Bubba's ancestors are verifiable by his pedigree, an official certificate from the American Dog Breeders with fancy borders and a parchment-like feel. The certificate charts from left to right parents and grandparents and great-grandparents, three generations' worth, the minimum heritage the association allows. Dailey says that he can trace Bubba's bloodline to the mid-1800s, when it was one of the first lines registered by the association. In script, the certificate says that Bubba was sired by Van Pelt's "Igor" and birthed by Farley's "Miss Vicious." On it, Dailey shows me where one of Bubba's purebred ancestors was bred with a dog of a different breed. The American Pit Bull Terrier Gazette, the association's magazine, alerts members when a bloodline has been inbred; that is, an owner has crossed dogs who are too closely related to get, as Dailey says, "only chocolate noses" or "only blue dogs. You don't do that with people, so you don't do that with dogs."
Suddenly Bubba, who's been hanging around my knees and nudging my hand, which stopped caressing his ear a minute ago, sounds a growl. "What was that?" I say. Cherlyn has heard it too. "Oh, that's his love grunt," she says. "Stand up, honey," she tells her husband. "He has this jealousy thing." As Corbin and Cherlyn start hugging amorously, Bubba's tail beats against a chair leg, and his body shakes. He lets loose a vocalic whine, full of frustrated envy: he grunts for affection when he's not getting it.
To further illustrate, Daily baby talks, "Give me a big hug, Bubba." In a gray T-shirt that covers his own muscled chest, Dailey squats down so Bubba can put his paws up on his master's shoulders and press his ample underside against him. Nine-year-old Logan says into my tape recorder, "Bubba's spoiled rotten."
Bubba has sired 21 litters. "Twenty-one that we know about," Cherlyn says. Most of his siring has been done with registered bitches. One such is on the back porch in a cage: one-year-old Dee Dee (registered, Double D) along with her two pups. In early May 2003, Dee Dee had a litter of eight. The Daileys' ad in the Union-Tribune read, "Pit Bull Puppies, ADBA registered, champship blood lines, parents onsite, born 5/5/03, $500" -- and the phone rang 154 times during the next six weeks. But Dailey screens the callers so he can know the person's hand. "I choose who can have one," he says. How? "I'll pretend I'm into fighting. I know all the slang. One guy called up and said, 'I want your rowdiest, meanest one. Which one's kicking the shit out of the other ones?' " -- and here Dailey began playing along -- " 'Oh, that's Shithead. He's mean as shit, man.' 'Aw, cool, man. How big is he?' 'Oh, man, he's going to be, like, 150.' 'Cool, man.' " The callousness revealed, Dailey slams him hard: " 'Sorry, man, but you're an idiot, and you don't deserve a dog. And you sure as hell don't deserve one of mine.' "
Dailey says maybe 30 callers figured out his ruse. "But I picked up on them trying to go around the questions I was asking." I ask him for an example of how someone did get chosen. Dailey begs off: "You know, if I say that and you print that, then people would know what to say." Half the people who call, he says, aren't sure what they want. Of the other half, about 35 percent were calls from L.A. or Tijuana, wanting a fighting dog. Many want to fight in Mexico, where it's legal, but he won't sell to Mexican nationals. Dailey says he could get $1250 per puppy. "But sometimes, when you sell a dog for too much money, the right kind of people can't afford it. By lowering the price it gave me a better opportunity to screen people."
New owners of pit bull puppies sired by Bubba undergo not only the equivalent of lie detector tests on Meet the Parents but also Dailey's follow-ups, sometimes for years. Out of "hundreds" of puppies he's registered with the association and sold, he's lost track of only 12 owners. Even if it's just a Christmas card, he says, "I keep track of them because I want to know, what have you bred this dog with?" Daily's hope is that by producing enough dogs like Bubba, Dee Dee, and their offspring, with natures dominated by gentleness and affection, the aggressive gene pool of the pit bull will be softened.
Dailey finally lets Dee Dee and the two puppies out of their crate. They have waited without barking for 35 minutes. The puppies trot over to us, fall and stand. Dailey picks one up, holds it so its body droops, and shows me a sad, innocent face with a beautiful swath of dark brown running from its nose to its eyes, in which I detect nothing pugnacious. "This is the American pit bull terrier," he says. "This is what they are. They are not the hideous monsters portrayed on TV. Look at her! Can you imagine somebody throwing this little puppy in the ring to be maimed or killed? My God, what kind of person does that?"
Lots of people do, says Lieutenant James Treece, a 30-year veteran of San Diego County's Department of Animal Services. It's been a few years since Treece was "in the field" busting bad dog owners. When I talk to him, he's office-bound at the new Kroc-Copley Animal Shelter on Gaines Street, where he conducts administrative hearings. (Treece retired earlier this year.) Evidence from dogfighting cases resides in a side room to his office. On Treece's desk sits a ceramic head of a bloodhound wearing a Sherlock Holmes detective hat. Inside I find cellophane-wrapped candy.
One day when Treece was on patrol, he came upon a small dog, barking and loose in a yard and bothering its neighbors. The yard also contained a very large pit bull, halfway in his doghouse. The dog was secure, it appeared, on a heavy chain. Treece spoke informally with the owner, a "biker type," as he recalled, "a nice enough guy." The little dog was making a racket, so the owner picked him up and took him inside. Hearing the chain clank, Treece was aware at once that the pit bull was creeping toward him. Treece didn't look; a turn might provoke the dog. Instead he wagered the chain would hold the dog when the end of its tether was reached. Sure enough, the pit galloped, but the chain stopped his thrust, snapping him back violently. Then the dog, says Treece, just gave up ("seemed to shrug, 'What the hell' ") and ambled back to his doghouse. Treece was terrified.