God sent a gift into my life from 1972-1974. Such a short time but I believe that there were at least three times during that two-year period that my life was protected — not to mention the gift of companionship of such a sweet animal.
I was in my mid-twenties and living on my own. I decided I wanted a dog – a BIG dog! I started checking the classified ads for Bull Mastiff puppies. Well, I never got that far. I ran across an ad for Great Dane pups. Well, I thought I would just check them out.
Ah, it was love at first sight. I bought my first pedigree dog. For his fine lineage, he had to have a majestic name. So I named him Caesar (I know, I know, how original). Turns out when I went to register him with the AKC, there were six other Caesars ahead of him! So he became Caesar VII. But he’ll always be number I with me!!
The lady, Melinda, that I purchased him from owned the mother named Tiffany (a blue Dane). Melinda kept one of the male fawns from the litter and named him Flying Dutchman for short. I believe it was some fancy long conglomeration of names for the official record but Dutchman is what we called him. Melinda and I became friends and we would get together with the three dogs and let them romp and play. Of course, that was back in the day when there was lots of open space in Lexington. Melinda’s husband was an equine veterinarian and when they would travel, I would get to house- and dog-sit for them. Can you imagine what it’s like sharing a king-size bed with THREE GREAT DANES! And going for walks! HA! Nobody stuck around. Talk about feeling safe!
At the time I owned a little 1970 Volkswagen Beetle. People would point and stare at us while driving around. It certainly wasn’t me they were pointing and staring at. Caesar wouldn’t fit in the front seat. Actually, he barely fit in the whole Beetle! He would sit in the back seat and his massive head would be in the front seat or out the window if it was open. I didn’t have a sunroof. What a sight to see! I wish I had just one picture of it.
I took him through several levels of obedience training. I had to. He had to know I was in charge. When your dog weighs more than you do, you’ve got to maintain control! He was perfect. And he always obeyed. I remember when I would walk down the street with him, even though he was on a leash, people would actually stop in their tracks and cross to the other side of the street and just stand there until we were gone. He made quite an impression.
I used to take him to a park outside of town that had a pond filled with ducks. He used to run along the shore chasing the ducks, never really trying to catch one. I think it was just the thrill of the hunt and watching them scatter! One day, he got a bit too close to the edge and fell in. It was at a place where the water drained and had straight concrete walls. He was struggling to get out and I could tell he was getting panicked. He wasn’t the only one. What a sight we must have been. Here I was, barely over 100 pounds struggling to pull this 150 pound dog out of the water. It’s a miracle I didn’t fall in with him. Of course, it might have been easier if I could have pushed him out rather than trying to pull him out. But I got him out and the two sopping wet companions went merrily on their way.
One time when we were just “horsing” around, we were butting shoulders and playing tug with one of his toys. Yeh, a real competition! Anyway, something happened. His shoulder missed my shoulder and connected with my nose. I howled like a banshee and grabbed my nose and fell to the ground. I must admit it was quite painful. But me not being used to pain, probably overreacted somewhat. But poor Caesar. I looked up at him. He was standing over me and shaking. He knew something had happened. I suddenly felt worse for him. He was so scared because I was hurt. Poor baby. So I sucked it up and consoled him. It turned out to be a hairline fracture but I sported two black eyes for a few weeks!
One example of an unusual and potentially dangerous incident was when I was sharing a house on the University of Kentucky campus with four other girls. We each had our own bedroom that locked but for the most part the house was always open to the common areas. One night, just myself and one of the other girls were at home. We had been sitting in the living room, an open common area, talking about one thing or another. Suddenly we saw the front door open and there were several guys who started to walk in the house. We didn’t recognize any of them and neither one of us had a good feeling about this. Next thing I know, Caesar is lunging at the door. What an awesome sight! That door slammed shut so fast. By the time my roommate and I got over to the door and looked out, we didn’t see anybody in either direction on the street! We talked about it afterwards and we both felt so strongly that if Caesar hadn’t been there something awful might have been about to happen.
In time, we all went our separate ways. I got my own apartment. It wasn’t long after that Caesar died unexpectedly. I’ll never know the real cause of his death. In retrospect, I suspect the possibility of bloat. A horrible death and an issue not that uncommon in large breeds I learned later. I knew so little about large dogs back then. There are so many things that could have caused it. Bloat is just my one opinion.
I cried and cried. I missed him horribly. He was so very special. One night shortly after he died, I was lying in bed just about to doze off. I was thinking of him and missing him when suddenly I felt the bed bounce just like it used to when he would jump up on it. Then I felt him lay down next to my back just like he used to. I didn’t want to move. I wanted to believe he was back. Perhaps in his own way he was back. Just enough to let me know he was safe and happy. It was just a feeling that came over me but I just knew he was all right.