It is just an animal …
an inferior species prone to flea infestation, shoe destruction and squirrel abuse, right? Like other cases of true love, man’s connection to domesticated beast defies logic. Pet behavior — slap-happy romping, guttural purrs of pleasure and exuberant expressions of gratitude in the form of unbridled kisses — can inspire profound joy. Conclusively, their companionship can boost the quality of a human life. But no use trying to define how or why humans grow so attached to their fleabags. We would rather show you.
Good luck not falling in love.
Scout: Hair enough
A few days before his big photo shoot, Scout, a wire-haired fox terrier, ran himself right into something of a cosmetic blunder. During their daily jaunt to Harry Moss Park, owner Mark Brooks allowed Scout a few blessed moments of off-leash freedom. “He took off into the tall grass, and when he returned he was covered in burrs,” Mark says. “They were all over — even embedded in his eyelids and brows.” A groomer visit ended in a close-cropped haircut. It didn’t bother Scout. Mark wondered if we still wanted him as a model, to which we exclaimed, of course we do! Is this not the sort of authenticity and absence of ego that fuels man’s love for his four-legged companions? Unlike most fox terriers, Scout has ears that prick upward. He treats visitors like beloved long-lost relatives, snuggles with all willing participants, relishes shag carpet and loves water. Daily at 5 p.m., either Mark or his roommate, Ruperto Lugo, sprays Scout with the water hose. “If we miss it,” Mark says, “he goes crazy.” Scout once burrowed under the fence to jump into the neighbor’s pool. An enormous oak out back serves as both the pup’s pleasure and curse. While it offers sprawling shade to a rambunctious pooch on sizzling afternoons, it also is home to at least 20 squirrels — the bane, along with grass burrs, of Scout’s otherwise charmed life.
Grace: The secret to long-lasting youth
Based on a study of Grace, who is, in dog years, about 70, it is: play as much as possible, make lots of friends, exuberantly exhibit gratitude to those who rub your belly or give you treats, run fast and if you get too hot, go for a swim. Compact, with ears perpetually at attention, caramel-colored Grace (a.k.a. Gracie, Lulu) deftly handles a basketball, sprints with Iditarod-worthy zest and earnestly hunts squirrels. “Thankfully she’s only ever caught one,” says Diana Hunter, Gracie’s person mom. “We were out front; we thought she was playing with one of her stuffed toys but realized in horror that it was the real thing. She was so proud,” Diana says with affectionate disgust. The Hunters adopted Grace from a pit-bull rescue outfit, but they aren’t sure about her breed. “She doesn’t look like a pit bull,” Diana says. When Diana and husband Orie brought baby William, now 2, home for the first time, Gracie was leery about the little bundle. However, once William started eating in a high chair, Gracie realized that her human brother was a goldmine for table scraps. She’s since remained at William’s side. Her devotion has rewards. “William gives her a treat every morning,” Diana says, “and he takes that very seriously.”
A visit to the Dobbins residence yields a plethora of positive attention. Jessica Dobbins, a young mother, will greet you at the door with a welcoming smile. Her 5-year-old, Knox, might invite you upstairs to play with dinosaurs. Before Jessica can finish suggesting that he bring T-Rex downstairs instead, the whole conversation likely will be interrupted by Samson, a giant bundle of unbridled gusto; he’ll bound and slide across the living-room floor. His attempt to tackle you (with love) will be thwarted only by a seemingly inadequate plastic gate over which he throws his melon-sized paws. Three-year-old Hadley will run up behind the dog, drape her tiny self over his back and hug his neck as she flashes a smile your way. Samson — aptly named after the biblical character whose enormous strength was supernaturally harnessed in his hair — has crystal-blue eyes and pillowy white fur in which you just want to bury yourself. The 80-pound, 8-month-old sheepdog loves walks through his Lake Highlands neighborhood, where everyone seems to know him, and he is happy whenever Knox and Hadley are near. “He seems to like to round them up. It is his herding instinct,” Jessica says. “He is a protector.” Samson chills out a few moments after meeting a newcomer and rolls over — an invitation for belly scratching. Jessica says that Samson is now almost a third kid to her and husband James. “He slowly is being allowed to do things I said I’d never let him do, like sit on the couch,” she says. You can’t blame her. Samson’s cuteness is mesmerizing. As Hadley puts it, “best puppy ever.”
Aussie: Lady of the house
She runs on four furry legs, plays obsessively with her yellow tennis ball and expresses a mild interest in the dog park, but despite the evidence, Aussie does not seem to know she is a canine. “When we have parties, she is the life of them,” owner David Sassamo says. “She thinks she’s a person. Everyone wants to take her home.” But Aussie the miniature Australian shepherd seems quite comfortable sitting in the living room of David’s White Rock-area home, legs crossed, in a contemporary canvas chair. Her eyes, one sky blue and one brown, rest attentively on her owner, as if she knows he’s talking about her. She loves the water. When they go to Cedar Creek Lake, where David stores a boat, she swims or lounges on a float. And she loves road trips. While home during the day, Aussie and her doggie siblings — golden retriever Cleo and full-sized Australian shepherd Skye — enjoy a half-hour visit from Society Pet Sitters, a service based in the White Rock area. The dogs can be a handful, David admits, but they can instantly put you in a good mood. “They are non-judging, always comforting and always happy to see you.”
“An Angel on Earth.” That is how Lake Highlands’ Lyn Skibell describes photogenic Sassy the golden retriever, a hallmark of loyalty, playfulness and obedience. “She loves kids and other dogs,” Lyn says, “and doesn’t have one mean bone in her body.”
The Marr family of Lake Highlands did not adopt Lucky. She adopted them. “On a stormy night, this beautiful black and white cat persistently meowed on our front porch,” Sarah Marr explains. “Our family has grown from one son to three sons, and we moved two times within the Lake Highlands neighborhood, and Lucky has faithfully stuck with us through it all.” Lucky likes to sit by the swing set with his human brothers, Marr’s sons. “Water guns and sword fights do not deter him.”
Feisty feline Taz was a bit of a spaz in his younger years, owner Teresa Grant says. But he has matured into a cuddly, witty, intelligent kitten whose character is somewhat doglike. “He runs to the door when the bell rings and does tricks for treats,” Teresa says. “He’s the perfect pillow pet and thrives on lots of attention.”
This Bronx, N.Y., native, a puppy-mill rescue, is tough. Little Luna was forced to give birth to more than 30 pups by the time she was 2 years old. After Lindsey Edison adopted young Luna, the stocky white pit bull enjoyed a “rambunctious youth,” jumping fences of New York City dog parks and learning to swim at the dog beaches of Chicago, Lindsey says. In old age, Luna has mellowed and does her best to overcome the bully stereotype, Lindsey says. The dog nurtures Lindsey’s toddler son and is quick to return his hugs with wet kisses. “Today, Luna can be found happiest sleeping in the warm sunshine or beneath her favorite oak tree.”
Odin: People’s choice
At four weeks old, Odin was wandering the streets of Lake Highlands, alone, one eye dislodged from its socket. A kindhearted neighbor rescued him from a group of kids, who were poking the helpless creature with a stick. The rescuer delivered dehydrated, malnourished and generally beat-up Odin to the Cat Hospital of Dallas. Staff vet Raina Weldon’s relationship with the cat went from professional to personal pretty quickly. “That eye was too damaged to save, but he looked up at me with his one good eye and started purring. I have been wrapped around his paw ever since,” she says. Today Odin accompanies Raina to work at the Cat Hospital, where he acts as “people greeter.” He rides along contentedly in a baby stroller on visits to other neighborhood pet-friendly businesses. Odin is game for just about anything his mama wants to do, in fact. “He dresses up for holidays and special occasions and has his picture taken with Santa and the Easter Bunny every year,” she says. “He loves people and gets lots of attention wherever he goes … he now has many people wrapped around his paw.”
THE PEOPLE’S CHOICE PET was selected based on reader votes on advocatemag.com.
The featured pets were selected by editors, based on submitted photos and stories. More neighborhood pets will appear, continuing next month, on the Advocate’s Paws and Claws page. To submit your pet for publication, email firstname.lastname@example.org.