Barking mad: Life with the world's tallest dog

He’s scared of water, of dogs a fraction of his size, and of being alone. Giant George may be the world’s tallest dog — 1.5m tall and 2m long — but his owner, Dave Nasser, says he’s a big softie.

Giant George with Christie Nasser. Photo / Supplied
Giant George with Christie Nasser. Photo / Supplied

"Home needed for great dane puppy. Four-month-old blue great dane puppy needs a home now. Call Dave on 1 521 1976."

Dave Nasser stared at the advert he'd placed in the Arizona Daily Star a week earlier and did a quick calculation in his head. He'd already paid out $1750 for the puppy, plus the cost of around six weeks' worth of specialist puppy food, an extra large crate, a leash and collar, dog bowls and, now, the newspaper ad.

It had already attracted about a dozen phone calls and two of them seemed genuine possibilities. One was from a woman who worked at a local animal organisation in Tucson. When Nasser explained to her that George had become a lot more than he could handle, she reacted excitedly. She wanted the puppy badly.

"I glanced down and saw the sparkle in George's eyes," writes Nasser, in a new book, Giant George: Life With The World's Biggest Dog.

"Did he know? Was he already resigned to being put in another crate and shipped off someplace else? He then got up from the floor, put his head in my lap and looked up at me with those enormous, intensely blue eyes. I looked back at the ad, at the two phone numbers I'd scribbled down, and realised I couldn't let him go.

"I balled the ad in my fist and launched it into the bin."

Dave and Christie Nasser adopted George, then a 7-week-old great dane puppy, in 2006. He was the runt of the litter but his "soulful expression" won their hearts. He didn't stay small for long, however. At just 5 months old he was the weight and size of a fully grown labrador. In just one month he put on 11kg.

"For his age," the Nassers' veterinarian told them upon meeting George for the first time, "that's the biggest great dane puppy I've ever seen".

In his book, Nasser talks about the highs and lows of living with a canine superstar. Buying George had been his wife Christie's idea and it took just three weeks of having him for Nasser to realise it wasn't working. George struggled to settle into his new home - keeping the couple awake every night - and his sheer size, along with the fact they were living in a small, rented apartment, made day-to-day life difficult.

"I'd discovered - however much I hated to admit it - everything about owning a dog had become one big 24/7 problem," Nasser writes. "It wasn't that I didn't like George - he was a cute guy, he was funny. It wasn't his fault he drove me nuts."

At the end of his tether, he told his wife the dog had to go and placed the newspaper ad offering him for sale. But at the last moment, Nasser knew it wasn't the right decision: George would stay.

As well as becoming an essential member of their family (which now includes young daughter Annabel, who was born in 2009), George has become an international star - last year being crowned the Guinness World Records' tallest living dog, and tallest dog ever.

He's appeared on The Oprah Winfrey Show - flying first class from Arizona to Chicago for the appearance - and has his own global fan club.

George's first YouTube video had more than one million hits by the end of 2010.

"By any yardstick that's an awful lot of viewers," says Nasser.

"He also has more than 75,000 fans on Facebook, 2500 on Twitter and the traffic on his website incredibly is still growing, he now gets around 5000 visitors a day."

Nasser writes in Giant George that they have "started figuring out ways he can use his fame to give something back to the community - he's busy, with a pretty packed programme.

"He visits all sorts of places, from schools and playcentres to nursing homes - anywhere where being himself is all that's required. He's even strutted his stuff on the catwalk for a charity fashion show fundraiser. Naturally, being George, he loves every single moment, especially when he gets to have his photograph taken.

The super-sized dog also loves to show affection. "When George likes you, you know about it - his displays of affection could have you pinned temporarily against a wall or a piece of furniture. It's his version of a bear hug."

In September last year the Nassers received a call from Guinness asking the question: would the world's tallest dog like to meet the world's smallest dog? Guinness was about to launch the 2011 version of its iconic records book and wanted the two to provide the face of the launch.

"The world's smallest dog - Boo Boo - is a real doggie diva," writes Nasser.

"She's a diminutive [10cm-high] long-haired chihuahua and she was crowned back in 2007."

George towered over Boo Boo, who can fit in a teacup.

One of George's biggest star moments, though, was his appearance on Oprah last year. Nasser recalls waiting in the green room, waiting to go on stage to meet the talk show queen with George. Urgently needing to go to the bathroom, Nasser left George alone for a few minutes but when he returned the dog was nowhere to be seen.

"All I could see, when I entered the room, was the beautiful platter of elegant pastries had been decimated. At least half of them had disappeared, along with George. Two doors down, in a bigger green room, I caught sight of my disappearing mutt. When I got to him, George was sprawled on a huge sofa."

With the help of a security guard, Nasser herded him back to their room just minutes before they were due to make their appearance on air.

"We had five minutes: time to wipe the drool from his chops and check my shoes for any clinging smears of pastry. But George hadn't finished stressing me yet. As he got up, the action was accompanied by a familiar and air-rattling sound from his rear, followed by the inevitable nose-wrinkling smell. 'The pastries,' I thought. 'Great.'

"As I held my nose and fanned the air, I issued one instruction: 'Please George. Please don't fart on Oprah'."

The appearance went well, the audience fell in love with George, and Oprah - not much taller than the great dane - was happy to let the spotlight briefly shine on another star.

* Giant George (Simon and Schuster $32) is out now.

- NZ Herald

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