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Great Dane is a great match for owner

Photo courtesy of KCHA
This adoption photo of Elvis at the Kanawha/Charleston Humane Association was the clincher for owner Kayla Wygal, who already wanted a Great Dane.

Kayla Wygal’s 2-year-old weighs about 119 pounds, but she’s not worried.

That’s because he’s a Great Dane.

Wygal, of Charleston, adopted Elvis from the Kanawha/Charleston Humane Association in December. She wasn’t daunted by the dog’s size.

“I’ve wanted a Great Dane my whole life,” Wygal said. “I was talking to a friend of mine who is friends with [shelter director] Chelsea [Staley] on Facebook. I said I’d been looking at puppies, and then she texted me one morning and said, ‘Chelsea just posted a Great Dane on her page for adoption.’

“I went, met him, fell in love with him and took him home. I couldn’t resist him.”

What she didn’t fall in love with was his name, which the shelter had given him because of the way one side of his lip curled up when one of the workers petted him. It ended up sticking, though.

“I’m not a big Elvis fan at all. I don’t know anything about Elvis.”

Wygal, a huge Duke University basketball fan, intended to name him either Duke or Nolan, after one of her favorite Duke players, Nolan Smith.

“Most any animal I’ve ever had has been named something related to Duke,” she explained.

“I started calling him by the names I wanted, but it’s just Elvis. I couldn’t name him anything else. He’s just an Elvis.”

Elvis is not Wygal’s only pet at the moment; he shares their home with her other dog: a 9-pound Pekingese mix named Franklin.

“He’s just little and has these tiny, short legs. Where Elvis takes one step, he takes like 60,” Wygal said with a laugh.

Despite the vast size difference, the two get along wonderfully. The shelter warned that Elvis was aggressive toward other dogs, but Wygal didn’t find that to be the case.

“I’d planned on keeping them separated, but they’re best buddies. They would die without each other.”

She said there was only a short adjustment period when the two met, and that was because Elvis had to learn how to play more gently with Franklin than he would with another dog his own size.

“He’s still a puppy, and he doesn’t know how big he is. He really wanted to play, but he didn’t know how. He just had to learn ‘I’m really big, and this thing’s really small, so I have to tone it down.’

“It was interesting to see how he became more gentle as he learned [Franklin’s] boundaries.”

“It probably only took about three days for me to feel comfortable enough to let them be together, to not stand over top of them and get Franklin out if something happened,” she continued. “But they don’t sleep together. I don’t trust them that much yet.”

Still, the size difference creates some interesting moments. Dogs often like to lick other dogs’ ears, but that’s a little difficult between Elvis and Franklin.

“Sometimes I’ll look over and Franklin’s entire head is in Elvis’ mouth,” Wygal said and laughed. “I’ll be like, ‘What are you guys doing?’ Elvis just looks over at me, and Franklin looks at me with his head still partway in Elvis’ mouth.”

Initially, Wygal was also somewhat apprehensive about how Elvis would react to her father because the shelter had also said he was aggressive toward men. Elvis warmed right up to him, but that aggression is something he continues to struggle with at times.

“He still battles that, and we’re working on it. I don’t know where he came from. I don’t know if he was abused by a man or a man scared him before. He’s very protective. I don’t know if he’s aggressive or just very, very protective of his owner.”

He’s also her biggest fan.

“If I turn around, he’s right there. He never leaves my side.”

Side, of course, is a relative term in this case. At 5-foot-3, Wygal is shorter than Elvis when he’s standing, and when she’s sitting, he’s at eye-level. Whatever the position, he’s incredibly lovable, Wygal said.

“People call [Great Danes] the world’s biggest lapdogs, and that’s him. He’d sit on top of you all day every day if you let him.”

He does know his boundaries though. He’s not allowed on the couch (he has his own love seat), so he doesn’t get up. He does, however, stand and lay his head on Wygal’s chest when she’s sitting there.

She thinks part of their bond comes from the fact that he, like Franklin, is a shelter dog.

“I think they know you saved their life, and it makes them even more in love with you,” she said. “He loves me so much, and I love him so much. It’s the perfect match.”

Reach Amy Robinson at or 304-348-4881.

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