By Lora Abernathy
I looked across the park and noticed an older couple walking a giant dog. I gasped in awe at its size, its beauty — and its good behavior. It was a Great Dane. I wanted one.
Enter Bela. Our bright-eyed, happy Great Dane has been with us nearly 12 years. Not too bad for a dog whose kind only live six to nine years.
But if the Great Dane breed hadn’t been right for us, we would have picked a different dog.
That was not the case.
Known as the “gentle giants” of the dog world, Danes are great around kids, intelligent, friendly, and require less grooming and exercise than other breeds.
“Friendly” might have been an understatement. Our beautiful girl loves people and has never met a stranger. Any time she hears the word “wow” from people while their car window is down and we’re out walking, she assumes they’re talking about her. She’s not wrong. The ears go back as she hopes they slow down, stop and come pet her.
The “less exercise” requirement for the Dane could easily be changed to “a quick walk up and down the driveway.” I knew she wouldn’t be wired like a border collie, but these dogs are serious couch potatoes. Bela loves going for walks, but can’t wait to come back in and curl up between the pillows on our bed or the arms of a chair that’s really too small for her.
She’s always been easy to train and eager to learn. She’s not a complainer, either. In almost 12 years, I’ve only heard her yelp twice. She’s been a very healthy dog, and has never been on medication except for the occasional infection. She’s wildly content to lay on the couch, look out the window, and wait for her next ear rub.
Arthritis is taking a toll on her bones faster than we wish. Medicine seems to help, but we know “the day” will come soon.
“When Danes go, they go fast,” another Dane parent recently told us. “When she’s ready to go, we can come to the house,” the vet told me in December during her annual visit. Their words now echo too frequently in my head.
Bela’s still got pep in what’s left of her step, though, and meets us with cheer and exuberance at the door most days when we come home. If she’s not at the door, she’s in her chair, ears back, ready to be greeted and adored from the comfort of her throne.
My life has been richer since we brought her home. Other than my husband, that sweet, beautiful dog is my favorite human.
Lora Abernathy is the editor of Salt magazine. Originally from West Virginia and a proud Marshall University alumna, she lives in Hillsboro, Ohio, with her husband, Gary, is mom to a Great Dane and yellow Lab, and trains and competes in triathlons. Reach her at [email protected] or on Twitter @AbernathyLora.