The “show” was scheduled to take place on Friday night in a field behind a rundown gas plant about forty miles west of Houston. Chris, a young dogman from the coastal town of Matagorda, was driving up to take on Rob Rogers—or, as he was known in the dogfighting world, White Boy Rob. Chris was a cocky, fast-talking black guy, maybe 25 years old. He had a beauty of a pit bull named BJ, a newcomer to the game but one that had already developed a reputation as a “leg dog.” At his last show, BJ had locked his teeth onto his opponent’s front left leg, ripped out a chunk of cartilage, and then immediately torn into the right leg, nearly snapping a bone. “Nobody can beat BJ,” said Chris. “White Boy Rob ain’t going to do nothing to my BJ.”
Rogers was one of the best dogmen in Texas, renowned for his ability to work fighting pit bulls—“bull dogs,” he called them. He kept thirty dogs at a property in Baytown and at his two-bedroom trailer in Channelview, a blue-collar suburb of Houston, where he lived with his wife and three children. As a fight approached, he would select one dog and put him “on the keep.” He would run him for an hour through a cemetery with a thirty-pound chain attached to his collar. He’d make him swim for another hour in an above-ground pool in his backyard, then put him on a treadmill to run some more. Rogers would give the dog vitamins and amino acids and inject him with anti-inflammatory drugs. He’d give the dog very little water in order to lessen bleeding during a fight and make the skin tighter and harder to bite. To keep the animal relaxed, he’d let it stay inside the trailer and sleep at the foot of his bed. “You treat your bull dog with respect and you’ll be amazed at what he does for you,” Rogers liked to say. “You can tell him where to hit another dog, and he’ll hit it.”
For this particular show, Rogers had chosen Dozer, a 36-pound male with a coat the color of fried chicken. Dozer was young, just nineteen months old. Usually Rogers didn’t bring out one of his dogs until it had reached at least the age of two. But Dozer had what dogfighting aficionados describe as a “hard mouth”: He was a vicious biter. Like almost all of Rogers’s dogs, Dozer was also known for his “gameness”: Once he was ordered to fight, he refused to quit. When Rogers showed up in his old gray Ford van and pulled Dozer from his large crate, a couple of men who had been invited to the show let out low whistles. Dozer looked around, proud as a Thoroughbred, his muscles rippling under his short hair.
One by one, Dozer and BJ were weighed in, each suspended from a scale with a thin cord running under his front legs and around his chest. A member of Chris’s team washed Dozer with water, baking soda, warm milk, and vinegar to make sure his coat was not treated with some foreign substance that would inhibit BJ from biting. According to the rules, Rogers had the right to wash BJ, but he was so confident in Dozer that he shrugged his shoulders and told the referee to get the show going.
A wooden box—twelve feet by twelve feet, the walls two feet high—had been constructed in the middle of the field, with a couple of portable industrial lights set up around it. Inside the box, a carpet had been laid down over the grass. The invitation-only crowd of about thirty men stood just outside the box, most of them making bets. Chris and Rogers had each put up $750 for the fight, winner take all. The two men stepped into the box, cradling their dogs in their arms, and quickly turned toward their separate corners so that the dogs could not see each other. “Face your dogs,” said the referee.
The dogs were set down on the carpet and turned toward the center of the box. When they finally got a glimpse of each other, it was as if a switch had been flipped. Their heads slunk below their shoulders, and their paws strained against the carpet. The referee shouted, “Release your dogs,” and they came flying toward the center of the box with a vengeance, two projectiles colliding in midair.
Dozer immediately buried his teeth in BJ’s chest, and just as immediately spit him out. Rogers cursed. BJ obviously had some sort of solution on him—a flea dip, maybe—that was bothering Dozer. Rogers watched as BJ took advantage of the opportunity, driving himself underneath Dozer’s jaws and tearing at his front leg.
Rogers snapped his fingers, pointed to BJ’s face—the one place where he figured there would be no flea dip—and shouted, “Get it! Get after it!” Dozer responded, his teeth gnashing at BJ’s muzzle. BJ pawed backward, blood spurting from his mouth. Blood and urine drenched the carpet. Dozer was so wounded in his front leg that he had trouble standing. But as spectators around the box bellowed, he held onto BJ’s chest, his teeth like clamps.
Chris called for a break, and the two dogs were briefly separated. Rogers’s and Chris’s assistants gave them quick sponge baths and blew on them to cool them off. “Release your dogs!” the referee again called out, but BJ was having no more of it. He refused to walk over the scratch line that had been drawn on the carpet. The referee slowly counted from one to ten. BJ stayed where he was, and Dozer was declared the victor.
Rogers loaded Dozer up in his crate and drove away from the gas plant. It had been a good night. His reputation in the dogfighting world remained untarnished. He knew that within hours other dogmen would be on the phone swapping tales about his victory, talking up Dozer