Why We Choose To Lose Our Hearts to A Breed With Such A Short Lifespan….

Why We Choose To Lose Our Hearts to A Breed With Such A Short Lifespan….

Great Danes are truly a beloved breed. Everywhere you go, people are drawn to them, even those who are afraid of dogs in general, or those who aren’t dog friendly. I once met an elderly woman at the strip mall a few minutes from here who had been afraid of dogs her entire life; she seen us standing outside of the pharmacy, approached me and asked if she could meet and pat Luke. She was almost in tears at the end of the meeting; it seemed to be such a momentous occasion for her. In situations such as that one, I have no problem whatsoever stopping and allowing them to meet my boy.

Another time we were just out for a nice afternoon stroll on the next street over, when we came across an older gentleman who crossed the street to talk to me and of course, meet Luke. It turned out that he had once had a blue female Great Dane, whom he’d adored, and throughout his telling of the story, the emotion this man displayed for a dog that had been gone a very long time, was incredibly touching. I stayed there for quite a while chatting with him and just letting him soak up the opportunity to be near a dane again.

One of the most common things I hear though, or read online when I’m in my dog forums, is people who say they would love to have a Great Dane one day, but feel they could not handle the short lifespan. The risk of pain so early in the dog’s life, the knowledge that they will grow incredibly close and bonded with the dog, only to lose them in a short amount of time, is too much for them to risk. I can understand and sympathize with that sentiment completely. It is after all, the bane of a Great Dane owner’s existence. That whisper in the back of our mind…what if we only have a year, five years, ten years?

Perhaps that is why for so many of us who live and breathe these dogs, we don’t “sweat the small stuff”. What owners of other breeds, breeds that are known to live a lot longer under the right circumstances, take for granted, we never do. We don’t fret as much about the little misbehaviours, or the mess they make when drool goes flying, when it’s shedding season or when the giant paws track muck through our house so that it ends up looking like a barnyard. Most of us, at least from what I’ve witnessed, tend to be the odd balls that stand by with a smile on our face and just pray that we will have many more opportunities to clean up after those paws. God knows, that whether we are blessed with two years or ten, there simply are not enough of those moments.

There is little doubt that living with and loving a Great Dane can bring us incredible pain, as well as the most intense joy. Ask anyone who has shared their life with more than one, who has rescued, bred, or grew up with the breed, and I’m sure you will be able to hear it in their voice or read it in their words. You know going into it, that unless you are very lucky, you will have to say goodbye too soon. It is that I think, that makes our relationship with our danes that much more intense, more powerful….more…memorable.

I remember all the teasing I received from Patty and my mother about the huge amount of pictures I took of Luke from the day I brought him home. It’s simple really. For one, I don’t have a very good graphical memory. I remember in emotions not pictures, so it is incredibly important to me that I document my life with Luke as much as I can while he is with me, so I have those pictures to help bring his physical memory alive to me later on, when God forbid, I must go on without him. I want to remember every single facial expression, every bit of body language, every new experience he had that I managed to catch on camera. I want to re-live those moments over and over again until the day we meet again, if that’s possible. Because I know me, and I know that it’s going to damn near kill me to lose him. It is a dread and a pain that I hold in my heart every single moment of every single day, and have since that first meeting with him. Yet, it is that very fear of losing him that makes our bond so strong makes each moment that much more special to me than any I’ve ever had with anyone or anything else before in my life. I don’t want to waste a second. I actually find myself getting angry if I am sick or tired and I think I may be wasting valuable time with him. Every minute with him is precious to me.

I pray more now, over him, than I’ve ever prayed in my life. Every night I thank a God I’m not sure I get along with most of the time, for giving me this wonderful gift, for making my dream come true. I pray he will be merciful and give me many more years to share with Luke. Lord knows I can’t even stand the thought of one day without him now, let alone the rest of my life. He is truly the other half of my soul. Not many people “get” that. To many, I am the crazy dog lady and he’s “just a dog”, albeit a handsome, special one, but a dog just the same. Not to me, never to me. He will never and has never, been “just a dog” to me.

I can’t really explain what it is about these dogs that make them so much more than other breeds, what makes them so special and unique. It just IS what it is and you have to have lived with one to understand it. There are some who do have a Great Dane who still don’t seem to “get it”. That much is obvious when I hear horror stories of so many being dumped, or worse, abused. But many of us out there around the globe, do indeed understand, and I think it’s why no matter how different we may be when it comes to all other aspects of our lives, that one thing brings us close together….our intense bond with and love for the breed that only we can really comprehend.

I have the utmost respect for those out there who have rescued and rehabilitated countless danes over the years. Who have loved and lost one after another, always getting back up after the great fall and doing it all over again with a new dane. I know I couldn’t do it; because as much as I know that the pain is worth it, there will never be another Luke. I’m just different that way. I can’t bring another into my life and live with them, knowing they can never be him. I wouldn’t be able to stand the guilt of that. But for those who can, and do, I commend them with all of my being because they truly do take selflessness and unconditional love to a whole new level.

It is human nature to take for granted things in our lives; people in our lives who we assume will be there forever, or at the very least, for a long time. It’s kind of like how, you hurt the ones you love the most because you know they will always stick around, always be there no matter what. When you know going into it however, that they won’t be there forever….it makes you act differently. Feel differently, do things differently. You are much more careful about what you take for granted and what you are careless about. It makes relationships more intense somehow, when you already have an estimated end date. It’s sad that as people, we know this, yet still instinctively do it. You’d think that we would learn from those that we do lose early, to never take anyone or anything for granted, to always treat every person in our lives, every pet, everything that matters, as if tomorrow they could be gone and every second is an important one. Maybe that is one lesson we learn from living with and loving our Great Danes. That each second is precious. Not to be taken lightly. That the muddy paw prints are blessings, not something to curse about. When you know that there will soon come a day when you will wish with all of your heart and soul that you had just one more day to sweep up the hair, one more day to clean the drool off the walls…you realize that even the hassles are blessings in disguise.

I never go to bed, no matter what mood I’m in, no matter how rotten my day has been, without making sure Luke gets his loving and attention. He wouldn’t let me now J I go above and beyond to make sure that I never take my frustrations about my life out on him. He is my sanity, my light in a world full of darkness. He is the smile on my face and the laughter in my heart when otherwise there would be none. He is the reason I give thanks when it seems I have little else to be thankful for. He is not just a dog, and I know without a shadow of a doubt, that when the day comes that we are forced to be separated, no matter how my heart will break, no matter how much I drown in pain, I will forever be grateful for every single moment I have had with him. Because no one, and nothing, has given me in my entire life, what this big black dane has given me in just one day of his time with me. Oh I will hurt, more than ever before or again, but I will never look back and say it wasn’t worth it, or wish I hadn’t have opened myself up to that hurt. Because nothing has or ever will be again, worth it like Luke has been worth it.

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27 thoughts on “Why We Choose To Lose Our Hearts to A Breed With Such A Short Lifespan….

  1. I, too, love my dane Duchess. She is our third dane. I have to say that our first, Genevieve, will always hold a very special place in my heart. She taught me to love the breed-everything about the breed. She was special beyond words. By her being a part of our family, I knew I would always have a dane in our family. Our second, Chyna, and now Duchess are rescue danes. There are so many that need that special love that those that “get it” can give. I know that when it is Duchess’ time to make her transition, there will be another rescue needing me as much as I will need him/her. Keep your heart open…

  2. I loved reading your blog as it is so true, except for not taking on another one. Every time I lose one, another comes along, not to replace it, but to carry the love forward. People always ask where I find my dogs and I always tell them “The dogs find me.” I now have two, Libby is almost 7 years old and Gracie is 1 1/2 years old. I am hoping that Gracie will ease the loss of Libby when the time comes and make it easier to move on in life. I will still have a cold nose waking me up in the morning and demanding attention and not allow me to wallow in self pity for my loss. I also know that when the time is right, another will catch my eye, or someone will call me with a dog in need and I will answer the call and do it all over again because the dogs need me as much as I need them.

  3. Wow. This brought tears to my eyes. I rescued two Newfoundlands from Big Dogs Huge Paws, Henry who is 4, and George who is 7. The first time the vet came to the house and met them and realized how old George was, she just said, ‘he’s a senior citizen’. I understand that…..but although I met him late in life, I feel as if he’s been part of our family forever. And like you, I cherish every day I get to spend with both of my lovely, sweet boys.

  4. You really hit the nail on the head! Living with a Dane is…just indescribable. Bella is my life. She came into my life as a rescue, all 150 lbs. of her. What I realize now is that she rescued ME. Sometimes I feel that she and I are both losing out because I have to work to keep her in treats, but when I come home and she’s so excited to see me, it’s all worth it. When she can’t find the cat and panics, I laugh (knowing the cat is HIDING from her…it’s a game) and wonder at her constant amazement and joy when she finally finds “her” kitty (seriously…the cat is almost always in the same place)! I will lose her someday…and a hole will be in my heart forever. But I know that, as much joy as I’ve given her, she’s given me some of the best moments of my life.

  5. Thank you for expressing in words what I feel from the loss of my beloved Laslo at age 9 1/2 on 11/2/11 and Malachai at 9 2/6/01… I will always try to have a Dane in my life!

  6. She was in foster care with some Boxers,a small dog and small children. My Boxer gets along so well with her and it has only been a few days. She is gentle with the Italian Greyhound. I have been crying and laughing these past few days. It is nice seeing the Boxer mix play with her but her movements and all that Dane leaning brings back a flood of memories. I cried when I but my Dane’s warm clothing on her. He loved that warm jacket and she clearly likes it too. I cried last night when I felt her kicking her legs next to me in bed. All these things remind me of Ziggy. She isnt going to bring him back. They have similarities but she has her own character too. I am trying not to compare them. The Boxer mix is clearly happy about adopting her. I think the Chow-Colie mix is looking down and smiling about the Boxer mix playing with another sibling. I am CERTAIN that Ziggy is smiling from heaven. I think he would want another Dane to use all his things,go for rides in his SUV and especially cuddle with me in bed. I too never thought I would want another Dane before and especially after he passed! It took three years and lots of crying to let me open my heart to another Dane. I encourage current Dane owners to please allow previous Dane owners to visit with your Danes. After Ziggy passed I savored meeting Danes and petting them. It was an important healing tool in the begining. As time passed and my heart healed a little I would laugh and smile when I greated other Danes instead of cry. I am crying as I write this remembering the pain. I too swore off the breed too. Please consider helping transport Danes to rescues, helping washing them,etc. If you find yourself not wanting to adopt a Dane when the time comes please hold onto all his things as I did. You might need time to heal and find yourself consdiering adopting again. I am finding great comfort in the newly adopting Dane wearing his thing,playing with his toys and eating from his bowls. Thank you for writting this and letting me know I wasnt the only one who loved a Dane so much that the small things didnt matter!

  7. I have two danes now Zeus, and Delilah (who is deaf) but she is quite the character…and I totally understand and feel every singe word of you greatly written piece..I have lost one Dane in the past Hera and she gave me so many joyous moments, I miss her dearly…and people all the time laugh at me because no matter what mess I come home to I just kackle and clean it up…they are truely like my children and I love them so much…my husband laughs because every night both of mine pile in the bed with me and eventually he goes to the couch…and yes when there gone…I will get another, ( if not before) and another..because there is no stronger love than a DANES LOVE……

  8. I “get it” even if I don’t have a Dane. I have 2 mutts whose life expectency is statistically longer. But I can’t imagine my house without either of them. They too have meant more and given more to me than any human. They are not just dogs, they are my family. And I will be crushed when either goes. So I cherish our moments together and also take tons of pictures. When their time here ends, I will be crushed. But I also cannot imagine a house without drool and fur and barking and cold, wet noses on a Sunday morning. Maybe my next rescue will be a Dane, maybe not. But it will be another Furbaby that needs a home because someone else didn’t want him. And I will do everything I can to make up for that time “before me”.

  9. I’m a new dane owner. I got one and ended up with 2. They are my “kids”. I “get” all that stuff about a dane. I previously had a lab pitbull mix who had to be put down. I went through a lot research to pick a dane. Now I will never ever be without a dane or a lab. I fell in love with them! I want to run a rescue because there are so many unwanted danes. My male dane came to me because he was “to big and was naughty”. He’s a well mannered big 180lb baby! I thank God everyday he took Chevy from and gave me the chance to have a dane. They are one of the best dog breeds out there.

  10. SSSSOOO TRUE!!!! My step dad loved ours so much that it still hurts him when he sees a dane. Misty died in 1997. I still cry over her as well as the one I lost in 1985. And telling the stories of their antics can make me laugh for days..

  11. What a wonderful post! I lost my Shazzy 1 year ago just 6 weeks shy of her 8th birthday. She had been through so much but ultimately arthritis got the better of her. After I let her go, I told myself I would never have another dane. That I could never go through that pain again. Then in April I saw where a 10 week old dane puppy that looked identical to Shazzy had been surrendered to the Memphis Animal Shelter (which has one of the highest kill rates in the country) and I knew I couldnt leave her there. From the moment I saw that big pile of legs, I was in love. I then started to realize that I was not replacing Shazzy but that maybe Shazzy sent this new baby to me to help me heal. And that is exactly what she has done. As much as I know it will hurt to loose Olive, I know every second that I am blessed with her is worth it!

  12. Hi. Just read this post. I could not have explained how I felt about my Schultz any better than you did. Unfortunately, Schultz only lived to be 2 years and 3 months old. He was my heart. My husband and I took him to the beach (along with our English mastiff whom I dearly love as well) this summer and he had a massive heart attack and died in my arms on the beach. We were and still are devasted. I miss Schultz everyday. However, I was so lost without him that my husband bought us another puppy whom I named Lazarus because he is a Merlequin just like Schultz. However, he has a completely different personality but I love him with all of my heart. We have 1 other Great Dane, a hound dog, a Neopolitan Mastiff, Lazarus and Samson our English mastiff. Samson took the loss of Schultz hard as well as they were buddies. Anyway, I said all of that to say that I love each one of my babies and they all have a place in my heart. Schultz was one of a kind and I know that if I am able, I will have a Great Dane in my house for the rest of my life, even though I know I will one day lose them. I guess intense joy brings great pain. But due in part to the pain I felt when I lost Schultz, I thank God every night for letting me have just one more day with my babies. Thanks for your post.

  13. I lost my first Dane almost 14 yrs ago to kidney and liver failure. at age 8. The day we put her down hurt and haunted me and my hubby for years. The thought of another Dane was too much. We couldn’t do that again. EVER.

    or so we thought.

    Started talking about another dog this year and found out about a breeder but it just didn’t work out. Then a month ago a friend contacted me and by the end of the next day we had rescued 2 Dane sisters! Their almost 5 months old and a handful but we wouldn’t have it any other way. Someday we will have double heart ache of their loss… but that is not now. We live for now 🙂

  14. Beautifully stated. Yes, you do “get” it! But please reconsider that someday when he is gone, its not about replacing him. Its not about you at all. Its about a sad, lonely Dane who’ll be somewhere waiting for you. Let him or her find their way to you. Adopt in Luke’s memory. But please, when the day comes, share your dedication to another. Because too few really do “get it.”

  15. We have had 3 great danes, Duke, Ivanna, and Shiloh. I miss each of them terribly and have told my husband many times the house just feels empty. (Empty with 3 dachshunds, 1 yorkie mix, and 2 daughters, lol.) Duke was our first and brought us so much joy and love. He would unlock and open doors using his back teeth and I’d replace door knob after door knob. But we never reprimanded him for it. I’d replace a door knob every day if we could still have him with us. He was pure love in a 180 lb package. I think God only gives them to us for a short time so we could have the joy of sharing our lives with many of them and being graced with each of their sweet souls for just a while. Then he needed them back in Heaven to love those human souls that had not yet come to earth.

  16. I suppose I need to say that when it comes to “getting another” Great Dane, it’s not because it would be another Luke, it would be because you are obligated to Luke to pay his love forward. You have to continue to love and offer a place in your life to such a worthy breed. You owe it to Luke.

    • I do think later on, if I’m able I’d like to get involved in rescue..so who knows, maybe far into the future I will. But for now….I focus on Luke and only Luke. He will never share me lol, so I dont’ have to worry about making that decision for a long time hopefully.

      • Jenn I cried as I read this post. So much of this rang true for me. I too take loads of pictures so I can remember things. My beloved Great Dane Ziggy passed away 3 years ago at age 10 and my beloved Chow-Colie mix passed away a few months ago at 13. They were my boys and a HUGE part of my life. I cried and was depressed after Ziggy’s passing. I swore off the breed because of the pain from loosing Ziggy. I was so mad that my little black boy was gone. We adopted an Italian Greyhound, it seemed a good fit for our older Chow-Colie mix. My girlfriend always wanted a small dog. Then we fostered for some Italian Greyhounds. It was painful letting go when they were adopted but it felt good correcting the reasons they ended up in foster care. Then 10 months ago someone dumped a boxer mix in our yard. She turned out to be partially deaf because some idiot let her ears get so infected that her ear drums burst. She had surgery but still needs to use her ASL sign language at times. The Chow-Colie mix loved playing with her. I got really lucky with my boys as puppies, very easy to train and no chewing issues. I knew my time with my Chow-Colie mix was limited. I ignored the Boxer mixes needs because I felt the Chow-Colie mix needed his time because so much of my time had been focused on his brother’s pasing. When the Chow-Colie passed I was very sad. It was an end to decade of my boys and a way of life with them. When the Chow-Colie mix was still with me the passing of the Dane wasnt as painful because I still felt close to him because I remembered all the funny things we used to do together with both of them. I decided to really work with the partially deaf Boxer mix. She became a little aggresive and spooked after her rock the Chow-Colie mixed passed. He reasured her and was her ears when she needed him. I began thinking about adopting another Dane. I kept all my Dane’s things and the house seemed empty without him. It took a long time to find the right Dane. I picked up a 17 month old fawn female Dane a few days ago.

  17. Agreed. I have two Danes now. Loretta and Little Ricky. Loretta is my first dog, and is my life. I will get back on the horse, and have bound myself to always have a Dane in my life. I’d be empty without one.
    I dread the day, but I will be strong.
    If I could afford it and properly care for them, I’d have 50 of them!

  18. That was extremely moving and familiar all at once! I feel the same when I am sick or very tired.. I feel like I’m taking away from the adventure in life that Zander and I share. Like we could be doing something amazing and something that strengthens our bond instead. I watch him sleep all the time and I tear up thinking about how unfair it is that these beautiful animals, our best friends, live such a short life in comparison in our own- But, I also laugh so much because of him! The way he digs in my bed when he plays with his toys at night; making a blanket fortress to leap over, so he can pounce on the unsuspecting Cuz ball or Teddy Bear. Or how he does his “upside down bicycle”(Kicking his legs in the air and scratching his back) in the grass after breakfast each morning. 🙂 Or how he is overly obsessed with me doing raspberries on his cheek(Oh god, I created a monster.. LOL). Those are just a few silly things, but.. Our dogs, animals, family, friends and our lives should never be taken for granted, ever and it’s so important to reflect on the positives instead of hurrying life along to skip the “annoying” things. Once they’re gone, we only have those hurried along moments left in our hearts if we choose to be so consumed with the material/busy world. Our dogs might not glitter, but I can guarantee they’re real gold! Thank you for such a wonderful post!

      • Oh, so there are others?! Hahaha! Does Darwin just kinda stand there or move away? lol. My family is like “You guys are so weird..”, but I love it. It’s our little weirdness, hehe. 🙂

  19. Good life lesson, even for non-Dane owners. Never take any person or animal for granted. You never know where life is headed, or when it might end. That includes those we love, and ourselves – so live each day to its fullest.

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