Giant George: Life with the World’s Biggest Dog

Giant GeorgeBy Dave Nasser with Lynne Barrett-Lee. Grand Central Life & Style. $24.99.

Initially, he isn’t a keeper for owner-author Nasser. But the affable George, a Great Dane, literally grows on him many times over in this endearing narrative.

Be prepared, however, “Giant George” is in a plodding mode in the early going before assuming momentum and taking on a personality of its own outside the family environment of Nasser and his wife Christie.

After advertising the $2,000 puppy – his wife’s true love – for sale it becomes too much to handle and Nasser has a change of heart, recognizing, “he was part of our family, and no matter what the hassle, no matter what the pain, one thing you don’t give up on is family.”

Two devastating failed childbirths take a huge emotional toll on the Tucson, Ariz., couple, but the challenge of raising the fast-growing Great Dane, the runt of a litter of 13, offers plenty of emotional amenities they never bargain on.

Viewed in awe by some and a misfit by others in dog parks, Gentle George transforms into Giant George, weighing 180 pounds at 11 months, 214 at two years and 245 at three years.

When the couple finally welcomes its first child, Annabel, the dog ignores the infant for months while grappling for the couple’s attention for the first time. Eventually, the sulking George recognizes Annabel isn’t going away and opts to become her best friend.

George’s height and weight are front and center everywhere he travels. After he tips the scales at 245, a friend suggests the couple take a look at the Guinness Book of Records web site to determine if he might be the world’s biggest dog. This unleashes the formation of Team Giant George and a full media blitz, producing worldwide attention on the unflappable giant.

The campaign produces these gaudy statistics: 75,000 Facebook friends, 2.5 million hits by summer of 2011 on his YouTube video and 5,000 visitors daily on his web site.

George is eventually certified as the world’s tallest dog at 43 inches (at the shoulders), breaking the former mark of 42¼ inches, but the effort has its detractors. While orchestrated in fun, Christie and Dave discover others view it differently, disputing their original claim to the Guinness title and forcing a reapplication, including a follow-up measurement by a second veterinarian with a Guinness official on hand.

Once recognized, Giant George’s world suddenly is thrust into fast forward. First, up is a whirlwind appearance and flight to the “The Oprah Winfrey Show” in Chicago, overnight accommodations in the master bed in the best suite of the Omni Hotel and countless demands for additional TV, radio and print interviews from media worldwide once they touch down back in Tucson.

With refreshing candor, Nasser frames the big picture, “first and last, our Georgie is our much-cherished pet” not a tool to fame and fortune. In the process, the author approaches his subject with vigor and sensitivity maintaining the dog’s welfare as his No. 1 priority throughout.