A Missouri couple with a soft spot for Great Danes takes their pack of colossal canines aboard their Sea Ray Sundeck.
When Grayson and Stella Lee board their Sea Ray 240 Sundeck they head straight for the lounges. They stretch their nearly 7-foot bulks across the generous seating and soak up the sun, taking the occasional dip to cool off in the deep waters of Table Rock Lake, Missouri. Unless, of course there are chew toys to gnaw on.
Grayson and Stella are just two of Eddie and Jodi Lee’s Great Danes, lucky dogs who love spending time on their Sea Ray as much as their humans do. The Branson, Missouri, couple have been adopting Great Danes since 1999 and wouldn’t have it any other way.
“Both of us were raised with dogs, and we’ve always had big dogs,” Eddie explains. “We’ve had a couple of German Shepards, a Labrador, a Dalmatian, but we always wanted a Dane.” Thirteen years and six Great Danes Later, the Lees are officially hooked.
“We’ve loved all our dogs—they’re just like family,” seconds Jodi. “But there’s something just so special about the Danes. We couldn’t imagine life without them!”
The Lee house is now home to three of the colossal canines: Grayson and Stella, both nearly 7 years old and 160 pounds, and Lexus, a slender 13-year-old at just 100 pounds.
Following the unexpected death of their beloved Leilani in October 2011 (the fourth Dane in this photo shoot), the Lees adopted a white German Shepherd pup. Eddie, a small business owner, and Jodi, a dental hygienist, devote much of their free time not only to their own clan, but also to other Great Danes in need of love and support.
“They don’t have a very long life span,” Jodi explains. “Lexus is ancient for a Great Dane. So we got involved with Dane rescue. We’ve fostered a Dane, and rescued Grayson from St. Louis. Only two of the six have been from a breeder. The three that we have now are all rescues.”
Dogs of such stature need extensive discipline and physical activity, requiring owners to commit significant time to raise happy, healthy Danes. Luckily for the Lees, Grayson, Stella and Lexus share their passion for boating, which is a great way for the dogs to expend energy while developing social skills. Eddie and Jodi’s children and grandsons often accompany them onboard the Sea Ray. Being surrounded by people—especially small children—has fostered the dogs’ gentle, polite nature. Eddie insists that their Danes are more human than hound.
“Leilani never knew she was a dog,” he says. “She’d always lie out in the sun in the front lounger and nap, or watch what was going on in the front of the boat. They’re extremely well-behaved; there’s never any barking. It’s not quite the same when we go out on the boat without the dogs. It just feels like something’s missing.”
Grayson is especially fond of the Lees’ grandchildren. “He has a passion for babies!” Jodi explains. “He just loves little kids and babies, and is so sweet with them. So when the grandsons are on the boat, he’s sitting right next to them or lying right beside them. The boys don’t seem to care—they know the dogs are a part of the family!” And when the Danes are feeling rambunctious, the lake offers an immediate answer. Leaping from the extended swim platform on the back of the Sea Ray, the dogs will splash around for up to 30 minutes, often swimming to shore to play or laze in the sand.
“They are powerful swimmers, and they just swim until they can’t swim anymore,” Jodi says. “Then they take a rest and get back in the water. Usually we try to be a few yards from shore so that if they want to relax on the shore, they do.”
“I know people love bringing their dogs out on boats,” Jodi continues. “We see big ones, small ones, but you’ve never seen anything like our Danes out on the water! They stand up at the front of the boat and you see people talking and pointing!”
“If we don’t have ’em with us,” Eddie exclaims, “they all ask, ‘Where are the puppies today?’”
Thanks to the spacious layout of their Sea Ray, though, the Lees rarely hit the water without their four-legged friends. Married in 1978, Eddie and Jodi have enjoyed boating for as long as they can remember. But it wasn’t until the purchase of their Sundeck that they became a part of the Sea Ray boating community, which they say added immeasurable value to the investment.
“We worked with MarineMax, and the experience was delightful, absolutely delightful,” Eddie recalls. “When the kids were little, we had a pontoon boat, but we bought into the Sea Ray lifestyle in 2005, and we love the Sea Ray. Just love it.”
While the couple appreciates the spacious, well-appointed qualities of their Sundeck, their passion for Sea Ray goes beyond their boat. “We’ve started doing all of the Sea Ray activities, like AquaPalooza and MarineMax events, and that’s one of the reasons we like the Sea Ray so much,” Jodi explains. “It’s the whole package. It’s the activities and the connectivity. There’s an entire community around it, and we haven’t had that with any other boat we’ve ever owned.”
The unusually warm temperatures over the past year have allowed the Lees to spend more free time than ever on their Sea Ray. The chillier days of spring and fall mean all four pets can join Eddie and Jodi on the boat, making a cozy water-bound second home for the dog-dominated family. As summer approaches and the Lee brood continues to grow, so will their boat.
“We’ve toyed with the idea of getting a bigger one,” Eddie says. “Having the dogs along is just like having people—once the kids and grandkids are onboard, it doesn’t leave much space for anybody else!”
“Let’s face it – a bigger Sea Ray is just a part of our future,” Jodi adds.
And with a low bark from Grayson, it appears the dogs couldn’t agree more.