Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Sunday was Dane Day at the Ruff House Dog Park

Listen to the full audio here.

More photos available here!

Photos by John Garcia

On April 10th at the Ruff House Dog Park twenty-five Great Danes convened for a group photo to commemorate Dane Day at the Park. The park is located within Rockwood Park at 3201 Courthouse Road in Chesterfield County. Dane Day at the Park is held every 2nd Sunday of the month with special events like group photo day and rescue group day being held on select Sundays throughout the year.

The event is open to the public and attendees were encouraged to bring their non-Dane four legged friends. Regional Great Dane Rescue organizations were also invited to bring information on available Danes in the area.

India Lipton, Dane Day creator/organizer and Ruff House volunteer, said she started the group when she, and Ruff House volunteer Shirley Lesser got their first Great Dane puppy, Charlton.

"We kind of didn't know what we were doing, and we were hoping there were a whole bunch people that could help us out, and teach us how to deal with a Great Dane, because they are a little different, obviously," she said. "I said well can we get a meet up going, and there wasn't really a big meet up like this, so I created it."

Lipton said it's also about public awareness of the breed. She said the group gives people an opportunity to see for themselves what Great Danes are like in person and to talk with people who actually have them.

Lesser said Ruff House dog park is a great example of a partnership between a private group and the county and believes it's a very good model for other area parks to follow.

"We have a fair number of young dogs in there today so the energy is a little higher the normal, but that's because puppies are puppies whether they're 120 pounds or 2 pounds," she said.

(above: Miniature Pincher Tori)

She said many people who get this breed of dog as puppies don't always realize the responsibility required with a large dog.

"You hear they are gentle giants, and they absolutely are, but giant is the big word, so they are big dogs, and so what is appropriate for a small dog to do, is not appropriate for a 150 lb dog," she said.

Mike and Trish, owners of Miniature Pincher Tori, said they didn't realize it was Dane Day. They said generally a wide range of dogs are playing at the park, including one or two Danes, when they come on the weekends.

"I think she thinks she is as big as they are, and usually they are a little bit more intimidated by her energy, then she is of them," she said.

Mike said Tori doesn't know she is only eight pounds, and speculated the Danes would probably eat as much as she weighs.

Sue Raynor said she brought her Great Dane Hero out for exercise and both human and canine contact.

"He gets a little timid around smaller dogs because they sort of dart in and out of his legs, they’re not as predictable, but he loves people and dogs equally, he’s very socialized, and any kind of dog he seeks out," she said.

She said he likes to talk and he doesn't like other dogs to fight. She said he likes to police them, and truly lives up to his name, even though, as his coat indicates, the odds are against him.

"This is a blue merle, the way it's explained to me is that in the mother's womb the harlequin mix gets a little messed up, it’s kind of the muddy part, so this is a breed that is not recognized by the AKC," she said. "A long time ago they used to eliminate these dogs, now they are becoming more and more acceptable, but at the same time this is not a color that is supposed to be bred because there’s all kinds of issues with it."

Raynor said Hero has stenosis which means his spinal column is too small of for his spinal cord. She also said blue merle's are susceptible to deafness and blindness.

"That's why he's wobbly, shaky, and that’s a part of being a blue merle," she said. "We’re very lucky it’s a slight case of it, and he does acupuncture and all kinds of things to control it."

(above: Sue Raynor with Hero)

Kimberly Garcia is the owner of two Great Danes. She said her dogs represent two different standard coats, the two year old female named Daisy is fawn, and the eight month old male named Diesel is a mantle.

"It's interesting, where I go, they go, we don't leave them alone, bestest friends in the whole world, they're just couch potatoes,” she said. “Just as good with my kids and everyone else kids, they take care of their owners, just good dogs, all the way around."

She said she is still training and there is a multitude of information available from the various organizations represented at Dane Day.

"I talked to Scotty Hammer with MAGDRL (Mid-Atlantic Great Dane Rescue League)," she said. "There's a lot of other owners here where every time you come you can learn something from them, if you don't know something, there’s a lot of information from them as far as training, obedience, even all the way down to feeding them."

Fourteen year-old Great Dane owner Bryce Lewandoskey said he first got interested in the breed after watching a movie, and that his one year old mantle Marley sleeps for the greater part of the day.

"We found out about Great Danes and were interested in them from of Seven Pounds with Will Smith," he said.

Mary E. Archer, editor-in-chief of, said she came to Dane Day to gather images and information for the website which features a blog, an event calendar people can submit to, and tries to give twenty-five percent of their profits back to the pet community.

"We also have a directory that lists everything that is pet friendly, or pet businesses, services and organizations in the Richmond area," she said.

Rebecca Rogers, Ruff House Dog Park President said the dog park has been making an effort to reach members of the community via online resources like their website, facebook, twitter, an rss feed, and with email notifications to help keep them informed about what's happening at the park.

"We have more members getting involved, we just had our last workday last week, and we are really improving the park, and making it a better place for dogs and the community," she said.

Ellen Reiser, Webmaster for Ruff House Dog Park said they have created a YouTube channel so people can upload videos of dogs playing at the park, which helps promote the park to local pet-owners and prospective visitors.

"Our events last year were the most successful ever, we finally started raising some money at our fundraisers, which makes a big difference at what we are actually able do in the park," she said.

-Sarah A. Freiseis

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