Man's Best Defense

Tyler Eison turns pit bull pups into deadly weapons

Because he is the only one who can handle his dogs and because his family is spread all over Queens, Eison is in perpetual motion between his office and two houses, and his multiple responsibilities generally have him running late for appointments. In early August, when the puppies were three and a half months old, Eison moved them to his main kennel, adjacent to the older dogs, eliminating some of the runaround. Now he can tend to all of them during breaks from work. When the kennels have been scrubbed, the feces removed, and water bowls cleaned, Eison, drenched in sweat, removes his T-shirt—revealing a heart-shaped tattoo on his chest with the name "Chandra" in the middle.

After letting the puppies cool off in the spray from the garden hose, he decides to separate them rather than return them to the same pen. A veterinarian friend has cropped both puppies' ears, and the girl's left ear is healing slowly from too much rough play. Meanwhile, she has left the less aggressive boy with nicks and bite marks on his neck. The older dogs won't make good kennelmates either, as the girl puppy spends her time pacing back and forth, mirroring the movements of the pit bulls in the pen next to her, trying to bite them but coming up with a mouthful of chain-link fencing. "That girl's real crazy; she likes to play games with the big dogs. She wants to fight everything," says Eison. She'll be the one he'll breed with her father, Rock.

"Rock is real good off the leash," says Eison. "He only kills when I tell him to kill." To demonstrate this Eison has to put King, the Cane Corso, into a cage, because he doesn't get along with Rock. Before doing so, Eison points out two large scars—one behind the left ear and another on the left foreleg—on the 160-pound King where Rock got hold of him.

Tough puppy love: Eison with his recruits
photo: Matthew Salacuse
Tough puppy love: Eison with his recruits

Indeed Rock is good off the leash, wagging his tail and letting people he doesn't know pet him. He's good off the leash, that is, until Eison shows him a stuffed toy. When Rock sees the toy—a plush Sylvester the cat doll, dressed in a nightshirt and cap—his muscles stiffen, his tail stops wagging, and he assumes the posture of a pointer. Eison holds Rock by a short leash and hands the toy to a third party.

"Watch him now, watch him now," says Eison to Rock in a gruff, deliberate voice, periodically jerking the leash. He lets him charge a foot or two toward the doll before yanking him back. It only takes a couple of passes of the toy before Rock is able to grab it. But it is not the toy he's after. He immediately drops it and stares with terrifying intensity at the person who had been holding it. "Rock's bloodline is one of the best. He doesn't want to stop, he'll fight to the death," says Eison. "You'll never be able to come in this backyard again."

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