Froby: the Great Dane Who Thought He Was A Deer:
Part 1. How It All Began
“I confess I’ve been totally smitten
By a canine vast, not by a kitten.
He was found at the pound
But he’s bound to come round
To our house, when the papers are written.”
I penned this little ditty on July 19, 2011. We had just found the successor to Enkidu, our sensational Portuguese water dog, and were waiting for the animal shelter to deem us worthy of adopting one of their own. It had taken us quite a while to find a dog not thin enough to get between the uprights of our fence, not agile enough to jump over it, and not clever enough to dig his way to freedom under it. I was looking at the animal shelter's website when my eye was caught by a family of Great Danes: a female and her three, seven-month-old puppies. We hied ourselves to the shelter and asked to see the male.
Kobe was named after Kobe Bryant, the basketball player of Extreme Height and Even More Extreme Notoriety for Sexual Misconduct. “I’m not naming our dog after a rapist,” protested Eldest Son Iain, and who was I to argue? We changed his name to Froby after the notorious Sir Martin Frobisher, the man who single-handedly put the “fool” into “fool’s gold” (But that’s a story for another day.) Kobe was duly brought out on a leash and handed to Robin. What a sorry sight! He looked for all the world like an English-style toast rack covered with a harsh, staring coat of black, gray and a rather grubby white. He could have been an illustration from a textbook: ”The Skeletal Structure of a Dog”, for every bone in his body was painfully visible. Great Danes are inveterate leaners, and true to form, Frobe leaned heavily against Robin, while fixing us both with his expressive, golden eyes. "Take me," he implored. “I'll do anything you want if you’ll just take me out of this ghastly dump. All I need is a little TLC, honest! You’ll see, I’ll love you forever, I promise!"
The staff looked us over critically. I was entering the 10th year of my adventure with Parkinson's, and my mobility was sorely compromised. They were obviously wondering how I would cope. I thought about long walks, even runs, such a colossal dog would surely require and wondered too. Was I taking on too much— more than I could handle? Was it fair on the dog? What about my husband—was it fair on him? On the cats? My ruminations were cut short when the staff raised the subject of Wobblers Syndrome. They were pretty sure that our chosen one was developing this malformation of the spine that would lead to partial, then total paralysis of his back legs; that we were probably facing a short life for him, and not a very healthy one at that. They were not at all sanguine about the prospects of finding a better qualified, willing adopter, however, and so it was agreed. Kobe, now Frobe, would come to live with us, and we would all muddle through as best we could.
Froby was willing, even eager, to get into the car. So far, so good; maybe there was less to taming semi-wild dogs than I’d feared. Call me Dog Whisperer . . . Home again, I leaned down almost imperceptibly to reach the leash looped around his neck, with a view to affixing it to his animal shelter-issue collar, I was blown away by the sudden eruption of raw canine power that pulsed through his meager frame. Talk about strong—the leash was ripped from my hands, and our brand new family member disappeared into the tangled, overgrown corner of the yard that none of us had yet ventured into.
We went to bed that night with three questions uppermost in our minds: 1) Is the yard Great Dane-proof; 2) Assuming it is and we still have a dog, How in the world will we begin to make his acquaintance, and 3) What will the good folk at the shelter say when we confess that we lost him already, less than one hour after they gave him into our care?
With these concerns buzzing in my brain, sleep was, to put it mildly, fractured. I had an inkling that I’d need to be well rested come the morrow, so I practiced relaxing exercises and waited, with some apprehension, to discover what the morning would reveal.