Gibson, ‘world’s tallest dog,’ dies in Grass Valley
August 12, 2009
GRASS VALLEY, Nev. – If all dogs go to heaven, then Gibson, the world’s tallest dog, must be towering over his canine companions in the great beyond.
The harlequin great Dane who spent time on Oprah’s couch, hugged Paris Hilton, graced the set of “The Tonight Show with Jay Leno” and warmed the hearts of hundreds of Nevada County convalescent hospital patients, died Friday.
The dog who was certified in 2004 by Guinness World Records as the world’s tallest – at 42.2 inches at the shoulders – was 7 years old. He had battled cancer and had his right front leg amputated earlier this year.
Gibson’s owner and handler, Sandy Hall, of Grass Valley, said she was simply too grief-stricken to tell much of the outside world of the dog’s death over the weekend.
Throughout his career, Gibson became an international canine celebrity, as Japanese movie crews came to film the giant pooch and British journalists swooned over the gregarious great Dane.
“We went everywhere,” Hall said Wednesday at her home. “His adventures were absolutely priceless. I never felt like I was showing him off. I just felt like I was the other one at the end of the leash.”
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From the time he was introduced to the public as a pup in 2003, Gibson – a certified therapy dog – was a sought-after celebrity, both at home and far away. Hall, a former musician and product demonstrator of keyboards and concert equipment, had named the puppy Gibson after a famous guitar manufacturer.
“The people of this community could not have been better to us,” Hall said.
Gibson had struggled through health problems in the past year. In April, he was diagnosed with osteosarcoma, a form of canine bone cancer. After the amputation in May, Gibson started chemotherapy.
Hall took Gibson to a Loomis veterinarian Aug. 5, where the dog underwent lung X-rays and a spinal exam. At that point, Hall saw Gibson’s lungs filled with tumors.
“The dog never coughed, never bled,” Hall said. “He was stoic. Maybe I didn’t want to believe he was in pain.”
Hall and friends spent the next two days trying to make Gibson comfortable, feeding him his favorites: Pasta, rawhide chew sticks, roast beef with gravy, filet mignon.
Depending on their size, great Danes have a life expectancy of seven to 10 years.
Friday, Gibson was put to sleep, with Hall holding him in her arms.
Throughout his career as a celebrity, Gibson pitched everything from dog food to a special canine turf that now takes up space on Hall’s front porch.
“I didn’t see a tall dog,” she said. “I saw his love, his spirit. I saw his heart.”
Hall also breeds harlequin great Danes, including Brewster, a 165-pound puppy whom Hall said could dethrone Gibson as the world’s tallest. It remains to be seen whether Brewster can match Gibson’s charisma.
Gibson was a people magnet and an inspiration, Hall said.
“He made smiles happen … and loved being out with people,” Hall said. “Me? Not so much. I have a lot to learn from him.”