Fur, feathers, fins, paws, claws. Beady eyes or scaly hides. Once word got out that the Connection Newspapers was putting together its special Pet Issue, there was no shortage of pet parents in Herndon lining up to testify how Fido or Fifi, or in one case, Pa’ani, bring joy and companionship to their lives. It would take a publication the size of the old Yellow Pages to chronicle all of the much-loved beasties, so we will have to make do with introducing just a few. Cats seemed to rule the day in our sampling (don’t they always?), but a couple of dogs managed to wag their way in.
Since in some ways Seymour the Salesman is a communal cat, his story seems like a good place to start. Come through the doors at 2599 John Milton Drive in the Fox Mill Shopping Center and chances are you will be greeted by either Britt Ahearn or Jared Moretti, partners in life and in managing this location of Weber’s PetSupermarket. The humans may be the ones directing you to a special brand of pet food or getting you started in the Dirty Dog do-it-yourself dog wash station, but be prepared to have your purchases—and perhaps even your person—inspected by Seymour. Named after a character in a series of J.D. Salinger short stories, he has been at Weber’s almost since the store opened in late 2011, brought in as a stray kitten by a customer who promised to put up signs and help locate his old home or a new one. A few weeks slipped by. Seymour was growing—and becoming a fixture at the store, quite comfortable in his giant playground with lots of things and people to entertain him. The storeowners agreed. Seymour became a member of the team.
If he’s not lounging on a ledge in the sunshine, or “helping” at the cash register, Seymour can often be found in the pet-bedding aisle. He has tested most of the products and would be delighted to assist in choosing the most comfy. While Seymour is the only four-footed permanent resident of the establishment, he cheerfully shares his digs with commuters Mabel, the jumping Boston terrier, and Niko, the Pekingese who accompany Britt and Jared to work.
EVEN THOUGH they are generally lovingly cared for—often by tireless volunteers—with the overwhelming numbers being housed in public and private facilities people sometimes refer to their adoption of a shelter animal as having released their new pet from a prison sentence. In mixed breed (maybe a bit hound, a bit pointer?) Bart’s case, he really did come from prison—the Lunenburg Correctional Center to be exact. Bart is a graduate of The Pen Pals program that does double-duty, seeking to save hard-to-adopt dogs from shelters—or worse—while providing inmates with new life skills, building confidence and supporting positive interaction between the correctional center staff and the inmate population.
“He’s the best trained dog I’ve ever had,” says his owner, Nancy Myers, who after losing three dogs in the last year to different incurable diseases, went on the hunt for new companions who really needed a second chance. She and her partner Ben Pate found Bart online and fell in love. They made the a three-and-a-half hour trip to Lunenburg in Victoria, Va., and actually got to meet with Bart’s inmate trainer. “It was a special experience,” said Myers. Bart needed additional veterinary care, including surgery to correct a knee problem, but he is now “doing great and loving his stable lifestyle.” Myers added another rescue dog, the aptly named sheltie mix Banjo—“because he’s pretty high-strung” Myers laughs—just as soon as Bart was rehabilitated, settled and ready for a feisty friend. It was pretty difficult to get Banjo to sit still for his photo op. He was convinced that a show-and-tell of his entire toy inventory would be a better use of all our time.
FIRST CAT OF HERNDON Punkin’ doesn’t always act with the dignity of the political animal he could claim to be as a member of the mayor of Herndon’s household. The orange tabby “thinks he’s one of the kids,” said Mayor Lisa Merkel. “He treats them like littermates. Where they go, he goes. When he was kitty, he wanted to play in the Fisher-Price farmyard set with the kids. He wasn’t willing to give up the game, even as he grew. Trying to wriggle into the ‘barn’ after he’d added a few pounds was a bit more like Godzilla coming to town. Sheep and cows flying everywhere!” Punkin’ sometimes forgets to give his human mom the respect that a mayor deserves. “I do everything for that cat, but if my husband Dave walks in, he’s the one that Punkin’ will flip for.” No one ever said earning a cat’s vote was easy. Punkin’ came into the Merkels’ lives on Aug. 8, 2008, four year’s before Merkel’s election, and has no plans to quit his office, regardless of any term limits.
JUST ACROSS THE STREET from the Merkel household, another orange tabby (hhmmm…) resides with long-time Herndon residents and community activists Midge and Harlon Reece. The Reeces took Miss Maggie in as a neighborhood stray, intending to keep her for just a few days while finding her a new home. They even put her photo in the paper and had a little article written about her. And they even got some responses, but “she pulled the car salesman approach on us,” laughs Harlon. “You know. Just take the car home for a few days. Try it out. Ten years later, here’s Maggie. We just told the folks who called that Maggie already found her new home.” Midge is the only original founding member of the Friends of Runnymede Park board still active today, and Harlon was just elected president of the Herndon Foundation for the Cultural Arts. When asked to comment on her parents’ community status, Maggie declined, stalked to the middle of the room, planted herself on the carpet, and proceeded to glare at the fearless Connection reporter.
HERNDON TOWN COUNCIL MEMBER Sheila Olem has been well trained by her two feline housemates, but especially by Cesar, the male half of the fluffy duo. He prefers his water fresh, poured into a martini glass, if you please. (Maybe it’s time to check the cable bill to see if Cesar has been watching the 007 Movie Marathon?) Cesar also likes to “make friends” with any visitor with an allergy to cat hair, or who even gives the appearance of being in the dog vs. cat column. His partner, Whiskers, is more of the shy Southern belle type, although in keeping with some of the literary stereotypes, she does gravitate toward men, like Olem’s sons Matt and Mike. Cesar and Whiskers were parents at one point in the distant past, “but we took care of that,” declared Olem. Now it’s strictly a platonic relationship.
EVERYONE KNOWS that cats like more than that proverbial nap. They generally sleep between 13 and 16 hours a day—plenty of rest for both the wicked and the weary. Apparently, no one bothered to tell Sam that the non-feline members of his family don’t need the same amount of snoozing as he does. “Sam announces bedtime pretty much every evening—when he’s ready,” says his human mom Jennifer Boysko. “And he doesn’t take no as the answer very well. He will continue to ‘call’ family members, and if necessary, he will do a bit of herding to get us all up those stairs.” Currently, Sam has claimed the guest room as his boudoir, but prefers if all the family is settled for the night before he retires for another 4000 winks. Sam joined the Boysko family in 2004 as the only gift that daughter Sophie Claire wanted for her sixth birthday. Now, at approximately 12 or 13 years of age, he still takes his guard duties seriously. Boysko is running for a state delegate position. Hopefully Sam will allow her to skip curfew a few times while she campaigns.
AND WHO COULD TURN DOWN a heart-felt, hand-written list by 7-year-old twins Tea and Reese Geary outlining the qualities of their two dogs in hopes of seeing them shared with the reading public? The sisters gave equal time to 13-year-old toy poodle Pa’ani (which they tell us means “playful” in Hawaiian) and almost 3-year-old Eve, a plott hound the Gearys have shared digs with for about 7 months and who towers over the petite Pa’ani, nicknamed Pupcake by the Geary children. Don’t worry. According to The List, Pupcake is still the boss. Although described by the girls as a dog who “shivers a lot,” Pupcake still lays down the law, often booting Eve out of her crate, and even occasionally deciding that that bone was always meant for her, not Eve.
Pupcake is also a “Mommy’s Girl,” preferring to stick close to owner Amanda Geary, but despite a personality that Geary describes as “doesn’t like men, other dogs, or kids,” young Reese has made Pupcake her special project, continuing to lavish her with love and attention—and sometimes an outfit or two—even when Pupcake doesn’t always return the affection. “She’s never given up,” says Geary. “Even when Reece was really small, she would pick her up, risking a nip, and carry her around the house. She even took Pupcake on baby stroller rides, which she seemed to think was acceptable, as was her due.”
Eve was a rescue from the Lost Dog organization, originally taken in by Geary’s mom. Eve’s profile described her as too energetic for most households with other pets or children, and although she proved to be a bit too much for Geary’s mom Wendy, (“too many geese and other temptations near my house”) apparently Eve has paid little attention to her own press. She adores the twins and their 4-year-old brother Baden, and has no trouble with accepting the reign of Pa’ani/Pupcake as Queen of the Geary Domain.