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Tag: great danes

Close encounter of the Great Dane kind


I was hit by a truck over the weekend.

Well, it was a Great Dane, but same difference.

He was a regal beast, and a gentle one, and I don’t think he even saw me until I was up in the air.

He’d come into the dog park, greeted those already there, and when one started chasing him he took off, looking behind him at the dog in pursuit as he gained full momentum.

That’s when he ran smack into me. I saw him coming, and debated veering to one side or another, but the feet have been a little slow to take orders lately.

So all of me went up into the air, where I floated, limbs akimbo, for at least a second before landing with a thud on my side.

The owner immediately approached and asked if I was ok.

I needed a few minutes to figure that out, and a few more to get off the ground.

The owner offered his hand to pull me up, but I wasn’t sure if I wanted to be up, or if getting pulled up by my arm might not be good for the shoulder that was bothering me before any of this happened.

So I laid there, checked to see if my various parts would move and thanked my own dog, Jinjja, when he came over to check on me — not the sort of thing he usually does as he’s mostly in his own world when he’s at the dog park.

I struggled to get on my knees and then all the way up, dusted myself off and — though the breath that had been knocked out of me hadn’t yet returned — pronounced myself OK.

Embarrassed about being on the ground, embarrassed by how long it took me to get up. But OK, thought.

I spent a few more minutes inside the park, during which time Jinjja would growl at the Great Dane whenever he got close to me, and come back to check on me a few more times.

I was touched, and deemed it progress. For this is a dog that, rescued from a dog meat farm in South Korea, has never been great at showing affection, other than enjoying a butt scratch. So I considered it a breakthrough, and one that apparently didn’t involve any parts of me getting broken.

Sore yes — but not broken, or at least I didn’t think so for the next few hours.

Jinjja and I left the dog park a few minutes later, stopping to sit at a nearby picnic table just to regain my composure. The three young women sitting at the next table with their dogs having a picnic asked if I was OK and — all being medical students on the verge of becoming physician assistants — ran me through a checklist of questions, showing vastly more concern than the dog’s owner did.

We decided I would live, and — once their attentions shifted to another dog walking by with a hurt paw — I moved on, proud that nothing had snapped upon impact.

Now, the next day, I’m pretty sure something did, a rib to be precise.

The pain set in during the night, a pretty sharp one when I moved, took a deep breath or –heaven forbid — coughed.

I broke a rib once before and did nothing about it, which as it turns out it is pretty much what doctors do too. You just wait for it to heal. I didn’t visit one then, and I’m still debating what to do now. But I’m pretty sure I don’t want to spend $1,000 for tests and doctors that will tell me I broke a rib and there’s really nothing to be done about it.

Fault? That’s not a factor. Dogs, big and small, will run at dog parks, and not always watch where they are going. Great Danes? They are one of my most favorite breeds, and their clumsiness is part of their appeal. I was too old and slow — neither of which is particularly appealing –to get out of the way. That’s on me. Those who worry about being run over by a dog, should stick to the benches on the sidelines.

So no hard feelings, Great Dane. I hope I run into you again (preferably without you running into me).

And to Jinjja, and those physicians assistants-to-be, thanks for showing you care.

(Photo: An old Great Dane friend from Baltimore, named Soju, who has nothing to with this story)

Should a cookie-cutter neighborhood be restricted to cookie-cutter dogs?

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The developer of a neighborhood of modern, look-alike, cookie-cutter homes in Lexington, Ky., apparently wants to also define the breeds of dogs that can live there — or at least stipulate what breeds cannot.

That’s not all that rare nowadays, but the company managing McConnell’s Trace is casting a pretty broad net when it calls for banning 11 breeds of dog it deems “dangerous.”

If you read this website, you already know who I think the dangerous ones are in this scenario.

It’s not the German Shepherds, or the Rottweilers, or the mastiffs, or the Doberman Pinschers, or the pit bulls, or the huskies, or the malamutes, or the chows, or the Great Danes, or the St. Bernards or the Akitas.

It’s the developers, property management companies, and/or homeowner’s associationsthat decide breed bans are necessary to maintain peace, sanctity and low insurance premiums — and then go about enforcing their ill-informed rules with dictatorial zeal.

They are the far bigger threat so society.

In a nation so concerned about everybody’s Constitutional rights, and protecting individual liberties, it’s amazing how much power such groups can exert over how we live, and that they get away with it.

Sometimes it is done by the developers who, rather than just build houses, want to impose a set of rules on the community that will last through perpetuity. They do this by establishing “deed restrictions,” stipulating what a homeowner can and cannot do on the property.

Sometimes it’s property management companies that, while collecting a monthly free from homeowners, also issue edicts. Seeing liability insurance premiums rise, for example, they might decide to ban a breed, or two, or 11, of dog. The latest correspondence I received from mine informed homeowners that any alterations to the way grounds crews have laid down pine needles around their houses (it’s a southern thing) “will not be tolerated.”

Sometimes it’s the homeowner’s association, which generally means its board of directors.

All can tend to become little fiefdoms, dispensing rule after rule, threat after threat, warning after warning. When pressed for answers, when asked for reasons, they get vague about who is responsible for what, and pass the buck.

In the Lexington situation, homeowners in McConnell’s Trace were sent letters by the neighborhood developer detailing a reported change in an existing dog restriction, which previously referred only to unspecified “aggressive breeds.”

At least that’s what Josh McCurn, president of the area’s neighborhood association, told the Lexington Herald-Leader.

Developer Dennis Anderson said Monday that Anderson Communities has been prohibiting the 11 dog breeds since 2006. Deed restrictions signed since then have included the prohibited list of breeds, he said.

“We want a mother and her child to feel safe when walking to the mailbox or hiking on the Town Branch Trail,” Anderson said in an email. “We want McConnell’s Trace to be the safest place to raise a family.”

Anderson sent the Herald-Leader a copy of deed restrictions dated in 2006 that lists the 11 restricted breeds.

The letter sent out last week to homeowners, however, stated “restrictions are now amended to include a complete list of prohibited breeds.”

Some homeowners said they never were provided a copy of deed restrictions when they moved in. One said, though he bought his home just over a year ago, he received the 2001 list of deed restrictions.

So it’s entirely possible, given how these places operate, that the developer’s attorney was the only one who actually had a copy of these restrictions he says have been in place for more than 10 years.

The letter said homeowners who already have a dog that belongs to one of the listed breeds can keep their dog.

“Please note, however, that all future pets must meet the breed requirements.”

Residents in the neighborhood organized an emergency meeting for 6:30 p.m. Friday to discuss the restrictions. It will be held at Masterson Station Park shelter #3 and will be open to the public.

Given the meeting is being held outside the neighborhood, I’m assuming dogs of all breeds are welcome.

Great Dane helps girl find her balance

Fifth grader Bella Burton has gained both confidence and mobility since a service dog came into her life last year — a dog that outweighs her three to one.

George, a Great Dane who tips the scales at 131, was paired with Bella through the Service Dog Project, an Ipswich, Mass.-based non-profit organization that trains and matches Great Danes with people who have mobility and balance limitations.

Bella, who turned 11 last week, has a rare genetic disorder called Morquio Syndrome, or Mucopolysaccharidoses (MPS) IV.

“She used to pretty much be confined to a wheelchair or have to use crutches to get around, but with George, she’s become so much stronger and active,” said Bella’s mom, Rachel.

Since George loped into the picture late last year Bella has gone from dreading school to enjoying it.

“I couldn’t play on the playground, and I had to use crutches when I was at home,” Bella said. “Now, I’m running outside and I love to go to school.”

Bella and George were featured on ABC News last week.

Next month, George will be honored by the American Kennel Club (AKC) as one of five dogs to receive the Award for Canine Excellence, at the AKC’s national championships in Orlando, Fla.

The Burtons spent about a year trying to find Bella the right balance support dog. Once Bella met George, the two bonded almost immediately.

Last October George started staying with the Burtons on weekends. By January, George was permanently placed with the Burtons, who have two other non-service dogs.

Bella and family plan to donate the $1,000 cash prize from the AKC to the Service Dog Project.

“Between the training and adoption fees, it probably costs around $20,000,” Rachel said. “They didn’t want a dime when they placed George with us.”

World’s tallest dog dies of “old age” — at 5

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Zeus, the world’s tallest dog, is dead.

The Great Dane passed away earlier this month — two months shy of his sixth birthday — from “symptoms of old age,” according to his owner.

Great Danes have shorter life spans than most dogs — most likely the result of breeders intent on making the breed larger yet, and the strain that size puts on their organs — which only makes the death of Zeus doubly sad.

“We’ll really miss him,” said Zeus’ owner, Kevin Doorlag, of Otsego, Michigan.

Doorlag and his wife, Denise say Zeus was a “wonderful dog” — famous both for Guinness World Record-setting size, and for his work as a therapy dog in their hometown.

He stood 44 inches at the shoulder — 7 feet, 4 inches on his hind legs. He claimed the Guinness World Record in 2012, and still held the title in the 2013 and 2014 editions.

The previous World’s Tallest Dog was Giant George, a Tuscon, Arizona, Great Dane. He died at age 7.

Kevin Doorlag said one of the things he will miss most is seeing the joy Zeus brought to others.

The death of Zeus is, first and foremost, a time to remember and celebrate Zeus.

But if it makes us question why, in the name of seeking extremes, we accept purebred breeding practices that lead to ill health and short lives, that’s fine, too. They’re in need of questioning.

What there’s less need for — whether it’s in pursuit of ribbons, world records, or sales — is making fluffy dogs fluffier, long and skinny dogs longer and skinnier, short snouted dogs even more shortly snouted.

We don’t need (sorry, Marmaduke) cartoonish dogs, or dogs that, through breeding them with close relatives, become exaggerated caricatures of their breed.

Healthy dogs will do just fine.

(Photo: Kalamazoo Gazette)

Roadside Encounters: Mikey and Soju

Names: Mikey and Soju 

Breeds: Pug and Great Dane 

Encountered: At Riverside Park in Baltimore

Backstory: I got to spend some time with two of my favorite local dogs yesterday — a day whose warm temperatures led both humans and canines to linger at Riverside Park, in no particular hurry to get back home.

Even if it’s not here to stay, the mild weather was welcome — especially to Ace, after a winter of being rushed through the dog walk by an owner hoping to quickly get the “mission” accomplished and himself back indoors …

“C’mon, do your business, my toes are frozen. It’s too cold. Let’s go.”

In retrospect, in this past month, I’ve probably been, in Ace’s eye, a bit of a buzzkill.

Doing his duty, I don’t think, has ever been the foremost mission in Ace’s mind during trips to the park (hence the urging). He sees it as more of a happy hour, or preferably two — a chance to add to his scent portfolio, visit old dog friends, meet some new ones, and track down those folks who, at some point in history, have provided him with a treat.

Yesterday was the kind of visit he likes best — a long one, with good dog friends to play with, new ones to sniff out, and lots of humans to mooch off. (If you have treats in your pocket, Ace will determine which pocket and, should you need prompting, attempt to insert his nose inside it. When it comes to freeloading, I think I have learned some of his skills, and he has picked up some of mine.)

We got to catch up with our old friend Soju — he’s named after the vodka-like (but sweeter) Korean beverage. Soju and Ace are old friends, and they used to wrestle endlessly at Riverside, a true up-on-the-hind-legs, paw-swinging battle of the titans. When one of them went down, you could almost feel the earth shake.

They went at it for a bit yesterday, with Ace, the older of the two, watching as Soju galloped around him in circles, then tackling him like a lazy linebacker when Soju veered close enough.

Mikey stayed out of the fray — a wise choice given he’s not much bigger than a football. Mikey, a therapy dog with one of the more expressive faces you’ll ever see, generally avoids the roughhousing, choosing instead to sit at your feet, looking up at you with big brown bulging eyes until you give him a treat, no matter how long it takes.

Good things, he seems to know, come to those who wait — and spring is one example. Yesterday didn’t mark it’s arrival, but even a false precursor was welcome, and dogs and humans soaked it up. It occurs to me that we should send thank you notes to spring — perhaps that would lead her to stay around a little longer and forestall the inevitable arrival of her evil sister summer, who always comes to early and stays past her welcome.

Speaking of staying past one’s welcome, Ace and I — after a glorious month in a friend’s empty house in Federal Hill — will be hitting the road again next week.

As of now, it appears we will be heading south, where we plan to stay in an undetermined location for an indeterminate period of time. How’s that for a plan?

Once again, we’ll tear ourselves away from Baltimore, where — in addition to promoting my new book — the last month has allowed us to get ourselves organized, experience a semblance of stability, soak in a hot tub on a rooftop deck (just me, not Ace) and savor the pleasures of our old neighborhood.

I’ll miss my corner bar. Ace will miss his favorite park. But, as I think I said nine months ago — when Ace and I first embarked on our journey to discover America, its dogs and the people who love them — there’s one thing we’ll miss most of all:

Friends … big and small.

(To see all our Roadside Encounters, click here.)

We all need somebody to lean on


Among the dogs we met in Charlotte during our visit to The Dog Bar, were Skyler and Pierce, two white Great Danes who — one being half blind, one being deaf, neither having the distinct black markings harlequin Great Danes are supposed to have — were headed to the kind of future “defective” dogs often face.

Namely, no future at all.

They were part of a larger litter that turned out to be unprofitable. All the pups were affected by a strain of distemper — but because of their additional handicaps, Skyler and Pierce, the breeder decided, couldn’t even be given away, and therefore should be put down.

That’s when Laura Moss and Fred Metzler stepped in. Laura was working at an animal emergency clinic at the time. The litter of Great Danes ended up there. She already had three dogs at home, so she asked Fred, her friend of several years, to adopt the two future-less siblings.

Fred, a sales manager for a company that makes automatic doors, agreed. But, because he traveled a lot, he often called upon Laura to pet sit the duo — Skyler, the deaf one, and Pierce, the blind one — when he was out of town.

At Fred’s house, Laura noticed, the two pups — as they did at the hospital — continued to stay at each others’ sides. When they went to sleep, Skyler would lay her head on top of Pierce.

“That way, if he hears something, he’ll react. Then she’ll be the police dog and go check it out. They’ve been that way since they were babies,” Laura said. “There’s no way we could separate them.”

Skyler, named for her sky blue eyes, is 106 pounds; Pierce, named, for his handsomeness, after actor Pierce Brosnan, is 175 pounds. Despite their handicaps, they manage, with help from each other, to do all that dogs do.

Fred and Laura have come up with a system of sign language to communicate with Skyler, including more than 20 commands. The two dogs have become a striking and familiar sight in Charlotte’s NoDa neighborhood. They even march in the local St. Patrick’s Day parade.

And they get along fine with Laura’s other dogs — a miniature pinscher named Jade, a Boston terrier named Halley and a dalmatian named Dax, who she also brought home from the animal hospital. His former owner dropped him off and, once learning he had heartworm, never picked him up.

Since she talked him into adopting the dogs, Laura and Fred have become a couple, and now share a residence with all five of their dogs.

Laura doesn’t give the Great Danes full credit for bringing two humans together — but maybe, on some level, the relationship between the two big white dogs represents a lesson to be learned: Having someone in your life you can turn to, and depend on, and whose strengths can compliment your weaknesses, has its advantages.

Or maybe that’s reading too much into it.

“The friendship is what brought us together,” Laura says, “but the Great Danes didn’t hurt.”

Giant George ousts Titan as world’s tallest dog

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The Great (Dane) Debate is over:  The “World’s Tallest Dog” is Giant George of Tucson, Guinness World’s Records has proclaimed.

The 250-pound blue Great Dane wrested the title away from Titan, a white, partly blind Great Dane from San Diego who held it little more than three months.

Guinness World Records says George is the tallest dog ever on record, standing 43 inches tall at the shoulder, three-quarters of an inch taller than Titan.

Titan was named World’s Tallest Dog last November after the death of the previous title-holder, Gibson, a harlequin Great Dane from Grass Valley, Calif., who died of bone cancer.

Giant George was in the running then, but disputed measurements and late paperwork left his owner, David Nasser, unable to qualify.

Guinness officials say there were conflicting reports about Giant George’s height, so they sent a judge to verify it.

Guinness made the announcement this morning, and George and Nasser appeared this afternoon on “The Oprah Winfrey Show.”

Diana Taylor, Titan’s owner, told the San Diego Union-Tribune she didn’t intend to watch the show because she was busy Monday trying to find a swim vest that would fit Titan, her 190-pound deaf, epileptic and partly blind “special needs dog,” for his first water therapy session.

A blog post on Titan’s website site argues that Titan should still be tops. Taylor says she intends to lodge a dispute but won’t exert a lot of energy on a challenge if Titan’s reign is officially over.

Giant George, we should point out, has his own website as well, which, according to Taylor, was part of a massive public relations effort to steal the title away from her dog.

“Regardless of whether he’s the world’s tallest dog or not, he’s still this beautiful deaf and blind Great Dane, and no one can take that away from him,” Taylor said of Titan.

The blog post read, in part:

“Despite the fact that it detracted from our mission of helping rescue and special-needs dogs, I strived to take the high road. But now, after months of having our accomplishment overshadowed by this media blitz-kreig of poor sportsmanship (and on the eve of this dog actually being on Oprah) I’ve decided it’s time to let the public know the truth about ‘Giant’ George.

“…Confused at how to measure his dog, this owner took two official measurements… one at the shoulder and another halfway up the neck. Guinness requirements state an animal must be measured at the shoulder. See below — when measured correctly George is only 39 1/8″ compared to Titan’s certified height of 42.25”.

“George’s ‘record-breaking’ 43″ is based on a measurement halfway up the neck, a procedure that does not follow industry standards or meet Guinness requirements…”

Guinness spokeswoman Jamie Panas said last week that Nasser’s claim to the title was one of more than 100 the company received since late last year.“It’s a huge record for us,” she said. “The pet records resonate the most with our readers.”

(Photo: Courtesy of Guinness World Records)