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Big challenge finding big dog a home

Kennels full, options short, owner hopeful of Colorado solution

News editor

There’s no bigger fan of Great Danes than Ida French of Marion, and no one’s heart hurts more at the prospect of giving one up.

“They’re beautiful, they’re elegant, their silhouette is just amazing to me,” French said. “They’re just lovable big children in big dog bodies.”

A fan of big dogs since growing up with a St. Bernard, French waited until 10 years ago to get her first Great Dane, Zane.

“It wasn’t the right opportunity until then,” French said.

Two years ago, she added another.

“Zane was 8 and I knew he was getting old, so I wanted a puppy to kind of help train him and keep him company,” French said.

Gunner was eight weeks old at the time and grew rapidly, gaining at least five pounds a week for “months on end,” French said.

Adult Great Dane males can stand 34 inches at the shoulder and weigh up to 200 pounds. They live, on average, between 8 and 10 years.

Zane and Gunner became buddies, and never got into the habit some Great Danes have of chewing things — big things.

“Some people lose couches and chairs and beds,” French said. “They’ll come home and they’ll have complete couches destroyed. I’ve lost one pair of glasses.”

Life was cozy and good for French and her two huge dogs until about seven months ago when she got a plea for help.

A friend of hers had a Great Dane, Reece, and French learned he was going to jail. Her friend’s ex-wife asked if she would take Reece temporarily, and she said yes. Two days later, the woman asked her to be a permanent placement for Reece, and to find him a new home if it didn’t work out. Again, French said yes.

“My original thought was that I was going to keep him as long as he meshed well with my other two,” French said. “Three months into it they were getting along great, sleeping in the same beds, playing, running together.”

About two months ago, everything changed in the spur of a moment.

“They were out on the deck, and Reece starts attacking Gunner; no reason, no instigation, nothing,” French said.

Hoping it was just a fluke, French continued to let the dogs socialize, but the attacks by Reece against Gunner escalated.

“The last fight got so bad it went through five rooms in my house,” French said. “I decided if I let them go any further, somebody’s really going to get hurt.”

She reluctantly decided to look for a new home for Reece, and immediately hit a brick wall.

Four kennels in the state that might take Reece had no spaces available for a Great Dane. Helping Hands Humane Society in Newton, which already had a Great Dane it couldn’t place, recommended two rescue organizations in the state.

Both were full. One already had nine Great Danes needing homes.

“I think they’re more apprehensive to take him, and when you say he was abused and malnourished and has some behavioral problems, they want to back away even more,” French said.

A post she made on social media was shared 70 times, including out of state. She got one inquiry from a person in Montana, but that home wasn’t suitable.

“My stipulation was a home with no other pets and a fenced yard, because he loves to run,” French said.

Meanwhile, she has been playing what she calls “musical dogs,” shuffling Zane, Gunner, and Reece indoors, outdoors, and in a large kennel, a process that can take up to 30 minutes to complete.

“There was one day I was doing musical dogs when Reece was in the front room and he escaped and immediately took off for Gunner,” French said. “Even playing musical dogs isn’t safe.”

Reece’s aggression has taken its toll on Gunner, who shakes violently in fear any time Reece is near.

However, this past week, things started happening with Rocky Mountain Great Dane Rescue, a Colorado-based volunteer organization that operates in 13 states to find foster and permanent homes for Great Danes, including those with behavior problems.

After filling out paperwork much more extensive than a typical kennel or rescue, French got word that RMGDR would place Reece on its “dogs in need of foster care” listings. While Reece receives care and rehabilitation in a foster home, the group will search for a permanent home for him.

“I really wish I could have found him a local home so I could still keep in contact with him, because I love this dog,” French said. “It’s going to tear me up to get rid of him.”

Still, she’s happy that Reece will be going to someone with the expertise to help him become well-behaved again, and relieved that Gunner’s ordeal, and hers, will soon be over.

“It made my day when I heard from them,” she said. “That’s where I really wanted him to go.”

Last modified Feb. 28, 2018

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