Shotz: Our New Giant Puppy

I could say I knew exactly what I was in for when we brought Shotz home, but that would be a lie. I had no idea that seventeen pounds of puppy could get into so much mischief in such a short period of time. Not only was I not prepared for her energy, but I had no concept of how smart and persistent she would be when she wanted something.

Day One with my puppy: I leashed her for a short walk, but nothing too ambitious. After all, she was only three months old. Less than a block from the house, she sat down and refused to budge one more step, so I had to carry her home. Back at the house, I opened our side gate and placed her in the backyard in case she had business to do before I brought her indoors. Before I could close the gate, she bolted into the front yard and ran down the steps toward the street. This was the first of many prison breaks to come. It’s remarkable how fast a puppy can run.

At last she quit dodging me and I scooped her up. I set her on the floor in the kitchen, toweled off the last drop of water from her beard, and turned to fill her food dish. She tore around the corner, headed for the utility room. I followed. Just as I entered, she came racing into the hallway dragging a laundry basket full of clean clothes along for the ride. She dumped the folded clothes on the floor and took off with the basket, stopping occasionally to attack it as if it were prey.

No sooner had I gathered up the laundry strewn across the family room than I heard a bang and then a second bang. I hurried into the kitchen in time to see her yank the trash can from under the sink. She overturned it, then ran off with it. She soon tired of assaulting the plastic container and left it on the white carpet in the dining room for me to retrieve, along with a nice pile of trash.

While I was cleaning up the mess in the dining room, I heard a crack, like wood splintering. The sound came from the guest room. I raced into the bedroom but didn’t see her until another cracking noise sounded. From the edge of the bathroom door protruded her back legs and her rump. I leaned into the room to see what she could possibly be up to now. She had her mouth wrapped around the metal doorstop. When she couldn’t pull it out of the baseboard, she rotated it until the baseboard cracked and the doorstop broke free. After three similar episodes, I unscrewed all of the doorstops and put them away. At age one, she lost interest in them, so we reinstalled the stops and repaired the baseboard.

After a tiring first day of keeping up with her, I decided on Day Two to grab a good book and sit outdoors while she played. Maybe she would do less damage in her own backyard.

Two paragraphs into Chapter One, I was stopped by the sound of gagging. I jumped off the patio chair and ran in the direction of the noise. I found Shotz sitting on the walkway with her eyes wide and her mouth agape, coughing and pawing at her muzzle. On the sidewalk lay the bloated carcass of a squirrel that had surfaced in the downspout of a gutter after a night of heavy rain. I pried open her mouth and immediately saw the jagged edges of a bone. I tried repeatedly to remove it but only succeeded in forcing it deeper into her throat. Panicking, I wrapped my arms around her lower abdomen and spun her in a circle while pulling up on her lower rib cage. The Heimlich appeared to work because out shot the bone. The maneuver took far less time to perform than it took for my heartbeat to return to normal.

Chapters Two and Three of the book passed without incident; Shotz was content to roam her yard and chase squirrels. Before I began the next chapter, I set my book aside to go in for some iced tea. I replaced the jug and was about to open the backdoor when a scratching noise drew my attention. I walked into my home office to see the screen lying on the front lawn and Shotz curled into a ball under my desk, her loud snores filling the room. The little devil must have dug out of the backyard. I stooped to pet her but left her alone to sleep. She looked so angelic. Now, I needed a nap to gear up for Day Three with my new giant puppy.


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Shotz: Our First Giant

Shotz was born on December 2, 1994, at Skansen Kennels, Sebastopol, California. Sire: Ch. Skansen’s My Dreamboat. Dam: Skansen’s Prowler. She was number five in a litter of six: four males and two females, born in that order. Her eldest brother, Scorpio, went to Japan, with the three remaining males placed in families in California, Florida, and Ohio. Shotz’s youngest and only sister went to New Jersey, and she, of course, to us. The moment I lifted her into my arms, I fell in love. She changed my life forever, and for the better—although during the first two years, I certainly had my doubts.

Before I continue, let me state that I am not an authority on the giant schnauzer breed, having owned only two so far. However, I have experienced the physical, emotional, and mental demands of the breed, and all should be carefully considered before purchasing or rescuing a giant.

I’ve owned dogs before Shotz, but none were like her. My neighbor called her Wild Child, and she lived up to the name in every way. For the first two years, I wondered if I would survive. Frankly, she wore me out. Sylvia, who owns Skansen Kennels, told me Shotz was just a puppy and to expect her to sleep quite a bit. Sleep? I kept asking myself—when?

For the first two weeks, she cried and howled most of the night, so I assumed that after a restless night, she would sleep during the day like I was dying to do. Not a chance. Up at the crack of dawn, she was ready to face the day with puppy bliss: eager to explore her backyard, dig, stir up mischief, and swim in the pool.

When she was older, we walked at least two miles every morning on the trails at Bear Creek Park in Keller where we lived. After our walks, especially in the heat of a Texas summer, I wanted nothing more than a long cold drink and a nap, but not her. She would look at me with those big, brown, soulful eyes and I could almost hear her say, “Okay, what’s next on the agenda?”

There are all kinds of nicknames for the breed, and they all hold true. Giants are Velcro dogs, sticking to you as the name suggests. After all, they are there to love and protect you, and they can’t do either from afar. So throwing them out into the backyard and ignoring them is detrimental to both them and you. They expect you to share yourself (mostly your time and attention) with them and can be quite demanding, even pushy, about getting what they want when they want it.

Do you expect privacy when you head to the bathroom? Give up this expectation if you own a giant. Shotz used to rest her head on my knees while I conducted my business. They have other endearing qualities as well, ones not all prospective dog owners would find appealing: they are bed hogs, they like to counter surf, they drink water from your refrigerator, they open cabinets to help themselves to whatever they desire . . . the list goes on. If none of these antics deter you, and you can actually see the humor in some of this behavior, then perhaps a giant is right for you. Perhaps.

Giants are not for everyone, and no statement could be truer. Unfortunately, many end up in rescue because “this dog is just too much” for a novice giant owner. But this is Shotz’s story, and she did not end up in rescue but went on to live a long life in one home with loving, caring owners who denied her nothing most of the time. And she would live to be fourteen and a half years old.


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