Audrey Ruple loves Great Danes so much that, while in the middle of Texas on a family vacation in 2012, she made the decision to get another one.
“We were lucky that we had a vehicle large enough to hold an extra passenger,” says Ruple, recalling how Bitzer, a purebred Great Dane that eventually grew to 140 pounds, came to live with her family.
Despite the rocky trip back to Colorado, he became rather mellow and the go-to animal for cuddles and chuckles.
“He was the best dog. He was my heart dog,” Ruple says.
Bitzer recently died after living a large life. He was almost 8 ½ years old.
“He was old for a Great Dane, but much too young for a dog to die,” says Ruple, who is an assistant professor of public health and a veterinary epidemiologist. She researches dog longevity through the Dog Aging Project.
Being a licensed veterinarian who knows the ins and outs of animal health doesn’t make the loss easier.