On 1 April 1937 a very special Great Dane was born in Rondebosch, Cape Town. His owner, Benjamin Chaney, ran a company called The United Services Institute in Simons Town. The sailor patrons from the nearby naval base began to grow very fond of the resident hound every time they went by to make a purchase at Chaney's shop.
It all started off pretty innocently as the sailors began to feed him snacks, their love for the pooch grew quickly and they began to take him for regular walks. He loved the attention and began to follow them back to the naval base where he would lie around on the decks of the ships waiting for a pat on the back or another snack to nibble on. His favourite hangout spot however was to lie on the gangplank. Due to his size, it made it very difficult for the sailors to board or disembark from these ships. It did not take long for him to be given the nickname ‘Nuisance’.
Nuisance even began to follow his sailor friends on train journeys into Cape Town. The conductor did not like it and they threatened Chaney that they will have him put down if he can not contain his dog. Amused travellers even offered to pay for his fare, but the officials of the State-owned railway company (South African Railways and Harbours) refused him access to the trains.
On 25 August 1939 the Navy decided to enlist 'Just Nuisance' as a member of the armed forces, which gave him automatic free access to the rail travel with the sailors, hence solving this problem instantly. He was quickly promoted from Ordinary Seaman to Able Seaman, of which he filled his duties only on land.
Just Nuisance often found himself in a fair amount of trouble during his service in the Navy, but we will leave this part of fun out for now and hope you get to see the movie they are about to start making of him.
His final few months
On 1 January 1944 Just Nuisance was discharged from the navy due to thrombosis (where blood clotting will cause trapped arteries, veins, or in the heart, causing a loss of blood to the areas these arteries feed), which eventually left him paralysed in the hind legs. He was euthanised on 1 April 1944 and received a full naval honours, which included a gun salute and had a Royal Naval White Ensign draped over his body.
The Just Nuisance grave has a granite head stone on the top of Klawer hill, and a statue was erected in Jubilee Square in Simons Town.
The Movie 'Just Nuisance'
We were very excited to hear about an up and coming movie of this lovely canine, Just Nuisance, which is about to be filmed on the shores of False Bay in South Africa, starring a Great Dane named Argo. His mom, a veterinarian from Cape Town, Dr Gosia Ornatowska was happy to talk to us about her fur child Argo and his role as the famous "Just Nuisance" :
1) Dr Gosia did you have Argo since a puppy and when is his birthday?
a) 17 September 2011. He was born at the home of my kennel partner, so we have had him since he was old enough to safely leave his mom. Also, he used to visit us with his brothers and sisters for socialisation.
2) How did Argo land such a lovely role as a movie star? Did the filming company from America come over to interview him, and if so how did they do this?
a) Just Nuisance Production LLC contacted us via my kennel partner and after much negotiating and our careful consideration he was chosen for the role.
3) Tell us more about Argo. Great Danes are exactly what their names imply: Large Breed Dog, in fact, we would rather say “Extra Large Breed dog”. But this spells out much confusion to a person who does not know the breed, as their nature is way gentler than what meets the eye. Would you like to share with us some important information about these gentle giants?
a) My Danes have always donated copious amounts of blood, and many dogs in my practice are still alive because of Argo and my other Danes. None of them have ever complained about having a needle in the legs and really enjoy the attention. And treats. When we have puppies, Argo is very careful in his movements. If he lifts a paw and a puppy runs under it, he will hold his paw in the air until it is safe to put down again. If he is lying down and the puppies are playing around him, he will not move until they have cleared his immediate area. He loves his walks to the local shopping center, especially if we stop in front of the fish and chips shop. The owner really likes Argo, and Argo can practice his begging eyes.
b) For all their enormous size (they can reach 95kg), they are lap dogs and would like nothing more than to curl up on your lap. This is of course not possible, but you need to remember this if you should bring one into your home. They do not do well isolated and depend heavily on the interaction with they people for their mental well being.
4) What are his favourite toys and what is his favourite past time? What does he dislike?
a) He loves lying on his couch and peering over the wall at the neighbours carrying ons. He also loves galloping with his pack family on the small holding where they live. His favourite toy is whatever the alpha dog (a female miniature wire haired dachsie) allows him to have.
b) Idiots who ask him to do the same thing over and over again. And people not scratching him.
5) We believe Great Danes are couch potatoes. Is Argo one too?
a) Danes are incredibly powerful dogs, but have very limited stamina. As such, couch potatoing is a breed speciality.
6) When will shooting begin and when are they expected to launch? Will this be launched in South Africa only or are they planning to take it international?
a) We are waiting to hear when shooting starts and hope it is soon. It is an American production and so we expect it to be an international release.
7) Great Danes are not the easiest to train, mainly because of their size. This is your baby boy and we are sure you will only want the best care for him. Will you be on set with him or will he have a trainer by his side to help him along?
a) He will need to move closer to the shooting location to avoid daily traffic amongst other things, but we will be living with him in the accommodation that is arranged. On set he will have a trainer to coach him through his lines. Danes are very street smart and react when necessary. They can get bored easily if asked to do things repetitively. Their attitude is that I have done it already, why must I do it again? Perfection is not their strong suit.
8) The Role of the dog involves travelling on a train, spending much of his past time lying on the docks and then he will also be getting married. How comfortable are you with him being exposed to the train, the docks and is he ok with other dogs?
a) He is my anti-hijacking system late at night when I need to go to the clinic in an emergency. He has spent a lot of time at the clinic and we have socialised him extensively. As such, he is very comfortable with new people, places and dogs. The biggest problem is when he gallops towards new people for a scratch and they scream and run away.
9) As you mentioned to us, you are very concerned that everyone is going to go out and get a Great Dane after the film launches, yet people will know very little about the breed. This could cause a huge problem for future uninformed Great Dane owners who might want to abandon them because they are not the dogs that they thought they were going to get i.e. large vicious guard dogs etc. How would you like to contribute to the awareness of the breed to avoid a massive demand for the breed, which will – as we know – end up with many of these beautiful dogs landing up in rescue shelters, or worse neglected and forgotten at the back of a yard.
a) Danes need strong personal interaction and do not do well if kept outside. They do not understand why they cannot be with their people and can become frustrated. A frustrated Dane is incredibly destructive and we see many like this coming to the Dane rescue. As gentle as they are, they can be fierce beyond belief when protecting their people, but cannot protect while outside, nor form the strong bond with the family they need.
b) Part of the specification of a dog breed standard includes the personality. Pedigree Danes (as per KUSA registered breeders) conform to the characteristics mentioned, but non-pedigree dogs may not. Crossing Danes with other dogs can compromise the size, bulk and temperament of the dog. While some can be as soft as pedigree dogs, some can be vicious beyond what can be dealt with at the Dane rescue.
c) With a dog as big and powerful as a Dane, socialisation and training is essential (although socialisation for any dog in the home is important). Taking a dog too early from its mother, means that it misses out on early social development and this can have negative implications later in life. In addition, as a fully grown dog, few people have the physical strength to restrain a Dane. In order to prevent running after the Dane desperately clinging to the leash, or watching your prize flowers/shoes/model airplane collection being mauled to pieces, Danes must be trained to voice early in their life. Luckily, Danes are so soft tempered and willing to please, that they are not difficult to train in this way. Nonetheless, while a puppy, be prepared to lose anything you leave at floor level to your Dane. Floor level being a relative term for a Great Dane. Although unlikely to ever win any intelligence tests, Danes are cunning and learning to open the fridge and help themselves to the leftover Sunday chicken is not unusual.
10) What is the average Life span and health concerns for a Great Dane?
a) The large size of the Dane comes at a price. The average life span is eight years and two of those years are spent as a puppy. Although they reach their adult height at around 12 months, they remain a puppy in mind until two years of age. At seven years of age, they are geriatrics and will become more lethargic and less mobile.
b) Common breed problems are heart, joints (hip and elbow dysplasia) and stomach torsion. The heart problems can be dealt with if detected and treated early. All breeding dogs should be tested (and the test certificate available for view) for DCM (dilated cardiomyopathy) and prevented from breeding if it is present.
c) Apart from the dysplasia (which should also be tested for and removed from the breeding pool), the huge size of the Danes puts immense pressure on the joints and this can cause problems in later life. To mitigate this, Danes should have their own couches at about knee height that they can lie down on and step off from, rather than carrying their weight up from the floor when they get up. The couches are not just indulgence! Also, their food needs to be raised to about chest height to prevent them bending down to eat.
d) Stomach torsion is a nasty condition that affects all deep chested dogs. When it happens, the dog has approximately four hours to live without immediate treatment. Even with treatment at the four hour mark, the damage to the stomach may be too severe to allow for successful surgery. After eating, Danes should lie down for an hour to allow the food to digest. This should be a routine from an early age. Further, they should be fed twice a day to reduce the amount of food per meal and reduce the possibility of torsion.
11) Is there anything else you would like to share with us today?
a) Argo has very good instincts about people. When he was just six months old, I was closing the clinic late at night and a drunk man approached from the street. I did not see him, but Argo interposed himself between the man and myself and made it abundantly clear that the man should find somewhere else to be. With immediate effect.
b) Also as puppy, Argo went for a walk with Linka (miniature wire haired dachshund). While they were both on a leash, one of the houses we walked passed had left their gate open and an enormous Boerboel came barrelling out of the house on a collision course with Linka. Argo looked at the Boerboel, followed the line of his progress with his head and saw that it intersected with Linka. Without looking at the Boerboel again, he took a step forward to impose his bulk between Linka and the Boerboel, whose linear trajectory turned into an arc and then a circle back into the house.
c) The Dane rescue is a valuable center for the rehoming of Danes. Please do not contact us for a rescue puppy as there is no such thing. When Danes are brought to the rescue with behavioural problems (as a result of the owners not handling the dogs correctly), they are already adult. The rescue dogs often have health or behavioural problems and people who contact the rescue should be looking to give a Dane a good home and not looking for a guard dog. The majority of the rescues are not from registered breeders and are therefore not pedigree dogs.
We would like to thank Dr Gosia for sharing this information with us about her dog Argo and giving us a bit more information regarding the lovely Great Dane breed. We are looking forward to seeing this movie in a cinema one day soon, but for now we wait to hear when they will start shooting the first scenes.
Great Dane Rescue in South Africa (but located in Johannesburg): http://greatdane.rescueme.org/za