A friend of a friend had a dog that was too much for her to handle. It was coming to the point where Susan was worried both about the dog’s safety and her own liability. Great Danes are usually gentle by nature, but like all dogs, they feed off the anxiety and fear of their owners. It’s a vicious cycle. One instance of the dog misbehaving can give the owner an uncertainty, which our loyal pets pick up on and that anxiety builds on their own.
Lily had aggressively nipped at house guests. The worst instance was her chomping down on the calf of a male visitor when he raised his voice. She bared her teeth and growled at children as they walked past her yard. Susan lived near a school and constantly worried that a child might decide to try petting Lily and get bitten or that Lily could easily jump the fence if she ever got the notion.
I’ve always wanted a Great Dane. I’d already adopted Dobermutt littermates several years before and felt I could make things work with a new addition. After talking with Susan on the phone about Lily and their situation, I agreed to meet her halfway at a gas station.
It was cold that day when Susan and I parked side by side in the gas station parking lot. She’d brought all of Lily’s things; leftover food, treats. Susan thought it would be a good idea for me to offer Lily a treat but the Great Dane was fearful and snarled as soon as she snatched the biscuit from my hand through the back window. I suggested Susan let Lily out of the car and we walk together in the grass.
Things went well for a few paces with Susan holding the leash, but I could tell she was tense and holding her breath. We didn’t get far before Lily lunged for my calf and I had the foresight and quick reflexes to move enough that she didn’t do more than graze my leg. Susan was horrified, but I assured her I was fine and convinced her to keep walking. Lily made a grab for my hand not long after, but no skin was broken. I was a little shaken by that point, to be honest. I’m no dog whisperer, but something told me not to give up. Susan looked at me like I was crazy when I asked her to lead Lily into my car.
Once I had a Great Dane lounging nervously in the cargo of my Jeep, I helped Susan transfer Lily’s food and toys. Susan was scared for me, worried about Lily, but also visibly relieved. I promised to call her once I got home. Before I climbed into my Jeep, I spoke softly to Lily. After I was behind the wheel, I reached behind me to pat Lily’s head without any negative response. Whew.
I hate to place blame on Susan. It’s hard when you lose trust in your pets, and she had. The change in Lily once I got her away from Susan was incredible, though. She was timid with my other dogs, but very affectionate with me. I took Lily to a dog trainer a few days after she came to live with us. It was a very busy pole barn full of people and other dogs. I’ll admit I was a little nervous but I couldn’t let Lily feed off of that. I stood near the door and Lily sat right next to me, both of us watching all the activity. Someone else came inside a few minutes later and patted Lily on the head before I ever had the chance to warn them not to. To my amazement and relief, Lily simply tilted her head to enjoy the pet and took it in stride. I knew then that she was going to be alright.