by Keleen Bailey
My Great Danes - Haply, Hope, Hero and Hadia by Keleen Bailey
For my 50th birthday, I purchased a Great Dane puppy online. I was so excited as I had chosen a silver merle, after looking at hundreds of available great dane puppies. My sister and I went to the airport to pick her up, and when I opened the carrier, I saw a different dog than the one Id chosen. I was shocked. When I got home, I called the breeder who told me she had mistakenly sent my dog to someone else and their dog to me. There was nothing I could do about it, so I kept Haply.
Haply was wild and crazy. She destroyed everything she could reach, pillows, bedding, remotes, phones, chairs, shoes, drapes plants, and on and on. She swallowed almost everything too. I had to watch her constantly but she was sneaky. She became sick and the vet discovered a piece of leather in her intestine. They removed it, but the next day she passed away. I remember getting the phone call and falling to the floor in such anguish. This couldn’t be happening, she was only 11 months old. I had seen her at the vet where she had gotten up and walked to the door. I said, “Not yet honey, but I’ll be back.” She died before I got back. I didn’t even get to say goodbye. Haply had had a buddy though, Hero who came from Washington when Haply was 4 months old. Hero was beautiful and I was so excited, because he was the color I wanted. I didn’t even notice I had no contract in the papers I received.
Hero started coughing right away. This was just the beginning of a very stressful, painful and expensive 3 month ordeal to get him over pneumonia. When he finally recovered, the sulfa drugs left his front legs deformed. Hero was able to walk, but would always have crooked legs. His breeder was later involved in a lawsuit by several great dane owners who’s puppies had died, had never been delivered or were too sick to save. Hero was featured in a news clip about the breeder. She since has been banned from ever selling dogs again.
Hero and Haply had so much fun those few months together. When Haply died, Hero went into a very deep depression. I tried to get Haply’s breeder to refund my purchase price but instead she had her attorney contact me to warn me not to contact them further. My own vet couldn’t tell me how she died. It was horrible. I think she died of hypothermia. This is common. Great Danes have trouble staying warm and she had spent a long cold night at the vets on a cement floor. If I had known, I would have slept on the floor with her and kept her warm.
The great dane community heard of my loss of Haply and Hero’s Breeders story was on the news. I was offered another puppy by a different breeder. She would arrive happy and healthy, and I named her Hope. As I had done with Haply and Hero, I videotaped and photographed everything as I watched them grow. We were all so happy. Hope was so much like Haply that it helped to heal my heart. Hero’s physical problems were an issue but he was happy to have a new sister and bonded to her right away.
Hope loved to have me sing to her, “High Apple Pie in the Sky Hope”. They both slept on the king size bed and I would stroke her head at night, and she would coo like a baby. I so loved this girl. We would go for rides in the car and she would rest her head on my shoulder and give me a ‘thank you kiss’ for taking her with me.
Hero was turning into quite the character and made me laugh out loud everyday. He was so bright and had such expressive eyes. He would sit on the couch like a person, with his front feet on the floor. He would come and get me while I was working on the computer, grab my arm and lead me to the kitchen for yogurt, or just to sit with him in the living room. One morning when I was with the horses, I heard a horrible loud wailing. I ran up the steps to find Hope on the ground. She took a gasp of air and then she was gone at 22 months. I didn’t want to believe it so I carried her into the car and to the vet. I was in so much shock that I took the vets answer as to how she died. He said it was her heart. I wish I had had a necropsy done to this day.
How could this be happening to me, again? Two beautiful danes that I was so in love with, that were such good company for me when I was sick, who had the silliest personalities, that I had wanted all my life, were gone so young. I was devastated.
Hero went into another depression. This one was much worse and he stayed depressed for several weeks. He did not want to eat and he had such a droopy face, my heart broke for him. He had been the one that wailed so loud that morning. He had witnessed her sudden passing. It was such a mournful sound, it will stay with me forever.
Since Hero was so bonded with Hope and seemed so depressed all the time, a year later I rescued Hadia. Hadia had been living like a goat for 8 years outside in an enclosed corral with hot wire around the top and straw for bedding. When she came to live with us, her life improved by leaps and bounds. She was a house dog now, as all danes must be. She and Hero went to McDonalds with me regularly to get ice cream kiddy cones. She would run and play in the pasture, and sleep soundly at night, warm and well loved. She is a very happy girl.
But the worst was yet to come. Hero suffered from arthritis, hip displasia, gastrointestinal problems, etc. He was 38 inches tall and close to 200lbs. He was bred too big by a disreputable breeder and suffered for it. He couldn’t do a lot of the things a dog should be able to do. He could barely walk a block before his hips would go out. He had trouble getting onto the bed or in the car. He couldn’t go for long rides. He was aggressive towards other dogs. He took several medications, special digestive aids, special food , supplements and pain killers. He ate lying down on the floor to avoid regurgitation. He drank from the bathroom faucet also to keep water down. He required constant care so much so that I rarely left the house. He had to eat, drink, pee and poop regularly and if he didn’t, I would have to hand feed him, syringe water down his throat, check his temperature, give him pills. We spent many nights at the emergency room for throwing up, suspected bloat, high temperature and other symptoms. Occasionally, he would need his legs wrapped for strength, toenails covered with a sock as he would chew them. Keeping his ears clean was a constant battle and his teeth needed scraping at least twice a week. Toenails were trimmed with a dremel, which was a slow process. He had yogurt everyday and I had to be careful he didn’t eat anything other than that and his dog food. I had to feed him on a regular schedule 3 times a day. I went from caring for a very sick puppy to an almost invalid senior dog in 6 years. I was spending thousands of dollars on him.
But having Hero around was like having a comedian, therapist and best friend all wrapped into one very large package. Since I worked from home, we hung out a lot together. He had a lot of visitors from the neighbor kids to other dog lovers. When someone came to the door, he would try to take their arm and lead them to the couch, as he sat across from them on the other couch, and stared at them.
Hero was only 6. He suddenly developed a limp and his wrist began to swell. In just over a month since the diagnosis of Osteosarcoma, he could no longer get up. I wasn’t ready to let him go. Bone cancer is one of the 3 diseases danes are more likely to die from. The other two are Bloat and Heart failure. Great danes have many heath issues besides these three. These dogs have to be cared for as if they are exotic animals. They are very sensitive, very needy, wanting to be with you all the time. They must be kept indoors, and need to sleep on raised beds or cushions due to problems with their joints. Hero’s loss has been the worst for me. He was my reason for getting up each morning. I even miss his whining, (he was quite spoiled).
I don’t know why I was so unfortunate to have 3 great danes, one after the other, die so young, maybe so others don't have to go through what I have gone through. Knowing what I know now, and having to learn it the most painful way imaginable, I will never get a puppy without knowing the history of the line, heath tests performed ie; the heart, eyes, thyroid, hips and knees, longevity of the grandparents, history of heath problems, recommendations from other great dane breeders , etc. And I wont buy a puppy based on color or how cute they are. All puppies are cute. They were such a big part of my life, and now they are just gone. 3 danes in 6 years. Almost too much to bare. See photos of Haply, Hope and Hero, “Hero’s Silver Heart” at: dogsrealdogs.blogspot.com ( Luckily I still have Hadia who I rescued at the age of 8. She is now 10.)
Shortly after I wrote this story, Hadia suddenly went into bloat. Its only been a month now and I am still unable to talk about it. Yes, she too is gone. It was so unexpected, so painful for her and unbelievable for me.
If you still think you want a great dane, this is what I have learned:
FIND THE BREEDER, THEN THE PUPPY.
And never buy a puppy from anyone that does not health test their breeding dogs. Get proof. I have learned that the reputable breeders are out there, if you search, and that the puppies are often priced the same as from a Back Yard Breeder. I found such a breeder and after she read my story, actually gave me one of her healthy pups. I now have Halia, which means, “In Memory Of”. I call her Lovey. I feed her the most expensive recommended food for danes, divided into several small servings, give her probiotics, etc., watch her rate of growth, and do all the things necessary to have a healthy great dane pup. It’s very expensive and potentially heart breaking. I know, 4 times over.