Being Beautiful: The enduring love of a gentle giant, kisses and all

I have often wondered what goes through her mind when she curls herself into a big ball on the sofa and sleeps, and she does this a lot. Occasionally she has what the old folks might have called “runners” when she moves her feet and “talks” in her sleep. I always wonder what she is chasing and if she caught it.

Great Danes are referred to as gentle giants. I remember bringing her home for the first time and holding her close in my arms. There is nothing in life as hypnotic as puppy breath. Even at 8 weeks old her imposing head with floppy ears and dangling legs made my heart swell as I fell in love with every inch of my Naomi. We told the breeder that we didn’t want her ears clipped or her tail cropped. Let her be just as God intended.

She grew rapidly, an understatement. Her veterinarian says she is the largest female Dane he has ever seen and a model of the breed. I had never known a Great Dane so all of this was foreign to me. Chris thought he had a Great Dane as a child and remembers it fondly, but now he knows it must have been a mixed breed, not nearly as large as Miss Naomi. By month six, things went missing from the counters—an empty shampoo bottle, paper towels, and even half of my mama's birthday cake as it cooled awaiting frosting. We never lost our patience, well, mostly.

After all, red velvet cake is my favorite, too, so hard to resist, and we did leave it cooling right at her level.

She got taller, stronger. As Chris likes to say, "Her love is forceful." If she wants to kiss you—and she often does—there is not much to do except submit. We tried early on to walk her on a leash, but all 140 pounds of her dragged us into the neighbor's azaleas, down sidewalks chasing squirrels as fast as her long legs could travel, us holding on for life. We abandoned the idea of walking her, with the promise of room to play either inside or in the backyard, whether it was near the Lady Banks roses in Jackson, through the powdery white snow in Colorado, or now navigating around armoires in the parlors of our townhouse in historic Vicksburg. She is older now, older in fact than the usual lifespan of a Dane, so mostly she lies on the sofa and presides.

She has won our hearts with her hugs. It’s best to back up against a piece of furniture if she gives you advance notice. Some people see her size or hear her bark and can’t get past their initial fear. Let her stare right into your eyes or smell your hand with her big wet nose, and you’ll quickly see the gentle giant stereotype is true.

It's nearly impossible to refer to our Naomi without the adjective "big," not only due to her size, but also because of how much bigger our world is with her unconditional love in it.

Contact David at [email protected].