Cats are supposed to have nine lives, but sometimes even a dog can beat the odds.
That?s the case for one Great Dane named Titan, who miraculously survived parvovirus, starvation and being lost for nine months before arriving in Marion some 150 miles from his home.
Titan?s luck might have finally run out if not for the quick thinking and help of two friends who came to his rescue.
Judy Dannenfelser of Marion, an avid dog lover, said she first learned about Titan last Monday from her friend Mary Beth Bowers, who lives off U.S. Highway 77 near Marion.
Bowers said she saw Titan Sunday night on her way to a youth group meeting.
?The dog was in a ditch,? she said. ?As I came by he looked up and I thought, oh great, some hunting dog is lost and my chickens are out.?
Concerned the dog might hurt the flock, she called her husband, Greg, to put the chickens in shelter.
A friend indeed
The next morning, Bowers said she heard a ?horrendous racket? and thought one of her dogs got a possum.
Instead, her husband said it was ?a horse,? referring to the Great Dane.
She said she called local veterinarians, the police, sheriff and neighbors who might know about other owners of large dogs, but it was to no avail.
She then called Dannenfelser, who had a large rescue dog at one time. Even though she no longer had her Greyhound, Dannenfelser told Bowers she would be over to see what she could do.
Finding a microchip
Enlisting the help of her son, Bret, Dannenfelser brought Titan to her veterinarian at Animal Health Center of Marion County to have him checked out.
?He weighed 100 pounds and that?s when Lori (Tajchman) found the microchip,? Dannenfelser said.
Although underweight for a Great Dane, she said, he was in good health.
?He has little bites on the end of his ears, but no major scars,? she said.
Tajchman called the microchip company and left a message for someone to contact Dannenfelser by phone or through email.
The microchip company contacted Titan?s owners, Jeff and Patricia DeJaynes of Easton, who then called Dannenfelser.
The first words she heard were: ?You have my dog.?
Because Dannenfelser was already getting attached to Titan, she asked Patricia to describe him?but then laughed, saying of course it was her dog.
?Titan had the microchip to prove it,? she said.
Once back from the veterinarian, and after drinking at least a quart of water, Titan leapt onto the couch, where he slept for the next several hours, according to Dannenfelser
?At about 12:30 a.m., I made a pallet at the end of my bed, and before I could get around to my side, he was in the bed,? she said. ?Along with my two schnauzers and Titan, we all had a good night?s sleep, but it was kind of confining (for me).?
While waiting for Titan?s owners to arrive Tuesday afternoon, Dannenfelser and Bowers wondered how the Great Dane could have survived on his own for nine months.
Bowers said she believed somebody took him into their home and kept him for a while.
?As friendly as he is, that makes sense,? she said.
Noticing his short hair, Dannenfelser said she couldn?t believe he made it through the cold weather.
Another surprising phenomenon, she said, was how Titan managed to find his way to Bower?s house without getting hurt.
?He was away from everywhere and there are a lot of barbed-wire fences. Great Danes wouldn?t jump barbed wire, and crawling underneath (would leave cuts and scrapes).?
A joyful reunion
The drive from Easton to Marion County Lake was more than three hours long, but Titan?s owners didn?t mind.
As Titan?s family approached Dannenfelser?s front door, the dog heard their voices. Without hesitation, he jumped from the couch and loped to the front door as Patricia excitedly said: ?Oh my goodness, you are so skinny.?
She said Titan weighed 160 to 170 pounds when he left his owners nine months ago.
Jeff, who was looking at Titan, put his hands around his girth, and laughed.
?He used to not have a waist,? he said laughing. ?Titan may be a little underweight now, but he was overweight when we had him?he looks good.?
Patricia said their daughter, Kiera, 3, was heartbroken when Titan didn?t come home. Unable to say the dog?s name, Kiera called him ?TeeBee,? according to her mother.
Titan was a house dog, but Patricia said they did let him and another dog outside to play in a wooded area behind their home. Last April, both dogs went out to play and only one returned.
?This was part of their dog?s routine for the past four years,? Patricia said. ?When Titan didn?t come home, we thought maybe he had a heart attack. He was about 4 or 5 years old then.?
Because of their size, she added, the life expectancy of a Great Dane is 6 to 8 years.
?We had already gone through the mourning period,? Patricia said, ?and we explained to Kiera that Titan had run off and he wasn?t coming home.?
Titan was Kiera?s dog, she said, and she had him since she was born.
?It was her best buddy,? she said.
Both Jeff and Patricia expressed their gratitude for microchips?and people like Dannenfelser and Bowers.
?We kept getting emails asking us to update our information, and it really ripped me up every time we got them,? she said.
At one point, she said, Patricia was going to call the microchip company and tell them their dog had died.
?They would have changed the information on the microchip and shut the account off,? she said. ?I am so happy we didn?t do that.?
For Jeff, last Tuesday?s drive to Marion was worth it?but surprising.
?It was 150 miles from Easton to Marion and quite a drive,? he said. ?It?s also not what I expected to do today.?
Titan?s life started in all the right ways, with registered papers and the chance for the good things that come with being a pedigree dog, Patricia said.
But the story took a bad turn.
?A lady got him as a registered Great Dane, and then he got parvovirus, and she turned him into a rescue agency.?
Canine parvovirus is a highly contagious viral disease that can produce a life-threatening illness.
Patricia said the best friend of a coworker nursed Titan back to health.
?It is usually lethal,? she said of the disease. ?But 24 hours a day, seven days a week she bottle fed him and after six months of this, he was better.?
Not long after that, the dog?s caregiver and her husband were divorced and she was forced to leave Titan with him.
?The husband didn?t feed him and at 9 months old we got him. He was completely emaciated and we nursed him back to health.?
Jeff said Titan weighed 30 pounds when they got him.
?After being starved, Titan had a real thing with food,? he added. ?So when his bowl was empty he would really freak out about it. He would bring his water dish to us and take the bowl and slam it on the ground until we heard it.?
When Titan didn?t return home that day nine months ago, the couple feared the worst but hoped for the best.
?Who knows where he has been, he has had such a crazy life as it is,? he said.
The DeJaynes family was ecstatic to have their dog back.
?The amazing thing about a Great Dane is that they fit a whole life of love into a few short years,? Patricia said. ?We have missed him horribly, and he has had an amazing story.?
Dannenfelser, Bowers and the DeJaynes are asking the public for help in filling the nine-month gap after Titan disappeared from his home in Easton.
?This dog has a story,? Dannenfelser said.
Bowers said she is hoping somebody will read the story and consider contacting her or Dannenfelser if they know something about Titan.
?That would be so fun,? she said.