Cover Story: Citizens Canine

They might smell funny, terrorize the mailman, or harbor peculiar habits, but they are our (furry and four-footed) neighbors nonetheless.

Advocate readers were asked to send in photos of their pets. We received droves of darling doggie pics — pointy-eared Dobies, droopy-eyed hounds, mussed-up mutts and dogs wearing clothes (which never gets old). The following is but a sampling of the sundry submissions that drew from our editors the most emphatic, “aww”s.

Name: Clovis

Breed: (maybe has a little) basset hound (in him)

Parents: Diane and Andy Combs; Allison, Sarah and Caroline Combs are his human sisters

Age: 4-ish

A few years back, Clovis won “The Mug Only a Mom Could Love” bracket at the annual Cotton Bowl Dog Bowl. Well-earned — his owners describe him as “vertically challenged, with scruffy fur, short legs and an enormous head that doesn’t look like it fits his body,” and love him dearly anyway. Funny looks did not deter the Combs family from embracing sweet-natured Clovis, and neither did his checkered past. When they adopted Clovis from the Richardson animal shelter, he had already been adopted and returned, which, notes Diane Combs, “must have been the ultimate walk of shame” for the pup. “His file said he was an ‘excitable urinater’ — not what you want on your résumé — but we never had that problem once we got him home.” Mondays through Saturdays, Clovis’s world revolves around waiting for the mail. “He barks like crazy at the mailman, specifically, and he puts most other visitors on alert. He’s a good guard dog, but he’s a wimp,” Diane says. “He will bark at you while he’s running away.” He loves sitting on top of his doghouse, a la Snoopy, and running circles around the backyard. Says Diane, “He’s surprisingly fast, for having such stubby legs.”

Name: Gracie

Breed: golden retriever

Parent: Tammy Sherwood

DOB: About six months before she was rescued on Oct. 17, 2007

Admiring Gracie’s shiny coat or gazing into her gentle eyes, one would never guess that she was found, flea and tick infested, wandering the streets of Irving, Texas (or that she’d once snatched a poor parakeet out of mid-air). The 6-month-old golden retriever had been hit by a car and was injured, but not too severely. Gracie’s rescuer doctored and groomed her, but couldn’t keep her or find a rescue organization to take her, so she put the word out in an attempt to get Gracie a permanent home. When she heard about it from a friend in Irving, Tammy Sherwood, who lives in Lake Highlands and works at Southern Methodist University, and her other Labrador, Cooper, happily welcomed Gracie to the family. “They are like soul mates,” Sherwood says of the two canines. “They play and sleep together. I can’t remember what life was like before Gracie.” The semi-tragic parakeet incident, in which Gracie nabbed Sherwood’s in-flight pet parakeet, was sad, but Sherwood concedes, “That’s what retrievers do”. Gracie’s greatest talent is “power counter surfing,” says Sherwood. “This is where she drinks the Thanksgiving gravy and eats butter and that kind of thing off kitchen counters.”

Name: Tristan

Breed: English bulldog

Parents: Elizabeth Ginn and John McCormick

Age: 5

Tristan the English bulldog is afraid of laundry baskets (“he barks at them and runs away,” his owner says) and despises walks. “He hates grass,” Elizabeth Ginn explains, “and he will fight it as soon as you put the leash on him.” And at 65 pounds, this pup’s not going anywhere he doesn’t want to go. His grass aversion turned to adoration, however, when Lake Highlands last February saw several inches of fluffy white stuff. “He got out in the backyard and played and played in the snow,” Ginn says. For the most part, indoor games are Tristan’s thing. He loves run, hide and seek (we run from room to room and he chases us and finds us). And he likes to play “fighting bull”. This is where his owners hold up a newspaper, and he runs through it “like when the football team runs through a banner before the game.” The only problem with this, Ginn says, is that sometimes when his owners are simply enjoying the Sunday paper, he comes barreling through it. Ginn’s fiancé, John McCormick, owned Tristan’s mother, whom he got in Alabama. When he moved to Texas, he brought Tristan, who was one of a litter of 10. She has always been a dog person. “I had a loveable mutt and a pug when I was growing up,” she says. But she didn’t have a dog when she met McCormick, so Tristan is an only pup.

Name: Bridget and Skycam

Breed: greyhounds

Parent’s name: Molly Cain

Age: 6 and 9

Before making themselves at home on Molly Cain’s couch, greyhounds Bridget “Whirlwind Jill” and Skycam had a racing career. While living in an Austin apartment, Cain adopted Bridget from the Greyhound Adoption League of Texas because greyhounds, despite their size (Bridget and “Cam” are 62 and 70 pounds, respectively), they make good apartment dogs, she says. After moving to Lake Highlands, Cain’s veterinarian talked her into becoming a foster parent to retired greyhounds. “Cam was a failed foster assignment,” Cain says with a laugh. “He’ll put his legs around you, like he’s hugging you, and will stay that way for hours if you let him. That’s partly why I had to keep him.” Though the dogs are content cuddling for long stretches, they haven’t forfeited their racing roots. They’ve run a racetrack into the backyard, for one thing. “They will run a perfect circle, side by side, so much that they have created a permanent groove in the grass,” Cain explains. “I guess it reminds them of their glory days.” They also entertain crowds at the White Rock Dog Park by doing the same. Bridget ran 50 races during her career (she was what you might call a long shot, Cain says). Skycam was fast, competing in more than 90 races, but his career was cut short by a broken paw. No worries though, because they are undoubtedly happy where they are. “They hog the big couch and make me use the love seat,” their owner says. “But they just seem so grateful to have a home. It’s neat to adopt a dog with a racing history and watch them experience life outside a crate for the first time — their first time seeing a TV or hearing the dishwasher run. They are just the most loving animals I’ve ever come in contact with.”

Name: Garbo

Breed: miniature schnauzer

Parent: Brenda Homan

Age: 3

Three-year old Garbo, named for Hollywood icon Greta Garbo, is a good dog, momma Brenda Homan says. But it wasn’t always that way. Like her namesake, Garbo was wel-known, especially along her Lake Highlands street, but unlike the silent-movie starlet, the schnauzer was anything but quiet. Neighbors knew this Garbo for her incessant yapping, Homan admits. She credits the site barkbusters.com for helping her learn to break Garbo of the habit (“They worked magic,” she says). “Now she’ll start to bark at the front door, and I’ll stop her. But she still wants to bark. She minds, but then instead of barking she’ll make this funny ‘yaw, yaw, yaw’ sound.” Garbo is cuddly, especially in the morning, her owner says. “She’ll lay her neck over my neck, and I’ll talk to her. I think she likes the vibration … it’s also similar to the way puppies in a litter lay across each other, so it might have something to do with that.” Garbo loves walks, but not when it’s icy. “I tried to let her out in the snow, and she looked at me like I was crazy.”

Name: Gizmo

Breed: (maybe part) Basenji

Age: 6

Parents’ names: Michelle Russell and Michelle’s parents Susan and Don Russell

What happens when a Baylor University student adopts a college-town pound puppy before she finishes traveling the world? Said puppy winds up with the college student’s parents. That’s OK with Susan and Don Russell, whose daughter Michelle (who now heads up Lake Highlands Young Life) several years ago rescued Gizmo from a shelter in Waco. Fortunately, Gizmo is easygoing — except when it comes to chasing squirrels — sociable, and loves water sports. Full-blooded Basenjis are barkless dogs, says Susan Russell. “Gizmo is part Basenji and Michelle can get her to ‘speak’ in this funny sounding yawn-yelp-type voice. She does bark occasionally, but usually just at the UPS man.” The Russells frequently take Gizmo to the lake where she mingles with other mutts — “at the lake where we keep our boat, everyone has a dog. They all get together and start barking, and Gizmo just kind of looks at them,” Susan says. She loves hopping on a float in the water or riding on the boat. To compliment her attractive disposition, Gizmo is a physical beauty. Basenji’s were prolific in ancient Egypt, explains Susan. “Sometimes her profile looks like something out of Egyptian hieroglyphics.”


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