I have a soft spot for giant breed dogs. Not just the Rotties and the Shepherds, but the truly giant of the giants. I love the Great Danes and Mastiffs that I see somewhat infrequently in my practice. They are generally big marshmallows who meet me at eye level, usually with a generous swipe of drool. I had a recent encounter with an English Mastiff that demonstrates the gentle nature of these enormous dogs.
I swung the door of the exam room open to encounter an enormous man and an equally enormous dog. The aptly named dog, “Bear,” gave me a quizzical look, wrinkling further his already wrinkled brow. His tail wagged tentatively. I offered my hand to his owner and introduced myself, “Hi, I’m Dr. Mantione.” I know we say that dogs have a very limited understanding of the complexities of language, but perhaps something jogged in Bear’s memory, because within an instant of realizing that I was his veterinarian, he made a panicked turn and a valiant attempt to hide under the chair in which his owner was sitting.
His enormous head was soon wedged under the chair with the bulk of his 180 pound quivering body left unprotected. The owner sighed, “Bear, man, don’t be such a sissy.” He rolled his eyes. I knelt beside what I could see of my enormous patient, who outweighed me by some 70 pounds. I patted his flank gently and tried to talk him out of his hiding place to begin his exam. He responded by frantically attempting to squeeze his remaining bulk into a space large enough for a cat. His owner made a sound of exasperation, stood up and lifted the chair off of him.
Bear gave me a haunted look and submitted bravely to my exam (which, by the way, bore resemblance to examining a pony). He took his vaccines like a man, with only a minimal amount of trembling, and when it was all over, sheepishly accepted the treat I offered him. I made a fuss, told him how brave I thought he was and was rewarded with a tiny wag of the tail as he turned and drug his owner to the door.
How could I not love a gentle giant like that?