Somebody had better change the population signs around town: It’s abundantly clear that Plymouth has underestimated the number of its “residents.” Teddy, Annie, Sheldon, Tucker, Angus, et al., are not pets—they’re members in good standing with their families. This month, in honor of all of our four-legged friends, we share funny and often poignant anecdotes of some of the notable animals among us.
Breed: Border collie/retriever mix || Age: 1
Sixty-pound Sheldon has something on other 1-year-olds (yes, the two-legged, diaper-wearing variety included). He knows‒wait for it‒his left from his right.
Chiropractor Jeffrey Wock, of Lake West Chiropractic and Natural Health, gives credit to his 10-year-old daughter, Riviera, who taught the rescue dog the skill. With a respectful nod to Sheldon’s border collie heritage, the family (wife LeeAnn and daughters Riviera, Harmony and Kittson) is working on his herding skills. Wock admits there aren’t any sheep or cattle where they live, so Sheldon is left to practice with a large exercise ball (the obvious advantage being the neighbors can’t complain about the ball’s bleating or mooing).
Described as kind and easygoing, Sheldon is intelligent and a quick study. But he’s not one to stay home at night studying new ways to astound visitors. Sheldon is a bit of an athlete, and he loves to run very, very fast. “The family calls him a rocket,” Wock says. “It’s full on, stretched out sprints.”
Burning all of those calories requires some good, healthy eating. Wock says Sheldon eats a grain-free diet, and he does get the occasional leftover hamburger. Special treats include pig ears and cattle bones, which he proudly buries in the backyard.
If Sheldon were someone famous, he’d be: Jamaican sprinter Usain Bolt—“He kind of has the attitude of being light on his feet and knowing he’s fast,” Wock says.
Breed: West Highland Terrier || Age: 5
It appears Tucker is about as Minnesotan as a dog can get. Like many lake lovers, he enjoys a good pontoon ride. “He lets his hair blow back in the wind,” mayor Kelli Slavik says.
When he’s not boating, Tucker enjoys fetching tennis balls. If the Slavik family, including husband, Dave, and children Grant, 17, and Sara, 14, aren’t up for a little canine catch, Tucker will take a tennis ball in his mouth and “throw” it at people until they get the hint. Neighbors might catch a glimpse of Tucker walking, sometimes wearing his Minnesota Vikings shirt. Other times, he might visit his “bestie” Willie, a Shih Tzu-Dachshund mix.
“He has more friends than rivals,” Slavik says, but some of those rivals live just outside Tucker’s electric fence—rabbits. To date, Tucker’s favorite menu items of salmon, scrambled eggs and Pup-Peroni don’t include hasenpfeffer. “He hasn’t caught (a rabbit) yet, fortunately,” Slavik says.
If Tucker were someone famous, he’d be: Disney cartoon dog Bolt—“They look and act alike,” Slavik says.
Breed: Shih Tzu || Age: 10
“We immediately fell in love with her,” remembers Barb Anderson, wife of Wayzata superintendent Chace Anderson. “She was the cutest one of the litter.”
Annie, the family’s eccentric Shih Tzu, counts among her quirks an affinity for “people food,” and she’s clearly not a fan of the Paleo diet. Her food choices consist mostly of fruits (no grapes, which aren’t safe for dogs), yogurt and Cheerios.
To be fair, there is the occasional consumption of dog food, but it must be placed on the food mat, not in the
regular food bowl. There are strict rules of conduct, you see.
Annie turns heads in the neighborhood, not for her stunning good looks, but for her dancing ability. After she relieves herself, Annie performs “the potty dance,” much to the delight of neighbors and passersby. She hops up and down and dances in a circle.
Anderson describes Annie as energetic and tuned into the family’s moods. “We think she’s part person,” Anderson says. Maybe she’s part Viking; call out, “Go Packers,” and that’ll send Annie running for cover—irony for the Packers-fan family.
If Annie were someone famous, she’d be: Muppet Miss Piggy—“We sometimes call her a piggy, because of her obsession with people food,” Anderson says.
Breed: Mixed || Age: 8
“You can take the girl out of the wild, but it’s hard to get all the wild out of the girl,” notes Kim Insley, KARE-11 news anchor and reporter, in describing her family’s feral feline, Pearl. “Pearl was one of many feral cats who would hang out in the neighborhood,” she says. “Of course, being a sucker for cats, I put food out for them with the hope of catching them and maybe getting them to a rescue group, or at least having them spayed/neutered.”
One cat in particular was very punctual, looking for food at 7 p.m. daily. Insley was able to rescue the cat and take her to a veterinarian to be spayed.
“We all arrived at the opinion there was something about Pearl that was worth cultivating. Even though she was feral, she was not nasty,” Insley says. “She looked at us as though there could someday be trust there.”
Pearl, who is about 7 or 8 years old, stayed in the family’s basement for a couple of weeks, in quarantine, away from the other family dog and cat, Sammy.
Gradually, though, Pearl allowed the family to pet her. She moved to an upstairs bedroom, spending a few more weeks cautiously under a bed, and Insley began to let Sammy into the room.
“One day, I opened the door, and Sammy walked upstairs, got Pearl, and they walked downstairs together—and she’s had run of the house ever since,” Insley says.
If Pearl were a famous person, she’d be: Scientist Marie Curie—“Marie Curie was Polish by birth. Pearl seems to be
of Eastern European descent, with a very French attitude. She’s very smart and mysterious. She would write if she could,” Insley surmises.
Breed: Domestic shorthair || Age: 13
Veterinarians should be animal whisperers, and Jennifer Hanson, D.V.M., of Rockford Road Animal Hospital, takes her role to heart with her cat, Angus.
“We occasionally have long conversations with him,” she says. “He talks back” (in a good way—not in a sassy, “I’m a superior feline,” sort of way).
Adopted by Hanson and her husband two years ago, Angus enjoys sleeping in the sun and sitting in a laundry basket with clothes. “He would like to go outside, but we don’t let him,” Hanson admits. A friendly cat that loves sitting on laps, Angus enjoys Greenies cat treats and, on very special occasions, a bit of smoked salmon. Who says you can’t teach an old cat new tricks? Hanson says Angus can sit on command and is learning to shake hands/paws.
Hanson calls Angus “an equal-opportunity cat,” meaning he’ll favor either Hanson or husband Matt Thell, depending on who is holding the cat food.
If Angus were someone famous, he’d be: Actor Jeff Goldblum—“He’s a little bit quirky. He seems pretty smart, and he enjoys independent movies,” Hanson says.
Northwind’s Pont Robert, 10, and Northwind’s River Song, 2
Breed: Whippet || Ages: 2 and 10
The perils of sibling rivalry—they know no bounds, even for those with three names.
Northwind’s Pont Robert, 10, and Northwind’s River Song, 2, have their share of Whippet rivalry in the home of Brian and Jackie Maas, the city’s volunteer coordinator.
River, named after the wife of BBC’s Doctor Who, acts the part of the pesky little sister to Pont, named for a village in Wales. For so long, life was good for Pont, until the introduction of another canine to the household. Despite his feelings, Pont realizes the meaning of family. He stepped in to protect the new addition and weathered a bite to his flank from a neighborhood dog, who was going after Miss River during a leisurely walk.
Today, the Whippets’ runs around the backyard are anything but leisurely. As sight hounds, the dogs will catch something in view and run as fast as 35 miles per hour through Maas’s gardens.
Jackie Maas considers the duo to be much more than pets: She recalls filling out school forms when her 14-year-old son, Graham, was in elementary school. In the slot to list siblings, Maas would write, “Yes, but canine.”
The dogs even have their own bedroom, which is adorned with a series of portraits by Sara Abbott, an English pet portrait artist.
Pont and River have a few odd kitchen habits, including dining on green beans (French cut!) added to their kibble, and enjoying yogurt (Greek!) and fruit (fresh!).
They are also “counter creepers,” who will nab food if it’s reachable. “The only reason they have bad habits is because they have bad parents,” Maas candidly admits.
If Pont were someone famous, he’d be: Actor Cary Grant—“He has lovely manners and a suave disposition,” Maas says.
If River were someone famous, she’d be: Actress Katharine Hepburn —“She’s long and elegant and a little bit haughty,” Maas says
Breed: Yorkipoo || Age: 6
Police chief Mike Goldstein says he has five famous last words: “Let’s not rush into it.” Several months after the family’s toy poodle, Reggie, died in 2008, Goldstein’s wife, Anne, felt it was time for another dog. Goldstein wasn’t up for it, but one out-of-town trip later, Goldstein received a photo text that showed Anne and their daughter holding “this brown piece of fur, which I quickly realized was our new pet,” he says.
Their Yorkipoo Teddy is 11 pounds of tricks, attitude and personality. “He’s a bit of a snob,” Goldstein admits, adding Teddy prefers people to dog company.
When Teddy’s not turning up his nose at the neighborhood canine set, he’s performing tricks (clapping, praying, rolling over, playing dead and sitting on command) or watching television. He really gets going when he hears the song from the Travelers Insurance commercial; he’ll charge the screen in time to see the little white dog bury his bone.