Darkat Great Danes 

Angies Story












Angie is the last of our six puppies from our "A" litter to gain her Australian title. Angie was returned to us as a result of self proclaimed experts of the breed, diagnosing her with wobblers at 9 months of age. This so-called "Diagnosis" was without a vet nor specialist opinion, resulting in her owners deciding they would no longer keep her. The justification for this was because they couldn't afford to operate, nor did they want a genetic defect in their back yard. Upon my own inspection, I certainly could not detect any symptoms of the disease but I knew this darling girl had to come back home with us where she belonged and get the medical attention she so rightly deserved.
Immediately, we took Angie to our highly respected local vet whom we have been with for 15 years. On physical examination, Dr Collins could not determine wobbler’s disease. We spent almost an hour discussing how or why someone could diagnose a Great Dane without at very least radiographs! Dr Collins advised us to allow Angie to settle back home with us, before we subjected her to any invasive procedures. We allowed 6 weeks of monitoring her every move. We needed to try and determine how others could have come to that conclusion with her. Not once did Angie trip, fall over or show any signs typical of Wobblers disease. Both Darren and I felt her behavior was normal or in other words, consistent of a very stable young female Great Dane.
During this time Angie became a part of family, a real talker. Every time we entered her space she would roar like a wolf, almost like a big hello and smile. Let me tell you… once you have been greeted by Angie, you will never forget her welcoming and calming disposition toward you, she is our very special girl whom we adore.
Sadly, the "Chinese whispers" were traveling around the show scene and amongst many in the Dane fraternity that Angie was a wobbler. I was receiving phone calls, emails of a questioning nature. It became clear to us, that most breeders do not openly discuss health issues within the breed, I soon was to find out why!…

Six weeks went quickly. Everyday I had recorded Angie's every move, and still no tripping, falling over or scuffing. It may of been wishful thinking on our behalf that Angie was not a Wobbler, but how could she be? After all, she moved like most other Danes I have seen run around in our show ring… nothing out of the ordinary! If anything, I noticed a very slight flicking of her pasterns, otherwise her feet placement was true and her hindquarter moved with drive. Sound standing with no instability what so ever.

Dr Collins preformed lateral X-rays of the neck, which showed us there was abnormality within her vertebra C 4-5 and C 5-6. Both Darren and I were heartbroken. We cried uncontrollably! We had put so much time and effort into these puppies. We health tested their mother; Hips/Elbows x-rayed heart, shoulders and neck, thyroid etc, and all was clear, how could this happen to us? How could this happen to Angie? She appeared so normal! To be diagnosed with this insidious disease was gut wrenching, and we wanted answers! What did this mean for her? What did this mean for her siblings and us as her breeders?

A week after Dr Collin diagnosed Angie, we sent the radiographs to Dr Roger Lavell (a highly regarded radiologist) for his expert opinion. Many have used Specialist Dr Lavel for hips and elbows, and I have since used Dr Lavel in reading other Great Dane neck x-rays. He confirmed abnormalities in Angie’s vertebras. It was so hard for us to believe that Angie could have this! However, two experts could not be wrong.

During this time, those that needed to be notified of Angie's condition where told, and the relevant information was sent. My mentor for many years Denise Bennett from Amasa kennels was very understanding, her compassion for Angie was comforting at the time to hear. We discussed this disease at great lengths and how mother nature can often when breeding throw you that curve ball. I came to the conclusion that mother nature was unkind to us. However, Angie was as normal as any other Dane so how bad could this be for her? We were unfortunate that this happened with this litter.

It became apparent to us, that certain people could not, or would not believe that Angie was diagnosed with wobblers. Well… we didn't want to believe it either! Unfortunately, when two professionals diagnose wobblers, it is what it is. We had dealt with the fact Angie was a wobbler, we certainly did not wish it upon her nor would we wish it upon any Great Dane.

Selfish folk with questionable agendas, where spreading rumours… saying that we made the 'wobblers' story up to try and ruin other kennels or other dogs show career. This in itself was ludicrous! What possible gain would that give us, as by my own admission, this would end my breeding plans to go forward with my girls from this litter. Absolutely ridiculous rumours abounded. In my opinion, from those with spiteful and vicious natures…A blatant attack at trying to discredit the respect and integrity of those who had never been questioned before.

Eventually we were forced to seek legal action. My lawyer advised us after his research that the only way to put this to bed would be to proceed with a Myelogram. This was the only way to confirm for sure that Angie was in fact a wobblers. Both Darren and I did not want to go down this path nor did we want to subject our beautiful girl through such a traumatic ordeal. We felt so helpless… Do you continue on and allow certain folk to continually call you a liar or do you try and ignore? Darren and I discussed this at great lengths and the last thing we wanted was to put Angie through a myelogram, we had faith in our own vet and Dr Lavel, we trusted their expertise.

The word soon spread to other States in Australia that we had a Dane with Wobblers disease. Not long after all the rumours started circulating we were contacted by a lady in another State who had a Great Dane with wobblers; a bitch who she had operated on successfully. We spoke for hours on the phone… We laughed, we cried for our breed and the state that it's in. I was then contacted by another puppy owner in the same state. It became obvious that Wobblers was alive and well with in our breed. I found once talking to these puppy owners, some breeders did not want to believe this disease was existent in their lines! There were all these puppy owners that were told it was pano, it was injury induced wobblers, it was growing problems, diet, nutrition etc etc...Most of these puppy owners were shrugged off with no one to talk to or confide in. No-one to offer them advice or help. Families heartbroken, because their nine month old Great Dane puppy had to be PTS due to wobblers. Too many stories to mention but all very heart wrenching and so very sad for those who loved their beloved Danes.

We decided then, and took Angie to Dr Sam Snelling. He perform the myelgram. I asked a dear friend Francis Hammer, if she would accompany me at Dr Sams clinic. She was more than happy to and with tears in my eyes I left Angie in Sams good care at the clinic. Franny and I went for lunch, probably the longest couple of hours of my life! I distinctly remember… I was just about to get into Franny's car and my mobile phone rang. It was Dr Snelling, saying that Angie was out of theater and he confirmed Angie was a mild wobblers and we could come and sit with her whilst she recovers. My heart sank… and I burst into tears! I sat in the car with Franny sobbing like a child! I knew Angie was a wobblers, but there was a part of me that was hoping and praying she was not… hoping, my vet and Dr Lavel had it all wrong! It was not to be… At that moment, the reality of it all set in, but through my own despair, my main concern was for Angie and getting to her before she awoke from her ordeal.

Both Franny and I sat with Angie whilst she came out of the anesthetic. Sam wanted to show me the scans… both Franny and I listened and asked questions. It was the first time seeing how a myelogram works and without a shadow of a doubt we could see the narrowing of the spinal cord and the compression. Luckily… it was not enough to warrant surgery. Sam explained in great detail Angie''s results and was extremely sympathetic. We asked him if Angie's symptoms could be injury induced. He said that it was not possible. Angie's results were that of genetic wobblers. He also mentioned that if every Great Dane was to be myelogramed that many of them would show similar results as Angie. Even as high as 75% could possibly have this kind of narrowing. So where did we go from here? Sam advised us to treat her as normal, exercise normal, feeding as normal…her life would not change. Mine would not be the same.

It wasn’t that long after Angie's Myelogram, that I noticed Angie for her worth as a Great Dane. Her beauty, elegance, size and substance. Her willingness to please and tell me. Why is it that the special ones seem to be the most endearing? They have an ability to look into your soul and know your heart?

Just after Angie turned 18 months of age we decided to show her and we did with great success. Her first show she won bitch Challenge (against other champions) Runner up Best of Breed to her brother Babe and also won Australian Bred in Group under a All Breeds judge, what a start!
Unfortunately, it wasn’t always roses at the shows. A minority of people were not happy and were trying their utmost to malign her, her lines and us for showing her. Thankfully to no avail! It didn’t take long and Angie became an Australian Champion. She won many Best of Breeds and became a multi class in group winner.

We are not ashamed of her, we love her and adore her! Because of Angie, many beautiful people have come into our lives and those that left our lives were not worth our friendship the first place! Can a dog make a difference in a life? They most certainly can!

Angie is now moving towards her third birthday and still going strong! She rarely ever needed medication, but she was prescribed Rymadal and Tramol on a few occasions. Wobblers is not as cut and dry as many might think… so what helps and works for one Dane may not work for another. We also took Angie to a Spinal vet whose expertise was with acupuncture which I felt was helpful. After a while the spinal vet felt Angie did not require this treatment anymore.

Let me just say this…Wobblers is not a dirty word. Nor, is it necessarily a death sentence for a Dane! There are many new techniques and many specialist vets that deal in new procedures to help Danes with this affliction. There is no shame in owning a Dane with this disease nor, is there shame in breeding one. No difference to DCM and other predisposed diseases our breed can get and even with years of careful breeding these diseases can still pop up.

We have been scorned at times for showing Angie… because we admitted she had this disease. If every dog was not allowed to be exhibited in the show ring because they had a genetic disorder, how many dogs would we see in the show ring today? In a perfect world, it would be great if all dogs exhibited in the show ring were free from any genetic disorders but this is not the case. Dogs with Hips and Elbow scores borderline displastic, dogs with PRA, entropian, dogs with heart conditions, immune deficiencies , there are too many genetic disorders to mention! But, if a dog functions normally, free from medication, free from surgery, and is a good example of the breed, why cant he or she be shown? There are dogs and bitches in the show ring that have never produced because they are barren… so using the old myth they must be sound enough to be bred from to take the bred forward is rubbish! It is irresponsible to breed on with this disease; it is irresponsible to breed on with any genetic disorder that causes pain and suffering to an animal! This is the responsibility of the breeder, not stick their head in the sand and pretend these diseases do not exist.

Angie will never be bred from, nor will her siblings that are owned by us. Mode of inheritance is still uncertain but many experts believe it is Autosomal recessive, some may dispute that it takes two (sire and the Dam), many think its in certain lines, but I am not that clever to be able to detect it so easily by visual alone.

Angie is one of the most beautiful Great Danes we have had the privilege of knowing and her story needed to be shared so that others may understand a little more about Wobblers and those that do, know that they are not alone in their fight.

Thank you for reading Angie's Story.
























I can not explain how broken hearted I am right now, my beautiful Angie, CH Darkat Apanchito Passion was given her wings at 4-30am on Monday morning(12-12-2016 ) after her heart went into cardiac failure. Angie's body failed her but her mind was still able to give me a paw even when she could barely raise her head.
Angie's life was not in vain, I can celebrate her short life on this earth because I brought her into the world even though harsh and cruel as it may seem sometimes she taught me so much as a human and as a Great Dane Breeder and hopefully "Angie's Story" will reach the hearts and minds of many, now and in years to come.

Ange was diagnosed with mild wobblers (CVI) at (9 months) after being returned to me at 7 months of age from the pet home I sold her to, they did not want (quote) "a genetic defect in our backyard", so I immediately refunded her owners and brought her home, where she has never left my home from that moment on. Later on we discovered she also had a heart condition, DCM.

Angie was such the 'genetic defect' as her previous owners had claimed her to be that she gained her Australian Championship title with ease beating Grand champions and the likes under All round judges during her short show career, winning many in group awards however at 2 and half years of age her wobblers became very obvious even to the untrained eye so she was desexed and then she was shown and won Specialty in Show Classes. Certainly it was not easy holding your head high and showing a dog with a 'genetic defect' with so much negativity and viciousness from those in the breed who should know better and have bred on and still hide their secrets away in their closets, lying and denying the health issues they have produced and still do....however when Angie was returned to me, I could not hide her secret, I had an obligation to share as I have always demanded disclosure and transparency with a breed that has so many health issues to bear, although it was never returned to me when I decided to breed and unfortunately Angie and her siblings have paid that price for those who rather the lies and failure to disclose when they knew wobblers and the other health problems were rife.

So to my fellow breeders, look carefully at the babies you are bringing into the world, do not take someones 'word' they have never had that problem before!, research pedigrees, ask for health testing, PLEASE don't stick your head in the sand and believe everyones promise of perfect sound lines, because I am here to tell you, you are foolish believing anyone that tells you so, open your eyes, take a stand and do the right thing for your breed, don't be a mindless follower, be a leader and stand firm, be a breeder that has integrity and places Health and Temperament as a priority and at the forefront of your breeding, you may not be liked by some but you will be respected by many in years to come and your breed will be in a better place because at that time, at that cross road you came to, you chose to do the right thing.

Yes my heart is broken that a Great Dane I bred lost her life too early, only reaching 7 and 1/2 years of age while many others in the breed reach double digits however Angie was loved and adored by us and could never be replaced, Ange will always be in our hearts but I am saddened to think her life was cut so short and she had to suffer many moments of undue pain along the way and I have no doubt if in her previous owners care she would of lost her life at 7 months of age ...and many still do with this heinous disease (DCM and CVI) ...I plead with those who are breeding on with lines known to carry / suffer these diseases, think very carefully about your breeding program, the heartbreak and pain you are inflicting on this beautiful breed and their unsuspecting owners, their cost, their grief, its not worth the monetary gain or the fringie satisfaction!
if I could change all the 'wins on the board' to have sound healthy Danes that could live to a respectful age and bring loads of joy to their owners, I most certainly would.
RIP my sweet angel, love you to the moon and back my wooo wooo girl. I miss you more than I can bear right now.
My tribute to the sweetest Great Dane girl to pace this earth. ""ANGIE SMITH"
and also in remembrance of my other babies, gone but never forgotten, also gone way too early.
RIP Teddy osBISS CH Darkat Abracadabra -owned by L King
RIP Jackson BISS BIS Sup Ch Darkat Agent Provocateur - owned by T Coyle

1-6-2009 to 12-12-2016 RIP my darling girl



Rest now sweet baby girl, at home with your momma and family.

Special thank you Central Victorian Pet Cremations, Neil, Chris and families for their compassion and care in looking after our Angie.










BELLA'S STORY.....26TH FEB. 2009-15th DEC. 20011




I remember the day that I saw a Great Dane for the first time, I was at the Perth Royal Show and my mum and I were walking through the dog pavilion. We followed this amazing boy out to theshow ring, and boy o boy was he a sight to be seen, his majestic size, the regal air he had about him and the "strut" - man did he have a strut!



He was amazing and he knew it and I said to my mum on that day that, one day, I would own a Great Dane.


10 years later that day came!!


My husband and I were in the process of building our first home and decided that we would like two dogs; my dream dog of a Great Dane and the breed he had grown up, with the German ShepherdDog. I found the Breeder of our GSD girl, Molly, fairly easily and so Ithen started hunting for my Great Dane.

I came across a Breeder and called her to ask about any possible litters, she informed me that her bitch had given birth 2 days before and there was one little girl left. I couldn't believe it, it must of been fate and to top it off both my puppies were born on the same day 26th February 2009, the next day I paid our deposit.

7 weeks and 5 days later I pickedup my beautiful Bella from the airport and I fell in love instantly. I had waited 10 years for this dog and in my eyes she was just perfect.

Bella and Molly were inseparable, they were like two peas in a pod and thefirst year of their lives flew by without any problems. Bella and I attended a Great Dane picnic where we came across a lovely old girl who was a little wobbly on her feet. I got talking to her owner and was told that she hadWobblers. I was in shock; I had never heard of the disease and couldn't believe that such a horrible condition was out there and that it affected my beloved breed.

Iam ashamed to say that I put that beautiful girl out of my mind and never thought about her again - until Bella's diagnosis.

Bella was a real character. If she wasn't impressed with you, for what ever reason, she would happily grumble at you until you were doing what she wanted. She hated the rain and would wee while backing up off the patio so she wouldn't get wetand yet she loved swimming, so much so that it didn't matter if the pool cover was on or off.



She had a set of lungs on her aswell. When she snored the whole house shook, she used to sleep on the floor at the bottom of our bed but that soon changed and we had to move her out into the lounge room so we could get some sleep!



Bella and Molly's second birthday came and went. Both girls were given a new toy and a boneand the day was just like any other. Had I of known it was to be Bella's last I would of done something a little more special. In July of 2010 my husband and I welcomed our first child into the world. Up until this point the girls were my life, they were my babies and were so spoilt.



I'm not happy to admit but the poor girls got forgotten about for a few weeks while I was adjusting to becoming a first time mum, however after about 6 weeks I decided that they deserved more and organized for my mum to come and watch the baby so I could take the girls for a walk. That was the day our lives changed.


The walk started out like the hundreds we had done before and both girls were so happy to be out and were wagging their tails taking it all in but after about fifty meters Bella started getting tight in her back end and dragging her feet. I told myself it was just because it had been a while and she was justa bit sore. After about anotherfifty meters she started dragging her feet to the extent of making her toenails bleed. I crossed the road onto a soft surface and Bella collapsed. I don't know how I managed it but I coaxed her up again and we made the slow journey home, the whole time she was wagging her tail. I got home and called our local Vet and rushed her in. We got there and the Vet examined Bella in the car park as by this stage she has lost the use of her legs and couldn't put any weight on them. TheVet went inside to make some phone calls and came out with a referral to a Neurologist in Perth. I don't know why but for some reason Wobblers came to mind so I asked her if it was possible if that could be what was wrong with Bella. She said she couldn't say without further testing but it was a possibility. I was shattered.

The next day hubby took the day off work and we drove the two hours to the Specialist appointment. By this stage Bella had regained the use of her legs so we felt like we were wasting their time. The Neurologist asked if Bella could spend a few days with them to monitor her. Of course we agreed, we wanted to make sure our baby girl was o.k. I received a call on the Monday morning saying Bella had again gone down hill andthat they would like to do a myleogram to see what was happeningso we agreed and that day the scan was done.

Bella didn't do very well after the scan so they recommended that she be kept in for a few days to be monitored again. We got the scan results back and they were inconclusive. They could see something was wrong but couldn't tell what it was. By this stage Bella had been in Perth for a week and I desperately wanted her home. She was home for three days when she started struggling again. The Neurologist suggested a CT scan which we reluctantly agreed toknowing how she was affected by the first scan and we didn't want to put her through that again, but what choice did we have? We had to find out what was wrong with her. The scan was completed and again she didn't cope with the anesthetic so she spent another 4 days in Perth. When I called for the results and the Neurologist said she wanted to “have a chat with me in person” so I knew it wasn’t going to be good news. Bella had Wobblers. My earth gave way. How could this happen to my baby girl? I did all the right things, I fed her the right food, monitored her play, brought her from a Registered Breeder - this sort of thing shouldn’t of been happening.

Bella's scan showed a multitude of problems. She has three arachnoid cysts on her spine, one at the base of her brain and two in her lower back. She also had protruding discs which were pushing on her spinal cordand she had degenerative boney growths plus she had narrowing of her spinal cord where no compressions could be found. I was amazed my baby girl had made it this long.

We had two options. The first was to leave her as she was. She didn't seem to be in any pain so we could just monitor her and give her a steroid to help stabilize the spinal cord, or the other option was to do surgery and hope for a positive outcome. Bella's chance of surviving the surgery were 50/50 and only a 30% chance that she would make it home due to complications!

We chose the first option and thought that if we got to spend another six months with her then that was better than nothing. By this stage Bella had been on the steroid for approx three weeks. We took our girl home and were going to spoil her rotten. Sadly we didn't get a chance to as she deteriorated so quickly over the next week that by the time we got we back to Perth she had lost the ability to stand unassisted. We had no choice. We had to do the surgery. I wasn't ready to say good bye but we had to at least give her the chance to fight.

Surgery was booked for three days later so she had a chance to recover slightly. I said my goodbyeto her as there was a huge chancethat she wouldn't make it. Her surgery went for six long hours. The poor Vet Nurse must have been sick of me as I called every hour for an update. By the fourth hour she beat me to it and called me. Finally I got the call saying that they had completed the surgery and she had survived. I was so relieved. They wouldnt let me see her as they didn't want her getting too excited so I headed home and sat by the phone for any updates. Two days later when I finally got to see her I was amazed, she was up and walking with only a small wobble. I couldn't believe it. The Neurologist was also shocked, they were expecting her to be lying down for at least seventy two hours but she was up and about after only twenty four. In true Bella style she made everyone fall in love with her over her four week stay in hospital. She was stirring all the other dogs up because she was able to see into their cages because of her height. They said I could take her home as they believe they had done all they could. Although she wasnt as good as she was straight after the surgery she seemed to be managing.

She came home and Molly was so happy to see her, she was on strict bed rest but once again my heart broke when she started deteriorating once again. By this stage she had been on the meds for six weeks and had developed a UTI, so back to Perth she went while they pumped her full of drugs to tryand fix it. They were extremely concerned for her kidneys as they weren't coping too well with all the steroids but once again she was a trooper and fought so hard. When she was home again things were all over the place, she would have one good day but then two bad ones, she still needed assistance with doing her business and didn't have enough strength in her back legs to stand up without a gentle pull. The Neurologist suggested a neck brace so off we trotted and she spent the next week in Perth to see if she would tolerate it. I got a call saying she is ready to go home so I picked her up. When the Neurologist said let’s go outside and sit on the lawn for a chat I knew what was coming. She said to me that Bella wasn't going to get better and there was nothing else they could do for her so I had to make a decision.

That night, on the fifteenth of December 2011 on our lounge room floor, Bella was given her wings. And in true Bella style she let out a little snore and took her last breath while hubby and I cuddled her. She was two years and nine months old.



We decided to get Bella cremated and when I picked her ashes up it felt like I lost her all over again.


It was the hardest decision that I have had to make but as her Guardian I know I had no choice, it wasnt fair on her it's not fair for any animal to suffer the way Bella did.

This disease exists and is out thereand people need to be aware of it.

Breeders need to be honest with their puppy buyers and puppy buyers need to ask the questions.

I learned the hard way and if by my speaking out makes just one person change their views or makes them ask the hard questions then my beautiful Bella has helped someone.









 by Rebecca Harper



Contact Details
Kathy Smith
Strathfieldsaye, VIC, Australia
Phone : 0418305769
Email : [email protected]

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