FREEPORT, Fla. — When Alaqua Animal Refuge staff mobilized to rescue scores of Great Danes this time last year, it was all hands and paws on deck.
“We called it Hurricane Danes,” Alaqua Founder Laurie Hood said.
The call came from Walton County Animal Control when a man who bred the dogs on his property fell ill and could no longer care for them. There were 103 Great Danes, one of the biggest rescues Alaqua has had.
The dogs were in fair condition, Hood said, but there was not enough space to accommodate them at the man’s home. And there was only just enough at the refuge.
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“It took a lot of creativity,” Hood said. “Not only was it a lot of dogs, but they were big dogs. Our facility only holds 30 dogs.”
When news spread — not to mention all of the cute puppy photos — Alaqua was flooded with calls and emails from people all over the world hoping to adopt a Great Dane puppy.
“We literally got thousands of calls,” she said. “Our website actually froze on two different occasions.”
Less than a year later, all but two of the Great Danes have been adopted. Two have been brought back because they did not get along well with other dogs, Hood said.
Looking back at the case, Hood said it was just another reminder of how hard Alaqua staff and volunteers work. It wasn’t long after the Great Danes were rescued that Alaqua was called to another case.
“I pretty much learned our team rocks,” Hood said.
And when it comes to “furever” homes, adopting a pet is better than purchasing one, Hood said.
Here are three success stories from the Great Dane rescue.
The anniversary gift
When Ron Bogaski asked his wife Angela what she wanted for their 25th anniversary last year, she simply said “a Great Dane.”
“I read about them in the paper and asked my husband, ‘Can we just go out there?'” she said.
Like any smart husband, Ron agreed and told his wife they could fill out an adoption application. Not too long later, they were staying a Beau Rivage, a casino and resort in Biloxi, Mississippi, when they got a call saying they were approved. They went to Alaqua to take home one of the dogs. Bogaski told the staff she didn’t have a preference.
“I told them I didn’t care, but they brought out the perfect one,” she said.
They named him Beau, after the spot where they got the good news. Beau went through four months of training to acclimate to his new home and family, which includes a Chihuahua and Boston terrier.
“Now we have small, medium and and an extra-large dog,” Bogaski said. “Beau is probably the most outgoing of them all.”
Beau loves to play with kids. His favorite pastime is playing with bubbles with Bogaski’s granddaughter, Ellie. He’s spoiled with treats of pumpkin and yogurt.
“He’s just a big sweetheart,” she added. “He’s part of the family.”
As the Bogaskis get ready to celebrate another year of marriage Oct. 20, they’ll also celebrate Beau’s birthday.
“I’m just so glad Laurie and Taylor (Hood) do what they do,” Bogaski said. “These dogs need someone to take them home.”
From Journey to Junebug
Kelly Horton said she always wanted a Great Dane.
When she saw that Alaqua had an abundance of them, she knew it was the perfect time to add the breed to her brood.
“I did a site visit and they showed me a picture. … I just thought she was stunning,” Horton said.
Junebug — previously named Journey — was different from some of the others because she showed some confidence. Horton believed she would fit in well at home with her dogs. She also has a border collie named Cosmo, a black lab named Bee and a schnoodle named Leroy.
In the past year, Junebug has adapted well to her new home.
“It was a great fit. She goes to work with me every day,” Horton said. “She’s a copycat. At first she was scared to death of water, but started to follow the lab in the water. Now, she loves to retrieve like the border collie. It’s been a really cool experience.”
Horton advises that anyone interested in adopting a Great Dane should be prepared for the extra workload. They require more attention and exercise than typical house dogs.
“It is a lot. The food bowls are bigger. The leashes are bigger. Most of all, the poop is bigger,” she said with a laugh. “But her love is bigger, too.”
‘Always room for one more’
Alissa Parsons already had two Great Danes at home when she decided to adopt Elsa.
“I had it in my mind that I would adopt one of the older ones, I really wasn’t committed to a puppy,” she said.
But Parsons had no choice when she met 8-month-old Elsa and her heterochromatic eyes.
Parsons, who works at Alaqua as an animal technician, was part of the crew that rescued the Great Danes. Because there were so many, it had to be done in shifts. Elsa was one of the last dogs pulled from the house.
“Every time we went to the property, she was out there,” Parsons said. “There was something about her. … She kind of chose me.”
At home, Parsons already has two older Great Danes, Ginger and House. She obviously has a thing for the breed.
“As funny as it sounds, there’s always room for one more,” she said with a laugh. “But I think four might be my limit.”
Three Great Danes means extra food, extra playtime and extra cleanup. But it’s worth it. Parson’s captures their everyday life on an Instagram account called elsagingerhouse.
Working at the refuge during the time of the great, Great Dane case was like “heaven and hell met together,” Parsons said.
“They were so big and there were so many of them,” she said. “The best part was seeing the connections made between human and animals.
“And not only did I get to see it happen, but I got to experience it.”
Information from: Northwest Florida Daily News (Fort Walton Beach, Fla.), http://www.nwfdailynews.com