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Running With the Big Dogs

Rescue league's picnic supports Great Dane adoption.

When the Albers take Zeus and Athena out for Saturday night walks around the Reston Town Center, they "can’t move five feet without somebody asking about them."

Zeus and Athena are Great Danes, the breed of dog made popular by cartoon shows such as "Scooby-Doo" or "The Jetsons." They stand about 3 feet at the shoulder and weigh over 100 pounds.

"People always ask, ‘Do they come with a saddle?’" said Linda Albers, who is considering buying T-shirts for her dogs with the answers to other questions, such as "How much do they weigh?" or "How much do they eat?" (eight cups of dog food each per day) printed on them.

Bob Albers, who has loved Danes since the 1980s, said he had to talk his wife into getting a dog. But they bought Zeus and adopted Athena from the Mid-Atlantic Great Dane Rescue League (MAGDRL).

On Sunday, Aug. 14, MAGDRL hosted a barbecue picnic for Dane owners and foster families at the Fountainhead Regional Park in Fairfax Station.

"It’s so the foster families can all get to know each other," said Nicole Russell, who with Susan Hughes co-coordinates the Northern Virginia chapter of MAGDRL. "We all e-mail and talk on the phone, but we’ve never met each other."

A raffle table was set up at the picnic, the proceeds from which go to veterinary care and kennel fees for the over 80 foster Danes in MAGDRL’s care.

Dogs go into foster care for a number of reasons ranging from owners moving out of the area to abuse and neglect. Often, said Hughes and Russell, families don’t know what they are getting themselves into when they buy a dog of the Great Dane’s size.

The Albers have had to make a few accommodations for Zeus and Athena, such as big crates, tall water bowls, and a doggy septic tank in the back yard. But it has been worth it, they said.

"They’re my favorite breed of dog," said Bob Albers. "They’re so gentle, and great with kids."