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Pet Tales

Readers shared their stories — and pictures — of animal companionship. The stories are wonderful; they'll bring tears to your eyes and laughter to your heart and lips.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

DOG DAYS

A big bow wow to our canine compadres

Piper at Work and Play

Bay Weekly Distribution Dog a satisfied senior

Piper is known to many Bay Weekly readers as the Distribution Dog for Bay Weekly. She’s about 12 now — or 84 in people years — and still going strong. Gray is taking over her face, including her eyelashes. She is the epitome of a senior dog, set in her habits and becoming more hardheaded each day. The recent hot weather has had its toll on her weekly woods walk in the Glendening Nature Sanctuary, shortening them to about 45 minutes. Then she’s ready for a cool bowl of water and a nap.
    Can you keep a secret? She doesn’t know yet, but she has a date with the beach in September, where she can run free and chase sandpipers. Don’t tell!

–Peggy Trabane

Eric Weber’s Menagerie

They just keep coming

One is never enough for Eric Weber, whose animal family shares his 33-acre farmstead in Lothian.
    Sunday the 30-year-old horse has the most influence. He’s adored by Roxzy, the 10-year-old boxer. “Every time she’s near him, she thinks she’s a horse. Roxzy loves her horse treats too,” says Weber.
    “Roxzy used to be a city girl living in Washington for eight years, but we moved over here about three years ago and she loves the country life.”
    The boxer stole Weber’s heart as a 13-week-old at a Petco Adoption Day in 2006. “She doesn’t know she was rescued,” says Weber.
    She’s been rescued again, from cancer. “She just survived, with a tumor in her leg and on her belly, all surgically removed,” Weber says. “She escaped chemotherapy in January.”
    Despite her age and recent illness, Roxzy is energetic. Good thing, because for three months she’s been training six-month-old little boxer Bugzy.
    Barn cats Katrina, 14, and Drop, six, (short for Rain Drop) are not impressed.
    The farm has been in the family for almost 20 years, with more pets coming and passing through the years.
    “I used to have a black Labrador, Maxton who was found on I-95,” Weber says. “Roxzy grew up with her. Maxton died in 2003 at the age of 18.”
    “Even so, a dog’s life is far too short.”

–Alka Bromiley

The Dog Who Raised Me

A Chesapeake Bay retriever for a nanny

Some children are raised by werewolves; at least, certain ones act as if they were. A Chesapeake Bay retriever named Mac was my tutor, guardian, babysitter, governor. Therefore, mostly, I behaved.
    Chesapeake Bay retrievers are water dogs, but while it was I in the water, in a big galvanized tub in our garden, Mac looked in on me from shore, i.e., the lawn. Mac supervised my swimming, grabbed the back of my mini-bathing suit if I spent too long blowing bubbles under water, or climbed out and headed for the garden gate.
    Babushka, my Russian grandmother, was surely supervising from the porch, but I remember only Mac. If Babushka were focused on teaching French to a handful of neighboring children, Mac kept me from interrupting them.
    I soon learned what and where the Chesapeake Bay was and why the ancestors of my big, curly-haired, brown, working dog were named for it, and how the original pups were brought by sailing ship from Labrador specifically to create this breed of intelligent hunting dogs.

–Elisavietta Ritchie

Shady Side’s Mountain Dog

Zelda knew what — and whom — she liked

We got Zelda in the spring of 2006 from a colleague, now a friend, who needed to find a home for her dog, named after Zelda Fitzgerald. A rescue dog from the Annapolis area, Zelda was supposed to be some kind of mix. But over the years the vet, my husband Karl and I concluded she was a Swiss mountain dog.
    Zelda loved cheese. She could smell it through the plastic before I opened a new pack. Karl says Swiss cheese was her favorite. She had a sensitive stomach so that was the only people-food we gave her, unless something dropped on the floor.
    She was always gentle and very accepting of the grandkids as they started invading her world in 2011. She loved men, especially Karl and our son-in-law Paul, and the feeling was mutual.
    But she hated cats. We had two cats, Otis and Wyatt, when she came to us, and we had to keep them separate from Zelda. After we lost Otis, we got a skinny little rescue kitten already named Pepper. Pepper isn’t afraid of anything, and she stood up to Zelda. They became friends. Once Pepper arrived, our home was a peaceable kingdom again. Zelda and Pepper sniffed each other when their paths crossed. We know they slept together many a night in the garage, but we were never able to get a picture of it.
    Zelda could be stubborn. If she didn’t want to do something, she would lie down and roll over for a belly rub. Sometimes she would then do what you wanted — and sometimes not! She loved to go on walks and had been trained on a leash by our friends, so she was a great companion walking around Shady Side. She roamed a bit when she was younger, and we got a collar with our telephone number on it so people could call us if she strayed. At one point, she knew more people in Shady Side than we did. For the last few years she stayed closer to home, though she made almost daily (sometimes twice-daily) visits to the Walshes, the Olands and the Fegleys, who all treated her to love and food.
    When Zelda passed, Pepper disappeared for a day and a half. I think she was out looking for her.  
    I still look for her when I pull in the driveway each night, remembering how she would saunter around the corner of the house from her spot just outside the garage and walk up to my car door to greet me.

–Debbie Nisson

Firehouse Dog

Spice has no spots, but she has a great sniffer

Black Lab Spice has worked hard to graduate as the newest certified firehouse dog assigned to the West Annapolis Fire Department. She has learned to alert her fellow officers to the traces of accelerants such as gasoline and lighter fluid.
    Her special training shows. She responds to handler Lt. Brian Mayers’ smallest gestures. She likes to pose. Propped on the table, Spice sat pretty as cameras flashed and she showed off her new badge and collar.
    Spice was rescued from an animal shelter and rehabilitated. In school, she earned her dinner by accurately detecting planted clothing or containers with traces of accelerants. When she sniffs a problem, she knows to sit down and not budge until the handler responds.
    Anne Arundel County Executive Steve Schuh awarded Spice her collar badge, explaining how she will work as a psychological threat as well as a sniffer. You can’t debate what a trained dog has found, he said of suspects, so many just surrender.

–Robyn Bell

Della and Stella Changed My Life Furever!

I saw a story on Facebook about two angels who needed to be rescued or they would find fate at the high-kill shelter in Sweetwater, Texas. I contacted the rescue organizer and learned there were no drivers between Memphis, Tenn., and Pleasantville, N.J., where the foster mom would be keeping them. I changed my schedule (I am a Realtor in Annapolis) and found myself driving to Memphis at 6am the next morning. I met Della and Stella there and drove back to Annapolis that night, finally delivering them to their foster mom in Pleasantville the next morning.
    Those 24 hours were the light of my life. I helped saved two innocent, gorgeous, loving and soulful dogs from their unnecessary fate.

–Diane Donnelly

Jack’s World

Thousands pitched in to help save their friend’s life

Jack has 22,000-plus followers on his Facebook page (and thousands more on various dog groups) and posts daily upbeat statuses. He is loved across the U.S. and around the world. Last Christmas a Jack fan from England requested his pawtograph to give to his wife for Christmas.
    A couple months ago, Jack started to act strange, not himself. A large brain tumor was discovered. Based on the love we have for him as well as the daily love of his fans, it was decided that surgery was the only real option — despite an estimated cost of $16,000. Jack’s fans didn’t delete his page or shrug, saying that he was just another sick dog. They came together to pay Jack back for the daily love they had received from him.
    Thousands of comments, prayers, best wishes and advice followed. A friend set up a GoFundMe account, a local pet bakery planned a fundraiser, fans asked for an Amazon wish list, pool therapy sessions were given at no cost, people visited Jack at the hospital. The donations of money, toys and delicious treats has exceeded $10,000.
    A Jack fan described it this way: “Your daily news feeds are a wonderful testament to what kindness can inspire people to do. Jack has created a movement. You and Jack make sad people happy, soften the minds of angry people and make us smile. Jack has been given a gift, and so have you. Fate brought you two together to share what you have been giving to all of us lucky people who know you.”
    This flood of support created a new sense of community. When Jack came home, recovery meant around-the-clock babysitting and caring for an 80-pound baby. It was exhausting, but the love and support of his fans buoyed us as they created their own tributes to Jack. At one point, many changed their Facebook profile pictures to their favorite photo of Jack.
    As Jack continues his therapy, his fans remain steadfast in their interest and love in a dog they have never met. Jack’s medical situation is far from over (it will be months before he is able to operate a vehicle or heavy machinery). We don’t know if he will live another seven years. But the impact that a rescued black Lab has had on people worldwide — and their reciprocation when they found out he had a brain tumor — has left a family eternally grateful.

–Dan Dusseau, Chesapeake Beach

Fifty Cents a Pound

My Happy bargain

Happy was barely 20 pounds and bald when I shelled out a crisp $10 bill to the Clark County shelter in rural America. They found him wandering the streets; he had been eating out of garbage cans and living under an old shed. They shaved him down to his skin to remove the matted fur and fleas.
    A girlfriend had just paid $800 for a five-pound foo-foo dog. My orphaned, homeless dog was a bargain at 50 cents a pound.
    His first night in my apartment, he put his head on my pillow, and for the next 10 years we have the same battle every night: Get your furry head off of my pillow!
    It was November when I brought Happy home to live with me. The holidays were fast approaching. I had a new job in a new town, and I was all alone and depressed in my new apartment. I remember staring at the glowing embers in the fireplace with a glass of wine in my hand and my dog cuddled up by my side. “Isn’t this romantic, Happy?” He licked my face.
    From underweight and scared, he is now overweight and spoiled. He taps my face when it’s time to wake up, and he growls at me when he thinks it’s time for a T - R- E- A- T. (Sorry I am used to spelling it).
    At 11 years of age he is still healthy and energetic. Long walks at the park are a part of our regular routine. He rarely barks, has never disturbed the trash or chewed on my favorite shoes. How did I get so lucky?
    He has been my constant companion, under my desk at the office, riding shotgun in the car or sitting in my lap as I type and, of course, hogging the bed. His existence in my life has outlasted two relationships, two laptops and two cars. One ex-boyfriend loved the dog more than he loved me; he still gets visitation rights one weekend a month. They do guy things like hiking in the woods, chasing rabbits and urinating on trees together. Everybody loves him. The dog, not the boyfriend.
    At the bargain price of just 50 cents a pound, my Happy dog is worth his weight in gold.

–Victoria Clarkson

Sunday in the Park

Join a small-dog playgroup

Every Sunday morning at 8:30, Obadiah Peabody, Obie, a beagle-dachshund-Bassett hound, meets his friends at Calvert County’s Dunkirk Dog Park. They are a wild and crazy bunch of dogs or puppies of any small breed. Lola, an English bulldog, accompanies her older brother Rocco, a French bulldog. Both challenge Fast Eddie, a hound mix, and Oliver, an exuberant Labrador retriever puppy. Sometimes the gang chases a ball or plays tug-of-war, but usually they run in circles only to suddenly stop, throwing themselves into intense puppy wrestling.
    Newcomers are joyfully welcomed.

–Alice Grindstaff

My Amber Girl

Amber Girl came into my life in July 2002 at 12 weeks old. My children had all grown up, and our family toy poodle had just passed away. So there I was all alone. Amber, a beautiful chocolate Labrador retriever, became my life. She was my companion. I loved her and she loved me.
    I loved her enough to let her go on July 12, 2016, at the ripe old age of 14 years, two months and 13 days.
    There will never be another dog like Amber. I am hoping that I can adopt another dog, someday, who will not replace Amber but will open my heart to a whole different kind of love.
    I love you Amber and miss you every day.

–Sandie Kaplanis

Team Tango

My Canine Companion gives me independence

Tango gave me my life back when I was struggling physically just to get dressed and undressed and to move about freely.
    My newest teammate was matched with me last November by Canine Companions for Independence. Tango is a two-and-a-half-year-old yellow Lab raised with love, passion and a broad range of experiences allowing him to choose this place by my side. He is loving, happy to work and happy to play; ready for anything.
    I applied for my Successor Service Dog when my first soulmate and teammate Service Dog Mahler was diagnosed with cancer. I filled out the application with tears, knowing without a doubt that I would honor Mahler and continue to grow and live with the independence he had brought to me. Mahler worked happily until he was ready to go. In the time after his passing and before I was teamed with Tango, I lost a lot of abilities and freedom. My needs changed.
    I am so grateful to Canine Companions for once again matching me with a dog who fits my lifestyle and needs and to whom I could offer all my joy. There is, however, no replacing Mahler. Receiving the gift of Tango, I embarked on a new journey of growth. It is a wonder every day as we get to know each other.
    With joy and exuberance, Tango tugs off my clothes and helps me on with my coat. He steps up wagging and pulls me in my wheelchair along routes otherwise not passable. He is my voice if I get locked out or if I get hurt going about my daily activities. His beautiful bark calls out when needed. Tango is a super teammate as we go forward together to introduce you — and all of Chesapeake Country — to all a Service Dog can offer. There are no limits.
    I am excited to be a part of the Canine Companion’s Chesapeake Chapter supporting, as Mahler and I did previously, our Northeast Region. Thank you for joining Tango and me in our quest to make this world a better place, one person, one dog, one team, one community at a time: support.cci.org/goto/nancandtango.

–Nancy Patterson

The Dogs of Plum Point

After a terrible heat yesterday
we wake early this morning
to discover a breeze.
We bring our cereal bowls outside
to eat at the picnic table
under the black walnut tree.
The dogs come with us.
Betsy comes from next door,
with her dog, Jesse, who is
blind and hard of hearing —
a little mop of dark grey curls
he follows the scent of our dogs,
our gentle pit bull, Cooper,
our inherited sheep dog, Soda.
Betsy’s friend, Rick, who lives
over in the Estates, comes up
from the beach with Isabel,
a bluetick hound with eyes
that seem too big for her head.
She looks up at me with a pitiful face.
Together the dogs fetch sticks,
chase rabbits in the tall grass,
drink from the same water bowl,
then fall asleep at our feet.  
Except Jesse, who’s too old for this romping.
He seeks out my air-conditioned porch.
He comes in with me to escape the heat,
curls up under the bench, keeps me
company while I write.

    The Dogs of Plum Point is one of 22 poems just published as Plum Point Folio by wife and husband Christine and Kevin Higgins. Designed by Calvert County artist Suzanne Shelden, the book pairs her poems with his photos: kevinhigginsphotography.com.

–Christine Higgings

Colt Suns Himself

–Lori Marko-Calvert, Owings

 

CAT CALLS

A big meow-out to our feline friends

Molly

My name is Molly, and I love to snuggle at bedtime. But I’m sneaky about it. I hide in the bedroom, and once everyone is tucked in, I come out of hiding and find a chest to lay on and a hand to rub my head. After a little TLC, I contently fall asleep at the end of the bed. Mission accomplished!

–Emily Sanders, St. Leonard

Adopting Bagheera

Who ever heard of a gluten-free cat?

When I was 15, I suddenly had the urge to adopt a cat. My family already had two large dogs — great Pyrenees — but I had a cat-shaped hole in my heart that needed to be filled. My parents, of course, felt this was a passing phase. They surprised me at Christmas — with a book about cats. This did not deter me; I continued to rattle off desirable cat names, types and ages. Having reached their breaking point, my parents agreed to let me adopt a cat — if I acquired straight A’s that school quarter.
    This requirement was easily met, and I was ready to pick up my well-deserved cat. I knew exactly what I was looking for when I visited the SPCA website. My perfect cat would be a little older, as many people prefer to adopt adorable kittens and I felt bad for the cats who got passed over. He would also have to be black so I could name him after the black panther in Walt Disney’s The Jungle Book. As fate would have it, a two-year-old black cat had been waiting for a family for a year and a half. He was already named Bagheera.
    On our first meeting, Bagheera was very shy. Instead of leaping into my waiting arms, he darted behind chairs and would only sniff my outreached hand for a second before diving behind a plant. I loved him immediately.
    While filling out adoption papers, we were informed that Bagheera could only eat special prescription food as he was allergic to gluten. My dad raised his eyebrows, signaling that I could back out. Without ­blinking, I signed the papers and paid the adoption fee — discounted because of the allergy.
    Bagheera was skittish at first, but now he paws my legs to greet me as I walk up the driveway. Our dogs were put in their place by the little terror, often getting swiped as they walked by his hiding spots and losing to him in their play fights. If you forget to bring Bagheera on walks with the dogs around our cul de sac, he becomes very cross and howls until you give him a little treat to apologize.
    I have been relegated to the very edge of my already too-small bed, as Bagheera likes to rest his head on my pillow and stretch all the way out when he sleeps.
    Bagheera isn’t as cuddly as other cats; he tells us he loves us in other ways: with the pitter-patter of his feet as he follows you, with his exasperated sighs as he waits for you to finish your cereal before grabbing your bowl with both paws, as he peers over your book to remind you of what fun you two could be having if you weren’t distracted and as he gives you the smallest Eskimo kiss.
    Watching Bagheera live up to his namesake by stalking some innocent animal in the tall grass, I can only laugh at what a bright spot in my life this black, discounted, gluten-free cat has made.

–Kelsey Cochran

Lola

My name is Lola and my favorite things to do are sleeping in my cat tree and spending time with my Mom, Emmah. We love to play, snuggle, watch TV and snooze. Life is good!

–Arvid Dahlberg, St. Leonard

Bruce ‘Black Cat’ Robey

Had been feeding this guy for six or seven years in my neighborhood. He kept his options open with a few neighbors. When one moved away, Black Cat came to live in a heated shelter on my porch. With a grant from Spay and Neuter Nook, he was neutered and given shots for free. So I moved him in April 2015.
    He’s approximately 10 years old and now living the good life in his old age. Never having been in a home, he’s a challenge, but he’s come a long way.

–Sheila Robey

Hanging Out with Little Girl

Our cat LG (Little Girl) loves to hang her front legs off of the edge of whatever she’s sitting on.

–Ben and Joan Coker, Annapolis