This is an extremely hard story to relate. Those of you that know me personally know that I rarely shut up, I talk a lot, maybe too much, but today I haven't spoken to anyone. Actually I haven't spoken to anyone since I left the Vets office. I texted my wife and told her when it was done, and I texted Nicole, and sent her what pictures I could take and am now reeling from it all, in private.
I have seen a lot of terrible things in my life. I have lost many close friends. I am a tattoo artist after all, and we seem to have a life expectancy of about 45. I have lost friends to suicide, drugs, cancer, car wrecks, violence, and I have even been to a child's funeral.
Nothing I have ever experienced compares to yesterday. Different. A lot of people who own dogs can't even understand what I'm talking about. The mail we get about people wanting to dump their dog for whatever financial or bullsh*t problems in their lives is a constant reminder of this. Most dog owners will not understand this. There are people who will though, people whose priorities are developed around their 4 legged family members, people that would not surrender their dog even if it meant being homeless, or living in hiding due to BSL, people that have been blessed enough to connect with an animal on a life changing level. Dog ownership is very different from what I'm about to describe. To those of you that understand what I'm talking about, I am writing this for you. I want you to benefit from this, and to thank your animal for giving you such a unique, life changing and rare gift.
I had only been tattooing a few years when Cain came into my life. I was young and insane and so was he. The minute we met our lives both were changed forever. I had never "owned" a dog. My family had dogs, but in my adult life, I had never lived with a dog. I had a snake, because they are easy to care for, whose name was Cain, and had passed away about a year before this stubborn black and white Pit burst into my life. He is named after that snake, and the name fit him. He seemed to like it. His original "rescue" name was actually Oscar, I never called him that one time in his life however.
Cain was muscular, with a huge head, strong jaws, and an amazingly sweet demeanor. He was always extra gentle around children and old people, as well as puppies. But he was a handful, and incredibly strong willed and selfish. With other male dogs, he was insanely aggressive, as he was a fighting dog prior to him finding me. Fighting not by choice, but for survival. He was a rescue that had escaped from 8 prior foster homes, he kept breaking out, no matter what they did. He was an amazing escape artist and he wanted to be free, alone, and on the move. And he was horny. Always trying to hump anything furry, he had not yet been neutered, and had gigantic balls. People always commented on it, which is weird. But anyways he was driven and selfish and focused solely on his own motivations.
So was I.
I was a terrible tattooer, a mean kid full of anger, I used to fight a lot too, and I was horny. I went through women more than he went through foster homes. I was on drugs as often as possible, I was a dishonest person, fueled by selfishness and hatred. I was unhappy and so was he. We were both on the move, looking for something, and what we found was each other.
At the time I did not know anything about pit bulls, except they were "badass" and I was a "badass" so naturally why not get a badass fighting dog and strut him around in some spiky f*cking collars. I also knew that dog fighting was terrible, and I liked the idea of helping a dog recover from abuse. A good way to get around the machismo thing, while still having a machismo dog. "Ohhhh he's a rescue, no wonder he acts like that!"
He escaped from my various houses probably 100 times. In one swift movement he even bit a leash off in one bite and disappeared after some damn neighborhood loose dog and was gone for 5 days at one point. I had reward fliers printed and ready on top of my fridge at all times. No fence could hold him, I saw him jump a 6 ft fence and never break stride more than once. If he couldn't go over, he would tunnel under. If he was on the couch and the front door opened, he bolted out of it.
This was my behavior with the majority of the relationships in my life at the time as well. Escaping as often as possible, severing ties, changing cities, states, houses, women, and "friends" as often as I could afford to. We were both fearful of stagnation and easily bored. We both thought we knew everything and no one could tell us sh*t. All the way up till the day he died, he would not "sit" for anyone unless they bribed him with treats or french fries. He would not "lay down" "rollover" or do anything you told him to, unless he wanted to.
I was the same in my career, I never have been good at having a boss, and in fact I was fired about 90% of the time, the other 10% I just disappeared, like Cain. I have never been good at taking orders either. He and I were remarkably stubborn and independent. Fiercely selfish. Terrible on so many levels.
Our journey started in Texas, I tattooed all over Austin, and in my home. I had only worked in one shop prior which was in Florida, where I was born. I'm referring to the 90's. Things were very different then for tattooers... and for pit bulls. There was no Internet. Sterilization, inks, shops, and equipment were different and everyone was into Rottweilers and Dobermans. Pit bulls were not depicted in movies and TV as the "drug dealer" dogs just yet, but it was starting. Tattoo artists were seedy, usually involved in criminal affiliations, bike gangs, and general negative type stuff. There was not much actual "art" happening, in fact I rarely drew anything, I just traced it off the walls of shops, we all did. Doing the same crap images over and over just to get enough money for some booze and what not.
Animal Planet did not have any pit bulls on air ever, and tattoo artists weren't invited to David Letterman or TLC either. The growth in popularity of both pit bulls and tattooing happened simultaneously, and it happened in my life at the exact same time.
Things went bad in Texas, and I decided to move where everyone moves to really get their lives together. Somewhere safe, where I could find direction without distraction, where else? Las Vegas. The safest and quietest city on earth right? HA!
Only this time I had a dog in tow. No girlfriend, no job, just a dog and a truck full of tattoo equipment. As "we" looked for a place to rent, everything was different. That is when the lies started about pit bulls for me. No one would rent me anything with a pit bull so I started saying "Staffordshire Terrier" which later became "Terrier Mix", and eventually just - "oh he is just a mutt". I had to hide him from landlords, neighbors, hotel maids, etc. I had to have a house with a yard, and a badass fence, but couldn't explain why. I did however bring him to the studios I worked in often, hiding him in the back until the bosses freaked out too much. After work my first priority was always him now. Things were changing. Food, peeing etc... He too was adjusting. And it was in Las Vegas that he stopped trying to escape. In fact I even installed a "doggie door" and he never broke out of the yard once. We were all each other had. Me and Cain. Like an action figure that comes with a dog.
A lot of women came in and out of that front door, and our lives. He never paid them much attention. He seemed to understand they were for my sexual purposes, and that they would be gone soon. He would even perk up after they would leave, and we would get drunk together and watch TV. He would sit on my foot till the sun came up while I was drawing. I worked a lot, leaving him alone in my house for as many as 14 hours at a time. He liked it that way, he was independent after all, and had a timer on his food and water, and a way to go outside. He also began to get protective of our home, barking at car alarms or cops or Jehovah's witnesses. He had never done that before that I had seen.
When I came home, it was like an explosion of love every day. Also something new for both of us. I started WANTING to go home instead of staying out all night being a weirdo in casinos and strip clubs. I began to look forward all day to being done with my crappy tattoos and taking him around the neighborhood. He slept in my bed every night after whatever woman would leave. I didn't like women to "sleep over" and either did he. We were a team. Team big balls. It was cheesy, fun, and different than anything I had ever experienced.
We spent a lot of time together getting wasted in the desert shooting guns, which he never seemed to mind. We spent thousands of hours in the desert shooting beer cans, with him occasionally running off for miles after a coyote or whatever, but now, he would come BACK! Every time he would disappear over the mountains my heart would sink, my hands would sweat, I would start honking the horn and yelling. This was a new feeling for me. I was feeling love. I was beginning to be protective of him, just as he was of me and our home.
It was in Vegas that I learned what love is, and for the first time in my life other than my parents, I cared about something other than myself. He taught me that. It was obvious that it was mutual. He followed me everywhere, while still doing his own thing, he was always nearby. Still wouldn't "sit", but if I didn't tell him to, he would always come sit right next to me. Stubborn f*cker.
We were still restless, and decided to leave the dry heat of Vegas for the cool dampness of Seattle, almost overnight. We packed up and took off, again. No girlfriend, no job, just a dog and some tattoo sh*t. I had never been to Seattle, and that was why we chose it.
Our time there was awesome, he loved it. We went salmon fishing in the streams and mountains surrounding Seattle, hiking through the snow (which was new to both of us!) and spent a lot of drunken nights driving a go cart around the neighborhood. With him unleashed, just following me everywhere I went for miles. There is no telling how many puppies he and I are responsible for littering all over the western coast. If he could find a girl, I would just park to go cart and drink, giving him time to "work off some steam". He liked to bang girl dogs though! This was incredibly irresponsible, I know that now, but at the time I did not care about anything other than me... and HIM now. I didn't give a f*ck about shelters, or overpopulation, I just knew he liked girls so I let him do his thing. If I had it to do over, I wouldn't change a thing. Because I'm still an a$$hole, just a more grown up and conscious one now, and it is all because of Cain.
He would do the same when a girl would come over to "our" house. Just kinda go sit on the couch and wait for her to leave. We were bachelors, we were a team. I did not own him, I was not his "daddy", he was not my property anymore, and he was my best friend, my partner in crime.
He always hated the rain, and learned to just pee and poop all over my deck so he wouldn't have to go all the way outside, I was fine with that, after all it was his deck. And Seattle has rain more than anywhere we ever lived. I was with him the morning of 9-11 we watched that sh*t together, alone. It was shortly after that Seattle became a ghost town for tattoos. Boeing is based there, the economy of Seattle was one of the worst hit in the country. No one was getting tattooed and I had recently been fired anyways so we decided to go to the one place in the world I knew there were still tattoos happening. The ghetto. Drug dealers and hustlers don't care about the economy, they just want tattoos. So we packed up a U-haul, put our car on a trailer behind it, and began an INSANE winter drive across the country in a U-haul to the 9th ward of New Orleans.
He was always good at "truck rides" and he loved it more than anything. I rarely ever went anywhere without him in the car, the passenger seat of every vehicle I have ever owned in my adult life has been his and he knew it. My co-pilot, forever riding with me searching for something just over the next hill. Our cross country trip was brutal, days and days of winter weather through the Rocky Mountains, blizzards, closed roads, hotels, and long hours into the night. We saw the sun rise in our windshield many mornings, leading us to our new lives. It was awesome. It was the best trip ever.
When we finally arrived in New Orleans the house we had set up was not yet painted entirely. There were paint buckets everywhere. Some gangsta type painters full of gold teeth were painting and would not shut up about how "game" my dog was. A term used for a good fighter. The landlord assured me that I could leave all my stuff after it was unloaded, including my dog, and go eat with her, while the painters finished up. She said she had known them their entire lives and they were great kids. So I got in her car and we drove off.
Being more paranoid than the average Joe, and feeling something wrong in my gut, I told her to stop the car and let me out. I was pretty rude about it, basically saying "f*ck you I don't know you and I don't know them and I'm not leaving my sh*t there"! I told her I would just meet her at the restaurant, went inside and discreetly grabbed Cain, and a shotgun my father had given me, and a box of tattoo equipment. The painters did not pay attention, just said I had to take him to pee and we left. Cain stayed in the car while I ate with this new landlord, and everything was good in the world. He was protecting our vehicle, my tattoo machines, and my father's shotgun, while I ate and looked out the window at him. His nub (tail) would always go crazy when I would wave at him, and I always tried to park where I could see him from inside.
When we went back to the house, the music was still on, the paint cans were all open, the rollers were still wet, but all my sh*t was gone, and so were the painters. Drama ensued, but the good news was Cain was standing next to me. So we started back at square one, a vehicle, a dog, a shotgun, and some tattoo stuff.
After living there and working there for a while, we decided to just go on the road. No address, no bills, just me and him and our meager belongings, again, like an action figure. We were inseparable, at this point we both were madly in love with each other and didn't care who knew it. He used to get embarrassed if I would show him affection in public, but that stopped, in fact he was giving me affection in public? Imagine that?
We created a system of sneaking him in and out of hotel rooms, he learned to stop barking at maids or noises, and we went completely under the radar for several years. I was tattooing actual art now. I would spend all night in hotels drawing what I was going to tattoo the next day, and he would lay on my foot, never complaining. He helped me put together promotional packs for magazines, and his hairs were always in the packages, I wanted them in there, after all he spent as much time working on it as I did. Women continued to come and go, but we were the only constant in each other's lives. Different cities, different hotels, different beds, different tattoo shops, but he and I stood together enjoying every minute of it. This was the happiest I had ever been in my adult life. I was becoming successful, I was changing, my income was changing, f*ck everything was changing. Our time together was changing my life.
Every night I would prepare a meal on a portable bar-bq grill made of coat hangers stolen from hotels, I would cook something for me, and warm up a can of dog food for him on the grill. We ate dinner together every night like a religion almost. On good days I would even throw him an entire hot dog, and he would react like a child on Christmas morning.
I started doing tattoo conventions, and used to sneak him in and out of those hotels too. Everyone who has ever known me personally, knows Cain. Conversations often started with "how's Cain doing?" as though asking about my child. I welcomed it, preferring to talk about him more than anything.
We resurfaced in Atlanta, rented a house with a big yard, and started to put down some roots. We had been nomadic for so long, that it felt weird to use a closet. Cain loved that house though, and the neighborhood began to get once again terrorized by he and I into the wee hours of the morning on another go cart. We would hang out and draw, and shoot BB guns, and drink.
I got fired again, like always, cause I'm stubborn, just like him. But this time things were different. We liked our house, and Atlanta. He was happy and so was I. I started to get involved in pit bull rescues, and he was excited to be involved. He wasn't try to fight or f*ck every dog he saw, and either was I. It was also at this point that one of the women that kept coming over started sleeping there. Cain tolerated her, even liked her! She would later become my wife.
I decided it was time to open a studio, do some pit bull rescue, and get married. Time to grow up. I opened the studio, bought my first house and opened a studio all in one year. When I went to look at spaces for the studio and houses to buy, Cain rode with me. When we went to the location on South Cobb drive, that is now All or Nothing Tattoo Studio, he got out of my car and peed on the building. I knew that meant this was the place. I signed a lease immediately, and if you know anything at all about tattoos, you know what happened next. Unreal. All of a sudden Cain and I were successful on a lot of levels. And we didn't have to live on hot dogs any more.
My wife and I started fostering dogs. Eventually keeping one, Medusa. Cain and Medusa fell in love and all of a sudden there were 4 of us now not just two. Cain and I had grown up. I still had very little knowledge of overpopulation, and the staggering overcrowding of shelters, as we only dealt with former fighting dogs, which was a small corner of the animal rescue universe.
I knew that Cain needed to be neutered to prolong his life and to prevent more puppies. However I immaturely decided to breed him with Medusa, so that I would have one of his offspring. I thought the puppies would be just like Cain. I was wrong.
We found homes for all of the dogs except the two we would keep, one for Ashley (my wife) and one for me. The other puppies went to specific friends, like Albie Rock. The damn puppies that came out were nothing like Cain at all! One looked a lot like him, but didn't act like him, but I kept her anyways. We named her Tsunami. My wife picked the one that looked the most like Medusa, and she named him Lucifer. Now All of a sudden we had 4 dogs! Now that I understand about overpopulation of animals in this country, I would not have done that. Every puppy you breed, takes a home from a dog on a red list (euthanization schedule) somewhere. This is the only thing I would have done differently. And it didn't even work. Those two dogs are sh*t heads. I love 'em, but they are nothing like their parents.
Shortly after the pups were born, we got all of them spayed and neutered.
But Cain was turning grey, and had bum knees, and was getting old, and I was scared. Tsunami's first name was "plan B" and still answers to that to this day. My biggest fear in life was to lose Cain. My one weakness. My Achilles heel. I convinced myself we would probably die together, since we had learned to live together. I'm not exactly the epitome of health anyways, and I figured we were both living in dog years.
Years rushed by, and I got more involved with pit bull rescue as I saw Cain getting older. It was my fear of his death that pushed me to help other dogs. We adopted Annie Oakley, started www.AtlantaPitBullRescue.com and made a film called "VICKtory to the Underdog" www.VickDogMovie.com all because I was afraid to lose him. I wanted him to see that I was trying to do something to pay him back for what he had done for me. Cain had saved my life, and forced me to learn to love and grow. I was the underdog that had achieved victory, I was the sh*t head that was rehabilitated, and it was because of him.
This year we noticed a decline in his physical movement and behavior. Both of his ACL's (knees) gave out and he was too old for surgery, so he continued to hobble around never seeming to notice that the vet said he couldn't walk.
And then I got the worst news of my entire life. Inoperable, terminal, aggressive Cancer.
Still makes me cry to even type that.
He was going to die, soon. In fact my wife was ready to euthanize him immediately, that day, as to avoid him being in any discomfort. But he was not her dog, he was mine, and I still am a stubborn motherf*cker, as was he, so I figured let's do this sh*t bring on some chemo you pu$$ies.
And we fought it, all day every day, pills, injections, stinky milkshakes, Vet trips, vomiting blood, he and I both lost an astronomical amount of weight. I spent every single moment with him, making his stupid meals, making him drink water, mushing up his pills, it was a constant every waking moment kind of experience, and I wish I was still making him a f*cking milkshake right now.
He lived to Christmas! That was amazing, they said he wouldn't. He lived to new years and brought in 2011 with me.
Then one morning, the day before he was supposed to go in for more chemo, and an ultrasound to see if the cancer was affected by all our work, I woke up to him puking all over our bed. There was blood in it. His eyes were different, he was different. Very subtle differences, but I knew, and for the first time so did he. I frantically called a zillion doctors and asked everyone what I should do, but I knew, I just didn't want to accept it. Should I wait for the ultrasound? Even my wife who had been voting for euthanization all of a sudden jumped the fence and said "why not wait till the ultrasound"? My head was swimming, my body was hurting, and he was just laying there looking sad.
I called his vet again, and cried my eyes out to the old man on the other end. He was awesome. I was not. I was angry and crying and laid on the floor with Cain for a couple hours. I stopped giving him his medicine and just started giving him whatever he wanted, hot pockets, peanut butter, whatever. He had been on such an insanely strict diet, that I knew he hated, so I decided to blow his diet entirely. I couldn't eat, but he could! He lit up like a f*cking Christmas tree, adding to my confusion, all of a sudden he was all happy and ready to party, but I knew it was temporary. We laid in our puked all over bed together, and cried. He knew something was up, I think he actually was saying goodbye to me. He licked my face a lot, while I cried, and waited up till the very last minute.
On the way to grab the car, our car, his car, I grabbed a bottle of Champagne from the basement that we had bought in CA while filming "Vicktory to the Underdog". The scene is actually in the film, where I'm talking to my mom on the phone trying to explain Villa Lobos, Tia, Animal Planet, all the ass we were about to kick in Vegas etc... That is also the only seen I am crying in that entire film ironically. We had to cut a lot out so I wouldn't come off like a pu$$y. I threw the bottle in the fridge for him, and realized this would be the last time he would go out the door with me, the last everything, the last "truck ride" the last footprints he will leave on "our" ranch. I was losing my mind.
I grabbed his travel bed and put it in the car. I was planning on carrying him, but he walked every step of the way to the driveway himself, until the last step. He stopped, and would NOT get in the car. Further f*cking with my head I was unsure of what to do, he did not want to go, and I could see it. That was a first. He has never once hesitated to get in any vehicle ever.
I picked him up and put him in the car. The drive was a difficult one, hard to see from all the rain on the windshield and all the tears in my eyes. I was crying loudly, like an infant, snot was shooting all over the steering wheel. That drive was the hardest thing I have ever done.
Every fiber of my being wanted to go back home or to just drive off a f*cking cliff. I did not want to continue on this path he and I began together without him. And I still don't. I am struggling to accept that this is real.
We continued on, just like we had for so many years, just me and him, in the car. Only this time everything was different, the world felt different, cars looked different, trees blew by, and it was like I was a different person watching a really sad dude have a break down.
I stopped at Hardees, and got a double burger, "just bread and meat" I blurted out, obviously making the drive through people extremely uncomfortable. The people inside the window looked at me in utter disbelief, but said nothing. I paid with a large bill and drove away, completely forgetting about the change. I almost wrecked my car at this point, into an oncoming vehicle, completely by accident, as I started sneaking him hunks of the meat and wiping snot all over my shirt.
When we arrived at the vet's office, they were closed. I scheduled it this way intentionally, so no one would see me and him so obviously weak and f*cked. I opened his door and waved for him to get out which always granted a response from him, he always bounded outta that b*tch like his ass was on fire, excited to discover adventures awaiting us. This time and for the first time in his life, he did not get up. He would not even get out of the car for the rest of the burger in my hand. This was the hardest part of the process, because I had to force him out of the vehicle, he did NOT want to go... he knew it was the last stop on our tour. F*cking a$$hole knew it. That really f*cked me up.
The staff was amazing, in fact most of them were crying as well. They know our dogs, hell, we are their best clients. They were extremely somber, but warm. I had to scribble my signature on some paperwork, and got snot all over the paperwork. Then we went back to the private room. I asked them to drug him first "get him high as hell"! I figured he might as well go out with a bang and be all feeling awesome. They injected him with some happy drugs while I gave him more burger, and I cried all over him.
I then spent about 2 minutes alone with him in a room in his travel bed, balling, screaming, whatever. He was high as hell, and happy. Then I went and got the Dr. Leaving him to go out of the room, it dawned on me that this would be the last time that we would ever be alone together. F*cking brutal.
The Dr came in and before I even really knew what happened his eyes went blank, still open, still beautiful, warm deep brown eyes, but almost like a light went out. He died in my arms while I thanked him for sharing his life with me.
I asked the Dr "is he dead"? And the answer was yes. They then left me alone with him for about 15 minutes. I wanted to make sure he was all the way dead, because I don't trust anyone when it comes to Cain. I was petting him and kissing him and thanking him. But he was gone. I stayed to help them make a paw print from his foot, and I helped move him and got his bed and harness and all back.
I don't remember the drive home, or I blocked it out. I walked into an empty, quiet, dark, cold home, with his bed in my arms and collapsed. I started vomiting, and almost drowned on my own vomit, tear, combo. For the first time since I lived in Texas, my home did not feel like home. It took me back to what it was like before Cain, who I was, how I have changed, and how much I owe it all to him.
Two dogs were present when I arrived home, however my relationship to all our dogs is nothing like Cain. I barely noticed they were there. Tsunami (Cain's daughter aka plan B) is selfish and sh*tty like he used to be, she did not care, she just wanted food. But it was Makavelli that really blew my mind. He smelled the travel bed and immediately laid down on the floor next to me and licked me. He knew.
Makavelli is a former Vick dog, and he is obviously no stranger to dogs dying. In fact it was insanely familiar to him. Every time I would say "Cain" he would kiss me or smell the bed, he f*cking knows. It's eerie. He has been amazing. So Mak and I drank that bottle from filming the movie to celebrate Cain's life and influence.
And then I started writing this monstrosity. I think it is a story that needed to be told, and I needed to get it out. But honestly my intention is stated at the beginning, if you can in any way relate to my experience with Cain, then f*cking thank that animal for guiding you to a better life. Enjoy every moment. I took so many for granted. Please raise a glass for Cain tonight, this weekend, whenever, and send us a pic, we will post em all.
I also want to publicly thank Cain Bond for being the most inspiring and driving force in my life. You are my best friend, and I am me, as a result of lessons you taught me, and somewhere along the way I seem to have lost some of that. I love you. Good boy.
As he got weaker, so did I. I have deteriorated over the last few years alongside him. Today I am vanquished, and I have no idea what comes next, but whatever it is I know that it will be based in my experience with Cain, who for me, was way more than "a dog".
Thank you for all your letters, comments, and toast pictures of support. I truly appreciate each and every one of you. And to Cain: see you on the other side bro. Thank you.
P.S. F*CK Cancer.
All or Nothing Tattoo
2569 S. Cobb Dr.
Smyrna, Ga. 30080
Phone: 770.435.9966 APPOINTMENT INFO