World's Tallest Living Dog Now A Humanitarian — Or Is That Caninetarian?
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When Mother Nature bestows something rare and wonderful, it's best to use it as a source of goodwill and charity. That's the thinking shared by the human caregivers behind Giant George, the aptly named Great Dane and two-time Guinness World Records Holder fast-tracked to join Marley, Lassie, Rin Tin Tin and others in the annals of doggy fame.
At a recorded height of 43 inches -- or nearly four-foot tall -- the six-year-old, Tucson, Arizona-based George is certified as both the World's Tallest Living Dog and World's Tallest Dog Ever. Swell, but what exactly does one do with a doe-eyed, 245-pound mutt, apart from shovel massive amounts of kibble into his maw month over month?
You leverage his celebrity for fundraising efforts. "We started this company for fun but when we started to make money from it, it was clear to us that the thing to do was to give back," says Team Giant George spokesperson Paul O'Rourke, one of three individuals -- including owner Dave Nasser -- who manages the dog and the brand, a feat made possible by the Guinness certification.
O'Rourke tells Samaritanmag.com by phone from Tucson: "We felt like we had one of God's creatures and we didn't want to take advantage of it. But if there was money to be made, we were going to share that with different causes."
Team Giant George's altruistic efforts are many and varied. For example, after the devastating earthquake and tsunami in Japan last year, the group made a "sizeable" donation to Animal Refuge Kansai which offered relief to animals on the ground.
"Like a lot of people, we found the images heart-wrenching," O'Rourke says. "The pet tragedy in Japan was profound, and we really wanted to help that effort."
A percentage of all proceeds from George's personal appearances at schools, animal shelters, ribbon-cutting ceremonies and the like -- plus 100 percent of all proceeds from the Giant George online store -- are given to charity though O'Rourke declines to offer exact dollar figures.
"We don't want to make it a numbers game. It's just something we do from our hearts," he says, adding that free "pawtographed" photos are also made available to children through the dog's fan club.
A memoir by Nasser, Giant George: Life with the World's Biggest Dog -- currently available in Europe and Australia and coming soon to North America -- is certain to spread the word about the dog that improbably began life as the runt of a litter.
As O'Rourke explains, he and Nasser have been friends since childhood. "A few years ago Dave moved back to Tucson from California with his wife Christie and we reconnected then." Christie stipulated that a move to Tucson required a dog.
"She did research and discovered Great Danes were a great breed and then found a breeder in Oregon. Despite their size, they're very gentle and don't actually require a log of exercise. They're kind of wimpy, and they like soft surfaces."
And while Giant George's size can be daunting at first, O'Rourke insists "people love him... and he loves the attention. He really loves being in a crowd. Kids might be pulling his ears and tail but he's okay with that.
"I mean, he is huge -- I was scared when I first met him -- but he's just such a baby. I've actually seen him try to sit on people's laps. He just loves the contact."
* Samaritanmag.com is an online magazine covering the good deeds of individuals, charities and businesses.