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  • Writer's pictureDesi

Nova: A Great Dane Story


May is National Pet Month, so it's only right that I shine a spotlight on Nova, our Great Dane.

Nova was a semi unplanned dog we decided to get, well that I decided to get. J can say he loves her more all he wants but we all know I brought her into our lives.

I'd had always been an animal person. I grew up in a home filled with dogs, cats, fish, and even a bunny at one point. I didn't know much about how much actually goes into taking care of them back then, especially the bunny, but I love animals nonetheless and now, I do my research. When I had my kids, there was no doubt in my mind that I wanted the same kind of experience for them; to have a pet and learn to love and care for an animal early on.

When we moved into our house I wanted to wait at least a year before we brought an animal in the house. That WAS the plan that was discussed. Pero, life happens. Haha.

When J and I started dating he would always say he wanted a Great Dane, I was the one that was skeptical because hello, HUGE dog, TINY person. I couldn't even imagine my 5'3 self maintaining a dog that would grow half my size. Let alone eat my weight in dog kibble. But after having the kids I started my research on the breed. I always like going for the different and rare breeds I see around me. And I'm not big on the smaller breeds. I had a beagle before and even he was a handful. I'm pretty sure I was the only Latina in little village with a beagle. Haha. My theory is the more rare the breed in the neighborhood the more likely I am to find it if it were ever to get stolen or even runaway. I never really tested my theory though. No shade being thrown but in little village there are lots of Pitbull's and chihuahuas and small dogs. My beagle stood out. So I have the same mindset with a Great Dane in mind and where we live now.

They really are gentle giants and can be very protective of their family unit. I think the only major downfall of the breed is their unfortunate short life span, they live to be 7 to 10 years old. They are also prone to health issues such as bloat, a number one cause of death in larger breeds as well as hip dysplasia and joint issues. The bigger the breed the larger the bones, larger bones require lots of maintenance. The breed really grew on me over the years and as I kept reading about them and watching videos, I fell more and more in love with them. When we moved it was on my mind to get a Great Dane from a breeder, which I knew would be a bit pricey but hey you're gonna spend a pretty penny on a healthy dog especially if it has a shorter life span than others. I looked up breeders and found one not too far from Chicago, only I was put on a waitlist. Which I was okay with, it's not like I had 1,800 dollars lying around, especially after buying a house.

Then in November of 2020 we all caught the Covid and let me tell you, it wasn't the greatest of experiences. (That story is for another post). So we caught Covid and I started to open myself up more to the universe. Trusting that everything will go as it should and it did. (Again, another story for another post) Everyone came out of it healthy and able to appreciate life a little bit more. I, still had a Great Dane on my mind, even more so because quarantining got lonely sometimes. In December, I stumbled upon another breeder whose dame had just had puppies and she had about 3 or 4 left and had them reasonably priced. She wasn't as well known as the other breeder I had found, but she was very well informed and professional with the breed and the process of breeding as well as taking care of dogs in general. I will admit I was a bit iffy at first. The internet makes you want to believe everything.

Nova's Blue BrIndle Merle Coat
Nova's First Photo

When I got in contact with her I asked if she had a blue pup available, she didn't, but she did have a blue brindle merle female available. If you are unfamiliar with the types of coats Great Danes can have, blue is a silver gray color, brindle is a brown tiger stripes type of coat, and merle is more of a speckled spots everywhere then there is harlequin, which is more white with larger black spots all over. The rarest color being white, which I found out was a vulnerable color in the sense that usually all white Great Danes have health issues or health defects. The breeder showed me a picture and I fell in love instantly. She gave me the price and told me what the deposit would be and I felt like I had just hit the lottery. She was affordable! I wanted that little puppy immediately. However, I had a family to feed, haha, and I knew this wasn't a decision I was going to make on my own. I had talked to my sister about how to go about getting a puppy from a breeder, she had some experience in this area, she told me what to look for, what to ask, what to make sure the breeder provided, etc. I even asked her if she thought that the price was too high or too low for the breed. After going back and forth about it with myself, I had to tell J. Yes, TELL, not ask. Haha. I told him her price and showed him pictures. I told him that she would be ready to bring home in January. He was very hesitant. I mean who wouldn't be, it was like having another child and we had just gotten over a very traumatic experience with Covid for goodness sake and I wanted to add on another headache?! Yes... Yes I did. Haha! Animals to me, aid with healing, and we all needed something that would make us feel loved when we came into the house.

It took some convincing, and I don't even think he was fully convinced to get her when I made the deposit for her. I was excited and a little nervous, I technically was making this big decision in getting a freaking Great Dane!

As the weeks went by, J and I discussed more and more what we needed to get to accommodate this dog that would quickly become a mini horse; gates, crates, puppy pads, the right nutrition, vet visits etc. I'm not going to lie at one point I felt as though I was in way over my head and wanted to back out. The pressure was feeling a bit much and seeing J still not on board made me nervous. I was afraid it was going to be me and the dog living outside. Haha! Just kidding. We slowly got it together and as her "Gotcha Day" came closer and closer I felt more and more comfortable getting excited. The breeder was about an hour out of Chicago and wanted to meet up at a designated spot. Mind you, this was still Covid at it's peak season and no vaccines yet and I could understand her wanting to be more careful about who she lets in her house. J was skeptical of this we both were really, but he stayed on guard in case we ended up getting scammed. He really hoped we weren't getting scammed. Haha.

Gotcha Day! 1.16.21

When we finally met with the breeder, she had come in a car filled with about 4 or 5 puppies. J and I looked at each other and kind of gave each other a "What the heck!" kind of look. She was very nice though and handed me the precious big little blue brindle merle puppy and we gave her the rest of what we owed in exchange. She was kind enough to have all of her paperwork and previous vet visits in one folder and explained everything to us as well as discussed dog food and transitioning from one brand to another and such. She let us pick out our own collar for her and informed us that we would most likely need a new one in the coming weeks. After we said our goodbyes, we were on our way home. I will admit she smelled like a litter of puppies. She definitely needed a bath. Once we got in the car, J took one look at her and immediately said, "Oh wow, she is actually a beautiful dog."

And the rest is history.

Just kidding.


We had decided not to tell the kids about it at all and when we got home we had J's mom and them meet us in the living room and we brought her inside. She was terrified, and ran between the couch and the wall and sat there as though if she stood still enough we wouldn't notice her. She was only 8 weeks old when we got her but she looked like a 3 month old golden retriever in height. We let the kids introduce themselves to her and then we went straight to our local Pet Supplies Plus store to get her bathed and smelling good.

Her naming process came a little easy. Before when we saw pictures and videos of her I had thought of a couple of names but I wanted to wait to see her personality and see what stuck. At first I thought of naming her Stormi (because I'm a KarJenner fan), we even thought about the name Lola, (I've always loved the name) but after going through a spiritual thing myself and felt as though I manifested her into our lives we decided she was definitely a Nova. A name which has a soul surge number of 7, which represents "spiritual victory" and a quest for higher truth. And seeing that she was a Great Dane, a powerful breed, she needed a name just as powerful.



At first all she wanted to do was sleep. Only getting up to poop, pee and eat. The kids were always crowding her space, wanting to play with her but also loved finding her in different sleeping positions. Our first night with her was.... well... not the best. We wanted her to be crate trained but once we put her in the crate she immediately started crying and barking, of course. That's to be expected. I reminded J that this was all part of the process but he felt bad. 1. He didn't want to hear her bark all night and 2. He felt bad that she was in the crate. So he suggested taking her out and letting her sleep on her bed in our room. MISTAKE! And here's why, now I'm no dog trainer but I know that puppies, like babies need a routine, they won't like it or understand it at first but they will adjust, But she slept with us in the room on her own bed that first night. The next night we were more mindful of where she slept for naps and such, trying to get her to adjust to sleeping in her crate but she always found a way to not be in the crate and we tried to put her in the crate again for bed. She had, had some accidents through the night and was always missing the pee pads by a little and stinking up the joint after her poops. Every time I would put her in the crate and she immediately started to cry. There were times where I would literally have to sit next to her crate until she felt comfortable and fell asleep and I would sneak out of the room. Sometimes she would hear me leave and then start to whimper. It really was like having a newborn all over again. Sometimes she slept through but then would cry when it was time for her to go out. It took us a while to get it together and I tried my hardest to get up before she would, setting alarms for every 3 hours or so. I had read that however many months a dog is, is how long they could go without using the bathroom, She was 2 months therefore I was up about every 2.5 hours or so, to take her out and get her adjusted to the fact that, "No you aren't going to wake me up to pee, I'm going to wake you up and you're going to adjust to that." It was the middle of January, in Chicago when we got her, so you can imagine my struggle to wake up and take her outside.

Here's an "aww" moment. I read somewhere that puppies like humans have favorite past times. When we got her it was snowy and we even had a snowstorm that kept us all home, so we spent a lot of our time with her watching her run around in the snow. She would love it! It didn't dawn on me until this past winter, as big as she is now, she still loves playing in the snow! And it made me think "awww she remembers doing this when she was 8 weeks old! She thinks she's a small puppy again!"


Back to the potty training, it took a while but she got it with less and less accidents happening through the night and through the day as well. We put bells on the doorknobs so she could let us know she needed to go out and it worked for a while until she started to chew it up. Puppy teething is no joke! After a while she got the hang of simply pawing at the door when she needed to go or simply let out a little groan or a little bark while at the door. Potty training was pretty hard but we all got it down after a while. She still wasn't adjusted to her crate at all. I think that is one issue we still kind of have with her. She just doesn't like being in the crate. We've taken the tips of making that her safe space, got her beds, the kids have given her blankets, we would leave the door open so she can go in and out as she pleased during the day. But as soon as that crate door closed and we would walk out of the room she acts as though we are leaving her for dead. Haha.

We tried so many things to try to keep her calm in the crate, we even bought Adaptil, a plug-in diffuser that had a natural scent that helped calm dogs with anxiety, that worked temporarily. We gave her toys to occupy herself and again, it worked temporarily. We ended up getting her a bark collar that goes off based on how excessive she barks. First couple of barks is a beep warning, next couple of barks is a beep and a vibration, and excessive barking is a beep, vibration and a shock. As cruel as it may sound it has been our saving grace. We do only put it on her while she is in the crate and take it off once she is out. And she's come to understand when the collar is on she shouldn't bark and that ultimately she's in control of it. And she has found ways around it, she will sometimes just whimper loudly letting out small barks so as not to trigger the vibration or shock. She still has her bouts of barking and we do wonder if it is working but we then we realize sometimes it just needs to be charged. Womp. We wish we were able to keep her out of the crate when no one is home but she has shown us that she can't be trusted alone. She's a chewer. And seemingly only a chewer of mine and Amira's things. I don't understand why, haha, she's a jerk for that.

The other thing that we still are working on with her is the leash pulling. She get's so excited to go for walks that she thinks that she can just run out. Picture that, a 100 lb. dog pulling a small person like me down the stairs. Actually I take that back, she knows I don't give her that much leeway to do that. She pulls J down the stairs and down the street. Yes, a 100 lb. puppy, (she's still only a year old) pulls a 180 lb. man down the street. We always get the classic, "Who's walking who?" question. I think with a little more practice and being more stern with her while on walks she will be just fine. Again, Routine! Routine! Routine!



Life with a Great Dane has definitely been interesting. If you are an extrovert like J, you will enjoy the random small talk from people while on the street during walks. Lots of people steer away from Nova because she is so big but we still get those who look and ask from afar. She comes to Adams baseball games every now and then, which tires her out. She enjoys running at the dog park we found near us. With summer coming, we look forward to taking her to the dog beach up north, we just need to work more on our leashing handling with her. Every time we take her for a walk we get compliments on her coat and how gorgeous she is. As an introvert I'm not a fan of the attention but J loves to talk about her. Yes, the man that I had to do a lot of convincing to is the one who brags about her the most, he bought her a subscription to bark box, and still buys her treats any chance he gets. Me, I love her too, of course. She knows I'm the one she needs to listen to and very much loves my attention. She's very protective of us and the kids. The kids especially.

Her first Halloween with us, we took her trick or treating and despite all the attention she was getting from people passing, if the kids weren't in her view she was not paying attention to anything going on around her, she was only looking for the kids. She'll get antsy if Adam runs too far away and she lets Amira climb on top of her when she's lying down. We tell her not to but she still manages to climb on her and Nova will just lay there or get up abruptly which makes Amira laugh because she flies off of her. Nova really is a gentle giant when it comes to people, however, I will say that she doesn't know her own strength and thinks she's this small dog, unaware that her tail alone can hurt when she wags it. As big as she is though, she is scared of the most random things, for example she's scared of measuring tape, and anything we can push back and forth (the mop, the vacuum etc.) she's even scared of la llorona (the mexican folklore of the crying woman). haha. Long story short, we tried to scare the kids with La Llorona sounds and cries on our Bluetooth speaker and we ended up scaring both the kids and Nova on top of that. She ran out of their room and ran behind the chair that I was sitting on and didn't move for like five minutes. It was the funniest thing.

There's no doubt we had to throw her a special birthday party for her first birthday! Her birthday is two days before mine and we were excited to get things such as a cake and decorations for her. We celebrated it at home with a doggy cake and even bought her gifts to open. One was the month's barkbox that we put aside for her to open on her birthday. We did the same for her first christmas as well.

There are so many funny stories to tell and informative stories to tell about Nova that I can't just put it all in one post. Just this morning, Amira played a prank on her grandpa, she heard him come upstairs and quickly hid under the bed saying, "Shh pretend we're sleeping!" and Nova who was standing on top of the bed quickly laid down at the foot of the bed as though she understood the assignment. It was pretty funny.


Maybe I'll create a series for her, update posts on how she is doing and the funny things she's done. Something similar to John Grogan's Book Marley & Me. I'm sure I can whip up more stories to tell in detail about Nova.

Be on the look out for it!



Is there anything you want to hear from me as far as being a Great Danes human? Let me know in the comments! Share you're puppy stories with me too! I'd love to hear from you guys!



XoXo

-Desi

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