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 White Rock area, we have our pick of posh pet hotels and pooch patios, doggie bakeries (barkeries) and upscale grooming services.
We took a close-up look at a cross section of neighborhood pets to find out what makes them so worth it.
Raymundo & Lilybug: Almost Famous
Can you keep up with house cats Lilybug and Raymundo? They definitely know what it’s like to live life in the limelight.
They have their own Instagram account and their human Catherine Kelly is always stalking them, waiting for an opportune moment to snap a photo.
Lilybug and Raymundo are siblings — their mom’s name is Charles Barkley. Despite coming from the same bloodline and being raised together, the pair couldn’t be more different.
“Raymundo is the attention seeker,” Kelly explains. “When people come over, he’s in their arms. He has lots of personality. Lilybug is more reserved. She kind of hangs out at the edge of the room at first. Eventually, if she decides she likes you, she’ll rub against your legs and let you pet her.”
Although they’re personalities are night and day, they’re equally as lovable on the Internet.
Their social media presence grew gradually. Before they had their own Instagram account, Kelly would occasionally post pictures of them on her Facebook page.
“I was teetering on the edge of becoming that crazy cat lady who posts tons of pictures of her cat,” she explains. “I noticed other people have Instagram accounts for their cats, and so I wondered what it would be like to start an account for them.”
She decided to give it a try, and at first only her friends and family followed their account. Soon enough, however, other pets began following Lilybug and Raymundo, showing their support through “likes” and comments.
“I couldn’t believe the community of pets that are on social media,” Kelly says. “Without even realizing it, it kind of became an experiment in social media. It’s been fun. My friends are like, ‘You seem like a normal person, and then I find out you have an Instagram for your cats.’ ”
Despite what Kelly’s real-life friends think, the Instagram community thinks Lilybug and Raymundo are the picture purr-fect pair. They just recently hit 1,000 followers.
Of course, they’ve had to relinquish their privacy for fame. Kelly posts pictures of them playing, sleeping, getting into trouble and even grooming themselves. Nothing is sacred, but they’re willing to make the sacrifice for their fans.
Follow them on Instagram: Lilybug and Raymundo
Eleanor Pigby: Pig on the Run
Laurel Holt never felt so helpless as the day she learned her 2-year-old pot-bellied pig, Eleanor Pigby, had escaped from the backyard while Holt was thousands of miles away on a cruise ship.
The portly pig is her baby, and Holt was desperate to do anything she could to track Eleanor down.
She immediately took to social media to sound the alarm, telling all her friends and family to be on the lookout for the missing pig. As the hashtag #EleanorPigby began circulating the interwebs, Holt’s friends canvased the neighborhood with missing pig signs.
When local news outlets got wind of the swine on the loose, they helped spread the word. One of Holt’s friends coined Eleanor as “the most popular pig in the metroplex.”
Meanwhile in East Dallas, Eleanor was wandering around the neighborhood making friends and scouting for food — including people’s flowerbeds.
A photo of Eleanor on a neighbor’s front porch surfaced on Facebook, but before Holt and her friends could reach the picture-taker, Eleanor was gone again.
Soon after, Eleanor was corraled by a man who lives in the neighborhood. He couldn’t take her home, so he took her to his uncle’s farm, where she befriended some fellow pigs.
When the Good Samaritan got back to East Dallas, he saw the missing pig fliers and immediately made plans to bring Eleanor home. Just two days after she went missing, the wayward pig was home safe in her own backyard.
“It sounds like a children’s story, in a way,” Holt muses. “Eleanor Pigby running through the neighborhood eating flowers, looking for her mom and coming back home.”
Holt, for one, is relieved that Eleanor Pigby is home to snuggle on the couch, give her kisses and eat her out of house and home.
Daphne: Love is blind
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.”
Dirk: Mama’s little helper
Neighbor Abbie Skipworth is a therapist who sometimes she needs a little help from her chocolate lab, Dirk.
Dirk is a dog that never knew a stranger. As a certified therapy dog, he sometimes accompanies Skipworth to her office, where she works with kids and adults who struggle with anxiety and depression.
“Having him there really softens people up,” Skipworth says.
His job isn’t complicated. He just does what he does best — giving and receiving love.
“With certain clients, I’ll bring him in and he’ll just lay on the couch with them,” she explains. “It helps them to pet him while they’re talking about something really hard. Sometimes younger clients can play with him, or they’ll tell him things they feel like they can’t tell me.”
Even before he was a certified therapy dog, Dirk was a great listener.
“One day I was taking him home, and an elderly lady in the parking lot came up with her husband and told Dirk that she had been pricked and prodded all day and that just to get to see him and pet him made her day so much better,” Skipworth remembers. “That’s when I decided to get him certified.”
Recently he’s also been helping out at home.
“Just a little bit ago we were teaching him how to go get a diaper,” Skipworth says with a laugh.
“He’ll get it, but he chews it up a little bit on the way,” her husband Wes Skipworth points out.
Helga: Chicken (not so) little
Helga the chicken loves to cuddle.
Her human Jessica Allendes grew up on a farm, so she was excited when she moved into a house with a spacious backyard big enough for urban farming.
When Allendes’ two daughters were old enough, they bought a brood of chickens from Gecko Hardware. Helga, a buff orpington hen, settled into East Dallas.
“She was my oldest daughter’s favorite,” Allendes says. “She’s the friendliest chicken you’ll ever meet.”
The chickens love Allendes’ girls and constantly follow them around the yard. “They have no idea they’re chickens,” Allendes points out.
Helga in particular can be mischievous and likes to be in the middle of whatever the kids are doing. If the girls are in the sandbox, Helga is in the sandbox — usually knocking over any up-and-coming sand castles.
She lays an egg almost every day, and she’s gigantic to boot.
“She fits her name,” Allendes says. “She’s probably about 30 pounds. She’s a big, plucky lady,” which for some reason reminds Allendes of a baker. “I could picture her with an apron on.”
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