English mastiff Diesel is first dog to lead Grand Floral Parade; he's 185 pounds and full of affection, especially for Jennifer Veitch

COURTESY: OREGON HUMANE SOCIETY - The big dog Diesel won the hearts of judges to become the Canine Grand Marshal for the Grand Floral Parade, June 9.At 3:30 most mornings, Aaron Veitch leaves for work as his wife, Jennifer, snoozes in bed.

Snoozes, that is, until Diesel sets his sights on joining her.

Diesel is a 185-pound English mastiff and, combined with the couple's other dog, 100-pound French mastiff Lulu, they're sometimes quite a roadblock — er, bedblock? — to Jennifer getting more sleep.

"We have a king-size bed and it's still pretty small," Veitch says. "If I don't claim my spot, I'm out of luck. Sometimes I make everybody get out of bed and I claim my spot and get back in."

Diesel tends to be very sensitive. He needs his people time.

"They get their feelings hurt pretty easily, and want to be with their people all the time," Veitch says. "He's an inside dog, with access to outside. I only let him on the couch in the evening, and we have our snuggle time in the evening."

There you have it — the inside scoop on Diesel, 2 1/2 years old and from Sandy, where he lives with his family, and now is the first Canine Grand Marshal of the Rose Festival's biggest event, the Spirit Mountain Casino Grand Floral Parade, which will be held at 10 a.m. Saturday, June 9.

The Rose Festival named the Canine Grand Marshal to commemorate the Oregon Humane Society's 150th anniversary. Diesel will ride in the parade before adoring fans, with a chaperone, of course — Jennifer Veitch.

"I don't know that he'd go by himself. He's pretty attached to mama," Veitch says. "We got him to be my husband's dog, but he's attached to me. Typically for mastiffs, they attach to one person, generally they attach to women. They're not tough, guy dogs."

Diesel is 185 pounds but as sweet and delicate as a rose. It's what won him fans at the Canine Grand Marshal selection show recently at the Heathman Hotel, where Diesel earned top honors over fellow Canine Court members Burt Usher (9, terrier mix), George (10 months, pit bull/basset hound mix), Jackson (12, Pembroke Welsh corgi) and Molly (2, goldendoodle).

COURTESY: JENNIFER VEITCH - Human companion Jennifer Veitch says that Diesel is always nearby. 'Typically for mastiffs, they attach to one person, generally they attach to women. They're not tough, guy dogs.'Apparently Diesel does some tricks, like holding up a paw when asked. He wears a lion's mane for Halloween. And he can speak and has a big voice.

But he won over the judges with his personality.

"I was pretty surprised. We were going down there thinking it was going to be fun and expecting them to take a rescue dog or a dog that came from hard times," Veitch says. "I thought he'd maybe make it to the top five but he wouldn't be the winner.

"But he's charming. He's a great dog. When we decided we were going to get an English mastiff, we were nervous about getting such a big dog. We know their personalities, they tend to be timid. I was nervous about having a giant timid dog. But ever since he was a baby I've taken him everywhere; he always gets attention. He just enjoys people and crowds. Part of it is socialization. With his personality, he just loves the attention. Easiest dog I've ever owned, and I've had dogs my whole life. He's well-behaved and calm."

Diesel is small for a male English mastiff, which can be 250 pounds (the world record is 343 pounds). They're the heaviest dog breed.

But it's not like Diesel eats a 20-pound bag of food every day. He's a light eater.

"He eats about 2 1/2 cups in the morning and evening, so five total," Veitch says. "When he was a puppy, he gained exactly 5 pounds a week for three to four months straight. We were feeding him eight to nine cups a day.

"What you try to do is slow their growing down by keeping their joints as healthy as possible. You have to be careful about what kind of food you're feeding them growing up. You slow them down, so the joints grow as they should."

Diesel also is a certified therapy dog. Veitch takes him to daughter Sophia's school and students read aloud to him. Veitch takes him to Home Depot for socialization — and he gets excited once their Dodge Durango pulls into the parking lot. She'll take him to hospitals, and he happily befriends people in wheelchairs and on crutches.

Little dogs want to play with him, and Diesel likes them. Big dogs want to tell him who's the boss, Veitch says. Diesel doesn't like to run, and he's not a fan of really long walks. "His pace is a stroll," Veitch says.

Veitch is a transaction coordinator for a real estate company. Her husband is a fueler for an excavation company.

Aaron Veitch's job inspired Diesel's name. That's a good thing, as "Escrow" probably wouldn't fit.

Having such a big dog is a commitment, and having a mastiff isn't for the faint of heart. And the Veitch family has two.

"They drool a lot," Jennifer Veitch says. "It's usually when they drink or eat and get excited. It can be significant. I do have to walk around the house and clean slobber off walls. It's a good thing I love them so much."

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