When 84 Great Danes were rescued from a puppy mill in Wolfeboro, New Hampshire in the summer of 2017, several organizations pulled together to shelter and care for the dogs. As a trusted partner of Pope Memorial SPCA, VCA Capital Area Veterinary Emergency and Specialty (CAVES) in Concord was contacted to provide care for the more severe cases, at one point caring for as many as 17 of these gentle giants at once. The dogs challenged and inspired the staff in ways they will never forget.

Rescuers found the 84 Great Danes, which as adults can weigh up to 200 pounds, living in crowded, filthy conditions, without access to water or food. Many were undernourished and suffered from various health issues ranging from open wounds and parasites to more serious conditions common to Great Danes, like bloat and heart conditions. 

The first patients sent to VCA CAVES were nine newborn puppies. With their mother unable to nurse them, they needed the kind of intensive, around-the-clock care that the hospital could provide. Staff quickly learned that caring for the nine pups was a huge undertaking.

“They were all bottle fed, and because they were state evidence, we had to record absolutely everything,” explains Janine Graham, CVT, credentialed veterinary technician at VCA Caves. “We soon discovered that it was a bigger job than we could handle on our own, so Pope Memorial provided volunteers. We would oversee the volunteers and all of the technical aspect of raising the puppies, but they definitely provided the bulk of what we needed to do.”

VCA CAVES was eventually sent the more serious cases amongst the adult dogs. 

“Several of them had eye issues that required surgery, so ophthalmologists saw them,” says Alison Darby, DVM, lead emergency veterinarian at VCA CAVES. “Cardiology was involved, dermatology was involved, even neurology. They got excellent care.”

Just as important as the medical care they received was the compassion and socialization VCA CAVES staff provided to prepare the dogs for rehoming. The Great Danes knew little of the outside world and were anxious about their new surroundings.

“They didn't have a good quality of life, and they didn't understand what human affection was, really,” recalls Chelsey Riel, lead veterinary assistant at VCA CAVES. “I remember a lot of them came in very timid, very nervous about human interaction.”

Staff worked on socialization multiple times a day. They noticed a major transformation in the way the dogs responded to people. 

“They were amazing,” says Janine Graham, CVT. “Each one had their personality, and it was neat to be able to watch them view the outside world for the first time. As scary as that can be, they were incredibly trusting, and they really were able to steal hearts very quickly, and they had many people very bonded to them very quickly. They were life changing for this hospital.”

Brian LeBlanc is one person whose heart was stolen. He describes his first meeting with Sirius Black, the Great Dane he adopted, as being “love at first sight.”

“He's an awesome dog,” says Brian. “I have two kids at home and he is awesome with the kids. We have eight acres of land, so he loves to run and play.”

In fact, all 84 of the dogs rescued were reported to be in permanent homes by September 2018. Not surprisingly, many VCA CAVES associates grew attached to their patients, especially the three Great Danes that spent over a year in their hospital. Some staff members are in touch with the new owners and receive regular updates on the dogs. 

Despite the strain on associates to handle the extra large caseload (pun intended), they say they would do it again in a heartbeat. 

“I feel that our team at VCA would jump into helping out at any time with these situations,” says Dr. Darby.

VCA hospitals have dedicated staff and resources available to make meaningful contributions to the animal welfare community and the countless number of pets who are in need of good homes. As part of the partnership with Pope Memorial SPCA, VCA CAVES heavily discounted the care provided to the Great Danes. VCA is fortunate to partner with over 150 outstanding animal shelter and rescue organizations across the country.

Thank you to all of the associates at VCA CAVES who were involved in caring for these very special dogs, making sure they received a second chance at life.

Ready to adopt a pet of your own?  Visit our website to find a VCA shelter partner near you.

““I feel that our team at VCA would jump into helping out at any time with these situations.””