The Life of Anton
Many of you know about Anton, you have seen him moseying around the gym, sleeping on his bed or taking a poop on the turf to spite DJ. He had a serious run. I adopted Anton in 2004 when he was two years of age. I had been arrested for fighting at Penn State and needed to serve community service to expunge my record and decided to do so at the Humane Society. Anton (Trouble was his name at the shelter) was there the entire week. His card said he was not good around other dogs or around children. By my last day at the Humane Society, Trouble (Anton) was still in the slammer. He was due to be put down the next day if no one adopted him. I felt bad for him. Every day he would lick my fingers and sit there and shake while I pet him. So I did what every naive college student would do. I decided to adopt him.
It wasn’t that easy. First, I had to make sure he would get along with my German shepherd, Hurricane (he loved her and she loved him), then I had to make sure our old Golden Retriever didn’t mind him (Anton humped his leg incessantly) and the final hurdle was getting my parents on board. That was easy to do...I called my sister, she agreed to pretend to be my mom and informed the Humane Society over the phone that it was ok for me to bring him home. That started the journey.
Anton lived at Penn State with me for these three years. He experienced the lowest of my lows. He was one of the few things that kept me grounded. I knew I had to walk him four times a day, which is tough for a lazy college student that was hungover 50% of the time. Fortunately, he was lazy and adapted to my handlings of him. He loved the walks and I loved taking him out with a pink leash just so people would stare at a 290lb man walking around a 20lb dog with a pink leash. That was enjoyable. He made it easy for me to clean the dishes as he would pre-clean them before I washed them by hand. Friends loved to dog-sit him when I would be traveling for track meets and my roommates thoroughly enjoyed throwing balls down the steps while we all drank in my living room.
In 2006, I dropped out of school. I moved home and then decided I needed to hitchhike across Canada.
Anton stayed at home in Reading with my parents while I hitched 33 rides out to the Pacific Ocean and back. He was waiting when I came home and excited to see me. He whined like a baby and it reminded me that I wasn’t a complete loser while dealing with my emotions and drinking issues. I decided to re-enroll the next fall at Penn State and Anton came back for the ride.
I got my act together, drank a lot less, went to class more, studied more and trained very well. Anton was there during this period, always waiting at the top of the stops when I would open the apartment door. He would stand there and jump up and down as I came home after track practice. Then something terrible happened...one day I came home and someone had left the door open to my apartment. Anton was gone. He was always looking for me, just like the day he died, he was always waiting for me and wondering when I would come back. If I wasn’t home he would go look. I found him three blocks from the apartment, heading toward the campus! When I told my Hindu Studies professor why I was late for class, her response was, “That’s the first time I have ever heard that excuse.”
We had a good run in State College. Next stop...Kamloops, British Colombia.
In the summer after graduating from PSU, I decided to move to British Colombia, Canada to train under Dr. Anatoly Bondarchuk and try to salvage my shot putting career. When I informed my parents of my decision they fully supported me...as long as Anton went along for the journey. Earth Fed Muscle co-founder Chris Stamm decided he wanted to go along on the 48-hour journey and then hitchhike back to Pennsylvania. The journey began and we went through Bismarck, North Dakota and then into Glacier National Park. Anton chilled for 7 hours in the car while Chris and I hiked to the top of Glacier! That was his deal. He was always ready to hang out as long as we were including him in the festivities. We crossed into Canada (without any dog vaccinations) and headed for Kamloops. We found an apartment with an absolute crazy person that had a business called the “Pet Palace.” She let me bring Anton into the apartment and for a year he lived in Canada.
We would drive to training twice a day, he would sit in the back of my old Dodge Neon, watching me throw from above while Dr. B would point up and laugh at the little white dog just watching shot put sessions! He would sit in the back while I delivered newspapers at 4 AM, he would sit and wait for me in the car when I was bouncing (if it wasn’t too freaking cold). He went with me everywhere!
We moved home to Reading and I started Garage Strength in the fall of 2008 in my parents Garage. Anton would sit in the corner by the wood stove on his bed, relaxing and watching everyone lift, occasionally get up to go to the bathroom. He saw the gym grow from 3 clients to 40 clients. He watched us go from a fitness type gym into a sports performance gym, focusing on athletes, specifically throwers and wrestlers. By 2011, we started to move Garage Strength into the barn.
The barn was a perfect spot for Anton, the business grew, he had more space to roam around, more people to greet and more tires to piss on. On top of that, my family grew! Lincoln was born and one of the biggest fears I had was that Anton would not like our newborn. Lincoln aspirated meconium and spent 3 weeks in the hospital when we came home, Anton slept under/next to/around Lincoln all the time. He became his protector. Lincoln grew and pulled and pinched and laid on Anton and he never cared!
The next five years we spent in the barn, renovating, growing building the business and gaining tons of clients. Anton had a knack for slowly wandering around the property, down by the road, peeing on every tree on the property, walking in front of every car pulling into the gym and laying in the corner where the cool air was in the summer. One of my favorite memories of Anton is always seeing him curled up in front of the wood stove...all the time. Throughout the fall and winter, Anton would never move from the wood stove. It was the warm area, sometimes I’d joke that he would start to bubble and his fat would pop from getting so hot next to the soapstone stove!
He saw so many great lifts in the barn. So many awesome throws, awesome people and great times. He loved sprinting into the gym, running around the turf, barking randomly at people and eventually just laying on his bed. Rich Heister would make his daily visits to Anton, give him a dog bone, a nice pet on the head and a little talking to. Rich and Ruth Schlechter were two people Anton always recognized when they walked into the gym. He could be completely asleep and all of a sudden recognize those two were in the gym and be begging for treats!
In 2015, Sanderson was born. We had moved homes and Anton came with us to our tiny home in the woods. It was the very early morning of April 1st and Caitlin’s water broke. Within three hours she was giving birth to Sanderson. Anton just watched the entire time. He sensed the urgency of everyone around him and never became a frantic dog. Instead, he watched, made sure everyone was ok and eventually was caught trying to get Caitlin’s placenta out of the trash (is that too much information, lol). He welcomed Sanderson just like he did Lincoln. He loved him and protected him and breathed his dragon breath on him all the time.
By the spring of 2017, we had outgrown the barn and were ready to move the gym. We bought a local warehouse, moved in and I wondered how Anton would handle it. By this time he was 15 years of age! How did he do? He loved it! He would come trotting in the door, jog around, pee on the tires, poop on the turf in front of DJ and plod back to the front room and sleep on his bed.
Anton witnessed incredible lifts. He watched crazy people crushing crazy weights. We moved the mural with his painting to the new garage. He would arrive at the gym with me around 5:30 AM and leave with me at 8 PM. He would drive with me to Berks Catholic, he would meander around outside and come back in for more sleeping time. His health slowly deteriorated but he never really lost his spunk, just the frequency of his “spunk expression” slowly became less frequent. Over time, I knew the end was coming soon. Let’s be honest, a 16.5 year old dog is basically unheard of! Never did I want to put him down but I knew it was best for him. Selfishly, I wanted Anton to meet my twins, Seneca and Keenan. Part of me thinks he knew it was for the best that he not meet them, His health and mind were not sound and his judgment came two days prior to their birth.
Anton met athletes from throughout the world. People from New Zealand, Australia, and South Africa have reached out to me with pictures of Anton and small memories of him. Past athletes have contacted me with funny stories of the little mutt. This dog saw it all. He saw me go from a punk ass college kid to a business owner and proud father of four. He saw lifts that many people dream of seeing, he saw throwers train regularly and met more individuals than most could imagine. He was a staple at Garage Strength, he was part of the community and that made him special. He is forever emblazoned on the mural in our weightlifting room, memories of him are posted on my personal Instagram and stories have been shared that are epic. I will miss Anton tremendously but his memory will always bring a great smile to my face...and maybe a few tears. I love you, Anton.