Commonplace Thoughts of a Residual Welshman: The Problem with Great Danes

One has a number of problems when one has a Great Dane. I know; I have one.

The obvious one is the constant question, “Are these dogs really Danish?” But that is the least of your problems, even when someone gets more specific and asks, “Why are they called ‘Danes’”?

It’s a good question. Like crêpes, which are essentially just thin, eggy pancakes, it all started with the French. As tension rose between Germany and France in the eighteenth century, the French wisely decided to change the name of the dog from (in archaic and modern English) “German Dogge” or “German Mastiff” to Grand Danois.[1] The idea was, of course, something like, “Well, Holland is near Germany, but Dutch Dogge sounds like Deutsche Dogge, so that won’t work; how about Belgium? No, too far away from Germany. What about Swedish Dogge? No, too far north. What about Denmark? Oui, parfait!”

And so it happened that the Great Dane became Danish. But that is not their problem. Their problem is their size and the lies it causes us to tell. First, people come to you house and they say, “My goodness! Your dog is large!”

Of course you had noticed this. Now all you can do is to reply, “Yes, but he’s nice” or “He’s a gentle giant.” Or you can lie and say, “When I got him from the pound, he was so small and cute. Who knew he would grow so abundantly?” I’ve tried that one, but I was technically lying, because I knew he would grow. His feet were huge.

Another lie you can tell only works sometimes. You can tell the person, “Yes, he’s large, but he’s a teacup Dane.” That usually slows down even the savviest interlocutor.

“A teacup Dane?” he or she will invariably reply.” Really, I had no idea they bred such animals.”

But then that person will take a second look at your dog and add, “It’s awfully large for a teacup Dane.”

To which, on the one hand, you might be forced to respond, if you’re honest, “Well, he’s on the small side for a Dane—and I was only kidding about the ‘teacup’ bit.”

On the other hand, you might be less than honest and simply say, “Well, they weren’t very successful in breeding them small.”

To which, your visitor will respond, “I’ll say they were not. He’s huge.”

The third problem and occasionally worse problem with Danes, of course, is their tail.   It is at precisely the wrong level. Your dog can easily hit your visiting nephew in the eye or face—of course by accident and merely out of exuberance.

The tail also can strike hard objects and bleed; and when it is bleeding it can fling drops of blood everywhere and/or smear blood all over your brand new and expensive wallpaper. Yes, they do that.

Worse yet, the tail can strike your male visitors in the private area and double them over in pain. Yes, that has happened, and in fact happens pretty frequently. It is embarrassing and, if it happens to happen to your boss, it can cost you your annual raise.

Profanity!” the visiting pastor will say who has come over to visit your ailing parent or has shown up for your child’s baptism or confirmation. “Surprising profanity!” Yes, even more than once, because the tail can swing to the same spot twice in rapid succession, even dropping your pastor to one knee in pain. You can yell at the dog all you want but, one must recall, he has the excuse of being Danish and speaking no English, and in any case he did not do it on purpose. It was an accident, just as your red-spot-bespeckled and bestreaked wallpaper was an accident, as your nephew now blind in one eye was an accident. No good yelling at the dog; he speaks no English.

And that is the problem with Great Danes. Their tails and the tales the cause you to tell. And now you know to be wary of both.

[1] Frederick Becker, The Great Dane – Embodying a Full Exposition of the History, Breeding Principles, Education, and Present State of the Breed (2005).



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