EDITOR’S NOTE: Karen and Bob Siegel are big supporters of Charleston Animal Society and made the winning bid at the 2018 Gala for a cover shoot on Carolina Tails. Karen spoke to us about her love of large breed dogs and why we all need to give big dogs a chance.

Carolina Tails: It’s great to talk to someone like you who loves large dogs. At shelters when people are coming in to adopt, many people automatically gravitate towards the smaller dogs, overlooking the larger dogs. Why do you feel it's important to advocate for big dogs?

Karen: Because they're the ones that people are afraid to pick. I mean, it's almost as if people are afraid to take a pit bull or a pit bull mix, because in their minds it has the ability to be vicious. But, any dog can be! As you know, it's harder to place those big dogs.

Carolina Tails: The cover dog of this Carolina Tails issue is your dog Mishka. Tell us about her.
Karen: My friend just got back from a year in France and said she fell in love with the Dogue de Bordeaux (French Mastiff). I said, "I don't even know what that is." She texted me a picture and I was like "Oh my God, what is that thing?" I sent it to my husband Bob who sent me a text back, "That is the ugliest dog I've ever seen. We should get one." Bob liked all of our other dogs, but Mishka somehow just won his heart.

Carolina Tails: One of the many big dogs you have taken in over the years, was a rescue, tell us about Mukai.
Karen: Mukai was a Great Dane that was three years old, who spent the first year and a half of his life tied up in a backyard getting beaten. He was in Great Dane Rescue for two years. My daughter Abigail and I were watching him on the website, and I said, "You know, Abigail, he is beautiful, but he has to be the most screwed up dog in North America if he's still in the rescue." And she said, "Probably. Let's go get him."

Carolina Tails: And so, you went to rescue Mukai?
Karen: Yes, and you know, at first, I was terrified of him. He weighed 207-pounds! But I started to play with him, and I got up to throw a ball for him and he got the ball and he ran past me and spit it out the side of his mouth as he passed me but kept running.

Carolina Tails: What did you think that meant?
Karen: I just started laughing. I realized, he’s not mean, he's scared! And he was, he was terrified.

Carolina Tails: How did everything go?
Karen: He was an amazing dog. When we first brought him in, he thought the cats were fair game, which they're not. But eventually, the cats won and I have pictures of them together.

Carolina Tails: You have had four Great Danes over the years, what is it about Great Danes that are so amazing?
Karen: They really are gentle giants. They're just loving and they have no idea how big they are. Every single one of them that we had was a lap dog. People say "oh, we don't have room for a Great Dane, the house is too small," but big dogs are great. I mean, they will curl up on a love seat. They're easy.

Carolina Tails: If somebody is considering a Great Dane, can we talk a little bit about why they are called the “heartbreak breed?” Karen: Well, they have a shorter lifespan. Most big dogs have a shorter lifespan. You know, there are different statistics: six to eight or eight to 10 years. We had one that lived to be almost 12.

When my daughter Abigail was little and we lost that first Dane, she said, "Mommy, why are their lives so short?" I said, "Well, Abigail, so we get to love a lot of them."

Carolina Tails: Right around Labor Day, Mishka got a new playmate, Jinxie, who is a “Great Danoodle,” which is a mix of a Great Dane and a Poodle. How is it going with Mishka?
Karen: The puppy adores Mishka and Mishka loves playing with the puppy. But when Mishka gets tired, the puppy doesn't -- so then Mishka is like "No, please!" But they're adorable. I have a bunch of pictures of them sleeping on the dog bed together.

Carolina Tails: What is your hope with this article?
Karen: My hope is that seeing Mishka on the cover, and seeing how sweet she is, will encourage at least one person to go to Charleston Animal Society and adopt a big dog. If that happens, then this was worth every penny!