Oct. 25, 2013 at 11:53 AM ET
The Great Dane who once held the Guinness Book of World Records title for being the world’s tallest dog has died a month shy of his eighth birthday. Although the world knew him as Giant George, to his owners, Dave and Christine Nasser of Tuscon, Ariz., he was just plain old George, their beloved family pet.
“He was the outcast of the litter,” Dave Nasser told TODAY.com about the fateful day he first laid eyes on the blue-grey pooch. “He was off to the side, not playing with the others.”
But George was anything but a runt. Christine Nasser chose the pup’s name, telling her husband, “a dog this size needs a person’s name.” From then on, George was just another member of the family — even though his massive size sometimes caused surprisingly funny problems around the house. “His tail — one time he put a dent in the drywall just by wagging it,” Dave Nasser laughs. “Yet he was also delicate and gentle. The kids could be around and you were never worried.”
When Dave and Christine welcomed children — the kids are now 4 and 2 — George warmed up to them and kept a watchful eye on anyone who got too close. “Danes do not do well separated from their families. They want to hang out, be with you, spend time with you, be part of the family. They just want to feel included in everything.”
Once the Guinness Book came calling (George held the record from 2010-2012), the Nassers felt their lives change almost instantly. George had already been a local celebrity, with strangers asking to take pictures, but the new-found fame catapulted them to another level. Dave, who works in real estate, felt that George had become his second job. He organized a Facebook page, handled interview requests, and answered fan mail from around the world — including one request from a man in England who collects paw prints of famous dogs.
Since announcing George’s death on October 18, his owners have been bereft. But Dave has found comfort by going online and interacting with the fans around the world who had come to love the three-foot, seven-inch-tall dog.
“The day that we put up on Facebook that he had passed away,” he says, “we got 13,000 comments. They were all so amazingly nice. I just sat there, and it was so emotional. It helped, but it made me sad too.”
Touched by the kind responses, Dave knew he had to do something to memorialize the dog he loved so much. He’s organizing National Giant George Service Day on November 17. That day, he’s encouraging all of George’s fans to donate money or volunteer with their favorite animal-related charity.
“It’s hard to believe that he touched so many people,” Dave says about his ordinary pet-turned-celebrity. “It’s really overwhelming.”