Julia Sheber found a picture of a small puppy on an online classified advertisement. She immediately fell in love with him.
“He was just really cute, and he looked exactly like what I wanted,” she says.
Sheber’s parents soon came home with Theo, a Shih Tzu/Poodle mix. Sheber had wanted a Golden Doodle mix, but Theo looked very close to one. His cuteness erased her desire for that specific breed.
Over the course of the past year, Theo has become Sheber’s best friend.
“When I’m away at college, I miss my family, but I miss him a lot because I can’t pick up the phone and call him,” she says. “He’s my best friend and my cuddle buddy.”
Pets provide companionship, quickly become members of the family
Tammy Mineart of Norwalk doesn’t know what she would do without her pet Shih Tzus. She’s had several through the years, and they’ve seen her through all kinds of challenging times, including her breast cancer diagnosis and treatment.
“They’re an inspiration to me,” she says. “I couldn’t have children, so these are like my children.”
During recovery from her cancer surgeries, 3-year-old Zoey would lay next to Mineart and provide her with comfort.
“They know when you’re sad or hurting,” she says.
Mineart has been through loss with her pets as well. Her longtime pet, Abby, died of unknown causes about three years ago. She found a Shih Tzu breeder in Milo and came home with a very tiny Zoey to replace her lost companion pet.
“She was a few weeks old and looked like a rat,” Mineart recalls of baby Zoey.
In January, Mineart lost Chase, another one of her dogs. He was 14. In both cases, it was like losing a member of her family.
Anytime Theo knows that Julia is upset or mad, he consoles her. He’s always happy to see her, even when she’s upset with him. He gives her unconditional love.
And while Julia came up with Theo’s name when she saw him, her grandfather, who goes by “Ted,” has a given name of Theodore. He calls Theo his “grand-dog.”
“It turned out really special,” Julia says about her dog’s name.
A fuzzy gray kitten that initially came to Lori Boyd’s pet grooming shop in Norwalk is now the shop cat. Smokey Joe greets her and others when they come in. But Boyd’s true love is her Birman cat.
Boyd and her husband, Rob, had a tough period when three of their long-time cats died of old age. Boyd wanted a new kitten to replace her beloved Mittens. She had always had barn cats or common short-hair cats, but this time she wanted a specific breed. She saw a Birman at the Iowa State Fair cat show and thought it was beautiful. She sought out one and came home with Lila.
Pets adapt well to addition of children into their lives
The Boyds had cats long before their son, Logan, 11, came along. It was never an issue of whether they would keep their pets once baby came along, but how baby would adjust to them.
Lori Boyd’s sister had asked her what she would do if Logan was allergic to cats. Boyd said they’d have to find a way to treat Logan “because those cats were like my children,” she recalls.
When she was on bedrest with Logan, Mittens would check on her and lay next to her.
“If she could do something for me, she would have,” Boyd says. “She would just lay by me. If I rolled over or moaned or had a pain, she would just look at me concerned.”
Once Logan arrived, Mittens would look at him, but she left him alone. She ran away when he was crying, and fortunately, Logan was not allergic to cats. By the time he was walking and talking and pulling her tail, the cat had let him know who was boss. Mittens would give him a gentle bite if Logan was doing something that was painful to her.
“They had their own little relationship,” Boyd recalls.
The Boyds wanted their son to have a dog as a companion, so they got Pepper, a half schnauzer-half miniature pinscher, five years ago. Logan ended up being more of a cat person and has taken the Boyds’ other cat, Snickers, as his playmate. He’s taught her tricks and plays with her whenever he’s indoors.
Some jump in, others conduct research before adopting, purchasing a pet
While Julia Sheber’s puppy was found through an online classified ad, Mineart contacted a breeder in hopes of finding another Shih Tzu to replace Chase. She initially struck out but got a call in mid-June from her veterinarian about a small puppy that had been taken to his clinic to be euthanized.
The Shih Tzu puppy was only about eight weeks old and had beautiful markings, but the breeder was going to have him euthanized because one of his front legs had a bone deformity and was shorter than the other.
Mineart’s big heart knew the puppy belonged in her home.
“I wanted to give him a chance,” she says. Hence the puppy was named Chance. “I gave him a second chance at life.”
Chance can still walk and run. He wobbles, but Mineart was scheduled to take him to the veterinarian in early July to discuss options for his growth deformity.
Boyd took time to research before purchasing Lila. She had never had a purebred cat and wanted one that wouldn’t shed too much. Even though she was drawn to Birmans, she wanted to know what kind of care it would require.
“That was the most research I’ve ever done on a pet,” Boyd says. “Most of the time, it just sort of happens.”
That was the case with Snickers, now 3 years old. The Boyds had suffered the loss of three cats in a row and adopted a dog when they decided they wanted a kitten again. They went to the Animal Rescue League where they spotted Snickers.
Snickers and her litter-mates were found roaming around Southeast 14th Street in Des Moines. When the family went to look at the kittens, she was the only one who acknowledged them and wanted to play with them. They knew she was the kitten for them.
The Boyds took the tiny 4-week-old kitten to their vet, who described her as frail. By the time they next went to the vet, Snickers had fattened up.
“He said, ‘Oh my goodness! You’ve done a really good job. I didn’t want to tell you this, but I wasn’t sure this kitten was going to make it. Now, she’s almost chunky,’ ” Boyd recalls.
Pets have own personalities, teach owners lessons about life
Lila loves to be petted and brushed and given lots of attention.
“She is like a little princess,” Boyd says with a laugh. “She walks around here like she owns the place.”
Once there was a stack of pillows, and Lila climbed on top to sit. Boyd jokes it was like the fairy tale “The Princess and the Pea.”
Little 3-pound Chance is already a lively ball of energy. He wags his tail a lot and rarely whines.
His “big sister” Zoey wants nothing to do with him. He tries to get close to her, but she growls. Mineart hopes the extra attention she’s giving to Zoey will help the dog feel less jealous and possessive of her.
“I think she’s afraid of him because he’s so tiny,” Mineart says.
Shih Zhus are very affectionate dogs, which is why Mineart prefers to own that breed.
“They love to sit on your lap,” she says. “They’re all very good lap dogs.”
Zoey, who Mineart describes as adorable and loving, is no different. Plus, she loves belly rubs.
“I say: ‘Zoey, do you want a belly rub?’ and she brings her front paws to prayer and asks for one,” Mineart says.
Theo, Julia Sheber’s dog, is an active toddler puppy most days. He enjoys playing fetch and with his toys. When the toys get put away, he drags them back out. Julia describes him as floppy and cuddly.
“He’s like my living teddy bear,” she says. “He cuddles like a teddy bear. He cuddles everyone. He’s also really playful.”
Theo is very attached to Julia, even though she spends most of the year away while she’s attending Arizona State University.
“When she leaves, he waits at the door for quite a while for her to come home in cause it’s just temporary,” says Susan Sheber, Julia’s mother.
Julia has her own garage stall, and as soon as Theo hears the door open, he jumps up and runs to the garage door to meet her.
He becomes equally distracting when Julia tries to leave the house. He’s trained to ring a bell when he needs to go outside, and often uses it as a way to delay Julia.
“He’ll go outside to her garage and stand between her and the door,” Julia’s mother, Susan, says. “Or he’ll ring his bell. He uses it when he wants to delay her. He pretends he has to go.”
Theo also likes other pets. He befriended a kitten that he met at his doggy daycare.
“We couldn’t pass up a dog and a cat that were best friends,” Julia says.
Now the Sheber household has an almost 1-year-old cat named Winston. Unfortunately, Julia is allergic to Winston. He stays at her sister’s house while Julia is home in Norwalk for summer break.
In addition to Winston, the Shebers also have another cat that they adopted when it was found at a Norwalk business. The family was picking pumpkins for Halloween when they heard a tiny kitten meowing from a tree. They look up and saw a pure black kitten that was bleeding from a dog attack. They got the kitten down, and Hallie, in honor of “Halloween” found a new place in their home.