His 180-Pound Life

Last week, I had a beautiful, pain-in-the-butt, loving, goofy, and snuggly monster. He was originally from Tennessee. I bought him online on a whim, which is not the most knowledgeable way to buy a dog and completely unlike my usual decision-making process. Right after the money was deducted from my checking account, I had second thoughts. I called the website and asked if I could talk to the breeder to get more information on my purchase. After a short hold, I was connected. I found out the breeder had never sold her dogs online before. While planning one litter of puppies, a second female in her crew got unexpectedly pregnant. While the owner was prepared to sell one litter of puppies, she was not prepared to sell two. And to her surprise, both litters were larger than normal. She had 22 puppies on her hands to find homes for. She did something she never thought she would do: She listed her puppies online.

After talking with her and reading reviews from her happy customers, I decided to stick with my unlike-JoAnna-on-the-whim purchase. In the matter of a week, my new three-month-old Great Dane puppy would be flying from Tennessee to Connecticut. I remember the day I picked him up at the airport. My friend came with me to drive so I could sit and talk with the pup on the hour ride back. I remember seeing his then-35-pound body walk around so haphazardly. He looked like a tiny horse. I named him Crush.

The first few years of his life were not the easiest. He was a gorgeous dog but a very difficult one to train. He wasn’t fully potty trained until he was almost three years old. His excited running usually ended in things knocked over – sometimes I was one of those things. He would regularly run away – sometimes for hours at a time. And he also had a lot of stomach issues. I still have dreams of using a butter knife to clean in between the cracks of my wide plank pine floors to scrape out the vomit that seeped in.

Then when he hit four years old, he started having some prostate issues. I was no longer cleaning puke off the floor. My job changed to cleaning blood off the floor. We’d always go to the vet for his issues, but there was never really a resolution. He usually just got better on his own, and the vet remained perplexed. Crush liked to keep us guessing and hated to see us worry.

My life in the last three years could be described as chaotic at best. I uncovered a lot of hard truths. I oscillated between fear and sadness regularly and finally resolved to make some really important changes.

While Crush wasn’t with me the entire way, he was a part of 99 percent of my journey. I always felt bad about leaving him for a month in 2019, but since then we’ve been each other’s rocks. Whenever I cried or had no idea what to do next, he wouldn’t say anything. But he was there. He would lie in bed with me. He would place his enormous head on my lap. And when I really needed it, he’d grab my head under his chin and nuzzle me. It was his way of giving me a hug.

When he was with me, I knew I was safe. After seeing the things he’d seen, whenever a man would come in my house, Crush would stand between us. It could’ve been the plumber, a boyfriend, or my uncle. It didn’t matter. No one was ever going to hurt me again. Not while Crush was there. He taught me how to stand confidently, knowing he always had my back.

When we moved to my new house a little over a year ago, he was nervous at first. But after he adjusted, he loved it. He knew how to navigate through each not-Great-Dane-sized room, and he loved his fenced-in yard. He loved barking at people as they came by. And he loved gently taking cookies from the neighbors and the mailman. He was the big guy around here. Everyone knew him. And everyone loved him. There were days I would mistakenly leave the gate open, and he would never run away. When he lived in the old house, he regularly needed an escape. But here, he just never wanted to be too far from me.

The last several months of his life were hard. There were ER visits with no resolutions. There were unexplainable issues and different medicines to help with different symptoms. At one point, it seemed like he was back to his old self. He was running around the yard. He was getting on and off the couch – and my bed – with ease. And I thought he turned a corner. But sometimes those corners are life’s way of giving one last burst of energy to enjoy what’s left of life. After a seemingly normal puking session, taking a few laps around the yard, and snuggling with us from couch to couch, he laid on the floor and took his last breaths. I was glad I was there for him. And I was glad I was able to love him as he went.

He knew I was safe.

He’d seen my stress melt away. He knew I wasn’t crying anymore. And he soaked up the peace I created around me. He loved my boyfriend. After being around him for almost a year, he stopped getting in between us. He’d even lie next to him on the bed and give him his adoring chin-nuzzles. He saw me through some of my worst times and he loved me and supported me. I guess he’d likely say the same thing about me. As much as he saved me, I too saved him. And together we were quite the pair. I’ll be forever grateful for the lessons he taught me. I’ll be forever grateful for making the unlike-JoAnna-on-the-whim-online-dog purchase.

I used to lovingly say to him, “Who’s Mommy’s Monster Man?” And he’d wag his enormous tail and give me his big goofy smile. I miss the big guy. His absence leaves a huge hole in our day-to-day life. My house feels bigger. My life seems less important. And there will forever be a space for him in my heart.

Thanks for being there for me when I needed you most. Thank you for helping me stand on my own two feet. And thank you for always watching out for me.

I love you, Crushy Pants.

I love you and I miss you.

You were a good boy.


JoAnna Bennett
JoAnna Bennett
Mother, Marketer, Writer, and Reader. I’m a mother of two wonderful little humans. I’m also an avid reader, an insatiable learner, and a self-acknowledged survivor. I’m grateful to work at O’Brien Communications Group (OCG) because I’ve learned the self-soothing and restorative craft of writing. I used to resist calling myself a writer because I have a finance degree. I naively thought I needed an English degree to effectively express myself in writing. But now, writer is a title I proudly wear, and writing is something I’ll practice for the rest of my life.

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  1. Dear JoAnna,
    I thoroughly enjoyed reading your story, with smiles and tears, too.
    The Universe sent you your monster, for love and for teachings. What a beautiful name you gave him: Crush. His protection gave you much strength and helped you stand fully in your own power.
    Such a beautiful story, it could be made into a film 🙂
    best wishes

    • Thank you Deborah. I’m so glad his memory is being read far and wide. I know he’d just love that.

      I’m about 80% done with my first book and I have been toying with the idea of my second one being a story about a girl and her Great Dane. I’d mirror it off of his and my daughter’s relationship. She never knew life without him. I also think it would be fun to get her input. And then hey, maybe it could make it’s way onto the big screen.

  2. Joanna: As I read this—through a mist for some odd reason, darned computer screen—I went back to my childhood and a Disney film titled ‘Old Yeller.’ That movie, in which the early version of Crush helped a young boy navigate life, was one of the most memorable films of my own life. So reading about your buddy Crushy-Pants, I remembered that endearing film, and that simple dog, and the joy and loyalty and love they bring into our lives. Thanks for a heaping helping of happy nostalgia today.


    • That same mist has been haunting me for days. It comes and goes in waves.

      Cruchy-Pants most certainly helped me navigate my life. I may not have figured it out until well into my 30s, but he was with me when I needed him most. Becoming a single mom was a challenge in many ways, but knowing I had him to turn to made it magically easier.

      I’m glad I was able to touch your heart today. My monster would’ve loved to know his story was being told. <3

    • I know that feeling. It comes and goes in spurts since Friday. <3 Grieving is such a tricky thing. You can’t expect what will send you over the edge.

      Thanks for reading his story. I hope he can live forever in my words.

  3. Thank you for that, Joanna. That is a beautiful story. I love dogs. My 6 1/2 year old Lab Oliver is my rock, I won’t say my best friend because my wife is, but Oliver and I have walked hundreds of miles together, in crappy, awful cold weather, in beautiful weather, in oppressive heat. My heart positively squeezes and I squint my eyes to make thoughts of him leaving this life go away, but we all know dogs have a season in our lives. I love that Crush was there for you during this season of your life. And that huge heart of his stopped beating because he had served his purpose of making sure that your heart and you were safe as well. It’s such a beautiful story, I just want to linger here in the glow of a life so well lived. And I hurt for you for his absence. I never knew him, but I felt every word of your story. I love dogs, I believe that dogs were one of God’s most inspiring and wonderful creations. I mourn with you Joanna. Crush was a good boy, and he will always be that big place marker for this season of your life. Raising a glass through tears for that next chapter of your life, and that huge void that now exists. I’m so thankful that he stayed long enough for that void to be filled in other ways.

    • My Monster would’ve been seven in June. It’s crazy how fast the big doggies lives go. Thank you for your kind words. I’m grateful I have his 11 year old Boston Terrier/Chihuahua brother around to lessen the blow, but the big guy is so severely missed.

      For me, the hardest part has been the change in routine. He was like one of my children. The meds, the potty breaks, the attention … And now there is a huge gap.

      I know he was in my life for a reason, and he taught me much. I’m grateful for the opportunity to be his momma.