Fri, 06/14/2024 - 10:48pm

Tootie Longo of Great Dane Fame

The one and only …

It all started with a Great Dane named Genghis Khan.

Tootie believed Genghis possessed the quality of a champion, and so with the assistance of George Heitzman, Genghis achieved Tootie’s goal. The rest is history.

Two other dogs — Ch. Longo’s Chief Joseph and Ch. Longo’s Double Deluxe — were her future.


Ch. Longo's Primo D'Aquino at five years old. Handler Judy Harrington, owners Joe and Tootie Longo.


“Cheech,” as Chief Joseph was lovingly called, achieved everything an owner-breeder could want — number-one black Great Dane sire, only to be surpassed by his son, Ch. Longo’s Primo D’Aquino. Cheech went on to win two Bests in Show, the first black Dane to do so in 22 years and a feat only previously achieved by Lina Basquette. (This is the first time I mention The Lady, so I have no doubt Lina was crucial in Tootie’s accomplishments. She was the one everyone aspired to emulate in breeding and ring presence.)

Cheech went on to win Best of Breed at the Great Dane Club of America National Specialty, a first for a black dog.  He was BISS at 13 specialties and the sire of 19 black champions.

Ch. Longo’s Double Deluxe was owner-handled to her championship and was the first black Great Dane to finish from the Bred-by Exhibitor class. With the pace set, the record books were ready for what was to come.

Ch. Longo’s Primo D’Aquino became the number-one black Great Dane sire, edging out his father, and also was the winner of a BIS award. In addition, Primo won the 1988 regional and three Awards of Merit, as well as the honor of being the first black Great Dane to be inducted in the GDCA Hall of Fame. Primo also sired 23 champions and was a Top 20 winner. 

Who knew there would be five more Top 20 winners to follow?

Primo was handled by Carol Grossman, Judy Harrington and Tommy Glassford. I moved to California at this time, so I shared the privilege of handling for the Longos.


Ch. Longo's Prima Vera.


Ch. Longo’s Prima Vera, a Primo sister, was the next lucky girl to be shown. Prima made her entrance to the show ring on a Saturday at the GDCM Specialty.  She began her one-week journey by winning this show, only to finish the following Saturday at Old Dominion Kennel Club.

Several months later, Tootie decided to show Cheech in the Stud Dog class at the first Independent GDCA National. To do this, she entered Primo and Prima to stand behind their father. Unfortunately, Cheech died just a few weeks before the show. Wanting to see Cheech represented at the national, Tootie decided to show both kids. Primo did not make the second cut, so I decided to show Prima myself. (Thanks to Rick Zahorchak for standing by just in case.) Prima Vera won the national, setting another record. She was now the first black bitch to win our national. Thanks go to Judge Leon Reimert for this honor.

Unfortunately, Prima had an unexpected breeding, so she was never campaigned. Her owners were Joe and Tootie Longo and Ver Smith. I had the honor of being at the end of her lead.

Fortunately for the breed, Tootie during was able to breed a group of beauties just waiting to enter the ring.



Above, BIS BISS Ch. Longo's Sweetalk V Michael-Dane with handler Rick Zahorchak. Owners Joe and Tootie Longo. Below, with Judy Harrington.


Ch. Longo’s Sweetalk of Michaeldane, known as Lou Lou, was the next Longo girl to enter the ring. Lou Lou was the Top 20 winner in 1993, also earning two Awards of Merit, BOB at Westminster in 1994 and also a coveted Best in Show. Lou Lou was handled by Carol Grossman, Judy Harrington and Tommy Glassford.


BISS CH MJB'S Black with Sugar V Longo and Jessie Gerszewski. Owners Tootie Longo and Lorraine Brown.


Ch. MJB’s Black With Sugar, co-owned with Lorraine Brown, was campaigned by Tootie. She was always grateful to Lorraine for allowing Sugar to come east for her campaign. Sugar was also a Top 20 winner and an AOM in 2001, achieving number one Great Dane bitch all systems. Sugar was the dam to Ch. Longo’s James Brown and Ch. Longo’s Brown Sugar. Sugar was handled by Jesse Gerszewski


BIS BISS Ch. Longo's Alana Fontana Laura with Laura Lynn Coomes. Owners Joe and Tootie Longo and Dave and Jay Miller.


Without taking much time off, along came Ch. Longo’s Alana Fontana, a frozen-semen puppy sired by Primo. Her mother was Ch. Elan Royal Enchantment. This was the beginning of Tootie’s friendship with Dave and Jay Miller. Tootie gave them Alana on the completion of her show career, surprising Jay, as the original agreement was that Alana would go back to Tootie. Tootie knew how much the Millers loved Alana and, remembering how difficult it was to send Sugar back to Lorraine, Tootie knew she couldn’t do that to Dave and Jay. Alana was finished in 2002 by Jesse Gerszewski.

When 2003 rolled around, Tootie knew it was time to hit the show ring again with a new special. Alana was beautiful and ready, and she did it all: She was a Top 20 winner, BIS winner and BISS winner.  She was the number-one Great Dane breed system in 2003 and with five Bests in Show, she broke the BIS record for blues and blacks. With a second home available, it was now possible to keep more dogs without Joe actually knowing how many they really owned.


BIS BISS Ch. Longo Miller Starr Studded V Miller with Laura Lynn Coomes. Owners Joe and Tootie Longo and Dave and Jay Miller.


Ch. Longo’s Starr Studded V Miller, fondly known as Starry, lived with Dave and Jay. Starry was an Alana daughter, and from the whelping box to the show ring she excelled over her brothers and sisters. Starry was the one. She completed her championship in 2006 and was campaigned in 2007. (Do you see a trend here? All Tootie’s female specials were only shown for one year.) Starry carried the BIS and BISS titles as well as number-two Great Dane, and was another Top 20 winner.

In 2008, Ch. Longo’s Millertime, a Starry brother, was campaigned for a short time — four months, to be exact.  In that time, Brew was a BISS winner, qualifying for the Top 20 competition. To be honest, Brew was a segue to another history-making bitch.


BIS BISS Platinum GCh. LongoMiller N Lore Diamond LIL ("Scout") with Laura Lynn Coomes. Owners Joe and Tootie Longo, Dave and Jay Miller, Lorraine Matherly and Col. Chuck Crawford.


Then came Scout: Ch. Longo’s Miller & Lore Diamond Lil. They recognized her potential as a baby, just crossing their fingers, as do all Dane owner-breeders. Scout had it all and would eventually prove they were right about her abilities.

Scout was shown for two years. After the first year Tootie was ready to retire her, just as she had done with the specials bitches that had come before. When Tootie told me their plans, I was astonished. RETIRE HER? NO WAY. I begged and pleaded: “You cannot quit now,” I told Tootie. “This bitch is capable of breaking the all-time BIS record.” I was adamant, and the conversations continued: “You absolutely cannot retire her now.” Back and forth for days. I’m not sure who else she discussed this with except for all the co-owners, but eventually she called me to tell me I got my way and I better be right.

Scout’s record speaks for itself.  She completed her career with 38 all-breed Bests in Show; 12 Reserve Bests in Show; 91 Group Firsts, and 22 Bests in Specialty Show. Scout was the fifth generation of Longo Great Danes to achieve BIS status.

She was their sixth Top 20 winner. She was the number-one Great Dane all systems in 2012 and 2013, and was the number-three Working Dog in 2013.

When Scout retired, so did Tootie, although she always kept up with what was going on in Great Danes. One day she called me and wanted me to come to Ohio to have a look at a bitch out of her breeding. I recognized the call to come back. Anyway, I hopped on a plane and flew to Ohio. I had the pleasure of meeting Jackie and Danny Van Delft and the beautiful Jinx. I stacked her, went over her from top to bottom, watched Jackie move her and took pictures.

We went back to Tootie’s, and she said, “What do you think? Jackie and Danny love their dogs, and both have jobs.” Although at that point Tootie was doing great, she really couldn’t manage her oxygen and a Great Dane, so the handler choice was critical.

I’m getting ahead of myself.

“She’s beautiful but young and needs to grow up a bit. Four to six months growing and conditioning, then spot-show her through the balance of 2023, and your year is 2024. I think Tristen Lawrence is the perfect handler for her. Jinx is big and black, and Tristen is small and blond — a perfect combination.” 

My next question: Who wants to campaign her, as I knew Tootie couldn’t/wouldn’t take this on alone. Glenn and Lorraine Matherly had expressed an interest. Well, good — then looks like you have another special.

Things didn’t go as I had thought they would, but Jinx was in the ring, maturing and learning at the same time as showing. She did phenomenally well, winning more than 30 BISS, qualifying for the Top 20 — and then it was over at the end of September.

Jinx retired as RBIS MBISS GCh. Longo Lore N Vandelft’s Superstition. Although Jinx did not finish out the year, she was ready and perfect to lead Tootie’s casket down the aisle to the altar. Jinx was ready to stand guard over Tootie and behaved with the perfect amount of love and protection you would expect from a Great Dane. 

Tootie left the name of Longo and Longodane in the hands of Jackie, Danny and Jinx. Tootie loved her black Great Danes and wanted her friends and family to realize what they meant to her. She loved this sport, and I loved her. She was my friend, my sister, my mentor and my go-to for any opinion that mattered. We grew up together in this sport we loved.

Goodbye, my friend. I will miss you terribly. I don’t know if there is an afterlife, but if there is, I hope to see you there so we can catch up on everything that has happened since you left.



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