar’!

The few muslims that we have had over since we got Caesar, have expressed their views on dog ownership for Muslims- to which my husband says is a pile of crap- he grew up with dogs, and in his area they are ‘de rigour’… Then they say- ‘well its said…blah, blah.. Blah’ and quote all manner of hadith- and my husband always reminds them of the story of the woman who stopped to give water to a starving dog and she was granted Paradise. That usually silences them. But then again our home has a lot of things many muslims would frown upon, in varying degrees. Paintings, pictures (I’m a little Victorian in that section- sepia, black & whites), music of all types, masks from around the world, an impressive collection that my son adds to yearly of swords, daggers, jambiah, kitanas, and machetes- our own particular brand of alarm system and very present deterrent (those glass curios all open at the touch of a finger)- plus the golf clubs conveniently placed by the entrance closet!

Because we have a room dedicated to prayer- which is always locked when not in use, Caesar can’t get in to do mischief nor soil our prayer rugs and prayer clothes- he has his own kennel that he cuddles in at night with covers on to protect him from the draft that these old apartments can swing late at night. We have distinctive rules about prayer and the when, where, how that brook no argument. Which is another piece my husband points out to the die-hards. It is the same back home; if it works why fix it? Caesar is not allowed on any sofas or beds- he actually prefers to run along the long halls of polished wood just to slide on his butt the last few feet; he can do that all day if you let him! He is confined, however, to his spacious ‘quarters’ when we are not home. He has his own kennel that he cuddles in at night with covers on to protect him from the draft that these old apartments can swing late at night, lots toys we rotate so he won’t get bored and start chewing on something, and a huge doggy pillow that he drags around the house so he can lay down where he chooses.

Did I tell you that he snores… loud enough to bring the house down? Apparently he is of the breeds that snore like well fed Vikings!

He is the one who barks like a siren calling for muster at Fajr, the one who barks good night when lights go out at home. He is the one that barks in welcome every time each of us puts key to lock. And while outside, we know he is fearsome-looking even as a young pup to keep smart alecs away.

Most importantly to my family, Caesar has been instrumental in my recovery. Lately he’s been the excuse to go for long walks to clear my mind after a day’s worth of talking, meetings, and thinking; especially during those days when I don’t have my husband to bother! Caesar was and continues to be my exercise partner as I progressively garnered the strength to do more than walk slowly around the house or office. And like all dog owners he’s the one who listens when I vent, pontificate, and whatnot!

Until my youngest goes off to college, Caesar will be her canine guardian. We have an addition to our family, that we are sorely against losing- however he is growing at a rapid pace and there will come a time for him to leave us. My son has already staked a claim, because he is planning his home and it would provide a yard for Caesar. Though he’ll have to go into negotiations with my youngest first- visitation rights and stuff…

And the Great Danes? Well those will come when I say I’ve had enough of New York and look forward to an actual house to putter around in- be it in the ‘burbs’ or in Yemen.
<div class="wp-caption alignnone" style="width: 490px"Caesar's Playground across the street in Wintery Wonderland

Caesar’s Playground across the street in Wintery Wonderland


4 Responses to “Caesar…our pit bull”

  1. March 12, 2010 at 1:34 am

    Really interesting and well-written.

    In Ontario, Canada the most strict dog legislation in the country is in place. No pitbulls allowed unless born before and owned before a certain year. It is a marked breed, and people are unjustifiably terrified of one that his tied, muzzled and well-behaved.

    Sad that certain owners have failed to train and maintain their dogs so that the breed is blacklisted.

    You must be so anxious to have your son home! I hope there are no more overseas tours of duty unless he wants them!

    • 2 INAL
      March 12, 2010 at 9:15 am

      The legislation may one day be uniform in the USA as well. That is something I’m not happy about. We never muzzle Caesar- that to me is very cruel.

      But yes they are a blacklisted breed.

      My son’s career Navy- this was his third tour in Iraq. But he lived four years before in Japan- which he loved. Says he would like to return to the Far East, it is his favorite area. And he has so many friends from Japan to the Philippines to Malaysia and Indonesia to Seoul. He even has a sets of Colombian friends that are in Shanghai as well as Hong Kong. How they ended up there is anyone’s guess.

      He’s very adventurous-gone to places most people his age can only dream about. His chosen occupation mimics his sense of frontier exploring. When he climbed up mountain Fuji my husband laughed with pride saying, ‘the kid is warming up for Everest!’

      Knowing him, he just might do it!

  2. March 12, 2010 at 8:11 pm

    The muzzling is sad for the well behaved dogs, and in fact makes people think they are ferocious when they are not.

    I forgot your son is career navy–sounds like it is the right place for him. So, may be no more combat zones for a little while! 🙂

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