I got Blue about two months ago when an acquaintance from work put out an desperate plea for help. She fosters dogs for Big Dogs Huge Paws, a rescue organization dedicated to finding homes for large breed dogs that have been “surrendered” to animal shelters. She was going out of town for a week and needed someone to dog sit her latest charge. I was in one of my “Sure! Why not?” moods so I quickly volunteered myself.
Little did I know.
I think I put about as much thought into dog sitting a Great Dane as I would put into buying a bag of chips. I was like, “I’ll come get him, no problem.” but when I arrived at her house, I was in no way prepared for how freaking huge he was. Blue is almost four feet tall to the top of his head, this is with all four feet on the ground. He wobbled out of Cara’s house and looked so pathetic and scared yet he came right to me and leaned on me while I gave him some solid slaps on the side. I loaded up his bed and crate (which I have never used) and tried to get him into the back of my Honda CRV. It turns out that Blue is scared of cars, but that’s only the beginning of it.
We managed to lift/shove his ass into my car and I drove off with him, feeling more than a little anxious about what I had just gotten myself into. A dog his size can do some serious damage to a house. And what if he doesn’t like my kids? I got him home and set up his bed and food dish. He was seriously underweight at 100 pounds and I was eager to get him fattened up.
From day one he was devoted to me. The first night he came home he wouldn’t let my husband walk him but he would groan and sing to me whenever I walked in the room, leaning on me like a small horse getting groomed. Never having been around a timid dog before, I didn’t know that the shaking and the nervous left paw lifting he did was a sign of severe stress, I just took him at face value: a really nice dog who was happy to be around me and my menagerie of people and kids. The fact that he didn’t crap in the house, hump, lick or chew on anything made me think he was really well trained.
When it came time to give him back, I just couldn’t do it. My husband, who had been totally against this endeavor from the beginning, got so goo-goo-ga-ga over Blue that the next step was a no-brainer despite the giant turds, huge food bill and heartbreaking knowledge that Blue would have a relatively short life. I applied to adopt him and was thrilled when I got to be his owner. Sure enough, the ink had not dried on the paperwork when he started showing his true colors.
This isn’t a story that ends badly, just incase you were concerned. But it is an ongoing saga of getting to know Blue and discovering what makes him tick, or more to the point, ticks him off.
Things Blue Hates
- Little girls. I don’t think it is a gender thing rather it has to do with girls loving horses and they see him and they think PONY and run at his face and try to hug him around the neck, or worse, mount him.
- Tiled Floors. Blue won’t walk on ceramic tile. I didn’t know this because I have wood floors. Imagine how perplexed I was when we took him to my sister-in-law’s lake house which is almost entirely tiled and he wouldn’t move from his bed. FOR A WEEK. Out of necessity, he got used to being in the main room where everyone (and his bed and food) was, but he absolutely refused to go into any other rooms unless we carried him and plopped him onto a rug.
- Shiny wood floors. I took Blue to a friend’s house that has very shiny wooden floors that he refused to walk on. I had to make a path with runners to the area rug just to get him in the stinking house.
- Our floors. He was okay with our wooden floors because they are dull, but after being at our friends’ house that has shiny wood, he has become suspicious of all wood. The other day he got stuck in the middle of my dining room because the floor suddenly scared him. He was all shaking and his legs were starting to splay out from underneath him. Lonny and I dragged him out of the house to help him walk it off and he’s been okay since but really, come on.
- The corner of the kitchen where I have fed him for the last two months. Apropos of nothing he decided he’s scared of that corner and I don’t know why. Nothing has changed. But he wouldn’t eat for two days until I moved his food dish to another part of the room. Stupid dog.
- Tall people. Every time Devon, Jeff, Derek or Alan come over, he barks like crazy at them. Jeff stayed a few days with us and you’d think El Stupido would get used to him, but no. If Jeff left the room and came back, he’d have to bark at him a little, just to remind him that he doesn’t like tall men.
- Sitting. Blue can’t sit, at least I’ve never seen him do it. I think it has to do with the geometry of his body but the closest he gets to it is in the car when he puts his butt in my son’s lap and rests his head on my shoulder. He likes to “plank it out” so to speak.
Things Blue Likes
- Fruit. Blue has never eaten anything off the counter and I love this about him, given that nothing is out of his reach. Hell, he could retrieve something from the top of the fridge if he wanted to. But the other day I cut up some cantaloupe and left it on the counter in a bowl. I went in the other room and the little shit ate the whole thing and broke my handmade porcelain bowl in the process. He also enjoyed the apricots that fall from the tree in our yard. He also loves bananas.
- Sunflower sprouts. We have lots of sunflowers growing in our garden and he thinks the young shoots are right tasty. He likes carrots, too.
- Going on walks with small dogs. Provided they don’t bite him in the face, Blue really enjoys chasing small dogs around big fields. I have a friend with four very scrappy little dogs and we regularly walk together around a nearby lake. When we loose the hounds, it looks like a greyhound chasing the rabbit at the dog track. Blue can’t corner for shit so they can easily get away from him.
- Sleeping with my youngest son. Blue has never expressed any interest in the furniture but within a week he decided he liked to sleep in Micah’s full-sized bed. The bed creaks and groans when he gets in. It’s cuter than anything to watch him.
- Women. He’s a total gigolo. He loves women and hates men. Perhaps it has something to do with his previous life in Kansas. I don’t have many details on why he was surrendered except that the couple had him had a child who then became “allergic” which is usually code for overwhelmed, which I totally get. It is especially overwhelming to deal with a dog you didn’t bother to socialize.
- Getting his whiskers tickled. Well, he might actually hate it because when we do it because he kind of growls and gets all bitey in a “just kidding” kind of way. But it’s fun to do.
- Me. Blue is my dog and I love him.
Walking around with Blue is like being a 50 year-old guy with a 20 year-old hot blonde on your arm who is obviously not his daughter. Or like carrying a great big sign that screams LOOK AT ME which really isn’t why I kept him. I, unlike every person I run into on the sidewalk, have never wanted a Great Dane. I still think they are absurd creatures born from misguided human desires. My heart aches a little when I see him struggle to lie down and he’s only two years-old. I kept him because he is attached to me and my family and I couldn’t bear to uproot him even one more time. He had been through too much already. For the life of me, I cannot imagine why anyone would breed an animal so fraught with genetic problems and a notoriously short lifespan.
To the people who say, “I’ve always wanted a Great Dane!” I want to ask “Why?” Dogs aren’t fashion statements. They aren’t accessories. They have personalities, quirks, desires and fears. They are cool looking I guess, but they have needs that extend beyond when you want to truck them out for an attention garnering walk. And while they are very mellow and have slow metabolisms, they still need regular and lengthy walks. Perhaps this is why Big Dogs Huge Paws exists, for the people who have no idea what it means to care for a dog, much less a really big one.
Me? I’m stuck with this guy and he’s stuck with me. We’re working on socializing him and getting him more comfortable in his own skin. The people at the Humane Society of Boulder Valley training center have really great advice and insights that I’m putting to use. Regardless, I doubt he’ll ever be one of those happy-go-lucky, take anywhere dogs, but I love him for who he is, pretty much the way I’m sure loves me for who I am.