Xena the Leonberger Princess and Gentle Giant!
My wife and I had been looking at dogs for almost a year, we had already taken in two small rescue dogs, both with behavioral issues. With small children in the family and the neighborhood, I searched for a family oriented dog breed.

After researching several breeds, I stumbled across the Leonberger. I was instantly hooked with the breed, my wife, Patty, was a bit more hesitant, considering their average size. We met one of the two Leonberger owners in Plymouth County who were kind enough to introduce us to their Leo, our first encounter with an actual Leonberger, a two year old male, named Paxton. I was hooked and Patty well, she was a little more nervous with his size, but still thought he was a big beauty of a Leo!. We kept researching and discussing it until January, when I broke my ankle, that’s when I really started to look into breed specific organizations to possibly adopt or foster a Leonberger, and came across Leonberger Rescue. Patty and I discussed our options for some time and decided fostering a dog in need was a way to get to know and help the breed as well as decide if this was the right one for us. Once we made the decision, everything started to happen in a blur; we contacted Pat Bennett of Leo Rescue and started to work on the application process and a home visit was set up.

Pat informed us of a potential Leo in New Jersey who was in the process of being surrendered and would need a foster home; a 5 year old in tact female named Xena. We agreed to take her in. Pat and I organized the picking up of Xena, Pat walked me through the entire process and made me aware of any questions to ask the dog’s owner. I kept her informed of our plan of action for introducing the dogs to the new addition to the house. On March 28th, in an air cast and cane, I took the 6 hour round trip to meet and pick up Xena, our first Leonberger foster.

Xena was quite, gentle, a little apprehensive and a good listener, she was also in heat, which was the first of several surprises to come. As the exchange moved along, I read her the vet records and noticed a concern for her weight loss, she was 74 lbs, elevated kidney functions and an actual age of 7 1⁄2 years old. On the way home we stopped a few times along the way for breaks and treats. I learned very quickly that Xena was very good on leash, and a good listener. Once home we took a two hour walk at a near by park to get our small dogs to stop growling at Xena and get acquainted with her. Inside our home, we all had a chance to settle down and say hello. Patty was instantly in love, the big dog turned out to be a powder puff of love. With Pat’s guidance and coaching we quickly were able to acclimate Xena to our home, our other dogs, us and our routine, she was quite nervous the first few days, as was expected, then she started to bond with both Patty and I. Xena showed moments of energy with lots of down time which we initially contributed to the change in home and routine. The initial vet trip was a routine check up, that we later found out was not as thorough as it should have been. Xena’s initial energy spurts became more infrequent and she became more sluggish with time, she began vomiting her food and had a little diarrhea so we consulted a vet tech friend who recommended a home diet of boiled rice and chicken. The homemade dog food seemed to settle Xena’s stomach issues and for a short time she perked up and became more active. Keeping in close contact with Pat, almost on a daily basis, we discussed Xena’s health and other concerns such as her teeth, which looked like they had been filed down, and generally looked to be in terrible shape

Xena then took a turn for the worse and needed an emergency trip to Tuft’s Veterinary Emergency Services. In Xena’s initial exam it was discovered that she had dropped down to 70 pounds, needed an emergency hysterectomy (pyometra), significant blood work and major dental work all starting with an over night stay to stabilize her. Admitting her was an immediate charge of $2000.00 as a down payment for the surgery and after care; the total was estimated to be well over $4000.00, not including her teeth. I have never been so surprised or grateful to hear Leo Rescue immediately agree to pay for the surgery and care of a 7 1⁄2 year old rescue. I visited Xena at Tufts every day where she would “mush” into my laps her head back for a comforting rub, the staff raved about her and her sweet disposition. Xena’s blood came back showing an advanced E.Coli infection requiring 30 days of antibiotics, which she took at home, she continued to loose weight and at her lowest was 68 lbs. During those days, we worked on “building” Xena up with home prepared meals and lots of love, which she returned 10 fold, during this time she met my 9 year old daughter, Emily, and they instantly took to each other, Xena is true to the Leonberger reputation with kids offering all the love they can handle and then some. Once the Infection was gone, Xena returned to the dentist for the removal of 12 teeth at a cost of almost $1,500.00.

Xena, now done with all the surgeries was healing and pushing 90 lbs, it was time to meet the new vet, who is affiliated with Tuft’s, for a follow up exam and more blood work. This blood work showed Xena suffered from Stage 3 Kidney diseased, with only a third of her kidneys functioning however that has not slowed her down. Back home, any floor time with us instantly results in her mushing and going belly up paws dancing in the air for belly rubs. She is a regular goof ball chasing the small dogs around the yard, until they either play with her or go belly up as if to say, “uncle big girl.” My daughter, who stays with us over the summer, is able to walk Xena on a leash regularly as well as give her lots of love, treats, occasional commands, (sit, stay, etc.), Xena listens and obeys most of the time. She lays down by Emily’s side when we are sitting in the living room and when she goes to bed Xena lays by my side. Patty loves the smiling expression she gives when greeting us at the door or just when saying hello, Patty often takes her along when we go walking in the nearby park, as expected all the kids come and say hello and Xena shines from all the attention all the while seeking more kids to shower with affection. Despite our best efforts she occasionally rearranges the furniture while trying to entice the little dogs into a wrestling match. Xena likes to make contact with us while snoozing and often rests her head on a lap, foot, hand what ever she can reach, if not resting her head, then providing a paw to say hello. She has become a big part of our family and stole all of our hearts, which we happily give. She is true to the Leo temperament, gentle, goofy, loyal, loves to meet kids and playful with other dogs. I do not believe she would have had a second chance at life if it had not been for Leonberger Rescue. Xena is an extraordinarily well behaved dog, with good manners and recall and only the occasional spat with the cat.... And for a water dog… well let’s say we think her water meter is broken. She has won us over, my wife is now a Leonberger convert and we are committed to helping Leo Rescue in any way we can. Xena the Leonberger Princess and Gentle Giant!
Sean Alymer