Oak Cliff’s four-legged friends provide the purest form of love

“Peanuts” creator Charles Schulz said it best: “Happiness is a warm puppy.” The same could be said for any animal that touches our heart. The bond between an owner and a pet is one of those rare relationships that feel simple and unconditional. That’s why we celebrate our neighborhood’s best fuzzy friends, both in our Advocate Pet Contest and September edition. Their sweet souls bring joy to those who know them.


Qantas the yorkipoo was named after the airline that kept his dads’ romance alive. Photo by Danny Fulgencio

David Cherrie and Scott McKinney did a lot of time on one of the world’s longest nonstop commercial flights, about 16 hours from DFW International Airport to Sydney, Australia.

The two, who met on vacation in Key West, Fla., had a cross-hemisphere romance for almost three years. At first their commute was only 10 hours each way; Cherrie lived in London and McKinney in Oak Cliff. They did that for about a year.

Then Cherrie took a job in Melbourne. After the hour-and-a-half hop from Sydney, almost 18 hours travel time would separate them.

At first, McKinney thought it was impossible, and he told his sweetie so.

“There was this long pause,” he says. “Then David said, ‘It’s still getting on a plane. It’s just sitting on it a little longer.’ ”

They visited four or five times a year, alternating continents. And they video chatted about once every turn of the Earth.

Then in 2014, they got married in New Zealand and decided to live together in the Kessler Park house that McKinney bought 12 years ago.

They did a full renovation and entirely refurnished the house to make it feel like theirs together.

But the final element to making their home is the light of their lives, a yorkipoo that they adopted when he was 8 weeks old.

They named him after the airline that held their relationship together for all those miles, Qantas.

Qantas the dog quickly became the center of their attention and the boss of the household.

“He’s a spoiled little boy,” Cherrie says, as Qantas dozes in his lap on a recent summer afternoon.

Qantas can “fly” from one end of the house to the other chasing toys, and he can jump chest high. So he also earned the nickname “the flying ’roo” for the Qantas Airways logo.

“He has without a shadow of a doubt made our family complete,” McKinney says. “After so many years of traveling across the world to see each other, David, Qantas and I are one little happy family. We couldn’t imagine life without him.”


Photo by Danny Fulgencio

Andrew Houston knew this kitten was his when it came up and nipped him.

The now 13-year-old had been looking for the perfect orange kitty when a pregnant cat showed up at the home of a family friend.

Andrew, long the baby of the family, had become the middle child suddenly when his mom, art teacher Heather Houston, adopted a toddler and a newborn several years ago.

She wanted him to have his own pet.

It’s no wonder that the cat, Tigger, had bit his future owner. It wasn’t long before the Houstons discovered that Tigger is deaf.

“He has a really great personality, and I think it’s because he’s deaf,” Houston says. “He’s really about touch.”

Andrew and Tigger quickly became best buds.

Tigger waits by the door when it’s time for Andrew to come home. Andrew, a student at George Bannerman Dealey Montessori, can’t wait to see his cat.

“I’ve never seen anything like it,” Houston says. “We’ll be at the end of the block, and he’s like, ‘I miss my cat.’ ”

Tigger gets along with their cat Peaches, and he stalks their oldest cat, Lulu.

This cat never scatters the way felines will, they say, and he’s not afraid of anything.

Tigger recently started wearing a bell around his neck, but they might take it off because they can hear it jingling all night long.

“He sleeps better than anyone in this house,” Houston says.


Gigi and Mavis Belisle hit it off and decided to live together. Photo by Danny Fulgencio.

Mavis Belisle admits she had a “foster fail.”

She’d heard about the Oak Cliff nonprofit No Bully Left Behind dog rescue on Nextdoor, and it had been awhile since she’d owned a dog, so she volunteered to foster.

A few came through and later found homes.

And then there was Gigi.

A red pit mix, Gigi had been found pregnant and later delivered 14 puppies, 12 of which lived and were adopted.

Belisle, who was born and raised in Oak Cliff and attended Bishop Dunne Catholic School, bought her house in Kiestwood in 1973.

She later went to work for an anti-weapons nonprofit near the Pantex Plant northeast of Amarillo, where she lived for 17 years.

Out there in the country, she always had a small pack of dogs around. She figures her love of big breeds started early in life after her dad brought home a German shepherd to watch over her.

“I’d never owned a pit before,” she says.

But Gigi’s charm and beauty made her easy to love. The dog has green/brown eyes and an auburn coat. She originally had no name; the dog rescue labeled her crate “gorgeous girl,” which became Gigi.

She’s a timid dog and will approach new people with hands outstretched and coaxing. Once there, she relishes the petting, quickly making friends.

“I’ve never once seen a trace of aggressiveness in her,” Belisle says.

Gigi’s one bad habit is that she can climb fences, but Belisle, now in her 70s, walks her twice a day, and that’s just enough for both of them.


Sammy serves as ambassador at Bruno’s Place dog wash, which opened on West Davis earlier this year. Photo by Danny Fulgencio.

When Mallory McKown returned to Oak Cliff after living in California for four years, she noticed a service that was missing here: A do-it-yourself dog wash.

So with her parents, Dr. Rochelle McKown and Jimmy Verner, as investors, she leased a corner storefront in the 1930s retail strip at West Davis and North Willomet.

They renovated the space and turned it into Bruno’s Place DIY Dog Wash, where anyone can bathe and groom their pets for a fee.

Mallory McKown is the manager, and the ambassador is her dog, Sammy.

A little white poodle mix, Sammy greets everyone, often putting other dogs at ease.

“Sammy has a way of bringing other dogs out of their shells,” McKown says.

Rochelle McKown picked Sammy up in the parking lot of the Oak Cliff Tom Thumb a couple of years ago. A guy in a truck had pulled up, let the dog out and driven away.

Mallory took him in, and she brings him everywhere she can.

“My other two dogs don’t really care about going anywhere,” she says. “But Sammy’s always ready to go.”

Bruno’s opened in April, and they recently installed a gated wooden front deck where customers and their dogs can hang out, presumably with Sammy. They’re planning a grand opening with free flea and tick medication and adoptions from the SPCA on Saturday, Sept. 9.