GUEST POST: Life Lessons from a Great Dane by Marcy Kennedy

Today’s guest post comes to you from my gal Marcy Kennedy.  Like me, Marcy’s a writer, a farmer’s daughter, and an animal lover.  Her blog is one of the best I’ve read – you should definitely stop by and give it a look – and I’m totally honored to have her here today!

It’s all yours, Marcy!

oOo

A few months ago in her hilarious External Crazy post, Myndi wrote, “Something about a woman in the later stages of pregnancy brings out the crazy in people around her. Not just the crazy, but the stupid. The ridiculous. The outstandingly inappropriate.”

Strangely enough, a similar thing happens to big dog owners. I’ve survived four consecutive Great Dane puppies: two family dogs while growing up, and two I’ve raised on my own. You’d be surprised how a dog who weighs as much as a human negatively affects the IQ of passersby.

This is Luna. She’s 112 pounds and still has 9 months of growing left to do.

People I meet while walking my Danes either cross to the other side of the street or they stop and ask some of the silliest questions I’ve ever heard…

Passerby: Do you have a saddle for that thing?

To myself: ‘Cause I haven’t heard that one a million times.

Out loud: *insert fake laugh* No, I let her pull me behind her on my bike. Saves peddling.

Passerby: What do you feed that thing?

To myself: People who ask stupid questions.

Out loud: Anything she wants.

(I don’t know why they always say that thing.)

Passerby: How did he get so big?

To myself: She’s a radioactive mutant. And it’s contagious, so you might want to keep moving.

Out loud: I put Miracle Grow in her food when she was a puppy.

(I also don’t know why they always assume my dog is a boy. I’ve owned three girls and only one boy.)

Passerby: Why would anyone want a dog that big?

To myself and out loud: Why would anyone want a dog that small?

Clearly my filter still needs a little work 😉

Along with the strange questions people ask, owning a human-sized dog also comes with some unique challenges.

She can hide entire sticks of deodorant (or packages of gum) inside her jowls and still give me a completely innocent look saying, “What? I’m not eating anything.”

We had to special order a crate because the “extra large” crates sold at the pet store only worked for dogs up to 80 pounds.

I’ve had to explain to people that the strange bruises I sport aren’t from abuse—they’re from taking a whip-like tail to the legs or having a head come up too quickly and connect with my eye.

Food isn’t safe on the dining room table. Or the counter. Or pretty much anywhere if it’s left unattended.

So with all that craziness, why am I on my fourth Great Dane, and why does my husband tell people, Once you go Dane, you never go back? Danes have taught me a lot about how I want to live my life.

Fun is a matter of perspective. So is joy. I think this is true of most dogs, but Danes especially. They get “the zoomies,” where they run just for the sheer joy of it. Anything can turn into a game, from vacuuming to obedience training to playing fetch in the back yard. They approach life with so much joy that it’s contagious.

Greet the ones you love as if you haven’t seen them for months, even if they’ve only been gone for the day. Unlike some other breeds that can easily be left alone for long periods of time, Danes need a lot of people-time. They thrive on your presence to the extent that one of the questions the Great Dane Rescue asks on their application is how long the Dane will be left alone during the day. It’s also one of the questions Luna’s breeder asks any potential owners before she considers selling them a puppy. You always feel loved and needed by your Dane. And you always get a boisterous greeting when you’ve been away. I want my loved ones to feel that valuable in my eyes.

If something is standing between you and what you want, you can find a way around it as long as you work at it. Danes are infinitely creative. If I place the baby gate high enough that Luna can’t jump over it, she crawls under it. If I put it down low enough that she can’t crawl under it, she can jump over it. Anything else, she figures out how to move. Let’s face it—she’s big enough to just push my dining room chairs out of her way. When my previous Dane was a puppy, she learned how to work the doorknob on the back door to get back inside if I tried to put her out.

Give people a chance to be your friend. All my Danes have lived their lives under the assumption that everyone they meet (dog, human, or cat) loves them and wants to play with them. One of Luna’s best friends is my tiny Siamese cat. Sometimes we don’t take a chance on friendships because we think “we’re just too different.” The truth is that we don’t know whether someone who seems to be our opposite might not turn into a great friend if we gave them a chance.

What life lessons have you learned from your pets (cat, dog, or otherwise)?

Marcy Kennedy is a fantasy author who also works as a freelance writer for magazines, newspapers, and non-profits and a freelance editor for both businesses and individuals. Her current work-in-progress is a co-written historical fantasy about Amazons. When she’s not wrestling unruly commas, she spends her time with her equally nerdy husband, her Great Dane, and more cats than she’s willing to admit to in public. You can visit her at her blog, Life At Warp 10.

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31 thoughts on “GUEST POST: Life Lessons from a Great Dane by Marcy Kennedy

  1. TeacherWriter says:

    I’ve never had the pleasure of owning a Great Dane, but two of my kids’ day care providers had Great Danes. It was great going to pick up the kids, because the dogs always greeted me with paws on my shoulder and tails wagging like a windmill in a strong breeze. The kids loved the dogs and they were super protective of all their little charges. Thanks for this post. It reminds me of the important things in life! I love the bit about the stick of deodorant in the jowls.

    • Marcy Kennedy says:

      Hehe. Thank you 🙂 You’ve given a great example of the two sides of a Dane. They’re incredibly sweet, but they also take their duties to protect very seriously. I always feel safe no matter where I am as long as I have my dog with me.

  2. Natalie Hartford says:

    Awwww loved this post! I had a friend who had a Great Dane and it was like her very best friend in the whole wide world. That dog was adored and now I see why….
    I think Tess (my dog) had taught me about true unconditional love…and how to live life with wild abandonment, trust, and joie de vivre. Watching her dance in excitement and screech at full speed into water has taught me that we should absolutely take life, and our dreams, with the same enthusiasm and fire.

    • Marcy Kennedy says:

      I was lost in the months between when we lost Bronte (our previous Dane – also a girl) to bone cancer and when we brought Luna home. The house just felt unbearably empty because I was so used to having a Dane with me while I worked.

      Unconditional love is a big one too. Dogs don’t care what you look like. They don’t care if you were grumpy with them the day before. They don’t care if you’re a success in the world’s eyes. To them, you’re always perfect just because you’re you.

  3. Amber West says:

    Oh, the leg bruises! My cousin has a Dane mix they got from a rescue when it was a puppy. Whenever we are around Millinocket, we have to watch out for that tail. (poor little man got knocked down more than once by the gentle giant due to the tail.)

    Our dog is not a Dane, but he does the same “oh my goodness, where have you been I LOVE YOU!” greeting whenever I come home from anywhere. I love it. No matter what kind of day I’ve had, I get to go home and be loved more than anything in the world. What a great feeling.

    • Marcy Kennedy says:

      They can be a bit clumsy because they don’t have any concept of how big they are! My parents got our first Dane when I was seven and my brother was five because that way we were big enough to not get knocked over 🙂 When you take out the clumsy, they’re the ideal family dog.

      It is a great feeling. I think one of the things I missed the most when we were in between Danes was that look they give where you just know you’re adored by at least one being in the world. It’s a great boost when you’re feeling down 🙂

    • Myndi Shafer...one stray sock away from insanity. says:

      I’m so jealous of you dog owners whose pooches are uber-excited to see you when you get home. Our Golden, sweet as she is, NEVER reacts that way. When we get home from an outing we usually find her sprawled on her back on the kitchen floor with her legs up in the air, jowls hanging around her face. She just looks at us like, ‘Oh, it’s you,’ before groaning, rolling over, and trotting outside. The only exception to this is Thomas. She adores Thomas, and gets excited about him coming home EVERY TIME. Which is ironic, because he’s not an animal person at all – he tolerates her for my sake.

      And she tolerates me for his.

      It’s an ugly, twisted pet-love triangle.

  4. emmaburcart says:

    I’d be the person who asks: Is that a dog or a horse? Or I’d cross the street. Animals the size of humans scare me. But, I have learned a lot about life from kids. I loved the post, even though I don’t like dogs. Those are all good qualities and things I need to remember. Especially the part about playing. We don’t have to be dull just because we’re done growing!

    • Marcy Kennedy says:

      I couldn’t agree more about kids teaching us a lot too. I’ve learned so much about the value of curiosity from my friends’ children. They look at things that I might otherwise walk past because I’m too busy or distracted.

  5. Tameri Etherton says:

    Awww! Now I’m all smitten with Great Danes, but we already have two dogs who keep us on our toes, so maybe in a few years. I love that Danes approach life with such joyous abandon, that’s something I need to put in my life more. Our dogs are both super smart, but totally opposite as far as personality. Our Aussie is much like your Luna ~ he’s always up for a cuddle and could play all day. Our Jack Russell, not so much. She likes a good snuggle, but as long as she knows you’re nearby, she’s happy to leave you alone for twenty minutes or so. Then she must love you.

    I read somewhere that kids who are raised with pets have a greater understanding of the world and of relationships. Given what you’ve written here, that seems absolutely spot on! Loved meeting Luna. She’s a gorgeous dog and her eyes just have a sweet look in them.

    • Marcy Kennedy says:

      My last Dane sounds a little more like your Jack Russel. She was content as long as I was in the room and she could see me. With Luna, she wants to be touching me, even if it just means her nose is touching my big toe. She was like that right from the first day we brought her home.

      I’m glad I got to share her with everyone today 🙂

  6. amyshojai says:

    Now Myndi, you KNEW I’d have to comment on this post! Marcy, Luna is such a lovely girl–very feminine face, and that coat color could double for Weimaraner! I adore big dogs, though my Magical-Dawg doesn’t come quite up to Luna’s weight class.

    Both kids and dogs need socialization. Put them together and they automatically learn to empathize, recognize “otherness” as NOT scary but normal–and the kids get a reduced risk of allergies to pets. I wonder if the pets get reduced risk of allergies to kids? *s*

    My fur-kids have taught me to live in the moment. And that YOU are ENOUGH…no frills, fancy cars, sparkles or anything else matters as much as YOU. (Although according to Magic, bacon is a plus).

    • Marcy Kennedy says:

      We had people mistake her for a Weimaraner when she was a puppy, which I didn’t mind at all because you don’t often see this particular coat color. Plus, it was always great fun to explain to them that she was actually just a puppy who looked like a full grown dog 🙂

      You’re so right about the importance of socialization. I think growing up with dogs really helped me learn to trust my instincts too. Most people are good and friendly and don’t mean any harm, but if they make the hair on the back of your neck stand up, it’s time to leave!

  7. Lisa Hall-Wilson says:

    Well, I have to admit (having met her) that Luna is a bit intimidating in the kill-you-with-love kind of way. My black lab CJ has taught me that you don’t have to let anyone push you around – no matter how big they are. Still laughing at the way my 50 pound 11 year old black lab put Luna in her place in less than 3 minutes. CJ’s been around puppies all her life – she lets them know forthwith who’s in charge and she doesn’t care how big they are. We should get photos done together with our pets. That would be an interesting picture, wouldn’t it?

    CJ is very feisty, and has a live and let live attitude – but cross her and she’ll let you know what the rules are. 😛 I love that about her.

    • Marcy Kennedy says:

      Luna recognized a Mama-dog when she met one. Mamas of all kinds know how to handle over-exuberant babies 🙂 And six-month-old Dane puppies are nothing if not exuberant. Thankfully they mellow some with age 😉

      Now that’s an idea for our author photos!

  8. Alicia Street (@AliciaStreet1) says:

    I agree, Myndi, Marcy’s blog is one of the best!
    Marcy, Luna is so beautiful! Thanks for this wonderful post. You know I’m an animal lover. Lately I’ve been learning from my cat, who will either leave the room or give me this look to clue me in when my stress level gets too high. Animals can teach us to laugh at ourselves and to remember what’s in our hearts rather than our heads when we get all caught up in our frantic human world.

    • Marcy Kennedy says:

      I tried to get a picture of them together to send with this post, but every time I tried, one of them came to me for a cuddle. While I can tell Luna “stay,” the Siamese does what she wants 🙂

  9. Jennette Marie Powell says:

    With two Rottweilers, I definitely get people walking on the other side of the street, even though they are big babies. From Evita, I’ve learned to eat while the food’s there. From Wolfgang, I’ve learned that it’s better to eat in company; onlu eat alone if you’re reeeeeally hungry. Thanks to both Marcy and Myndi for a fun post!

  10. jansenschmidt says:

    Now see, that’s where we’re really different. I wouldn’t have my inside response to stupid questions stay inside. I’d just say it right out loud. Stupid question deserves stupid answer.

    My husband’s horse used to use her teeth and lips to get out of her lead rope attached under her chin to her halter. I can’t say how many times that horse unhooked herself and then it was all a game of tag after that to catch her again. Amazing animial.

    Fun post and good looking dog.

    Patricia Rickrode
    w/a Jansen Schmidt

    • Marcy Kennedy says:

      I love how smart your husband’s horse was 🙂 I had an Arab years ago who used to unlock the gates and let herself (and the others out). That got annoying fast, so I had to add these tiny hooks where she couldn’t reach them and bungee cords.

  11. gingercalem says:

    Oh, she’s SO pretty. We had a great dane when I was a toddler. I’m told that dog was very protective of me. I’m also told he ate all my dad’s trophies which were displayed on a very high shelf. 😉 Great post.

  12. Reetta Raitanen says:

    Funny and insightful post, Marcy. Your internal dialogue made me to chuckle. There are many similarities between dogs and toddlers. Our cats have taught me to value napping even more. It’s lovely to curl up with them and the kids.

  13. patriciasands says:

    Luna is beautiful! Next time you get asked one of those stupid questions, just let one of your inside answers fly… with a sweet smile of course! I have a friends with a Dane and she is everything you describe. You can’t help but love them. I had a Wheaten Terrier for 12 years and miss her adoring look every day. Pets rule!

  14. Karen Rought says:

    I’m such a mush. This brought tears to me eyes. I love, love, love Great Danes. I’ve never owned one, and I’ve been warned of the work that goes into caring for such a large dog, but I know the personalities that these big love bugs can have. It is SO worth it in my opinion. One of these days, I WILL own one and have my own snarky responses ready for when people ask those stupid questions. Thanks for sharing, Marcy. You’ve given me four more solid reasons for wanting one (like I needed any more!).

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