Sunday, July 1, 2012

A "Pup"-Date

Eddie's death left a giant hole in our family. For a family whose known and loved a dog, there's nothing like a dog greeting you at the door, licking your face, and snuggling against your legs while you read and work. While we all knew that there was no new dog that could replace Eddie, it was quickly obvious that a house without a dog was a house that we could not live in.

I'd always wanted a Great Dane, and offhandedly had said that one of these days, long into the future, when Eddie was no longer with us, I'd like to have one. I never realized that he would be gone so soon.  Talking Bryon into a Dane, and a Dane so soon was not especially easy. He likes big dogs too, but not pony-sized dogs. He was grieving for Eddie in a different way than I was, and was content to simply miss him for a time. But even he agreed that he couldn't bear the moment when he came home from work every night, knowing that Eddie wasn't here anymore. Once he realized that I was living that moment every second of the day because I'm home all day, I think it made a little more sense to him that I wasn't trying to replace Eddie, just change the situation. As for convincing him that a Dane was the way to go, well eh, I just figured he'd fall in love with her when she got here. Who doesn't love a puppy?

Great Danes are notoriously loyal and friendly, despite their giant size. They are lazy, docile and sweet and are excellent with both children and other pets. They are often called giant couch potatoes. As puppies, they sleep between 20-22 hours a day and grow at an almost alarming rate to reach their adult weight of 135-170 lbs (females). They ultimately stand between 30-34" tall at the shoulder. I didn't rush into this decision lightly. I read more about Great Danes than I could possibly tell you before I started looking for breeders, and the size didn't deter me one bit. It seemed a selling point. I couldn't imagine anything more pleasant than a giant cuddly dog. The only drawback to the size of a Dane, other than the obvious (giant poop, drool, etc) is that the larger the breed, the shorter the lifespan. In other words, our new dog won't be with us as long as say, a lab.

Anyway, with the decision to proceed in hand, it came to finding a breeder. This is where Bryon was dead set opposed because he feels that selective breeding has far to many negative implications, and I tend to agree, but I shut that part of my brain off and forged ahead to find our new family member. Not surprisingly, it was a bit of a challenge to find a reputable Great Dane breeder in our area. There are plenty of people who have a handful of puppies in the living room because they have a Dane and their buddy down the street has one, so they made a match. Seems like a good idea until you realize that they didn't do all the legwork to check for genetic abnormalities down the line and what crossing the Dame and the Stud might mean for the litter. That's where professional breeders come in. When you are paying upwards of thousands of dollars for a dog, it's not a place to cut corners.

I found a few breeders in the area and not many of them had puppies available. A few had litters coming soon but most of the puppies were already promised to "show homes." Because pure bred dogs are mostly used in dog shows, homes and families that plan to raise the dogs to show and compete get priority. Homes that are pet homes get what's left once show homes have picked over the litter and rejected puppies based on imperfections.

This is the breeders photo. She looked like this about three days before I came to see her. 

There was a litter in Potomac, Maryland that had one female Grey left. I didn't particularly like her as a breeder and I didn't love her facility but once you meet a puppy, I challenge you to leave without it. The puppy was clean and the pedigree was good. I actually did research the pedigree before I went to her house, so I knew I was looking at a puppy that would likely be as good a bet as any, so long as she looked healthy.

So, without much further ado, this is Daphne. I wanted to name her something to do with Virginia or Woodbridge, or even D.C. but Collin and Daddy overruled me and named her Daphne after Scooby Doo, insisting that she's pretty, like Daphne. I can't help but agree. She's left over because she's got a white patch on her chest and two small white spots on the backs of her front feet. Thus, she's not a perfect specimen of the "blue" Dane. She is still AKC registered and a pure bred dane, but we can't show her. Darn. Drat.

She's perfectly wonderful. She's a pain in the ass. And, she's adorable. She's nearly housebroken, which has been fun (not) and she's very interested in eating pretty much everything in the house, including Legos, the cat and the furniture. I've never had a puppy before, so all this exuberance is new to me. The fun part is that she's full of zip and vigor for about an hour and then she's out for four. It's quite something to see. She can't quite make it up to the bed yet without being lifted, but she can get up on the couches and can easily reach your plate, and has stolen meals, knocked over glasses and ruined breakfasts with her big sloppy tongue.

She's made friends with Homer, who has been thoroughly enjoying getting thrice-daily (sometimes more) baths from her (no, seriously, Homer loves it). Seeing them play is really incredible. Homer is clearly the boss of this increasingly giant dog, and not only does Daphne know it, she plays so incredibly gently with him. She has such giant paws, yet she places them so gingerly on Homer that it's really adorable to watch.

She's grown, by my estimation about 10 lbs since we first got her, but we'll find out this week when we take her for her next round of shots. She was 28 lbs at her first vet visit but she was 34 the following week. No kidding. Bryon says he can't see a change in her since the first day we brought her home, but she's becoming a beast.

Her adult Dane face is starting to mature and she's staring to look more and more like a dog with big, long legs. Still, her puppy mannerisms are all there and watching her fall all over herself never gets old, even if she does it at puppy class.