People love their pets.

Like doting parents, owners hold forth on the virtues of their domesticated mammals, “… makes my world a better place,” “… changed my life,” “… has the sweetest soul.”

And most Americans back those warm sentiments with cold cash. We will spend some $58 billion pampering our animals this year, according to the American Pet Product Association. Around the Preston Hollow area, we have our pick of posh pet hotels and pooch patios, doggie bakeries (barkeries) and upscale grooming services.

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We took a close-up look at a cross section of neighborhood pets to find out what makes them so worth it.

George — dog, table, brother

George the gentle giant: Photo by Danny Fulgencio

George the gentle giant: Photo by Danny Fulgencio

If George could talk, he might tell us why the man, without any explanation, left him at the Sachse Animal Shelter three years ago. The gentle hound, while skinny for his hulking frame, was housebroken and responded to simple commands.

“Why anyone would leave him is a mystery to me,” says Andie Loftus. “But we got lucky. It is ridiculous how much I love him.”

At the Loftus’ Lake Highlands home, the Great Pyrenees mix expanded to a healthy 150 pounds as he became all things — horse, table, bed — to his new human brother, a preschooler named Brody. “George has this flat, wide back that you can set things on, and he’ll walk around with whatever it is, and Brody crawls up there, lays on him, rides him.” These days George accompanies Brody on his morning treks to Moss Haven Elementary. In the schoolyard, George is a child magnet. Superficially, George impersonates a guard dog. He delivers the baritone “woof!” of a protective beast. But he would not hurt a gnat. George spends most of the day sleeping at the feet of Russ Loftus, Andie’s husband who works from home. Conference calls sometimes are interrupted by George’s explosive snoring, Russ says.

Massive amounts of fur are of concern during hot summer months, so home haircuts are a happy necessity.

“It takes two hours, but he just lays his head in my lap while I cut and buzz him. When I stop, he paws me. He doesn’t want me to stop.”

He is easily pleased. To throw him an ice cube is to induce the sort of glee most mutts reserve for hambones.

He sleeps between the Loftus parents, snuggling up to Andie, one colossal leg draped over his rescuer.

“Yep,” she laughs. “He likes to cuddle. Ridiculous.”

Don’t tell Daphne she doesn’t have it all

Daphne: Photo by Danny Fulgencio

Daphne: Photo by Danny Fulgencio

With one misstep, Daphne was sinking like a stone to the bottom of the Corporons’ swimming pool. Born blind and with vestibular disease, which impairs balance, the dog’s first few years were difficult. But this plunge was especially petrifying. Bill Corporon was right there — heard the splash and caught the last glimpse of cotton-white fur as it disappeared beneath the surface. He dove in after her, performed CPR, rushed her to the emergency clinic and paid the tab. It wasn’t the first or last of Daphne’s hefty medical expenses, but Corporon and his wife, Kathy, say this “incredible creature” is worth every cent. “She is a friend, a family member and an investment,” says Kathy, a former physical therapist with a soft spot for people and animals with disabilities. “They have always tugged at my heart,” she says.

At an adoption event almost 17 years ago, Daphne stood out in an otherwise healthy litter of mixed-breed spitzes. She clung like a Koala cub to Kathy’s shoulder. For four hours straight, Kathy says, “we didn’t let go of each other.”

Daphne developed glaucoma and needed both eyes surgically removed. The glassy prosthetic replacements, unnoticeable at a glance, serve purely cosmetic purposes. When Daphne was 11, the vet removed her inflamed gall bladder, a $5,000 procedure. A few years ago her hearing began to go; now she’s totally deaf.

But Daphne doesn’t seem to know she has so many ailments. She is perky despite the aches and pains of age; her sense of smell helps her navigate the world and recognize those she loves, Kathy says. “We now refer to her lovingly as our little Helen Keller.”

Shortstop “Shorty” is the best medicine

Shortstop “Shorty”: Photo by Danny Fulgencio

Shortstop “Shorty”: Photo by Danny Fulgencio

A dose of Shorty eases anxiety and elevates mood — he’s like Zoloft, without the negative side effects.

If you’ll have him, the caramel-colored Chihuahua will seek your lap without delay. White Rock Valley resident Susan Wehe found him curled up in hers several years ago, after a friend scooped him off a busy road.

“This itty bitty creature was strutting around in traffic like a lion,” recalls Wehe, who then adopted him. Her aging dog Oscar was dying of congestive heart failure, and her cherished cat had recently absconded.

“It was such a sad time,” Susan says. Her voice cracks a little from remembering it. Shorty’s restorative vibes swaddled her and stretched to Oscar.

“Shorty became Oscar’s hospice dog. I swear he extended Oscar’s life by a year.” The older dog perked up for Shorty and joined him on trips to the park.

“They would ride side-by-side in the car, both sets of ears flapping in the wind, so happy. Shorty brought our lives hope and love when we needed it.”

When Wehe’s father wound up in a physical rehabilitation center this year, Shorty provided.

“He would sit in my dad’s lap, and then we would walk around and visit the other residents. He would go up to the people in wheelchairs, and if they wanted, I would sit him in their laps. What he does is replace tears with smiles.”

Rustie: Eyes of the tiger

Rustie: Photo by Danny Fulgencio

Rustie: Photo by Danny Fulgencio

There are few legal things that bring humankind as much joy as watching cats in boxes (just search the term on YouTube if you don’t believe it), and this 12-pound Persian will stuff herself into a square like nobody’s business. “You put down a box of any shape or size and she’s getting in,” Donna Mason says.

Rustie can’t talk. She’s a cat. But her eyes will say, “I love you” just as soon as they will “tell you to go to hell,” Mason says with a grin. “She can burn a hole through you or melt your heart with those beautiful copper eyes.” She’s shaved down for the summer; still those highly praised peepers peek out from a downy mane of amber and white. They belie the fate that was predicted more than a decade ago — Rustie had a heart murmur and would not live long. She paces herself and plays, only when she feels like it, with gusto. For almost 13 years she’s been entertaining Mason, her husband, Wes, and visitors to their Merriman Park/University Manor home. “If someone comes over, she doesn’t hide like other cats, she’s right in the middle of everything,” Mason says. “She is so expressive, so funny and sometimes just nuts.”