DaDane of DaWeek

 Created: 05/16/05


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May 16, 2005 – I am convinced that losing a Great Dane is different from losing any other type of dog. It just is. Those who have truly loved – and lost – a cherished Dane will know exactly what I mean. Besides their large size, Danes have a large personality. They occupy a large place in our families and a large place in our hearts. Of course they aren't human, but somehow they are more than dog. Their spirit dwells beyond the realm of mere canine.

Thursday evening we said goodbye to Merlin. After feasting on his favorite treats and enjoying the comfort of many hugs and kisses, he slipped away quietly while resting on a blanket in the front yard surrounded by the people who loved him most.

Merlin, son of BIS, BISS CH Amherst-Harlwood Bubba Rondo and CH Amherst-Harlwood Gabrielle, was ten and a half years old. He was never sick a day in his life; in fact, he outlasted all of his littermates. Since the beginning of the year, Merlin had been coping with degenerative lumbosacral stenosis (cauda equina syndrome), a progressive narrowing of the vertebral canal that puts unnatural pressure on the spinal cord, resulting in nerve injury. Merlin's symptoms were mild at first – some weakness in the rear quarters, an odd gait, poor coordination and occasional incontinence. Surgery was not an option so we managed him as best we could with oral medication and intra-muscular injections. His condition gradually but steadily deteriorated and he began falling down from time to time. He had his good days and his bad days; still, he remained cheerful and reasonably mobile.

Things changed last week. Merlin was falling often, and when he fell, he needed help to get back up. When he was outside, he'd stand quietly with a blank look on his face, as if he was trying to motivate himself to move around the yard. He was losing control of his bowels and sometimes he would fall right into his stool as he was trying to squat. Other times, day or night, he would soil himself without even realizing it. In the house, when he was lying on his bed, Merlin seemed perfectly fine, but clearly the burden of his crippled body was taking its toll. Although he was not suffering overtly, his quality of life was quickly deteriorating, and one unsupervised fall might result in a painful emergency. Tearfully, I realized the time had come to release Merlin from his physical prison.

To make things easier for Merlin, our wonderful veterinarian (Nori Warren) and her husband (Will) offered to come out to the house. Nori and Will had kept Merlin at their home last summer while we were in Asia, and they were like his second set of parents. With Nori's sensitivity and expertise, Merlin's passing was amazingly gentle and peaceful. I like to think Merlin was met on the other side by Jabber, his beloved littermate who left us three years ago. They were best friends. Merlin had never stopped missing (and looking for) Jabber.

Our house is empty of dogs now. More importantly, it is empty of the two Great Danes who I loved beyond reason. Things will never be the same without them, but hopefully a day will come when our house seems less empty because it is filled with happy memories, and perhaps, a new family member. For now, I am simply trying to manage my grief and adjust to the loss. I realize (all too well) that this is a natural part of the process of loving and losing a Great Dane. I'm not alone. We all go through it.

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