EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA


February 17, 2013

Giant-breed owners see having dogs as living large

Life with Suzzane Kelleher-Duckett’s dogs has required a few adjustments.

Getting rid of the coffee table, for one. And stashing things in the microwave or on top of the refrigerator if she wants to keep them out of the dogs’ reach, since they can easily grab items off the counter and stove. And buying a minivan. A taking out the the middle seat so the dogs can fit inside.

Despite the inconveniences, after 16 years of owning Great Danes, Kelleher-Duckett wouldn’t live without one.

“As big as they are, they love that big,” the Santa Clarita, Calif.-based breeder said Tuesday as one of her two Danes, a 3-year-old, 134-pound female named Vendetta who’s 34 inches tall at the shoulder, eyed her owner’s sandwich after the breed’s competition at the Westminster Kennel Club dog show.

Giant breeds can’t help but make a big impression on spectators at these events. Crowd members snap pictures and go up to the owners of the huge dogs to ping them with queries: How much does he weigh? How much does she eat? What’s it like to live with one?

Here’s what it’s like for Chris Boltrek and Ashley Erlitz, who share their Sound Beach, N.Y., home with Huxley, a 190-pound mastiff who’s nearly 2.

He plays with tree branches, not sticks, and with balls designed as horse toys. He eats 10 to 12 cups of food a day. He may get spit on the walls if he shakes his head. And he outweighed the petite Erlitz when he was 9 months old and has knocked her over on walks a few times.

Take the imposing-looking mastiff on a walk, and “either people gravitate toward him because of the anomaly of a large dog or otherwise they walk on the other side of the street,” Boltrek said as Huxley lazed in his grooming area, accepting pets from passers-by, after his breed’s contest.

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