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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My Love Affair with a GIANT

Our First Giant

It’s with a heavy heart that I begin this stage of my memoir blog. I’m opening a box of memories (literally) and opening old wounds. If you’ve ever owned a giant schnauzer and lost him or her to the Rainbow Bridge, then you know exactly how I feel. I’ve always anticipated writing a book or publishing a picture book about Shotz, our first giant, but after losing her five years ago, I just haven’t been able to type the words or sort through photos of her. I’m still not ready, but I feel I owe this section of my memoir to her, since Shotz played such a major role in my life and does to this day—she was the impetus for Bullet in the Darcy McClain series.

When she passed away on June 16, 2009, I did not write a eulogy because I couldn’t stop crying long enough to see what I was typing. Writing about her was like rubbing salt into an open sore, and I’m sure this attempt will be no different, but here goes.

For my German audience, please forgive my bastardization of the German language. Although I am of German descent (one-quarter), and I married a man of German descent (one-half), we have lived in the US for many generations and speak little German. So please accept my apology in advance.

March 7, 1995, dawned cold and gray. By the time we arrived at the Delta freight terminal at the Dallas/Ft. Worth Airport, it had begun to rain—a light rain, but still miserable weather. However, within the hour our new giant would arrive and brighten the dreary day. We named our first giant Mein Schatz (my darling), but my husband Americanized the name and shortened it to Schotze. In my estimation, Schotze sounded too sweet for our hell on wheels, so I dropped the “e” and the “c” and called her Shotz, which was her call name. Her AKC registered name was Skansen’s Southern Belle. Years later I wished I had named her Social Butterfly, for she loved everything and everyone, but not rodents, squirrels, and cats. And she was fearless, a trait that often got her into trouble.

A Delta freight agent showed us to a waiting area and told us to take a seat while he met the inbound flight from San Francisco, which had just landed. But we chose to stand, anxious to get Shotz and take her home. Not long after we arrived at the gate, two other couples joined us. They too had purchased dogs from Skansen Kennels (Sebastopol, California), but pepper-and-salt giants, not black. It felt as if we had waited an hour, but only twenty minutes had passed when all six of us started to pace the room and ask, “What’s going on? Why is this taking so long?”

We had all heard horror stories of dogs being left on the tarmac for hours or breaking free from their kennels and running loose on the runways never to be found, and we all shared our stories, making the wait more difficult. Fifteen minutes later a freight worker wheeled a flatbed cart into the waiting area and unloaded three crates. The first two we peeked into were pepper-and-salt giants, both males and both large, even at four months of age. Shotz was the youngest at three months and five days. The moment I held her in my arms, I knew life would never be the same!


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Our First Giant Schnauzer

In 1994, after numerous requests from my husband to own a giant schnauzer, I caved. He’d wanted one while we lived in California, but I didn’t feel we had a yard large enough for such a big dog. In retrospect I realize that, with all the walking trails in our neighborhood, owning a giant would have dragged me away from the computer for some much-needed exercise, for when this breed wants something, they relentlessly demand your attention until they receive what they want.

The giant schnauzer is a working breed, and they must have a job to do to channel their high energy or they will find “work,” and you, the owner, may not appreciate the form their self-employment takes. Ignored, they will become bored and destructive.  They must work and you must work with them, as their focus in life is you.

Knowing this tendency, we did our research by reading up on the breed’s characteristics, and we visited several giant schnauzer owners who had litters but who also owned adults so we could see just how large the dog would be at maturity. Still, nothing quite prepared me for the energy level of the high-spirited puppy about to enter our lives.

Because we wanted our new “kid” to have a good start to life, we thought it best to clear our calendars in preparation for her arrival in early 1995. We wanted plenty of time to crate train, housebreak, and socialize her—and when the time came, to enroll her in obedience classes.

Part of clearing our calendars involved moving our 1995 vacation into 1994, so right on the heels of our trip to the US and British Virgin Islands, we flew to Brussels, Belgium, to start a whirlwind, three-week tour of Europe, an ambitious agenda that we would not do again. We actually needed a vacation after our vacation, but time didn’t permit. We had to prepare for the new addition to our family, one that would prove as challenging as our trek across Europe but, thankfully, would last much longer.


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