The pet issue: A tribute to loyal creatures of Lakewood/East Dallas

Aussie, Lady of the house. Photo by Chris Arrant
Aussie, Lady of the house. Photo by Chris Arrant

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.

Tina, Littlest joy. Photo by Danny Fulgencio
Tina, Littlest joy. Photo by Danny Fulgencio

Tina, littlest joy

Kimberly Hile says her dog Tina was the one who rescued her when she visited the Humane Society one day. “I was a bit depressed and decided I needed a companion,” Hile says. Now her life is a joy — except when the two ladies tiff over who is in charge of the house.

Quinn, Best doggy paddle. Photo by Danny Fulgencio
Quinn, Best doggy paddle. Photo by Danny Fulgencio

Quinn_TripQuinn, best doggy paddle

At 160 pounds, Quinn looks like a bear beside his human mama, Peggy Walker. Actually, because of his stature and shaggy black and brown coat, he has been mistaken for a bear before, but Quinn is a Leonberger, and he wouldn’t hurt a fly.

With his massive frame, you’d think he would sink to the bottom of a pool like a ton of bricks, but Leonbergers are excellent swimmers because of their webbed feet that fan out in the water to propel them forward.

“These are water dogs,” Walker says. “Quinn loves the water, and he’s a good swimmer.”

Quinn even swims at the annual Swim Across America event at Lake Ray Hubbard to help raise funds for the Innovative Clinical Trials Center at Baylor Charles A. Sammons Cancer Center. Every year Quinn gets his paws wet for the cause and fundraises alongside the other competitors, including former Olympic competitors. This year he raised more than $7,000. Although he can’t actually swim in the race, he greets the swimmers when they return from the venture, and he makes a grand show of swimming close to shore.

When he’s not splashing around, Quinn can likely be found roaming the halls of Baylor Charles A. Sammons Cancer Center, where he works as a therapy dog, nuzzling up to patients, bringing them joy and hope with his unconditional puppy love.

Richard, Loudest alarm. Photo by Danny Fulgencio
Richard, Loudest alarm. Photo by Danny Fulgencio

Richard, loudest alarm

13.07.22-ED-Richard-t_opt2Last April, Crystal McKibben drove to a nearby poultry farm to pick up three ducklings, but she returned home with two ducklings and a full-grown duck instead. McKibben’s husband, Josh, wasn’t sure what he thought about a full-grown duck, since they didn’t have a coop yet, but Crystal had no intention of taking the duck back to the poultry farmer because he’d told her that he planned to take the duck to a butcher.

They named the duck Richard, but after a few weeks, Richard did something very strange: laid an egg.

“Richard is not a male,” McKibben concluded. Whoops!

Now Richard lays an egg a day, and each one is in high demand by the McKibbens’ 3-year-old son, Henry.

Richard recently earned the unofficial title of best guard duck in the neighborhood after waking Crystal with her raucous quacking.

“She is so loud that she woke me up at 2:30 in the morning,” Crystal recalls. “I went outside to see what was going on, and there was a giant bobcat prowling around the coop, and Richard was not happy about it.”

The bobcat ran off when Crystal went outside but came back a couple of hours later.

“We didn’t know what to do, so the next day we called [wildlife control], and a man came out and gave us some pointers on how to Fort Knox the coop down.”

Richard is an Indian runner duck, so she’s exceptionally tall. Like most ducks, Richard loves the water, so she spends her weekends splashing around a kiddie pool in the backyard. When she’s not doing that, she’s enjoying her favorite snack of frozen peas, or prowling for insects, spiders and snakes in the yard.

13.07.02-ED-Johnny(Ver_opt
Jonny Most, talented escape artist. Photo by Danny Fulgencio

Jonny, most talented escape artist

Verena Mahlow Lage didn’t want a dog.

13.07.02-ED-Johnny(Ve_opt1
Jonny Most, talented escape artist. Photo by Danny Fulgencio

A native of Mainz, Germany, the TV freelancer sought refuge from her country’s frigid winter weather by taking her son to Ibiza, Spain. Her son’s cat had just died, and he pleaded for a dog. Reluctantly, Mahlow Lage took him to the island’s rescue center, where 6-week-old Jonny, an English pointer/Ibizan hound mix, immediately wooed her.

When Jonny’s person met her future husband in 2004, Jonny immediately loved him — something Mahlow Lage says finalized her decision to marry. In 2011 Mahlow Lage decided to move to Little Forest Hills to be with her husband. Mahlow Lage planned to make the eight-hour flight from Frankfurt, Germany, to New York, and then drive to Dallas with a close friend of hers for a “mini road-trip vacation.” This would in turn reduce the time Jonny spent on the plane, and provide him with his favorite thrill — riding in cars.

But when Mahlow Lage’s plane landed at John F. Kennedy International Airport, an airline employee informed her that Jonny had escaped his kennel and gotten loose on the tarmac. “The airplanes couldn’t land or take off,” she says.

Mahlow Lage searched the entire airport to no avail. Later that night she sat in her hotel and cried for hours. She couldn’t sleep or eat. Her heart was broken.

In the morning, just as her husband was on a plane headed from Dallas to New York to help, Mahlow Lage received a phone call from a neighboring suburb. A man found Jonny the night before while dropping a friend off at the airport. He spotted the dog sitting in front of the tarmac, collarless, and decided to take him home for company. But Jonny whined throughout the entire night, so the man took him to the vet to see if he endured damage to his paws from the tarmac.

“The vet said, ‘He is not hurt, he is missing somebody,’ ” Mahlow Lage says.

The vet then found a microchip in Jonny’s neck and called the police to help locate his owner. Thirty hours after Jonny first boarded the plane, Mahlow Lage found him in an apartment near the airport on Passover. Mahlow Lage, who is half-Jewish, smiled when the man, who was also Jewish, told her it was a miracle of Passover.

“It was, but it was also just a miracle overall,” she says.

13.07.28-ED-Pets.Radha_opt
Radha and Rumi, Best bedside manners.Photo by Chris Arrant

Radha and Rumi, best bedside manners

Nothing says “get well soon” like puppy kisses. At least, that’s Radha and Rumi’s theory.

Since their human mom, Andrea Marie Davis, was diagnosed with breast cancer last year, the Yorkshire terriers have been right by her side for every step of the recovery process, always ready to snuggle, even on the days when Davis could barely get out of bed.

At first Davis was nervous about how they would handle being cooped up, but her worries were in vain.

“They were so good, even though they didn’t get their walks,” she says.

She also was amazed at how they never jumped on her after the surgery, as though they knew she was hurting. Radha, the little girl, seemed particularly intuitive.

“I just wondered for a while if she could sense it, even before the surgery.”

During those early days, when Davis first learned about her diagnosis and was gathering information about breast cancer, Radha seemed to pick up on her feelings of vulnerability and fear.

“I just felt like she got real needy, and I just remember her wanting to be held more than ever before,” Davis says.

After the surgery, Rumi, the boy dog, helped Davis stretch and exercise her arm by playing catch in the backyard. Rumi loves his tennis ball, Davis says — actually, he’s a little obsessive about it. After several weeks of Rumi’s puppified physical therapy, Davis now has almost full range of motion in her arm.

Seems the two pooches make quite a doctoring team. Heck, maybe they should open their own practice.

aussie trip
Aussie, Lady of the house. Photo by Chris Arrant

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.

When they visit the White Rock Lake Dog Park, she tends to isolate herself from other dogs and instead socialize with humans, he says. 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.”

Mozzie, strangest sleeping habits

When Lee Gibson is looking for his cat, Mozzie, during the hot summer months, there’s one place Gibson can almost always find him: lounging in the bathroom sink. Sure, it’s not the most conventional spot to take a catnap, but Mozzie, a fluffy Maine coon, seems to prefer the coolness of the porcelain to the plushness of the couch. And he doesn’t run into much opposition to his habit because Gibson pretty much gives him the run of the house. “I let him do whatever he wants,” Gibson says with a chuckle. Gibson has owned Maine coons before and likes the breed. They’re known for being large cats (seriously, Google them; these things get huge), and growing long, thick coats. They’re also known for being total sweethearts, which fits the bill for Mozzie, Gibson says. “He’s very affectionate, for a cat.” He’s also very chatty and makes a range of noises, from grunts to soft “barks” to long, drawn-out “meows.” He seems to have aspirations of being a weather-kitty with his uncanny ability to predict a storm. Whenever a storm is headed East Dallas’ way, Mozzie finds sanctuary under the bed, Gibson says. “And I can always tell when it’s about to let up, because he comes out.” Mozzie has never bitten Gibson, even playfully, and he’s a bit of a cuddlebug, Gibson says. “He is quite a character.”

Forest, best cha-cha

Forest is a pup with plenty of pizzazz. He might be a “failed” show dog, but that hasn’t stopped him from loving the limelight. Forest was once co-owned by Bill Cosby (yes, the Bill Cosby), according to his now-parents, William and Kara Edwards. He’s a Lakeland terrier from a litter that was raised to show, but at 10 months he reached 18 inches and was graded down for being an inch too tall, so Cosby and friends wrote him off as a show pup. “Bill’s loss has definitely been our gain,” William Edwards says, although at first the couple had their doubts. When Forest first came to live in East Dallas, he couldn’t do a thing except walk on a leash. He wasn’t house trained, he didn’t know any commands or tricks, and his favorite pastime was terrorizing the cat. “We got him home, and we were like, ‘Oh God, what did we get ourselves into?’ ” William says with a laugh. But Forest was a fast learner, and before long he was wowing his parents with his behavior and cracking them up with his antics. “We ran out of tricks to teach him,” William says. Forest is full of personality and loves posing for the camera. From sit and stay to dancing the cha-cha, he does it all — for treats, of course.

Finley, most colorful

Finley’s previous owner didn’t like his noise and mess, but his new mom, Bianca Trejo, doesn’t seem to mind it one bit. “Finley is an example of the perfect pet,” Trejo says. “He’s the most relaxed pet to have around. The gouldian finch’s beautiful, bold colors make it impossible not to sit down and watch.” Finley serenades Trejo with his melodic songs, and when he’s not doing that, he can usually be found playing on his swing.

Django, people’s choice

Django was found wandering a field in Oklahoma, says owner John McStravick. The people who found him took him to a vet in Oklahoma City, and one of the vets is a friend of the McStravick family. “[Our friend] asked if we could foster him,” McStravick says. “We agreed and ended up keeping him for ourselves.” McStravick says Django’s favorite pastimes are patrolling the backyard for squirrels and napping. It’s a dog’s life.

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 editor@advocatemag.com.

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