The Pet Issue: Stories about our neighborhood’s favorite animals

My ol’ Mama Dog walked me all over Oak Cliff for nine years, and now she’s gone.

If neighbors don’t know me as Rachel from the Advocate, they’ve usually seen me. I was that lady always walking her dog around L.O. Daniel, where Mama Dog and I went around the block twice a day minimum in any weather and lived in the same apartment, slept back-to-back together, for nine solid years.

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This is the ninth Advocate pets issue I’ve written and the first one since I lost my best friend this past May. In a way, having to put down Mama [my pet, not my mother — Mary is fine!] was harder than anything in my life so far. Which says something about how easy I have it, I suppose. Although I’ve suffered deeper loss, this one presented the hardest mountain to climb, emotionally speaking, because it is uniquely personal.

I’m the lone surviving insider to the bond between my protective cuddle bug of a cow dog and me.

You don’t realize how perfect love can be until it’s gone. You don’t know that your dog is part of your identity, that your life will never be the same without her.

This demanding dog that caught Frisbees and hated DART buses was holding my life together. I’m putting one foot in front of the other now, but I never dreamed losing a pet could be this hard. Naively, I thought I was a strong person all on my own, without the love of my dog.

Around the time Mama Dog died, several of my friends also lost their longtime pets, a coincidence that felt like a dreadful trend.

Everyone who owns a pet loses a pet eventually. But when it happens to you, it happens to you.

The sorrow is real. It’s permanent heartbreak.

That is the price of receiving the pure heart of a good, good girl.

And it’s worth it. 10/10 would adopt again, although not for a while. Let the poor heart mend a little.

In honor of all the pets we’ve loved before, these are the best stories we could find of beloved Oak Cliff pets surviving the odds, God bless ’em all.

EYE-POPPING PUG

Eva Creel found her puppy in the kitchen, pawing at the eye hanging out of her socket.

Then 3 months old, Onyx had been playing with a Labrador retriever they were babysitting. Who knows what happened? She lost the eye.

“We took her to the vet, and she doesn’t know the difference,” Creel says.

Now 11 years old, Onyx is beautiful as ever. And she has a 2-year-old brother, a Labrador retriever named Opie.

“That’s her best friend,” Creel says. “She keeps up with every bit of energy he has. She puts him in his place when she needs to.”

Onyx is now losing sight in her remaining eye, but she’s active as ever, enjoying hikes and running in the grass.

“She does walk a little sideways now and then.”

BUDDY THE SMILING PIT

When Buddy the Smiling Pitbull celebrated his 10th birthday at Ten Bells Tavern last year, 12 dogs and 25 people showed up.

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“This year’s party is going to be epic,” says his person, Michelle Taylor.

That’s because Buddy, who is one of the most popular patio dogs in Oak Cliff and has helped Taylor foster more than 100 dogs in the past decade, is in remission from leukemia.

“He loves kids, loves to give kisses. He’s a big ol’ ham.”

Taylor decided in December 2017 that she wanted to take a break from fostering and give Buddy some alone time. And then in February, she discovered what felt like marbles beneath the skin under his collar.

After tests confirmed leukemia, the vet gave him two months to live. Friends helped Taylor raise $10,000 for chemotherapy.

He took nine rounds of chemo. The drugs left him weak, and he had a couple of accidents, but otherwise, he handled it great, Taylor says. Now he’s in remission, and Taylor is keeping up hope that he has many more years left.

“Buddy has affected so many people. He loves to hang out at Nova and Ten Bells,” she says. “He’s just a charmer. He goes and works the crowd. He loves kids, loves to give kisses. He’s a big ol’ ham.”

SOPHIE: THE ONE-EYED MEDICAL WONDER DOG

A fungal infection so rare that her veterinarian had to call around to colleagues, and no one had heard of it.

Kristie Thornton, a teacher who lives in Wynnewood, noticed her dog Sophie was afraid of the dark and figured out that she’d gone blind. One of Sophie’s eyes later ruptured, and a veterinarian ophthalmologist found it was caused by a common fungus that rarely infects the body.

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“The eye doctor told me there are several vets who are following Sophie’s case just because it’s so rare,” Thornton says.

The prognosis was bad. They expected her to decline quickly and only live a few months longer.

That was two years ago. When Sophie does go, Thornton has agreed to let her vet do an autopsy so they can investigate why she’s managed to survive this long.

“I’ve gotten so much extra time with her, and I’m not ready yet. I’ll be devastated when it is time,” she says. “She’s my sidekick. I’ve had her for nine years.”

ONE-LEG LOUIE

Miriam Ortega has children and owns a business. But Louie is her baby. The 3-year-old chow rides with her in the car, wears sunglasses and sleeps by her side.

One year ago, Louie got out of their house in Oak Park Estates and was hit by three cars, Ortega says. He had broken bones, and his body was mangled.

“They were his guardian angels,” Ortega says.

“This lady who stopped to help me drove Louie and me to the emergency vet. I had never seen her before,” Ortega says.

They gave Louie a 40 percent chance of surviving the night, and to make matters worse, they handed Ortega an estimate of $1,500-$1,800 for treatment.

She didn’t have the cash at the time and wasn’t sure what to do, but the neighbor told her to email Duck Team 6, the street-dog rescue nonprofit.

“Thirty minutes later, they contacted me and spoke to the doctor and made all the arrangements,” Ortega says. “The next day, we had him transferred to City Vet, and they literally gave him life!”

Louie had a leg amputated, but he’s sweet and funny as ever. And Duck Team 6 picked up the $1,800 tab.

“They were his guardian angels,” Ortega says.

CAT-ELLITE NAVIGATION 

Jack the well-traveled cat showed up like he owned the place.

Lanel Welsby, visiting from Colorado to get her mother’s Kessler Park house ready to put on the market, met him in the driveway.

“There was this cat that came running down the alley and meowing at us like he was our cat,” she says. “He wanted to eat. And we fed him packages of tuna salad. He ate three whole packages. But then he just wanted to hang out with us.”

They bought some cat food, and he kept hanging around. A week went by.

“Everybody was in love with him,” she says. “They were like, ‘he’s a great cat.’ ”

He must be somebody’s cat.

So they had his microchip scanned and found he belonged 20 miles away in Garland. He had been missing for two years, and his family was devastated to lose him. Since then, they’d adopted two more cats and a dog.

How Jack spent those two years and how he covered so much ground is a mystery. But when he arrived home, it was like no time was lost. Jack fit right in with the new pack and took up his same old sleeping spot at the foot of the bed.

“She had just been telling her husband that nobody had ever found Jack in all this time,” Welsby says. “She’d still been missing him all this time.

“It just seemed like he needed someone to help him find his way home.”

DOG ON THE RUN

Life hasn’t always been so silly for Uma. The 5-year-old greyhound had to work for her supper.

She ran 95 races in Florida from 2014-2016 as PJ Untitled. George Baum of Oak Cliff took her in via the Greyhound Adoption League of Texas Inc.

“She is the sweetest, most loving dog you can imagine,” Baum says. Uma joined Baum’s other dog, a mutt named Fizzy, who was given to a friend and then to Baum by an Oak Cliff family who could no longer care for her.

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