Great Danes are my favorite dogs. Ever since I was a baby, our family had Danes. My mom even has an old photo of me riding our first like a pony in our small back yard in Southwest Portland, Oregon. While living overseas in some places like highrise Hong Kong, having a dog presented too many problems. But upon returning to the states, I really wanted to have man’s best friend as part of the household. My roommates were enthusiastic about my proposal. “I’ll just get a little dog,” I lied, fully intending to follow up on a newspaper ad for a two-year-old fawn male Great Dane.
He was huge, even by Great Dane standards. He was just too much for the older couple in Yerington, Nevada who got him as a cute little puppy. They had named him Chief – one of those pretentious names that people regularly assign to big dogs. Thor, Viking, and Hägar are also popular choices. Anyway, I managed to squeeze him into the backseat of my Volvo sedan, and we were off to Tahoe. We didn’t make it out of the driveway before he decided that he wanted to ride shotgun. So, somehow he managed to get all 175 pounds through the gap in the bucket seats, and plopped himself down with his doggie butt on the seat and his big front paws on the floor. I opened his side window, and he happily rode all the way up to the lake with his enormous jowls flapping in the wind.
He was an immediate hit at home after the shock wore off. Although expecting a Chihuahua or maybe a miniature Schnauzer, or the like, the guys took to him right away. Great Danes are so friendly and affable that they can even win over cat people in no time. We renamed him Scoobie in honor of the cartoon character who was obviously created by someone who had experience living with Great Danes and knew their antics.
It took a bit of adjustment having Scoobie around the condo. The first evening was the start of the doggie learning curve for Dale and Mike, my roommates. Right off the bat, Dale put the chicken salad a bit too close to the edge of the table. Scoobie, standing on all fours on the carpet, was helping himself when Dale rescued our dinner. They got with it soon enough, and kept food items out of range ... although we did lose a stick of butter by accident shortly thereafter. Later that evening, I stumbled into the kitchen in the dark to get some water, and thinking it was Scoobie standing there, I began to pet the ironing board.
What is it with dogs and couches? All dogs have this idea that sofas are dog beds. Scoobie was no exception. I gave up early on every effort to keep him off the furniture. We agreed on a truce... The rule: Whoever was there first got to stay on the couch and had to share. But, somehow, Scoobie always seemed to manage to squeeze intruders off “his” sofa. One evening, a friend was visiting from down in Reno. He had had a few too many, and we all insisted that he not even think of trying to navigate the switchbacks down the mountainside, throwing him some blankets and a pillow. He took the couch, and Scoobie – nose out of joint – camped on the floor. That, obviously, didn’t last long. In the morning we found them entwined on the couch. “Well,” Izzy announced matter-of-factly at breakfast, “if I’m pregnant, it’s Scoobie’s fault!”
We were living in a condo complex of about forty units walking distance from Diamond Peak Ski Resort. Winter weekends were filled with ski crowd types and snowboarders from Sacramento and the Bay area. But the days were quiet, as most of the units remained empty. Those of us who lived there fulltime were mostly merchants who ran the ski shops, restaurants, and – in our case – the art galleries and gift shops. We all did a bang-up business on weekends, and usually met together on Monday mornings for a kaffeeklatsche at the little Korean-run doughnut shop. Life was slow and easy. Most of the multimillion dollar homes and condos were empty. They were get-away trophies of the very wealthy, from places like Florida, Texas, and Southern California. Those folks would usually roll in around early June and sped the summer. However, some Hollywood types would hang out (or should I say “hide out?”) incognito at any unspecified time. We all knew them and gave them the privacy that they really needed.
I did try to bring Scoobie to work at the art gallery a few times; but, although he was quite an attraction, he had to sniff all the customers, which was at times a bit embarrassing. But he insisted on lying right in front of the door, and we finally agreed that a furry 175-pound doorstop was just not all that good for business. So he stayed home, and stood guard during the days, and slept on his couch at night.
Mornings were easy, as I never needed an alarm clock. That huge, black, wet nose and those prickly whiskers in the face at 6 a.m. usually did the trick. There was no argument ... the doggie needed to go out. All I had to do was throw open the front door and stand back. He would shoot out, lope across the asphalt drive and into the pines across the way. He was always back before the coffee was done percolating – especially on cold snowy mornings. One nice October day he was taking longer than usual, so I went out and gave him a shout. To my surprise, out of the corner of my eye I saw a light brown flash way down the driveway to my right. “What’s he doing way down there?” I thought, and whistled for him. In a second, he bounded out of the woods on my left! “How did he do that?” I wondered in complete bewilderment. "That’s impossible." I looked back up the drive, to the right again. Then I saw the deer. I guess that’s why light brown Great Danes are called fawns.
Normally, Scoobie would scratch and thump on the door to get back in out of the cold, but on another occasion he was gone for way longer than usual when a knock came at the door. There was Scoobie with our neighbor from up the hill, Leonard Nimoy, in tow. “He wanted to jog with me!” was his typical understated comment. He knew Scoobie by name, as did pretty much everybody in town. So I guess he had become a mini celebrity groupie on his own after all – running mate to the stars!