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.