JULIAN, W.Va. -- Karen Holestin is the grande dame of Great Danes. Currently, she only has six, but she's had as many as 10 at one time.
Karen's oldest "pup," Jerdan's Sophisticated Jade, is affectionately called Sophie. At 11 years old, the pet's formerly black coat is now white and gray, and she moves slowly through the front yard along Julian Road. Her deliberate pace belies the former confirmation champion of her past -- she was a prizewinning show dog in her youth.
Karen is protective of the aging gentle giant, knowing that 11 years with a Great Dane is rare. Also known as the German mastiff or Danish hound, the Great Dane is one of the world's tallest breeds. Its average lifespan is six to eight years.
Once Sophie, the honorary matriarch of the pack, is safely back in the house, it's time to meet the others. Bounding out the door, there's Poppyseed, Rose, Lilly, Daisy and Sunny. They circle the fenced yard like a herd of horses, each with different coloration, confirmation and personality.
When Karen had 10 in the house, six adults and four pups, she admits it was a bit crowded. Through the years, she's had a total of 20 of the breed. The love for the massive dogs started early for Karen; she had her first Great Dane at age 19.
Add Little D, the boxer, and Ginger, the German shepherd, 15 horses ages 4 through 30, 41 goats, and the 235-acre Hannah J. Farm seems full of life for Karen and her husband, Alton.
Karen's grandmother, Lillian Hannah, left 65 acres to her as a young woman. When a coal company showed interest in that land, she sold it and bought the mountain she now calls home. On a recent Sunday, Alton and friends were mowing and baling hay to feed the horses through the winter. The goats fend for themselves, but the dogs, well, they eat a lot.
How much food do the dogs eat in a week?