That is a seven week old Great Dane. That is my Great Dane on May 21st, 2010. This was taken in the car on the way back from the breeders'. He's adorable, isn't he? He's cute, bratty, a bit mouthy, and can be very loud. He's a puppy alright.
Before I tell you about my Great Dane, I guess it only makes sense to introduce myself a little.
I was that little girl who sat in the dirt and looked for worms. I was the one who had wild robins and pigeons in the house before I ever got my hands on a puppy or kitty. I was the toddler picking horses at the local track, and then tried to out-run them. I was the little kid who told the difference between Asian and African elephants to other zoo guests, and who tried to climb into the pen of the visiting white lion cubs. I was the girl who moved around so often it was like the wind was calling my name. I was the girl who all the other girls hated because I never gained weight, and still don't. I cheer for sports like American football, ice hockey, and UFC. I watch martial art competitions and a slew of cartoons. Batman is my comic book hero, and I don't care if that labels me a geek. I got a bull's eye my first time shooting a bow, and my first time shooting a gun. I've held a bear cub, played with raptors, pet a koala, and rode a camel. I was the little kid who climbed to the top of the jungle-gym and jumped, but caught others when they fell. I've seen the face of death and came close to it more than once, each time I walked away feeling invincible. I'm a gambler, a Dragon Gemini. My family calls me the Pied Piper.
Blackjack is like life, and I'm notorious for winning by an ace.
Two years, one month, and one day ago my faithful dog of eleven years died from bone cancer. The next day I left Indiana for New York, staying there until the end of August. I then went to California until the end of October. I returned to Indiana and started college up again. A week into my semester I signed up to go to Australia. It was during the months I was in Australia, the months seeing people running on the beach with their dogs, that I knew it was time for another dog. Due to a stop in New Zealand, almost a fatal stop, I couldn't get a dog until I got back to the States. My next semester was harrowing. I took all science courses, and with me moving into a new place and my family moving to Florida at the same time, I had to wait for another few months.
While I was waiting, and failing my courses, I looked at Great Dane puppies. Great Danes fitted my more relaxed life. They were big, but did well in an apartment. An added plus was that Bruce Wayne has a Great Dane mix in the Batman Beyond series. That was my goal. I wanted a solid black male. I was going to call him Ace of Jokers, or Ace for short. I quickly saw black Great Danes cost a lot. I only paid $500 for my horse and refused to pay more for a dog. But I never stopped looking.
As the semester came to an end things were...messy. I was having arguments with my family. They were stressed about moving, and I was stressed because I knew I failed the entire semester, something that never happened before. I'm usually an 'A' or 'B' student, despite my hatred for anything academic related. The only good thing about the semester ending was I was told I would get the house after my family moved out. I no longer would be staying in my apartment with the drug dealling-dog fighting neighbors. Perhaps this was a trick my parents used to get me to stay put? It wasn't a secret that I didn't like Indiana. I had been looking for a way out all semester. Regardless, it was after an argument that I bit the bullet and shot an e-mail to a breeder nearby. The response was that the puppy I asked about already had a deposit. I shrugged this off and kept looking.
I never contacted any other breeders. Maybe I somehow knew it was going to be this way? A little over a week later I got another e-mail saying the buyer backed out. I instantly replied. Then came the part where I had to break the news to my mom. I decided not to tell my dad until after I brought the puppy home. I did manage to talk my mom into driving me over, that way I could sit with my new puppy on the ride back. The moment I saw him, and how he carried himself, I knew I'd have my hands full. I couldn't resist that face.
Growing up with a paternal grandmother who used to show/breed German Shepherds, I knew a great deal about the AKC and registered names. I decided months ago that all my dogs would be under the heading: Gambler's. The dog I planned to get, Ace, would be known as Gambler's Ace of Jokers. I had a couple names picked out for my dogs, and a couple picked out if I ever got a special needs one. I wanted Gambler's Luck for a boy, Gambler's Chance for a girl. Luck and Chance didn't fit my new puppy. After I saw him I knew his name. Gambler's Risk.
Did anyone catch that "special needs"? I guess that's a sugar coated way of saying it. I never use that term for him. Risk is deaf. I knew he was deaf before I even asked about him, and his breeders never danced around it. They listed him as deaf right from the start. Risk was born deaf. When you breed two harlequins you have a risk of getting white puppies. White Great Danes are like white Dalmatians, deaf.
When people meet Risk, they have no idea he can't hear their baby-talk. He acts like a puppy. He still gets all excited and throws his weight around for attention. I only say something if it comes up. When I took him to the vet after I got him, I let the techs play with him while I filled out the paperwork. They were trying to get a picture for his profile, but he wouldn't look at the toy they were squeaking above his head. I said something then.
When I took him around the neighborhood for the first time some of the neighbors stopped us to pet him. They asked how training was going. It came up during that conversation since his training is slightly different from other dogs I've worked with. It was surprising that it wasn't drastically different. The most drastic thing was "no". Everyone who has ever had a puppy knows what a powerful and useful word that command is. They know to make your tone hard when you say it so that the puppy gets it. I didn't have tone at my disposal. I, basically, became a dog. "No" was a point of my finger, but to make him understand what that signal meant I threw my own weight around much like pack-mates do. Grabs at the neck, a little shoving, and worst case scenario...the roll.
Risk caught on quickly. He knew his signals by the time he was eight weeks, and he was nearly housebroken. The biggest challenge was his ego. People, like my mother, think that because he's deaf his littermates picked on him. After getting to know my puppy I know that he got himself in trouble because he was attempting to be the dominate dog.
Risk moved into my home, which at the time was changing from my parents' hands to mine. My dad was already in Florida at his new job, but my mom, brother, and their two dogs were still around. My creature, Juno, and two bettas were also in the house. This made things both easy and difficult. Like all babies, Risk didn't sleep through the night yet. That added to being in a new place without his parents and littermates made the first couple nights very rough. It was unhelpful that one of the two dogs, Angel, was dog aggressive. She's also always been skittish. She wasn't happy at being woken up all night by the un-godly noise this puppy made. The helpful part came from my mom. I woke up with Risk all through the night, and I was the one you fed him at 6:00AM, but she would watch him for a couple hours after so I could sleep.
This was only the first couple days. Soon everyone left for Florida, and it was just me, Risk, Juno, and the fish (Rex and Oliver). Often times when Risk woke up in the middle of the night I'd collapse on the living room floor afterwards, just too tired to make it back upstairs. A few times I fell asleep with my back against the wall of his pen. For the first week or so he was so scared about being left alone that you had to sit with him until he fell asleep.
Luckily, he's grown out of that. Putting him in a crate instead of a pen was helpful. The instant I cleaned the crate up and brought it into the house he was housebroken. It was around this point when the rest of my family became aware that I had a puppy, and they started to become aware that he was deaf.
I started getting phone calls from relatives, and I've rarely gotten phone calls from them. They worried that I was alone. They wondered why I wouldn't go out. They wondered why I got a puppy who would turn into a huge dog, and why I got one that couldn't hear.
Let me jump back to me for a second. I am not a drinker or partier. I'm content with hanging out at home either reading, or writing, or watching a movie. I have never been interested in going out to a club; in fact, I have been to clubs and hated it. I'll climb a mountain, but I won't twitch to music I most likely don't even like. For my family to suddenly find it shocking and troubling that I wasn't going out and doing these things was nothing short of stupid.
Secondly, I wasn't exactly alone. My sister lives fifteen minutes away. And if that wasn't good enough, then let me be blunter. I am twenty-two. I am capable of taking care of myself, and I have. I have flown alone when I was ten. I used to fly twice a year when I was eighteen and nineteen. I moved out to California and lived outside of L.A. alone when I was twenty. I flew to Australia and stayed there for three months when I was twenty-one. From there I flew to Tasmania and stayed for over a week, completely alone. I was in New Zealand without any family, and I navigated us around it without trouble. I do extremely well without my family around. I'm more productive and have better grades.
Now, back to my puppy. People wondered why I "tied myself down" with a big, deaf dog. I didn't see it that way, and it is because I knew there would be people who looked at it like that that made me keep it quiet initially. Risk is going to be big, and he can't hear, that's true. To say he tied me down is wrong. The only thing that can tie me down is me.
As I continue to travel through life Risk will be present.