Great Dane in the Morning


“Sweet” is the word everyone used to describe Lorelei. I’d add “gentle,” “calm,” and “quiet” to the description. But that’s not what the burglars thought when they broke into our house one day during the height of the silver theft madness. They’d entered the house through a window they broke in the basement, went to the dining room where I’d stupidly neglected to hide away the chest containing our full set of sterling silverware and made their way up to our bedroom where they ransacked dresser drawers and grabbed two jewelry boxes. The scenario I imagine is that this was when Lorelei, probably awoke in the TV room next door and made her appearance. “Someone’s come to see me,” she probably thought, yawning. The burglars fled. I know this because up on the third floor, where our daughters’ rooms were, was two hundred dollars in a wad in the top drawer in one daughter’s room and some very nice jewelry strewn carelessly across a tabletop in the other’s room. (Our older daughter, then living in a rather sketchy New York neighborhood, had brought the cash home for safekeeping; I have no explanation about the younger daughter’s jewelry except to say it was definitely nicer than most anything the burglars got away with in my jewelry box.) So I know the burglars never got to the third floor. They left hurriedly, discarding silver plate and junk jewelry on their way. The police said it was a professional job and that the silver had probably been melted down before their vehicle got off our street. They left behind a family who felt completely violated and one confused dog who probably never even got to bark at them.

Lorelei 1Left behind prematurely by her companion Elsa, poor sweet Lorelei spent a lot of time alone. Ed and I were both super busy in our jobs, our older daughter was living in the city and coming home only sporadically, and our younger daughter was finishing up high school with all the frenetic activity that entails. I do have one picture of the dog sitting on the couch with guests around a cocktail table, looking for all the world like one of them. And she looks happy. Other pictures show her exploring the yard or lounging in the grass, so I guess she had some fun. I am ashamed at how few memories I have of her. This is probably due to the greater shame I have about the way she died.

As I said, it was a very busy time for us all. Rather than make a special trip to a pet store, we would pick up a bag of dog food at the supermarket when we did our own grocery shopping. With the food from one newly opened bag, Lorelei, always a good eater, turned up her nose and walked away. What was this about?  It was a new bag, no reason for her not to eat the food. I insisted she eat it and I left it out until she got hungry enough. It made her ill and later that night she bloated.  This time we knew what we were seeing. We raced to the emergency clinic where they were able to relieve the bloating and stabilize her. They recommended we take her to our own vet in the morning which we did. We discussed with him the possibility that if this happened again we’d have the surgery he and we were only just beginning to hear about – tacking the stomach to the abdominal wall so that while an animal can still bloat, the stomach cannot flip over.

We returned home and threw away the rest of the dog food. “I guess she knew what she was doing rejecting the food,” we said.  It was the only explanation we could come up with. Thinking about it later, we recalled that the supermarket had been going through a major renovation and perhaps that bag of food had gotten pushed aside so that the food was old. We’d never checked the dates and of course the bag was now gone. We began buying high quality dog food from a pet store where we felt the product turnover would be faster.

Lorelei in yard

I should mention something here about emergency veterinary clinics. We have been fortunate to live within easy driving distance to one wherever we’ve lived. Usually open only through the night and on weekends and holidays – when regular clinics are closed – they are a godsend to pet owners. Not only bloat which usually occurs at night, but other emergencies can necessitate a visit. But a visit there is not cheap. You go in with your credit card in hand.

I once witnessed a heartbreaking scene while waiting for my dog to be stabilized or stitched up or whatever I was there for. A man came in with a small dog that had been injured – hit by a car, I believe, and wrapped in a towel. He had several small children with him, all in tears. Hearing what the cost would be, he left the dog and went with the children out to the car ostensibly to retrieve his wallet. Instead, he got in his car and drove away. The receptionist called repeatedly, begging him to return. “We can’t treat your dog unless you give your permission,” she kept saying. I sat there silently begging the vets in the next room to treat the dog anyway. It was not as if the man was going to return and blame them for it; he was never coming back. But then my dog was brought out and I signed the credit card receipt and left. That scene has haunted me ever since. Could I have offered to put the little dog’s charges on my card? Or did they really need the owner’s permission? And, most important, how did he explain it to the children?

Lorelei on bed 6After Lorelei’s near-death experience with bloat, we were more careful, feeding her a good quality dog food twice day, discouraging her from exercising right before or after she ate, and of course, since Elsa, not giving her bones to chew on.  But one day Ed came home from work at lunchtime, not a usual occurrence, and found Lorelei in distress. She’d vomited and was retching and trying to expel something more. This time, since the emergency clinic was closed, he took her to our regular vet who was able to relieve the gas buildup and stabilize the dog. He suggested Lorelei stay overnight so he could perform the surgery we’d agreed on in the morning. In the morning, he called to tell us that her heart had given out during the night.  Poor little girl was only five years old.

29 comments on “Great Dane in the Morning

  1. Margo L. Smith says:

    Wow! How many of your wonderful dogs I remember. But, I han’t known of all their adventures, illnesses, and how many had to be euthanized. This was like the canine version of a Greek epic. And the expense — without your considerable layout for various doggie needs, their healthcare, and occasional recompense to bitees — you could have flown first-class to ever so many exotic places. But, all the love, joy, and delight that they brought to your many households made it all worthwhile. What a wonderful walk through so much Nieder history. Thanks for including me. While I didn’t get to know all of your Danes, the ones I did were, indeed, great.

    • patnieder says:

      Thanks, Margo. While that could have been your late lamented glove in Dagmar’s mouth, it wasn’t; we were too horrified at the time to take a picture. As for all the exotic trips we’ve missed, I always say to people who ask about the expense of these dogs, “Well, we don’t own a boat.” And I guess seeing all the euthanizations in one place might seem like a lot, but I’ve always felt an advantage animals with incurable and debilitating illness have over people is that animals’ suffering can be mercifully ended. Unless you are a person living in Oregon, Washington, Vermont or The Netherlands.

      • Margo L. smith says:

        And, best of all, is the warm wonderful stream of unconditional love that flows between you and Ed and your ever majestic and elegant canines. They have been and are truly members of your family.

  2. patnieder says:

    And that from a non-dog owner. Imagine!

  3. Betty Dana says:

    I can’t believe how many dogs we’ve enjoyed with you. Our friendship all began with Bismarck who was magnificent and we are still enjoying Lotte when we visit. I remember our daughter dog sitting with a high school friend. When I phoned to see how they were doing they said all was well, they were watching movies with the dogs in their laps. It was good that the phone was right there as she claimed they were pretty much happily weighted down by the dogs on the couch. Our grandchildren thought they were like “Clifford, the Big Red Dog.”

    A grand story of your life with these majestic Danes.

  4. Linda Adoff-Valdez says:

    I am only half way finished and so sad about how you lost dogs so early, it breaks my heart.
    I also am touched by the love between you and your husband and how well you worked together.
    I really feel like going to your house and giving Lotte a big hug. To say the least I am really enjoying and moved by your story.

    • patnieder says:

      Oh my! Thanks so much. But don’t be sad. We loved and enjoyed each of these wonderful dogs for the time they were with us. And they continue in our memories and apparently now with people like you who read about them. I’ll give Lotte a hug and tell her it’s from you.

  5. Mary Cervantez says:

    Loved the article & have had the priveledge of living with your Lotte, as her sitter for short periods, a number of times. Thanks.

  6. Herta says:

    Really great stories, enjoyed very much reading it and also meeting you at Ingrid’s!

  7. patnieder says:

    Thanks so much! Hope to see you again and to talk dogs some more.

  8. Carol Neis says:

    Loved the synopsis on the Danes..I remember meeting two of them when you were living in Montclair…I am anxious to read the full story…

    • patnieder says:

      Thanks for reading, Carol. Yes, we’ve frequently had two at a time. We’ve gotten a little smarter in our old age and realize one is plenty. And you know, Lotte is so perfect because we have been able to lavish all our attention, such as it is, on her.

  9. Pat; I hope this is not an inappropriate response. This is Linda, the owner of Buster, not Lotte’s favorite. I heard Lotte had passed away and David and I are so sorry to hear that news. Lotte was the first dog I met in Mt Washington and she was just so sweet and when we visited your home, she was a great hostess. I will miss her and wanted to give you my condolences.

    • patnieder says:

      Not inappropriate at all. Thank you. Did you read about her in the final chapter of my unpublished book, Great Dane in the Morning on this site? She was special. But I guess all dog owners think that about their dogs.

  10. Anonymous says:

    Pat; My husband David and I and our dog Buster moved to Vancouver about 6 months ago. We knew you and Lottie, I heard that Lottie had passed away and just wanted to let you know that as far as I am concerned Lottie was a one of a kind gal. I always just thought she had so much class. One day you invited us in to see your house and have a glass of wine on the deck. Lottie was the perfect hostess and all around great dog. Please accept my condolences.
    I hope one day when your heart heals you will find another wonderful companion.

    Linda, David and Buster (Lottie never really cared for Buster)

    • patnieder says:

      Thank you, Linda, for these lovely words. I’m sorry to be so late in acknowledging this. Lotte died in April, and in July my husband Ed also died. As I plan to write in my Christmas letter, “Not a banner year here.” But right now I plan to post something about Lotte and Halloween. Watch for it.

  11. Thomas Tamburin says:

    Greetings Pat! I’ve just come to learn about Ed’s passing and I wanted to reach out and pay my condolences. I guess I’m still on “snail mail” mode in that had I known earlier I would have reached out sooner. If you’re ever back on the East coast let me know and maybe we can coordinate an MSU reunion. If there’s ever a need for a dog-sitter, I’d still jump at the opportunity! Fondly, Thomas

    • patnieder says:

      Thank you, Thomas. Nice to hear from you. Would that I did still need a dog sitter. I think Lotte closed the chapter on that part of my life. But they were wonderful dogs, weren’t they?

  12. Anonymous says:

    Just re-reading your wonderful stories of your dogs and I saw the post saying the Ed had died. I wanted to send my very late condolences. I only met your husband once, but he, like Lotte was very kind and it seemed a gentle person.

    • patnieder says:

      Thank you. Yes, Ed and Lotte were both kind and gentle, and I miss them terribly. That fact and a lot of other unanticipated occurrences are the reasons for my inactivity on this blog. But I will get back to it, I promise. Pat

  13. Rosemary says:

    Every once in a while I search for my grandmother’s name and her Great Dane kennels that she called Ladymeade Great Danes. I had no idea of what she did during the war, and searching for dog food, and probably food for my mother and her siblings, sounds exactly like her. She and my mother left England for America in 1948. They eventually ended up in Mountain View, Ca on Wyandotte street. I grew up there with those gentle giants, and it formed my love for animals. Thank you for this little look into my family history.

    • Claire Jewell says:

      Rosie! This is Claire Jewell, and I also just saw this as for some reason I was also searching. Isn’t it marvellous to see? Thank you, patnieder, as I am Rosemary’s cousin (on the East Coast of Canada) and so this is also my grandmother. Many years ago, I also lived near Nanny and Rosemary and, young as I was, I remember these wonderful dogs, though I wasn’t there long. I also didn’t know your particular story but it certainly doesn’t surprise me! Thank you both!

      • patnieder says:

        Wow! Dane memories from both sides of the continent — just as many others whose comments are shown above, the result of so many of our family’s corporate moves, almost always with at least one big dog in tow. Now I see rental listings with our breed among those not allowed. Little do they know, foolish people. Thank you for writing.

    • jewell471 says:

      Rosie! This is Claire Jewell, and I also just saw this as for some reason I was also searching. Isn’t it marvellous to see? Thank you, patnieder, as I am Rosemary’s cousin (on the East Coast of Canada) and so this is also my grandmother. Many years ago, I also lived near Nanny and Rosemary and, young as I was, I remember these wonderful dogs, though I wasn’t there long. I also didn’t know your particular story but it certainly doesn’t surprise me! Thank you both!

  14. patnieder says:

    And thank you for this lovely surprise, Rosemary! If this doesn’t get me back to my long-neglected website, what will? I met your grandmother just that once, I think, when she entrusted us with our first puppy, Ladymeade Glenora (a.k.a. Dagmar). We must have driven down from Sacramento to pick up baby Dagmar, in our new red VW bug, and if you looked at Dagmar’s section in “Great Dane in the Morning,” you’ll agree your grandmother displayed a trusting instinct in spite of our mode of transportation. Pat

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