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My Story

When I was a kid I was obsessed with dogs! While other kids were out riding bikes and playing capture the flag, I was at home observing, playing with and training my dogs. When I wasn't doing that, I was reading about dogs! I was a dog nerd to the fullest. 

In 1995 my family traveled to Kansas City to visit my aunt and uncle and they took us to their doggy daycare. Back then it was still very novel, and my mind was blown! My career had been chosen! When I got to high school I took grooming and training classes and obsessively watched Caesar Milan.

But then I grew up, went to college and got a job and the dream was somewhat abandoned as the reality of adulting kicked in. I could never really land on anything though, and rarely stayed any place longer than 6 months. I ended up doing contract work and juggling side hustles because I was a job gypsy. 

the canine behaviorist recieving a bear hug from her european dane at dog daycare
the dog trainer as a teenager with a merle great dane

Fast forward 12 years and one day my manager got on to me for looking at my phone, even though I was literally doing a 40 hour job plus part of his in a 20 hour week. So I walked out. I didn't want to go back to office work, but I didn't really want to just juggle gigs either. Working in an office had always given me some semblance of a sense of purpose. I didn't have a plan. 

Three days later I woke up to some men putting up fence posts at the back of my yard (awkward). The neighborhood behind me was fencing us out, but that meant all of a sudden I had a fully fenced yard. I already knew about and used Rover and so 16 Paws was born! Now five years into it, I can say I'm one of the lucky folks to be living out their dream, here in the land of weirdos and misfits! I wouldn't have it any other way!

Ponga's Story

I've always really loved giant dogs. Keyla kinda fell into my lap and Cota stole my heart through my work in rescue. I love them dearly and miss them every single day. I wouldn't trade a single second of our lives together, but my heart has always belonged to the Great Dane breed. 

Long before they passed away I started having this recurring dream about my next dog and in the dream, they were always saying (I thought) "Pongo," which I found very confusing because I wanted a blue female and that's a boy's name! 


Then one day I picked up a bottle of wine called "Ponga." I flipped it over and on the back it said that Ponga is a silver fern that grows in New Zealand and the indigenous people there, the Maori, use it to find their way at night. I had a name! But it would still be some time before I'd be ready to welcome a giant mythical creature into my life.

the dog trainer meeting her daycare assistant a beautiful blue dane for the first time as a cute little giant breed puppy
two bougie spoiled rotten great danes glamping
a cat watching a puppy cam on a laptop wondering which one was coming to help her with her small group doggy daycare

After my doodle passed away in January of 2020, I was beside myself. I had lost 3 pets in the span of a year and I was nowhere near the mind space of getting a new dog! But in March and April, my then 17 year old cat started doing the strangest thing. When all the dogs had gone home for the day, she'd walk around the house checking in every corner calling out for a fur friend.

So the search for a responsible breeder began! I quickly found my soul sister in Natasha Smith of Maverick Danes. I had always thought my own dogs were quite spoiled but Natasha and Greg blew my mind! Not only were their eight dogs unquestionably the most pampered and beautiful pooches I had ever seen, but most importantly, they had been working on improving the health of their bloodlines for 20 years.

Our first conversation Natasha and I talked for an hour about what personality would be a good fit for my very specific role. I knew I needed an independent thinker, which is very rare in dogs!

Around that time the puppy cam went live and I got to watch as 3 litters of puppies opened their eyes and their adorable and distinctive personalities emerged.


Out of 21 puppies, one caught my eye as having all the qualities Natasha and I had talked about and not only that, her personality stole my heart! I knew that lime collar was the pup for me!


I told Natasha that first week of watching, but selection wouldn't be for another 2 weeks to be fair to the new owners who weren't canine behaviorists. Those were the longest two weeks of my life! I fell more and more in love with her every day!


Finally it was selection day, but I had five families ahead of me so I nervously watched as the selections were posted. Finally Natasha texted me and said "Lime's still available" and "It's your turn."


The rest is history of course, but before I end her mythical story, I need to mention one more magical thing about Ponga. Her mom's name is "Once Upon a Dream" aka "Dream" so I registered Ponga as "I Dream of Ponga."

a beautiful blue dane gazing into her moms eyes on the day they first met
a one week old european dane who was destined to become a rolemodel dog for an exceptional canine behaviorist
an absolutely stunning blue fawn great dane female dam
a well behaved blue great dane giant breed dog with her mom on a porch
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