After my beautiful Freddie Mercury, a black Great Dane, died on October 16, 2008, I was so heartbroken and missed him so badly I was inconsolable. Within months of his death I was [finally] diagnosed with the brain tumor that had turned my life upside down for 5+ years, making it impossible to work and, ultimately, impossible to stand up [without falling over], drive, or do most anything else.
In April 2009 I had middle fossa craniotomy brain surgery to remove the tumor. I knew the surgery was a big deal going in, but even so I didn't expect its recovery to be so long and so difficult. But it has been.
Between the two things, i.e., losing Freddie [and missing him so much] and having profoundly debilitating brain surgery [and its very long, difficult recovery], I couldn't even THINK about adopting another dog...until now. I've finally accepted that my physical issues are not going to improve much more, if at all. The exhaustion I feel every single day--which makes a nap a necessity--is, I think, permanent. As are the vision problems, some residual facial paralysis, etc.
So I got to thinking about adopting a new dog, a Great Dane (they're my favorite and I just really, strongly prefer them), and how that would play out all things considered. I applied at Gentle Giants Rescue more than a year ago, knowing full well that at that time I wasn't even CLOSE to being physically well enough to have a new dog. But I figured I'd get the application process out of the way, and then adopt when I was ready. I was approved, but then the clock kept ticking and months went by, and I still wasn't physically--or emotionally--ready to bring a new dog into my life. In July of this year I felt ready, so I contacted Burt [Ward, yes THAT Burt Ward--he and his amazing wife Tracy run Gentle Giants Rescue] to let him know I was ready. I hadn't realized that the application approval was only good for 6 months...so I did it again! It's a DAUNTING process--it took me at least three hours to fill out the application--but there isn't one thing I'd change about it. They're absolutely committed to doing the right thing for the dogs they rescue and adopt out, and I LOVE that they're so detail-oriented and want to know the same kinds of things I'd want to know about prospective adoptive parents.
Long story short, I was approved again and was all ready to go...then my little girl, Joy Noelle (she's a cat, but thinks she's a Great Dane...oh, she's a rescue, too), became deathly ill. It took a long time, many visits to our vet, lots of medication and special food and forced feeding to get her well, and in the meantime I didn't want to stress her by bringing in a new family member. So I waited!
Finally, it was time. I was ready, Joy was healthy, it was time.
I had my heart set on a puppy. In my LONG experience, puppies are just so special. They're cute and sweet and, oh!, that puppy breath. I had mixed feelings about bringing an adult Dane home...it's hard to explain, but I felt like he'd be invading Freddie's territory somehow. Besides, when you get a puppy they bond with you and...I don't know. I just thought I wanted a puppy. But GGR didn't have any right now. I decided to go take a look anyway, knowing there were only adult Danes available at the moment.
My mom came with me and we headed out there on Saturday, December 11. Burt and Tracy were warm and gracious and made us feel right at home. The first dog I saw was an almost 3 year old Harlequin male, and I liked him a lot. The second was a 1 year old black female who looked eerily like my favorite female Dane of all time, Star (I'd even brought a picture with me, which coincidentally showed Star when she was about the same age, and they could've been twins...except Star died in 1986). I didn't want a black (couldn't even consider it because of Freddie) and I didn't want a female, so I dismissed this sweet girl. Then it happened.
The INSTANT Tracy brought the next dog out, I KNEW. I mean really, just like that. He's just over a year old and is a Mantle (one of the unofficial Great Dane colors--black and white, but not like a Harlequin; Mantles have big areas of black and white and may, as this one does, have some spotting as well). In just minutes I asked Tracy if she'd think it was weird if I said I already knew this was the one, and she said no, not at all. I told her, "I'm done! I don't need to see any more!"
This boy is as sweet as can be, and when you look in his eyes you see an old soul. (Freddie was like that, too.) He's thin right now because he's been stressed (family issues that led to him being given up), but *TALL* and sweet and beautiful. Once he gains back his weight and finishes growing, he's going to be spectacular.
(As I'm typing this--with my laptop in my lap on my bed--he's pushing my arms constantly as he stretches while dozing...on my bed, of course.)
I know I keep referring to him as "he" and there's a reason for that--I don't have a name yet. He's already had two names, Lieutenant and Zen, neither of which does anything for me, but once we've spent a little time together something will jump up and hit me as the right name. UPDATE: 12/14/10 -- We have a name! From the same woman who came up with Freddie Mercury and Queen for her last two Great Danes, I'd like to introduce...Justin Hayward (yes, as in the Moody Blues). Perfect!
Because it was late Saturday before Tracy could take him in for his pre-release vet check, we decided that we'd wait until the next day to come pick him up. And yesterday that's exactly what we did. He was great on the ride home--about 50 miles, settling down on the blanket I'd put in the back of my RAV4, and snuggling up with the toy I'd bought him just before heading out there.
When we got home I took him straight into the backyard, on lead, and let him sniff and explore as much as he wanted. Then we headed inside--where my cats were waiting, oblivious to the fact they'd just acquired a "little" brother! They had varied reactions ranging from puffing out their tails like bottle brushes, to hissing, to hiding up on the highest bookcases and giving the dog death glares (Joy Noelle!), to downright indifference. One of the cats swatted at his face when he got too close, and he jumped back and yelped. (He was not hurt.) They'll work it out. I've been doing this for MANY, many years and my pets always get along. It's a house rule!
Here are some pics. First, Freddie with his favorite toy, Teddy Bear:
Freddie contemplating life near the end of his...I took this picture just a few weeks before he died:
This is how I like to picture my Fredster now. This picture was taken up in the mountains above Azusa, but I like to think of him standing like that, gazing out from his vantage point now at Rainbow Bridge:
And now, drumroll please!, my new boy. These were taken moments after arriving home with him yesterday. To me, it looks like he's wondering "...is this one it? is this my home now? or is she going to give me back?":
These are from last night, after he'd come inside and had a chance to figure it all out:
His favorite of two new toys I bought yesterday; we've named the toy Rocky J Squirrel:
"Uh-oh! What's that?! Oh, it's a CAT!!" (This was RIGHT before he ran over to the cat--who promptly swatted his face.):
Freddie's food/water stand a couple days after he died. It took a while before I could bring myself to empty the few morsels of food Freddie left in the bowl that last night before he died.
Same place, different stand and bowls; my new boy's first dinner at home:
"Good morning, Mommy! Wow, I slept really well. OUR bed is super comfy!"
So there you have it. For now! I couldn't be more thrilled with the gorgeous, sweet, loving boy I've been blessed with--and if you're thinking about getting a pet, PLEASE adopt. There are millions...really, millions...of cats, dogs, birds, ferrets and many other domesticated animals waiting for good homes. It's so worth it--for BOTH parties.
And last but not least: HAVE YOUR PETS SPAYED OR NEUTERED