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Mother of Danes (or Why I Sleep with Livestock)

Living with a Great Dane is in every conceivable way exactly like having livestock in our home. Even more so than having a bunch of young children in the house because with kids, the stench, poop, noise and destructive powers are spread across several small bodies instead of compounded inside one 186-pound olfactory assault weapon who believes he is a teensy widdle lap dog.

So why do we do it? Why do we hemorrhage cash on the food and care of these leviathans only to be repaid with a pneumothorax or liver trauma every time a Dane wants to snuggle on the sofa? What is so special about Great Danes that makes it worth being violently tossed from our bed in the middle of the night because the dog stretched in his sleep?

Mainly, we invite Great Danes into our life for the same reason we invite most people and things into our life – for the stories.


Our first Dane, Sid, was tethered to a post on the front porch, keeping me company while I puttered in the flower bed. A neighbor passed by our house with her dog and Sid took off after them at warp speed. Not even the tiniest fuck nor flinch was given when he got to the end of his leash and jolted the post out from under the front porch; he just kept running -- the 6x6 solid wood post and a few scrappy bits of the porch roof flapping along behind him as if it were a kite in the wind. In case you were wondering, yes, this was a structural column responsible for holding up the front porch and yes, the front porch promptly collapsed.

This same Great Dane also jumped straight through a large CLOSED bedroom window to get into the house when he felt he had been unfairly imprisoned in his enormous back yard full of toys. He landed on the bed, curled up in the pile of shattered glass he had just created and fell peacefully asleep.


Norman, Dane #2, was left home alone a bit too long one day and ate our sofa. When I say “ate” I don’t mean he chewed it or shredded stuffing out of it. I mean he fucking CONSUMED a 12-foot sectional sofa. He could not have more thoroughly disposed of this sofa if he’d been a team of arsonist feral hogs with chainsaws.

As a puppy, Sid ate an industrial-sized wooden spool that we were using as a classy coffee table. To prevent his chewing we had sprayed it with Apple Bitter and a strong dose of cayenne pepper. His gourmet palette appreciated the seasoning.


When they hang their heads out the car window, an unthinkable amount of slobber coats the windshields of all the cars behind us. Sucks for them but it’s funny for us.

Speaking of slobber, only the giant breeds can splatter paint your 12’ ceiling with a simple shake of their head.


Great Danes are notorious for being scaredy cats and it’s a well-earned reputation. Fiona the 3-1/2 pound Chihuahua has lived through four of our Great Danes and ruled over each of them with a tiny iron paw. Ferdinand had to ask Fiona’s permission to get onto the sofa beside her. Harvey was terrified of the wind. Duncan finds his own farts to be quite startling. Almost all of them have been very wary of any sort of boundary, like a partially closed door or broom lying a cross a walkway.

When we lived in the mountains we had a yard that was at a such a steep angle it was virtually impossible to fence in. Our solution for keeping the dog secured was to run a single piece of household twine from one tree to the next, all around the perimeter of the yard at about dog’s eye level. He never crossed it. Friendly neighborhood deer would jump over the string to graze in the yard with him and when they jumped back out, he never once tried to follow. Because, you know, string.


Danes are masters of counter surfing while keeping all four paws on the floor. We always think we’ve pushed the interesting food item far enough back on the counter or built a large enough dam around it to elude the dog but they continually prove us wrong. Like the time Ferdi ate my third attempt at a red velvet birthday cake that I had carefully formed a cookbook barrier around. He ate the entire cake and pooped blood-red for days). Or the time Norman nabbed the entire Thanksgiving turkey from the covered roasting pan that had been pushed to the very back of the stovetop.

But the messiest food theft was Sid’s pantry heist. Being our first Dane, we hadn’t yet learned to keep the pantry door shut so one afternoon while we were out making a quick errand run, he sauntered in there and helped himself to an entire Costco-sized brick of cheddar cheese, a package of dried spaghetti noodles which were spread across the pantry floor and preserved in the amber of a whole honey bear, and then he topped it off with a full loaf of bread -- wrapper and all. We know it was wrapper and all because the next day The Hubby had to retrieve the still pristinely intact wrapper from its half in/half-out-of-the-dog’s-bunghole predicament. (Extraction process: don a pair of rubber gloves, follow the dog around the backyard on hands and knees until you can grab the fluttering plastic butt flag, then gag and hold your position as the dog walks away, leaving you clutching a shit-covered abomination). It had to be done. Sid was petrified because the spooky bag was clearly stalking him.


In contrast to that absurdity, when agoraphobia would keep hiding in my bathroom, pinned to the cold tile floor, it was a Dane who’d lay beside me and let me sob into his soft, warm fur. Maybe you’re thinking, “But surely a reasonable-size dog could have done that just as well?” Sure. And a reasonable-sized dog probably would have run by my side, keeping pace with me as I sprinted down the street, seized by a panic attack demon in my pajamas which were super cute and comfy for just this purpose. But when the panic finally let go and I crumpled exhausted in the street, only a Great Dane could have nudged me back onto my feet and acted as my literal support dog, steadying me as I shakily made my way back home leaning on my faithful steed for balance. Big dogs, big heart.

So when people question our sanity for enduring life with a Dane, we explain that yes, 186 pounds is a lot of pounds. Smelly, calamitous, financially ruinous pounds. But it’s also a lot of love and humor and adventure. And that’s reason enough to live with livestock.

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