The crowd stirring up the Patuxent River are two Mastiffs, Dozer, 2, and Bull, 9. Near their home in Howard County near Mt. Airy, these two massive males with oversize pug faces dive and play in the water with abandon.
The dogs live with their owners, Karl and Mary Greve, on 10 acres near the Patuxent's headwaters.
"I don't suppose it is where the first waters of the Patuxent come bubbling out of the ground, but it is just a wide creek with several deep swimming holes," says Mrs. Greve who, with husband Karl, have Pausing with pets been Mastiff fanciers for 12 years. In their Pax River Kennel they breed no more than once a year and often less, she says.
For dogs who weigh so much -- 185 pounds for Bull, the father, and 235 pounds for his son Dozer -- their agility is incredible.
There was a time when Jason, Bull's father, also lived at the house and swam in the river. Jason played with the couple's children when they were young. Bull and Dozer do not have a household of children to swim with but they give the Patuxent a powerful stirring most days.
"Jason was the first Mastiff we owned and was purchased as TC puppy in 1980 and is 12 now," Mrs. Greve says. "He was so great with our daughters Kelly, Anne and Becky and son Kurt, who are all grown.
"Jason played lacrosse with them, intercepting the ball and then expecting the kids to chase him. But most of all he was a water swinger and we took tons of pictures to prove it," she explains.
"We had a strong rope tied to a tree limb over the river. The kids held on to it and would swing out over the water and drop in. Jason would grab that rope with his mouth and swing as far as the kids would and he would hang on with his mouth longer than any of them. If he was out in the water he could catapult himself up out of the water like a porpoise to catch the rope and then swing for ages," adds Mrs. Greve, who works for the government near Washington, D.C. Mr. Greve is an iron worker.
After the children had grown and left home, Jason left home, too, Mrs. Greve explains.
"We had friends in Manassas, Va., who wanted Jason. They are retired and it has been grand for Jason. He is with them at all times, sleeping with them, getting constant attention and being spoiled rotten.
"We visit," she says.
According to American Kennel Club breed history, the word mastiff describes several giant varieties of dog rather than a single breed and this breed is actually the Old English Mastiff. However, the breed is registered as Mastiff and listed as Mastiff in most accounts.
The dogs may have originated in Asia. Breed history reveals that Caesar invaded England with them in 55 B.C., and drawings of them are found on Egyptian monuments about 3000 B.C. The earliest reference in literature to the breed is in Chinese, from 1121 B.C.
In 1985, a dog from England named Bayard was the first AKC-registered Mastiff in the United States.
Most Mastiffs are about 30 inches high at the shoulder and have massive bones and muscle structure. Weight is generally from 130 pounds up. Dozer is exceptionally tall for a Mastiff and his owners believe he is close to 35 inches tall, which is about the same height as a great Dane.
The Mastiff drools. Some drool more than others, according to Mrs. Greve, who makes bibs for the dogs to wear to shows.
One of the most attractive traits of the Mastiff is gentleness.
Mrs. Greve remembers when she found a 3-year-old girl curled up with Jason at a dog show. "She didn't want to leave Jason even after we hunted for and found her parents."
And Bull raised a kitten.
"One year," Mrs. Greve recalls, "he found a kitten abandoned in the field and he picked it up, cradling it in his big jaws, and from that time on, the kitten was his.
"He guarded and cared for it, helped only by food from us. Many is the day we'd see Dozer and Bull sleeping on their backs out on the porch deck with the kitten on top," she says.
Mrs. Greve laughs about the family's sleeping arrangements. "The two dogs sleep with us; that is, whichever one gets in first sleeps between us. Whoever is late sleeps on the floor."
She adds, "We got these dogs for our children but now they are for us."