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We Talk to Buzz Osborne of the Melvins About His Rescue Dogs

Osborne, frontman of the legendary sludge metal band, tells us about his lifetime love of dogs and his current pack.

Kezia Willingham  |  Mar 12th 2015


One of the things I enjoy most when writing about animal rescue work is how one story often leads to another. I interviewed jme thomas from Motley Zoo Animal Rescue, a Washington state-based organization that networks with rock stars to promote animal adoption. One of those musicians was Buzz Osborne of the Melvins, a legendary sludge metal band, also from Washington, who were early friends with and influences on Kurt Cobain and Nirvana.

I was delighted to talk to Buzz about the passion he has for his own pack. Here is an edited-for-length version of our email interview.

Kezia Willingham for Dogster: So, I hear you have dogs. What are their names? What breeds/mixes?

Buzz Osborne: We now have three dogs: two Jack Russells and an English Staffordshire Terrier. Their names are Buster, Coco, and Gigi. Coco is a Jack Russell and the oldest of the three at 18! Buster is also a Jack Russell and is five years old, and Gigi is a rescued English Staffordshire at six.

My wife and I have had dogs for most of the 21 years we’ve been married. I can’t imagine not having dogs. When I was growing up, we had a few dogs, but they were family dogs and not mine in particular. One of them lived to be about 16, one disappeared, and one was smashed flat by an 18 wheeler right in front of me when I was four years old. The truck driver didn’t even stop and just left me there to deal with our now very dead dog. It was a heavy trip for a four-year-old; in fact it would be a heavy trip for me now. I can’t imagine something that terrible happening to one of my dogs.

How did your current dogs enter your life?

The first dog my wife and I had was a rescue Pit BullWhippetLab mix named Itchy. He lived to be 17, and we had to finally put him down a little over a year ago. That was tough. He was pretty much the best dog ever.

When we got him, he had been severely abused and had never been indoors, never slept on a dog bed, and never eaten or drank out of a bowl. He was malnourished and extremely skittish. The people who had him before us used to let their children throw baseballs and other assorted garbage at him while he ran around terrified and helpless in their backyard. People who behave like that should be in jail. They ended up abandoning him to a neighbor of theirs, who told us the whole story.

He didn’t trust us at first, but once we started treating him right he warmed up and became a wonderful companion for the better part of two decades. I can’t imagine a better dog. The first time he ever tasted steak, I thought his eyes were going to pop out of his head.

When it got to the point where he couldn’t walk anymore and we had to put him down, my wife didn’t want to show him how upset we were and stayed cool until after he was gone. That was the single hardest thing we’ve been through together. He always hated going to the vet, so we had him euthanized in the back of our jeep. It was really tough, and it’s hard to write about. Afterward we went home to the three dogs we still had, and they helped us feel a whole lot better. Dogs always make you feel better.

We rescued a VERY severely abused 100-pound American Bulldog named Baccus who we had for about 10 years, until he died of natural causes. He hated everyone until he got to know you, which took forever. He was covered in horrendous scars from terrible beatings he’d received in his horrible past. The American Bulldog Rescue had found him in the Los Angeles dog pound, and we ended up with him.

We gave him a great home, but he was a real challenge. I don’t know if I’d take on another dog who’d been that abused, but I feel like we did our part for the great abused dog spirit, so it’s all good. As long as he was alone with us and the other dogs he was fine, and you could see what an amazing dog he really was. Big heart and very appreciative. We saved him and finally gave him the good life he deserved. I miss him a great deal.

Our dog Coco, my wife bought from a friend, and she’s the first Jack Russell we ever had. To this day, I can’t believe she sold her to us because she’s such a good dog! My wife has a saying that our dogs are not for sale. For any price. And she means it.

Coco showed us just how cool, smart, and special Jack Russells are. Now I can’t imagine not having a Jack Russell. So much fun. We’ve had a wonderful time with Coco for over 16 years. Now she’s in the twilight of her life and basically deaf and becoming blind, but she still gets around pretty good for such an old girl. As old as she is, she still runs around like a young dog after she gets a bath. It’s really cute! At this point we’re just trying to make her comfortable.

Buster is a young Jack Russell we got as a gift when he was still a mischievous puppy. We’d never raised a puppy before, and it was a pain in the ass, but that’s how it goes with puppies; it was never really a problem.

Buster is the poster dog for what makes Jack Russells my favorite breed. He’s a wild man in need of exercise, and that’s exactly what we do. A tired Jack Russell is a good Jack Russell. Those are words to live by with these dogs. If you might be thinking of getting a Jack but you’re not sure if you can run their ass off every day, DO NOT DO IT. A Jack Russell without exercise will destroy your house.

Buster is a great hangout dog and will follow you around the house all day, studying whatever it is you’re doing. If he can do it he will do it, so you have to keep your eye on him all the time. Jack Russells are hunters and vicious killers and will do so whenever possible. They cannot be trusted around small animals. Killing is what they were bred to do, so you have to keep that in mind.

Gigi is an English Staffordshire Terrier we got from a rescue online, but she wasn’t a rescue in the traditional sense. Gigi is a prize-winning former show dog whose owner had died of cancer. She loved Gigi and wanted her trainer to find a good home for her. When my wife contacted them, they had to come to our house and see exactly how we treated dogs before they would give her to us. They were extremely impressed with how healthy and old our dogs were and remarked that it was obvious that we didn’t give up on dogs.

Gigi is a great dog who almost never barks. She loves food and adventure. I’ve taken her to the recording studio with me a number of times, and she likes to lie on the couch there — that is, when she’s not trying to con someone into giving her food. Ha!

What are your favorite parts about having dogs?

My wife says who needs cable TV when you have two Jack Russells to take care of? Boy is that true. We don’t have cable TV, and a lot of that has to do with the pooches. I don’t mind at all. Dogs are always happy to see you when you come home, which I love. They stay in the moment and seem to be spiritual giants, as silly as that sounds.

If you sit on the couch at our house, then you immediately have a dog sitting next to you. I love that, and as a result I’ve become used to being perpetually covered in dog hair. The drummer in Napalm Death pointed this out to me like it was a bad thing. I’ve tried to ignore that comment.

I love dogs, and I love living with dogs, and I’m sure that the human race has developed for the better as a direct result of our association with dogs. They’re day hunters just like us; I saw a documentary that says you can trace all dog DNA back to day-hunting gray wolves.

I can’t imagine all the things they’ve given us, AND they’re amazing burglar alarms! Remember it was the DOGS who warned the Indians that Custer was attacking! Good dog!

I find Buzz’s devotion to his dogs inspiring, and it’s nice to get to know a different side of a rock star’s life. To get more familiar with Melvins, follow the band on Facebook.

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About Kezia Willingham: Also known as the Breadwinning Laundry Queen, Kezia lives with her family, which includes a pack of rescued cats and dogs, in Seattle. A regular contributor to Catster and Dogster, her writing has also appeared in the New York Times, the Seattle Times, xoJane.com, and Literary Mama. You can follow her on Twitter.