The Gentle Giants

Jim and Lora Homuth have taken in four Great Danes over the years and insist they’ll never go back.

“I want to go bigger.” That was the sentence that started it all. After their 17-year-old Dalmatian died, Jim Homuth told his wife Lora he’d like to try a new breed. Enter Odin, a rescued, black and white “harlequin” Great Dane whose previous owner had gone to jail for animal abuse. His personality filled the Homuth home, and his energy filled the yard during frequent hot laps around the house.

When the Homuths moved to the Corcoran area from California a few years later, Odin experienced snow for the first time and hilariously fell in love. And the Homuths became fully smitten with Danes; Odin being almost a permanent fixture in Lora’s Volkswagen. In 2009, they happened upon an event hosted by the Upper Midwest Great Dane Rescue (UMGDR) at a local Chuck & Don’s pet store. There, they didn’t so much choose their next dog, as Cooper chose them.

“This crazy brindle came bumbling over to us, dragging his foster mom,” Lora says. “He was thin and quirky-looking, all ears and legs. But those two [Cooper and Odin], they were inseparable from day one!”

“She fell in love with Cooper, and that was the end of that!” says Karen Cucci, director of intake, fosters and transportation for UMGDR. Almost immediately, Lora began volunteering, doing data entry, helping at events and writing descriptions of the 50–60 dogs coming in annually.

At home, Cooper—or “Cooter” to the Homuths’ young grandson—became the yin to Odin’s yang. He was obsessed with flying things, would lay down in the grass and roll his eyes as Odin did his laps, and when the neighbors’ cows got out, he eagerly went into full “bow down” mode, challenging them to play while Odin laid in the middle of the herd. When both Odin and Cooper died of cancer within months of each other, it took a while for the Homuths to bring another dog into the family.
“But with the losses we had gone through, the rescues were really rescuing me, not the other way around,” Lora says. It was Lilly who convinced them to take on another furry family member. And then Niko—a drooly, mastiff-like Dane clocking in at 185 pounds—came to them with allergies and yeast infections on his elbows from a lack of medical attention. “He was a big, big boy! But Lilly? She’d totally boss him around,” says Lora. Lora’s medical background came in handy with Niko’s health issues, switching him to a higher quality food.

Cucci explains UMGDR is very selective about the families with whom they’ll place dogs, relying on an extensive application, home visit and interview process. The team does a good amount of education, too, coaching new owners and offering ongoing resources. Over the years, the Homuths have become a source of information, often caring for harder-to-place dogs with health or emotional issues.

“It’s so rewarding to see a dog come into foster, get their confidence back and just blossom," says Cucci. "Danes are incredibly loyal and kind. I love their size, their personalities. They’re goofy, fun, beautiful dogs."

The Homuths have just Lilly in the family these days. And though they don’t know their next dog’s name yet, they know it’ll be another rescue Dane.