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I am dogged by a Dane in the basement

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The details are fuzzy. But somehow I was roped into abandoning the solitude of my little townhouse to dog-sit a 180-pound Great Dane named Zeus and his "little" sister, Elsa, for a week. They are massive. Zeus's head is the size of a car tire. Their presence is heralded by the shaking of heavy furniture and the rattling of china in the kitchen. Barking is serious; it's the booming staccato of a broken fog-horn.

My initial concern was washed away in a slobbery wave of welcome, and our first few days together went well. Elsa took possession of a stray red sand bucket and refused to let anyone else touch it, although she desperately wanted attempts to be made. Zeus stranded himself on the sofa several times, as it's surrounded by a sea of slick wooden floors. He can get aboard, but his legs slide out from under him when he tries to debark. At first I put a small rug by the couch but traded it in for the large one in the kitchen when Zeus's foghorn at 2:37 one morning alerted me to the fact that the small rug was insufficient.

Saturday evening, I raced through dog chores, hoping to catch the symphony in town. I dumped food in the doggie bowls, propped open the door to the mudroom, ran down the narrow basement stairs to grab my car keys, galloped back upstairs - and was brought up short by a horse with his two front paws on the top step.

Elsa and Zeus can only reminisce about their primes. It never dawned on me that either dinosaur would forgo food to leave the mudroom, cross the kitchen, and maneuver their massive bulk in a 90-degree arc to line themselves up with the basement stairs - in 30 seconds. Zeus did.

What does one do with a huge, slobbery, shedding dog who seems incapable of backing up? Especially when you are wearing nice clothes and have so far remained Great-Dane-hair and slobber-free?

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