“People can see that we're into dogs. It's easy to see that we are strong and assertive as we mosey about with our giants. We show our generosity and patience with the myriad of questions and silly 'jokes' we endure. But People don't know when they look with green eyes at us with our Great Danes just how BRAVE one must be to love and lose and LOVE another Great Dane knowing the inevitable will come again. Melissa, and family — we see how brave you are.”
- Facebook post in “The Dane Yard” group, by Carrie Baj Armitage
Three weeks ago, Melissa noticed something different about Max, her 6-year-old Great Dane. He was being a little clumsy. While this breed of dog is known for being awkward and clumsy, this was different. He was walking very slowly and bumping directly into things he would normally avoid.
Melissa’s husband, Jon, noticed Max was picking up his front paws and was dragging his back left leg.
The Pohlmanns, who live in Lincoln, Neb., took Max to the Animal Care Clinic, run by K-State alumni Dr. L.R. Buller, DVM 1977, and Dr. K.J. Anderson, DVM 1991. A mass was discovered and Max was declared blind. Max had suffered a stroke and his condition required advanced care, so he was referred to K-State’s Veterinary Medical Teaching Hospital.
Shortly before his visit to K-State, a message was posted by “Tank Great Dane” at the College of Veterinary Medicine Facebook page:
“You guys please keep taking good care of our friend Melissa Meinecke Pohlmann's MAX the Great!”
The college Facebook page has received messages from grateful clients before, but this was the first post from a sympathetic friend — in this case, the friend was a dog who had a page created by his human family. This comment was followed in the next couple of days by other comments posted by Great Dane owners who were members of a Facebook group called “The Dane Yard.” Max was known in this group because Melissa had joined it about a year ago.
“It’s a good place to post pictures of our dogs and to comment about the other Great Danes that other members have,” Melissa explained.
The Pohlmanns have another Great Dane named Oscar and a half-lab, half-Dane named Yankee. Little did Melissa realize she had made friends with an extraordinarily compassionate and caring group of people in the Dane Yard. More and more messages of care and support were posted at the college Facebook page prior to and during Max’s visit to the teaching hospital. The bond between humans and animals is significant — for Great Dane owners, that bond is very strong and tight-knit — worldwide. Comments have been posted from Lincoln to Kansas City to London and Australia.
Yet, this was not the only way the Dane Yard showed its compassion. Several members have called the college to ask about Max and/or started giving money to help pay Max’s medical expenses — all by people who had not met the Pohlmanns in person; who had never had the joy of being with Max as the Pohlmanns have had. In all, 38 donations were made for a total of $1,160 on Max’s behalf.
“It’s overwhelming,” Jon Pohlmann said. “We never asked for donations —never mentioned it. The way people have responded has been a complete surprise.”
“The lady who organized the Dane Yard — I didn’t even know her real name until a few days ago,” Melissa said. “She started suggesting donations. We are just very overwhelmed and appreciate all the support for our Max.”
“Melissa is a wonderful woman, and well, Max is a wonderful Dane,” said Marie Pickard, the creator and administrator of the Dane Yard, who goes by the username Spyder. “We've all been there, and realize that we will be again someday. The Dane Yard wanted to help because we had hope and love one another. Even though the prognosis is not good for Max, we do not regret helping him and Melissa. We are heartbroken, and continue to be moral support to Melissa. Max is not just a dog, he is a Dane and there is something special about Danes.”
"I wish I could've done more because the feeling of helping helped me a lot," Carrie Baj Armitage, Dane Yard member, posted on Facebook.
Max was diagnosed as having a retrobulbar mass (sarcoma) behind his left eye with infiltration into the left nasal cavity and skull. A CT was performed and revealed a large soft tissue mass behind the left orbit that involves the left nasal cavity and extends into the central nervous system. A fine needle aspirate of the mass was consistent with sarcoma.
“Given the extensive and aggressive nature of this neoplasm, it is unlikely that surgical or medical treatment such as chemotherapy or radiation will benefit Max,” said Dr. Sara Fritz, small animal medicine and surgery intern. “However, pain medication was available to make Max more comfortable. We also suggested feeding Max canned food or moistened dry food at home because this would decrease the amount of jaw pain associated with eating.”
At this point, Max is home in Lincoln while Melissa and Jon monitor his health from day to day and try to help him be as comfortable as possible.
“Max is having good days and bad days,” Melissa said. “He still enjoys his walks and eating his meals.”
While his future is uncertain, his support system is not. He is loved by his family in Lincoln — and his Facebook family in The Dane Yard.
CVM Facebook page: http://www.facebook.com/KSUCVM
The Dane Yard on Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/groups/190601924310411/