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Leaving big pawprints: Pair of Great Danes lead a busy life

Dogs compete in shows, provide therapy and appear in music videos

Posted: April 27, 2009 10:11 p.m.
Updated: April 28, 2009 4:55 a.m.
Suzzane Kelleher-Duckett and her two Great Danes, Lava, 9, and her son Rumpus, 5, right, on a walk along the Soledad Canyon Road bike path. Suzzane Kelleher-Duckett and her two Great Danes, Lava, 9, and her son Rumpus, 5, right, on a walk along the Soledad Canyon Road bike path.
Suzzane Kelleher-Duckett and her two Great Danes, Lava, 9, and her son Rumpus, 5, right, on a walk along the Soledad Canyon Road bike path.
Suzzane Kelleher-Duckett can't help but attract stares when she goes out for her daily walk.

A lot of the attention she gets has to do with the pair of gargantuan dogs walking with her.

The Canyon Country resident is a proud parent to Rumpus, 5, and Lava, 9, purebred Harlequin Great Danes that weigh 185 and 130 pounds, respectively.

"I love these dogs," she said. "They're just an awesome breed. Very devoted."

A Southern California native, Suzzane said she's had dogs all her life, from purebreds to mutts.

Her husband had a Great Dane growing up, she said, and he proposed getting another one when the couple moved to Santa Clarita in 1996.

It's a family affair when it comes to their dogs. Lava is the daughter of Penelope, who Suzzane said recently died, and the mother of Rumpus. He is the father of 12-week-old Felony, whom she co-owns.

Suzzane walks Lava and Rumpus every day, usually covering three to six miles on local bicycle paths or at Vasquez Rocks Natural Area. The activity doesn't stop there.

Both dogs continually train and compete in dog shows, serve as therapy dogs and have also appeared in several music videos.
"It's a hobby and passion," she said.

The training and exercise is good for the dogs' well-being, she said. Otherwise, she added, "they just hang out on the couch all day."

Suzzane is a member of both the state and national Great Dane Club, and attends several events a year.

Both dogs have brought home awards, but she said the accolades are secondary.

"The titles are just my love and devotion for them," she said. "It takes time, and what you put into them is exactly what you will get out of them."

The dogs also are contracted with an animal agency that works in the entertainment industry.

Earlier this year, Lava appeared in a Valentine's Day-themed Petco ad, and Suzzane said she was contacted this month about the possibility of doing a dog food commercial.

Lava and Rumpus have also gotten a paw in the door of the music industry, having appeared in three videos for dance-pop artist Lady Gaga.

Being on a noisy, busy set "really tests the stability of their temperament," Suzzane said, and added her dogs acted liked old pros.
She recalled reading an article on the Internet about Lady Gaga's "Poker Face" video, in which the writer commented the dogs must be robotic, as no animal could be that well-behaved.

Lava and Rumpus have also found neighborhood fans, Suzzane said.

"All the neighborhood kids know my dogs," she said, and added the pair are "best friends" to her young nieces.

The path to using her dogs for therapy was a relatively unintentional one, Suzzane said.

She lives near the Boys and Girls Club in Canyon Country, and noticed how kids reacted to the dogs.

"A lot of our therapy sessions come by walking down the street," she said. "It is so emotional to watch. It makes you so proud (of your dogs).

"It's just amazing to watch them sidle up to people and wait to be petted."

Earlier this month, Suzzane said, she was at a local coffee shop with her dogs when a woman walked over, bent down and put her arms around Lava's neck.

"That sort of emotional connection was priceless," she said.

Training and showing Lava and Rumpus has helped Suzzane get over her fears of appearing in front of crowds.

"I was terrified to walk into a ring of any competition," she said. "It was a fear that really crippled me.

"My dogs have helped me. (Now) we go out there and we have a great time. It's not about me. I have to put my fears and insecurities aside."


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