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 Created: 01/12/04


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– Sheva, an Obedience Dane –

January 12, 2004 – This week's DaDane features a portrait of three-year-old Sheva. She lives a very happy life in Austin, Texas, along with Linda and Jerry Dunham, three other Great Danes, and a Plott Hound. I met Sheva at the 2003 GDCA National in Orlando, FL, when Linda and Jerry brought her over to my booth right after she won High in Trial (Obedience).

Sheva's story, as told by Jerry, is an interesting one:

Sister Sheva Susannah Wesley, CD CGC
– By Jerry Dunham –

Sheva's First Home
Back in the fall of 2000, a young couple moved to Austin to start a new job, bringing with them their two cats. Neither had owned dogs as adults, though they'd been raised around them. An acquaintance announced that she was getting a Great Dane puppy and suggested they get one of the littermates at the same time. The couple agreed because the timing seemed close to right. However, they were still living in a small apartment and had not yet looked for a house. None-the-less, they contacted the breeder, who lived in a small town a couple of hours away from Austin. They met her by the side of the road, halfway between, to pick up their new puppy. To their surprise, the breeder presented them with TWO puppies, the last of the litter, and offered them a "special deal" if they'd take both. Pressed to make a quick decision, they took both Great Dane puppies back to their small apartment.

Within a week they were ready to scream for help. This madness was NOT what they'd been hoping for. They had met a friendly vet tech at the clinic where they'd been taking their cats, so they called her in panic, asking where they could take the extra puppy to surrender it to a shelter. As it turned out, the tech had a rescue Dane that she'd obtained through the local Great Dane club, so gave them the name of the club's rescue coordinator, who agreed to help.

The coordinator then called us to see if we could take the puppy for the night, because we were close by and it was late. We ended up picking up the puppy at midnight with the understanding that we'd take her on to Etosha Rescue the next day.

It never happened.

Sheva's Forever Home
During the one week the puppy spent at her first home, she was given the name Sheva, which means "seven" in Hebrew, based upon something in a Seinfeld episode. It was a unique name, and she was beginning to respond to it, so we kept it. Linda expanded it to Sister Sheva Susannah Wesley to make it more ecumenical (Catholic/Jewish/Methodist).

At about 4 and 1/2 months we started puppy Obedience classes. Almost immediately, Sheva came down with a pretty severe case of HOD. At the worst point, she was unable to bear any weight on her legs and screamed when she had to move them. I took her outside to potty using a towel under her belly as a sling to support her. The HOD lasted about one and 1/2 months. It was one of the worst things we've been through with any of our dogs. Linda felt so sorry for her that she allowed Sheva to sleep on our bed, a FIRST in our family.

Sheva's Talents Emerge
Once Sheva recovered from HOD, we resumed Obedience classes. She graduated first in her class. We knew that was unusual for a Great Dane, but didn't yet know how special she was to be. She was only our second dog to train.

Sheva began competing in AKC Novice events with me in 2002. Together, in our first all-breed shows, we scored 4th, 3rd, 2nd and 1st. Being still very green at this, we didn't understand what that meant yet. There were no other Danes in our classes to compare with, and the best of the Goldens, Dobes and herding dogs were on our level. It WAS a surprise when, at the big San Antonio show, a crowd gathered from the Conformation area as we went in the ring, and then applauded loudly as we left the ring, having taken First Place. Had we done something special?

In 2003, Linda began competing with Sheva for the first time. At their first very event, Sheva's score was .5 (one half) below 4th place. They resolved to do better, and took 3rd place at their next event! Then in San Antonio the two of them took 1st place in Novice B, in the same show that Sheva won the previous year.

Meanwhile, I began working with Sheva in AKC Graduate Novice and APDT Rally-O. Sheva got her Rally-O Level 1 title in four shows, with a bust (did the wrong thing, but did it perfectly), two 198's and a perfect 200. She was the first Dane to get her "Magna cum Laude" title, which requires an average of the three qualifying scores over 190. We tried our hand against other Danes for the first time at specialties in Ft. Worth (spring and fall) and won Grad Novice.

In the spring of 2003, it was called to our attention that the GDCA had put up a page with Obedience results for 2002 and MUCH to our surprise, Sheva was listed 3rd for Novice.

Not long after that, someone else brought us "Front & Finish" magazine, where Sheva was listed in the Delaney ratings as the number 2 Obedience Great Dane for 2002, regardless of class. (The Delaney system is based upon how many dogs you beat, not your overall score.)

Sheva finally reached the big stage last October at the GDCA National Specialty in Orlando – and she didn't disappoint. She won Graduate Novice with me and won Novice with Linda, both times beating the dog that was ranked 1st in the Delaney rankings for 2002. Sheva's score in Novice (1961/2) gave her High in Trial, 5 and 1/2 points higher than the HIT score from the previous year (or so we were told), and we brought home a big trophy for the mantle.

Not bad for a little rescue bitch from a backyard breeder, and a couple of rather green handlers. I think we'll keep her.

– Jerry Dunham,

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