D  e  s  e  r  t     E  x  p  o  s  u  r  e    April 2006


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The Apollos of Dogdom

They don't call Great Danes "great" for nothing, as you can see for yourself this month in Las Cruces.

You already know that the breed of dog known as the Great Dane is big. You also might already know that Great Danes come in a variety of designer colors, including brindle (golden yellow), fawn (yellow-brown, kind of tan), black, harlequin (white with black patches here and there), blue (a beautiful silvery tone) and mantle, a reverse of the harlequin model.

But in addition to that, do you know that carvings on Egyptian tombs, as far back as 3000 BC, depict Great Dane-type dogs, which were used for fighting bears and boars, and for hunting?

Gem and Batiste show what
makes Great Danes great.

Or that before refrigeration was invented, Great Danes were employed extensively in Germany and the northern United States by butchers and meat markets to haul wagons and sleds of meat from a central location to various retail meat outlets?

Perhaps you know that Great Danes were also used by circuses when big cats such as lions were being trained. Since Great Danes are bred for loyalty, spirit and courage, it is said that whenever one of the disgruntled felines would go after a trainer, the dog would intervene, thus allowing the trainer a few more minutes to head for safety.

What you also may not know is that there is a regional chapter of the Great Dane Club of America (GDCA) that serves Las Cruces and El Paso, and that Beverly Hale is one of its board of directors.

Hale, who was until a few years ago was a communications technician for Bell Telephone, is now a masseuse who lives and practices in El Paso. She moved to El Paso after working for many years in Michigan, and has not looked back.

Hale herself owns two of the four-legged gentle giants. "Gem is a female and about eight years old, and Batiste is a young male who is three years old. He weighs 150 pounds, and Gem weighs about 125," she says. (The largest Great Dane known to lovers of the breed stood 41 inches tall and weighed nearly 250 pounds.)

"The first male that I had died, and Gem hated the new pup (Batiste) when I brought him home," Hale adds. "But he finally sparked her up, and now they are play buddies."

She is not sure what first piqued her interest in the breed. "I once saw a picture of a spotted Great Dane, and it just went from there. I read that they make wonderful companions, and that they were good with children. When I bought the first one, I didn't know anything about them, and I emailed the Great Dane Club of America (GDCA), which put me in touch with the El Paso chapter."

Once a favorite of "Buffalo Bill" Cody, Great Danes (which have nothing to do with Denmark) were declared the national dog of Germany more than 125 years ago. (Take that, Dachshund owners!) Back in 1592, it's noted, the Duke of Braunschweig showed up for a boar hunt with his pack of 600 male Great Danes.

The breed's noble appearance has given it the tag of "Apollo of Dogdom."

The GDCA itself has been around since 1889, and has used a lot of that time to come up with a number of strict standards that are used for the showing of Great Danes. One of these rules works to Hale's disadvantage, since one of her canines has been spayed. Another "flaw" is a gentle underbite that one of them has, which only an eagle-eyed judge would be able to catch.

"But I can show them in obedience shows," Hale says.

Competitive dogs should not show timidity or poor bone development or be out of condition. Males should not be shorter than 30 inches tall at the shoulder, although 32 is preferred, while females should not be higher than 30, but 28 inches is okay. The animal is also judged on its gait and its overall appearance from nose to tail.

A common trait of the breed is two different color eyes, and this is acceptable, but not preferred, according to Hale.

But if your beloved Dane has a split nose or is an albino, don't bother to try and enter it in a show, since those are automatic disqualifications.

The Great Dane Club of El Paso, which was the first Great Dane club in Texas, was founded in 1963. The organization will host its annual show later this month, April 22-23, in Apodaca Park in Las Cruces.

"Last year we had about 60 entries from all over," Hale says. "Some came from Arizona, others from Colorado, California and Texas. Judges for Great Dane shows specialize in the breed, and the purpose of the show is to better the breed."

Hale says that the club's monthly meetings also feature speakers, "and we are trying to become more visible in the community. Therapy dogs are being taken to hospitals, convalescent homes and such."

Sadly, due to the size of Great Danes, their lifespan tends to be short, generally only about seven to 10 years.

The Great Dane Club of El Paso Specialty Show, Sweepstakes, Obedience and Rally Trials will take place on April 22-23 in Las Cruces' Apodaca Park, beginning at 9 a.m. For more information, contact Beverly Hale at (915) 581-3555 or Monica Olbrisch at (915) 581-9491.

But on the plus side, Hale says, "They are fairly easy to train, and in the middle of the pack, so to speak, intelligence-wise. They are also very good with children."

They might also increase your mortgage payments, however. You might think that these big pooches would be itching to be outside with lots of room to roam. In fact, though, except for exercise and playtime, Great Danes often prefer to be inside with their owners. Just watch where you are going—and consider adding an extra room for the dog.

Frequent contributor Jeff Berg lives in Las Cruces.
His bark is worse than his bite.


Read More Tumbleweeds:

He Wrote the Book
What's Wrong with the Dems?
Short Takes
Top 10


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