Events & Information

Adopter of the Month

Liz & Cooper

I learned about Leah LaGrone and her Great Dane Rescue operation after I acquired my blue-eyed, long-legged beauty named Charlie. Adding a great dane to the group was my answer to a neighborhood armed robbery, carjacking and attempted kidnapping. The thugs were found the next morning in a garage one street over, wads of cash jammed down their low-riding jeans. I wasn’t convinced that a shih-tzu tucked under each arm was much protection for me.

I was a dog photographer and had an online dog magazine. I ran a story about Leah and her great dane rescue operation and over the next few years photographed her revolving inventory of foster danes, each hoping that a good picture would up their chances at adoption.

While shooting at Leah’s one day, I met an adult foster in a crate in the corner of her office. He was starved and weak but visibly relieved to be resting in a safe space, blinking in disbelief that he could actually count on his next meal.

His name was Kane. He and four other great danes were found abandoned in a basement after the owner moved out. Great Dane Rescue was ultimately contacted and placed each of these tragic creatures. I was told that Kane was in the worst shape of the group. Timid by nature, he likely didn’t fight for whatever food was around. He suffered horribly as a result.

Leah asked if I would take some pictures of Kane. She got Kane to sit long enough for me to get encouraging shots of his oversized head and basset hound eyes. Each time I squatted down to get on his level, Kane grinned, sauntered over and gave me an insistent nudge, toppling me off balance. It made me laugh. I think it made Kane laugh too. This was fun—knocking the photographer over. I don’t think he’d had that much fun in a very long time.

My Charlie loved nothing more than running. In her prime, she had a gorgeous gait, long and elegant—mesmerizing to watch. But I’m too old to play chase, and Millie the shih tzu was not much of a match. “I’ll get you a running buddy,” I told Charlie one day. And therein hatched the idea of getting another great dane. We needed more hair in the house.

“So how’s Kane doing?” I asked Leah offhandedly over the phone one day. I told her of my plan to get Charlie a running mate. Nothing much surprises Leah, but I think I might have succeeded with this out-of-nowhere idea of mine.

We introduced the two on a bitterly cold day at the tennis courts in a nearby park in my neighborhood. Charlie was flirtatious and Kane took the bait. They ran laps around the courts, laughing and dodging. “I’m taking him home,” I told Leah. “I’ll text you if I need you to pick him up,” I called over my shoulder. I think she was stunned to be leaving in her giant car alone, but it was now or never for me and for Kane.

Kane never did go back to Leah’s. I renamed him Cooper— we had two mini-Cooper cars and he was roughly that size. I thought it would make me popular to say we had three mini-Coopers.

It took two rounds of Beginning Obedience class to get our required certificate. During our first round, I tore ligaments in my right hand tugging his collar up while pushing his backside down in a teeth-gritting attempt at sit. And the instructor thought he was too weak despite the fact that we had just hiked down to the river and back. So Cooper and I agreed that school really does blow, quit our first round of class, then re-enrolled once he got stronger and I regained the use of my hand. We passed.

Cooper came to me weighing 100 lbs. Now he weighs 160 lbs—I can just make out the indention of his ribs. We’ve had our adjustments. I had to teach Cooper that waking me up at 4:00am by slapping his giant paw down on my stomach was not cool. He’s learned to trust that I will indeed feed him 3 times a day—on time—and with a little Parmesan sprinkled on top.

I’ve learned to let Cooper go down our stairs first. I cover my coffee cup when he shakes his head. I’ve given up on talking him out of eating Scooby Snacks and instead accompany him on every potty break armed with a pastel colored roll of bags, beaming over my clean yard. We’ve discovered that controlled play reduces my chance of serious bodily injury.

Cooper is robustly on-alert when needed. No one comes in my house— fine by me with all that dog hair and eye-level encrusted drool slung on the walls. I’m not much of a cleaner, but I do pick up.

Our life is quiet and predictable. It’s just Cooper and Charlie and me. We’ve moved to the country. I work from home. We walk most days and occasionally hike off-leash. They love to thunder through the woods, terrorizing unsuspecting woodsy creatures. Cooper’s drive to hunt sometimes overrides his recall and more than once he’s burst out of the woods, muzzle covered in blood, ecstatic over a fresh kill. I usually yell “sorry” towards where I think he’s been and we head home for a thorough water boarding.

Cooper and Charlie spend most of their days napping on my king-size pillow-top bed or in the warm patches of sunshine on my upstairs porch. I watch them breathe. It took awhile for Cooper to breathe deeply—he had to learn to relax. Now he snores lustily with long pauses between each inhale. This makes me smile.

Every night before we turn out the lights, I thank them both for being here, for protecting me, for walking me, for calming me down and making me laugh. Then I tell them to stay. Forever.

Liz Young