We call them pets — those creatures who cohabitate and bond with humans. They tend to love their person, even one who is crotchety or crazy. Dogs don’t judge—they evidently love doctors and pastors, evil dictators and lunatics the same. Each summer, in anticipation of the September issue, we ask readers to tell us about their pets. Then editors are deluged with emails and letters. The photos are striking and funny. The stories, heartwarming. Your love of your pets is evident and something to which animal people in every culture and community can relate. While pets are no substitute for human relationships, they do offer a sort of unparalleled, unshakable and near-mystic camaraderie. Writer-naturalist Henry Beston explained it eloquently when he wrote, “They are more finished and complete [than us], gifted with extensions of the senses we have lost or never attained, living by voices we shall never hear. They are not brethren, they are not underlings; they are other Nations, caught with ourselves in the net of life and time.”
The Oak Cliff hipster
When John and Anne Foster adopted their boxer, Jackson, from a shelter, “he was depressed and mostly lifeless,” they say. He had been surrendered by his previous owner, who traveled too much to care for him properly.
But now that he’s been with the Fosters for 6 years, Jackson has turned into a big ham.
“Once he got a new home and lots of attention and love, he mostly dances now,” Anne Foster says.
Jackson is affectionate and playful, and he’s whip smart. The Fosters taught him all kinds of party tricks. He can rise up on two legs and “be a bear.” He can “howl” on command. And if they hold their hand like a gun and say “bang,” he plays dead.
And of course, check him out on the cover of this magazine in the shades.
Most of all, the Fosters say, Jackson is a real Oak Cliff dog. They’ve moved twice within the neighborhood since adopting Jackson, and they say he’s well known in the ’hood.
“He’s committed to the neighborhood,” Anne Foster says.
Dilla & Dexter
After their 14-year-old cat Mao died of cancer two years ago, Jeff and Cindy Jones noticed that their other cat, Dilla, missed him.
“Dilla was walking around, crying and looking for Mao,” Jeff says. “So we thought we needed to get her a friend.”
Jeff, an animal cruelty investigator for the city of Fort Worth, found Dexter in the city’s shelter. The kitten was still pretty wild when they got him, but he warmed up after about two weeks.
“I have never seen that much personality in a cat,” Jeff says.
The Joneses knew Dexter was home when he crawled into bed one night and lay across Jeff’s neck.
The younger cat is playful. He likes to get into grocery bags, and he plays with a small basketball. Dilla at first was skeptical of Dexter, but she came around. Now the two play together all the time. Jeff says Dilla seems happier and has lost weight. He and Cindy keep their friends and family updated on their cats’ antics on a Facebook page with posts written in the cats’ voices,
Dexter is the first animal Jeff has brought home from work in the six years he has worked in animal services. He says people often ask him how he can resist adopting more pets.
He sees some awful things. Things most people never want to see, he says. The worst situations he sees involve animal hoarding and neglect.
“I don’t want a roomful of cats because I know I couldn’t show them enough attention,” he says. “They know they are very loved, and they get a lot of attention.”
Stella & Molly
Stella and Molly made it into the Advocate because of a picture of them lying on the bed cuddling. Who can resist a dog-cat BFF combo?
Brad Taylor of Elmwood rescued the dog, Stella, from Dallas Animal Services about a year ago. He had gone to see about her two puppies, but they already had been adopted.
“I fell for her,” he says. “She’s a sweetheart.”
By then, he already had Molly at home. Taylor had a cat that disappeared about three years ago, and he put up fliers in the neighborhood in an attempt to find it. A neighbor called and said, “I found your cat.” The cat looked nothing like Taylor’s other cat, but he gave her a home anyway.
Molly is a hunter and has brought mice and other rodents, usually ones that are still alive, into the house through the pet door. She once brought in a baby owl. It seemed uninjured, so Taylor took it back outside, where it flew away.
“She usually takes them into the bathtub, but then she gets bored with them and they’re running free in my house, so that’s a problem,” he says.
Taylor also has a garage apartment, and his tenant has a black lab. Both residences have pet doors, so all three pets run around together, Taylor says.
“It’s a nice little group,” he says.
The original frou-frou dog
Jonnie England never considered herself a “frou-frou dog” kind of person. Then along came Muffin. The shih tzu mix has a ’50s girl outfit, complete with pearls and a white satin purse.
“She’s been in quite a few costume contests,” England says.
The frou-frou era in England’s life started on a cold February morning about 11 years ago. She’d left her house near Kiest Park to run errands, and she saw a little white puppy hunkered down in the grass in the park. So she stopped.
“I walked up to her and she rolled over on her back,” England says.
So she put her in the car.
England volunteered with Operation Kindness at the time, and she tried to find someone to foster her. But that didn’t last long. Muffin made friends with England’s big dog, Marigold, and quickly became part of the family, which also includes five cats. When Marigold died about two years ago, Muffin was blue — she wouldn’t even come out of her crate to greet England at the door. So that’s when she adopted another frou-frou dog, Daisy, a 9-pound Maltese mix. The two dogs are inseparable.
England’s 15-year-old cat is the boss of the household, but all the animals get along, she says. They all sleep in the bed with England.
“It’s nice to have a group that all works together,” she says.
Muffin is blind in one eye after a “freak accident” with Marigold, but that doesn’t slow her down, England says. At about 12 years old, the dog is still playful and likes to bite and growl at her plush toys. And she’s still pretty enough for pageantry: She’s won trophies in three costume contests.
The roof walker
This dog really knows how to raise the “woof.”
Brandy is a 12-year-old chow mix who likes to hang out on the rooftop of her East Kessler home.
Owner Jenni Brakey’s neighbors found Brandy roaming the neighborhood with a chain wrapped too tightly around her neck about 10 years ago.
“She weighed about 20 pounds less than she does now,” Brakey says.
Brandy and Brakey’s other dog, Jake, are both escape artists. Jake can jump fences, and Brandy can climb up and over the chain link. They used to take “walkabouts” in their younger days, Brakey says. They could escape, take a walk and come back.
About eight years ago, Brakey removed the railing from a roof deck on her house, and that’s when Brandy started taking her walkabouts on the roof.
The dog likes to watch over the house with a bird’s-eye view. When Brakey works in the yard, Brandy keeps constant watch over her.
“She takes her job very seriously,” she says.