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The Stories

Barbara Laird

My name is Barbara Laird. My explanation is quite lengthy, so please pardon me for taking up so much of your time as I give details.
At the beginning of this year, I had decided that I would like to adopt a Great Dane into my family as I believe that a Great Dane and I would be the most compatible.  I did a lot of research before making this decision.  I learned very quickly about their potential for lots of health problems that Danes are more susceptible to other dogs.  I learned about what Bloat is, but am still confused as to what causes it.  To the best of my knowledge, it appears that Bloat is not caused by just one thing, but could be caused by numerous conditions or a combination of conditions.  I had also learned about the importance of the dietary intake for the Dane.  What high maintenance this "little doggie" will be,  but nonetheless, this is not beyond what is manageable for me.  From what I am learning about Great Danes, all of this is WELL worth it.
So then my quest began on finding the best brand and type of food to feed my soon-to-be new companion.  In the past, I had a great working relationship with a Pet Food Delivery Service in Huntington Beach, VIP Pet Food Delivery, Cathy Cunningham.  So I called her.  I quickly discovered that she, too, has Great Danes.  Cathy suggested that I feed my Dane-To-Be Eagle Pack Dog Food.  Since she herself has Danes and since she has a lot of time invested in researching Dog Food and Dog dietary needs and issues, I decided to rely on her advise.**
** In addition to relying on Cathy's advise, I had also performed my own "survey" with a large majority of Great Dane breeders throughout the nation.  I sent an email out to more than 200 breeders, handlers, and rescuers and asked them a simple question:  "What do you recommend as an appropriate food to feed my adult Great Dane?"  Surprisingly enough, more than 100 of them replied back.  The results showed that more than 40% of the Dane breeders/rescuers either feed or recommend Eagle.  Those results were very impressive to me. That was all the information I needed to know.  There is no way that 40% of the Dane community are "killing" there Danes by feeding them Eagle brand dog food.
I then located a Great Dane rescue organization called Gentle Giants Rescue and Adoptions in Norco, CA, operated by Burt and Tracy Ward.  Through this organization I adopted my very first Great Dane on January 30, 2005  !!!   He is a 3 year old neutered male.  He appeared to be in excellent health - not underweight, skin and coat in good condition, very alert and responsive to his environment.  He introduced himself to me by gently jumping up, placing his forearms on my shoulders, looking into my eyes and telling me (with his eyes) that he would really LOVE to go home with me.  Well that did it.  He's the dog for me. On the way home,  I renamed him to Samson ("Samson" fit - he liked the name too).
At the time of the adoption (January 30, 2005), the rescue organization (Gentle Giants) have me brief instructions about feeding so as not to cause bloat.  She (Tracy Ward) explained about not feeding my dog at least one hour before or after exercise, not free feeding, not a lot of water during meal times, and using elevated food bowls.  (All of this I have already learned in my research, but it was good to hear it again).  This feeding instructions is also spelled out in detail on Paragraph No. 6 of their Two (2) page contract. She (Tracy) also told me that all of her dogs are fed Pedigree and told me to continue feeding "Pedigree Adult Complete Nutrition Small Crunchy Bites Dog Food" as this food has the appropriate protein and fat count, which is necessary for the health of a Great Dane.
During the next  6 weeks to follow, the transition to my Dane's new environment was quite difficult for him.  I continued to keep feeding "Samson" Pedigree for the first 3 weeks before the gradual process of integrating the new food "EaglePack Natural" into his diet.  This transition took over 3 weeks to switch over to the new food. During this entire 6 week period of time, Samson has diarrhea most of those days.  This really did not concern me too much, as I know that Samson was under a lot of undo stress, and stress is often manifested into intestinal conditions like diarrhea.
During these same initial 6 weeks, I had also been communicating with Gentle Giants (Tracy Ward) via email with short updates about how Samson is doing, how much "in love" we are, how well he is fitting into my household, how he has been introduced to my cats,  and have sent her photographs (of which she has posted on her website).  On one of these emails (April 5, 2005) I told her about Samson's diarrhea problems and that I have switch him over to a more nutritious, whole dog food, and was asking her for any suggestions. 
Well - that's what started it all.  I had no idea that this "Food Issue" could escalate into a legal battle.
Apparently, Gentle Giants seems to believe that they have a "contract" with me that says that I MUST feed my dog according to their feeding protocol, which is the above mentioned Pedigree food.  This created quite a heated "discussion" between us (mostly via email).  In these emails, they (Tracy) "informed" me that Eagle is BAD for his health and will cause MANY health problems.  She "informed" me that Pedigree is the ONLY food appropriate to feed a Great Dane.
I knew this to be untrue and I have expressed to them my unwillingness NOT to take "Samson" off of Eagle and switch back to Pedigree.  I also "informed" them that their contract does not have any provisions as to what brand or type of dog food to feed my dog, thus they have no say so in this matter.
Then on April 11, 2005, Gentle Giants (Burt Ward) sent me an email of a "Notice of Violation of Adoption Agreement and Notice of Intent to Repossess Samson". Unless I switched back to Pedigree, they were intending to Repossess my dog.  This again generated some unproductive "conversation" between us.
In response to their "Notice of Violation", I sent them a reply stating that I am currently in Full compliance with their contract. 
As a result of my reply (I am guessing), this was not satisfactory to them (Gentle Giants), on April 13, 2005 I received a 2nd email from Gentle Giants (Burt Ward) and a letter from their attorney stating their "Notice of Repossession of Samson effective immediately". They gave me 24 hours to return my dog back to their organization and stated that they were not open to any further discussion.
Needless to say, this didn't go over very well with me.
I have obtained an attorney that is "Volunteering" to help me to avoid the rescue organization from taking legal action against me.  However, all she has done was just place a couple of phone calls to the rescue organization's attorney, informed him (verbally only) that since the contract does not have food requirements and since my Dane is in good health and no longer has diarrhea problems, then there really isn't a case.  My "attorney" seems to believe that this will just "Go Away".  She is not really wanting to more than that - at least not without getting paid for it.  In a way, I can understand her unwillingness to help me further, but that still leaves me with not much legal counsel.
According to the letters from the letters from Gentle Giant's, all they want from me is to inform them in writing that I have discontinued the use of Eagle dog food and that I have switched back to Pedigree (or purchase food directly from Gentle Giants - they have their own food now).  I could take the easy way out and just write them the letter and lie to them that I am complying with there "demands".  But I will NOT lie in order to defend what is right, that sounds pretty counter-productive.  If I do not give Gentle Giants what they want, then they WILL be proceeding with legal actions against me (in Superior Court) in order to obtain an order to repossess my dog.
I do not believe that Gentle Giants can form a case against me, however I have to go through the time and expense to go to court to prove it ???
I am thinking that perhaps I need to take a defensive course of action.   But again, all of this takes time and money.  All of this just to defend my right to use whatever dog food I choose?
Barbara Laird

Rescue Watchdogs Note: We have seen all the documentation that goes with Barb's story, the contract, the letters, all of it. There is no mention in the contract of feeding a specific brand of food. Some of this documentation is up on the web now

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