One dog can be a lot of work. Two dogs will definitely keep you busy. It takes a special family, however, to handle SEVEN dogs! Elizabeth and Rick Cornell of southeast Michigan share their home with seven large rescue dogs of various ages and breeds. We were introduced to Elizabeth by her local DogWatch Dealers, David and Kathy Downey of DogWatch by Laughing Labrador. We spoke to Elizabeth recently about her passion for animal rescue, managing some of her dogs’ medical needs, and life with her “crazy pack of dogs”!

DogWatch: Your home includes seven dogs – that’s amazing! What are your dogs’ names and breeds, and when did they join your family?

Elizabeth: Our pack consists of 7 dogs who are all rescues in one form or another. I’m very passionate about rescue and love to volunteer my time helping dogs. From top to bottom, our dogs are:

  • Kaiser is an Australian Blue Heeler who is 13 years old. He was adopted from the Huron Valley Humane Society when he was 6 months old.
  • Maisy is a Golden Retriever who is 12 years old. We got her when she was 8 months old and came from a family member, who was getting a divorce and couldn’t handle a puppy and two small children.
  • Jake is a Great Dane who is 6 years old. We adopted him from a breeder when he was 8 months old. He has megaesophagus and could not be used for breeding, so he became our pet.
  • Jaxson is a Great Dane/Lab mix who is 5 years old. We adopted him from the Ohio Great Dane Rescue (OGDR) when he was just 11 weeks old.
  • Czar is a German Shepherd who is 5 years old. We adopted him from a rescue in Indiana when he was 4 months old.
  • Tigger is a Great Dane who is 3 years old. We adopted him from OGDR when he was 5 months old.
  • Bliss rounds out our pack and is a Great Dane mix who is 2 years old. We jokingly refer to her as our Heinz 57 dog.

The Cornell family and their seven dogs

DW: Some of your dogs came to you with significant medical needs, correct? Tell us more about that.

E: As mentioned, our oldest Great Dane Jake has megaesophagus (or ME), and he came to us at 8 months old because he could not be used for breeding. [Editor’s Note: Megaesophagus is a condition characterized by the enlargement of the esophagus, which is the muscular tube that connects the throat to the stomach. It prevents food from reaching the stomach, making it hard to a dog to receive proper nutrition. Great Danes are one of several breeds predisposed to develop ME.] Luckily Jake’s ME is not severe and is easily managed by keeping his food/water elevated and making him rest before and after meals.

Tigger is a medical disaster and the poster child for everything that is wrong with Backyard Breeders. His “breeder” in Ohio didn’t know or care to know about how to properly breed Great Danes. He’s a “Blue Brindle” and his marking are very striking but the poor guy was very sick from birth. His original owner practically starved him to death and he now has leg deformities as a result of the malnutrition.

Tigger is a fighter!! He entered the rescue weighing only 14lbs at 14 weeks old and he was a very sick puppy who almost died twice before we adopted him. Ohio Great Dane Rescue did an amazing job bringing him back from the brink of death and got him healthy enough for us to adopt but Tigger had a massive liver shunt that had to be addressed. We eventually ended up at MSU Vet Teaching Hospital where Tigger became a celebrity. Since he was such a medical disaster, he was an excellent teaching “tool” for the vet students. He received excellent care and I credit Dr. Matthew Beal for saving his life and I will sing his praises to everyone I meet. Dr. Beal preformed the life-saving liver shunt surgery when Tigger was just 11 months old and Tigger is thriving today despite being epileptic. Without that surgery Tigger wouldn’t have lived much more than 2 years.

Because of Tigger’s leg deformities he was very unsteady on his feet and in constant pain/discomfort but that never dampened his happy-go-lucky personality. I’ve never met a dog as happy as Tigger! We started taking him to physical therapy when he was just over a year old and he continues to go to PT each week. It’s been amazing to say the least, he’s much stronger and can move a lot easier and without so much pain.

DW: Which dog is the boss? What other personality traits make your dogs stand out from the pack?

E: Our pack leader is Kaiser and even though he’s really showing his age now, he still runs the show. Tigger is the funniest, he’s just a goof ball. Bliss is our most active. She loves to run around and play with Jake, she keeps him active. She’s also the naughtiest of the pack and will sneak stuff off the counter, especially if it’s food related. We’re always on guard with her.

Jaxson is our laziest dog and is very happy to just lay in his crate or on the couch all day. He has a love affair for our toilet paper rolls, so we’re always on guard with him too. He loves to rip the toilet paper up just enough to get to the cardboard center, then he eats the cardboard. Strange dog! Czar is the “fun police” and will act as Kaiser’s back-up when it comes to pack discipline.

Life with 7 big dogs!

DW: Are any of the dogs particularly attached to Mom or Dad?

E: It’s funny how some of the dogs gravitate to one of us over the other and some just don’t care. Kaiser and Czar are definitely Daddy’s boys and have to be wherever Rick is at when he’s home. They follow me around too but will always pick Dad over Mom when we’re home together.

Tigger is a total Momma’s boy! He gets jealous if I pay another dog too much attention and will do his best to separate us. They all listen to me better than Rick because I pretty much trained all of them. (I made Rick attend puppy class with Czar but that’s as far as it went.) Dad is fun and Mom means business….so I’m definitely the Alpha in the house.

DW: You call your youngest dog Bliss your “Heinz 57” dog. What do you think is her breed mix?

E: Bliss was rescued from a kill shelter in Louisiana by a friend of ours that we met through OGDR. We adopted her when she was 11 weeks old and is the only dog we’ve genetically tested because we just couldn’t figure out what she was mixed with. It turned out that she’s Great Dane, Bulldog, Golden Retriever mix as her main traits but also has American Bulldog, Pointer, Samoyed, Tibetan Spaniel, and Sealyham Terrier in the mix too.

DW: How did you find out about DogWatch?

E: We are good friends with the Downeys and I found out about DogWatch Hidden Fences through them. We’ve always used an electronic fence system but the one we had been using was now obsolete and I couldn’t get replacement collars anymore…so we switched to DogWatch and love it!!! We don’t need to use collars for all of the dogs because three of them don’t even attempt to leave the yard. We have almost 11 acres of land and have approximately 3 acres fenced in for them. We mainly need to use the collars to keep the dogs from wandering into the swamp nearby or into our 1 acre pond.

We have used the BarkCollar to help train a couple of the dogs not to incessantly bark at everything that drives past our house. It has worked well and I definitely recommend them to my friends.

DW: Can you tell us more about the Police Unity Tour event you participate in along with DogWatch by Laughing Labrador?

E: I met David Downey through the Ann Arbor Police Department where I’m a police officer. Dave’s Dad, Headley Downey, was a Detective Sergeant who died in the line of duty when Dave was a little boy. I became involved with the Police Unity Tour (PUT), which helps raise awareness for those Officers who die in the line of duty. The PUT has an annual fundraiser and each participant rides a bicycle approximately 300 miles to raise awareness. Our motto is “we ride for those who died” and our trip begins in New Jersey. Over the course of 3 or 4 days (depending on which ride you do) we ride to Washington DC where we meet up with the Police Survivors at the National Law Enforcement Memorial at the beginning of Police Week in May. Each rider picks someone who has died in the line of duty to ride for, I chose Dave’s dad and contacted Dave to tell him about what I was doing. Last year we teamed up with the Downeys to host a fundraising event to raise money for the PUT.

Detective Paula Williams, Officer Rick Cornell, Officer Elizabeth Cornell, and Officer Michael Mathews at the Policy Unity Tour 2016

Team Michigan, sponsored by DogWatch by Laughing Labrador, pose for a photo with dogs Maisy and Czar at the start of the 2016 Police Unity Tour. From left to right: Detective Paula Williams, Officer Rick Cornell, Officer Elizabeth Cornell, and Officer Michael Mathews.

DW: Finally, what do you love most about having seven dogs?

E: It’s crazy with 7 dogs but each of them have their own distinct personality and they truly act like children on most days! I love the protection aspect of having such a large pack, nobody is getting in this house without being “greeted” by the pack. They probably would just show the robbers where everything is hidden but at least they bark and that is enough of a deterrent.

Editor’s Note: Sadly, Rick and Elizabeth’s eldest dog Kaiser passed away this week at age 13, after this interview was conducted. We would like to dedicate this blog post to his memory.


Elizabeth and Rick with Kaiser

Would you like your dogs (or other pets) to be featured on our blog? Tell us about them in the comments, or reach out to us via Facebook, TwitterInstagram or email. We can’t wait to hear to your stories. And a big thanks to Elizabeth (and of course, her seven pups!) for sharing your story and for choosing DogWatch!