"Remember these rules," said my new housemate Adam about my other new housemate, Diablo, a wolf-German shepherd mix who looked as though he had eaten more jugular veins than Snausages. "Don't make quick moves, don't try to touch him, don't look him in the eye, and you'll probably be fine."
I was 6 months out of college and hauling my cheap belongings into a cheaper Salt Lake City bungalow. Adam, an Apache construction worker, explained that he'd rescued his dog from a sadistic drunkard who had beaten the animal half to death with a golf iron. Then Diablo growled as if I were the guy's caddy.
"Quiet," Adam told the beast, not unkindly. Diablo's growling ratcheted down, but only a notch. No wonder the rent was so cheap.
For the next 3 weeks, the growl never stopped. I almost got used to it, the way I almost got used to navigating the bungalow with my eyes trained on the ceiling. Every once in a while, Diablo sniffed my groin with his elongated snout, which could snap moose femurs like pretzel sticks. It was all I could do to keep from fainting.
More from Men's Health:Lessons From a Dog's Death
Our relationship changed one searing afternoon in August. Having come home early for lunch, I heard Diablo snarling at me from his fenced lair in the backyard. His growling carried its usual tone of hatred, but I sensed an additional chord, the barest tone of vulnerability in the heart of the largest carnivore I'd ever lived with.
As slowly and reassuringly as I could, I approached the fence. "It's okay, buddy," I said, trying to channel Saint Francis. "Easy, boy."
Diablo's problem was soon apparent: He'd upended his water dish in the 101° heat. What I decided to do next terrified me, but the alternative -- doing nothing -- seemed as cruel as beating the brute with a sand wedge. I unlocked the gate and slowly, slowly moved inside his territory. I could feel Diablo's breath on my leg, the guttural vibrations of his growl. Smoothly, slowly, I reached for the water dish, righted it, filled it from the wall spigot, and retreated. The growl was silenced by desperate, maybe even grateful, lapping from the dish.
More from Men's Health:Why Puppies Win Over Women
When I returned home at 6:30 that night, Adam was cooking his dinner, and Diablo was in his usual evening spot beside his master's La-Z-Boy. He was sitting on his haunches, watching me silently. The growl had stopped.
From that point on, our bond deepened.
If you've ever become best friends with a former bully, you know how gratifying it can be. With Diablo beside me, I felt invulnerable -- it was as if I'd developed a superpower. In the eons before modern weaponry, dogs like Diablo must have bestowed a sense of invincibility upon those fortunate human beings they trusted.
I got a delicious taste of this a month later, when I was jolted from a deep sleep by the sounds of Diablo in a rage. A couple of my ne'er-do-well friends had broken in at 3 a.m. to invite me out for drinks, which they had hoped I'd pay for. Diablo backed the slackers against a wall.
More from Men's Health:The Average Guy and His Dog
I gave him an affectionate scratch behind his ears, which, of course, did nothing to calm him. "You know what they say about sleeping dogs, eh, fellas?"
After a quick recitation of Adam's list of "don'ts," I hugged Diablo around his neck and watched my friends slink off into the night. The last thing they heard in retreat was my voice switching to pupspeak.
"Who's a good boy, Diablo? Who's a good boy? You are! Oh, yes you are!"
pics, advice, info and stories for pet lovers
We asked veterinary experts and readers which breeds they think and if it is OK to shave longhaired pets in the summer.
If you're searching for a breed that may enjoy the company of a kid, we have some great suggestions for you.
When searching for the right dog to add to your family, your first instinct might be to bring home a tiny little thing that your kids can cradle in their laps. But we're here to remind you that the best fit for you may be a large dog breed.
Many breeds were developed to do work that required them to act independently. Those dogs tend to be smart, but as family pets, they may need more leadership and training than others. Ultimately, though, they’re worth it. Here are 11 dog breeds that tend to have independent personalities.
Many of us here at Vetstreet are fascinated by pets who have unique coats and cool shapes hidden in their markings. So we asked our Facebook fans to share pictures of animals that have interesting coloration, and you did not disappoint. From mustachioed cats to a horse of a different color, here are our 13 favorite photos of pets with cool coats.
We surveyed 284 veterinary professionals (including vets, veterinary technicians and office staff) to see which breeds they felt were most likely to chew something they shouldn't and wind up in the veterinary emergency room, and we've listed the top five answers below. Do you agree with their opinions? Which breeds would you add to the list?
This Fourth of July, Americans will celebrate with the sights and sounds of fireworks. While we love the pyrotechnics, it's important to remember that our patriotic midsummer spectacular is no holiday for many of our pets.
By Vetstreet Editors
It's Independence Day — and we're celebrating our freedom and everything American. Before you light up the grill or head out to catch the fireworks, take a moment to check out these fun photos of patriotic pups. We hope you have a wonderful holiday and, as always, remember to keep your pets safe.
You love him so much, but you put up with a lot for your pup.
There's no denying that cats are excellent companions, but sometimes they do something that leaves you scratching your head in total confusion. If you're used to dogs, cats' social interactions and the way they communicate can be very confusing. Yet it's these special behaviors, like affectionate head-butting and their penchant for cardboard boxes, that make us love them so much. To help you better understand your elusive feline, we rounded up 10 cat behaviors that people commonly consider mysterious. You'll find that many of these habits aren't weird at all for cats -- they're normal. Click through this slideshow to learn more about mysterious feline habits and what they mean.
Soldier the cat is now recovering thanks to a special oxygen mask used for reviving animals.