Cats, Other Pets Find Home in McLean

Cats, Other Pets Find Home in McLean

People and Pets

Siblings Caroline and James Bollinger of McLean stand with one of their three cats, Lizzie.

Siblings Caroline and James Bollinger of McLean stand with one of their three cats, Lizzie. Sandy Cho

Meet Best Friends of McLean

When Mark Bollinger returned home from a business trip to Asia, he was surprised to meet Gracie, the newest furry addition to his family, curled up and sleeping in the sink.

Gracie, along with Lizzie and Trouble, has sunk her little claws into the hearts of the Bollingers and still remain an important figure in the family after many years.

Stealthily lurking around the household in McLean, the three cats may be difficult to find at first but they enjoy the company of people.

“They’re very loving cats,” said Caroline Bollinger, 16. “Trouble can get wild and energetic while Lizzie and Gracie are more calm.”

Each of the cats has an interesting history lying behind them. Both Lizzie and Gracie were rescue cats from cat farms, while Trouble was bought from Petco. In fact, Lizzie was facing the possibility of being put to sleep the next day if the family had not rescued her the day before.

“The shelter volunteers told us that Lizzie had been returned multiple times by previous owners, but she's perfect for us,” Mark Bollinger said.

Bollinger recalled a funny memory of Trouble during a past Christmas. Trouble kept running into the mirror, thinking there was another cat in the mirror and the family initially believed she was crazy.

“She also chases her tail so we think there’s a bit of dog inside of her,” Caroline Bollinger said.

The Miracle Dog of McLean


The Blue family of McLean sits on a sofa with their Scottish terrier Charly, who has been a part of the family for about eight years.

At the sight of people, an excited small black Scottish Terrier happily barked and ran to greet anyone who entered the Blue threshold.

Charly, which is short for Charlotte, has always been a pivotal member of the Blue family, always being there through laughs and tears since 2005.

Although living in the safe household she is in today, Charly has faced a past of abuse in the beginning of her life. In fact, when the Blues first rescued her, she had the habit of running away. She was even found on the Virginia State Route 123 by friendly strangers who returned her back.

“She was always found safe and returned free,” said Martha Blue of McLean.

However, she was able to overcome the difficulties of adjusting well and is now one of the cheeriest dogs the Blues have ever seen.

One remarkable reason for her happiness is about one year ago, Charly was diagnosed with bladder cancer and was told that she had only a few months to live. However, she stumped the veterinarians by overcoming the odds and her tumor even shrunk.

Despite the adjustments to accommodate her health, such as taking her outside to use the bathroom at night due to her three-hour bladder, the family is glad to see Charly livelier than ever.

“The vets are so baffled,” Blue said. “But Charly is just as happy now and much better fed.”

Rats Make a Good Pet


Nicole Close, 11, of McLean, holds her pet rat Coco, who passed away last year. She also has another rat, Little Rat, who is currently sick.

When it comes to keeping pets, dogs and cats may be the norm but in one household, two rats have stolen their way into the hearts of the Close family.

Nicole Close, 11, was inspired to get rats as pets after seeing them at a zoo for a school field trip. Due to her brother and mother’s allergy to other pets, rats seemed as a better alternative for the family.

“Both of them love people,” Close said. “Whenever someone comes to the cage, they sniff their fingers.”

Although rats may not be able to play fetch or go on walks, they are able to learn fun tricks and play with small toys, such as sticks. Her family spent a lot of time with them, letting them run around the room and climb on them.

“You can definitely teach them a bunch of tricks,” she said.

Both of the rats were bought on eBay. However, one of Close’s rats, Coco, unfortunately died last year and her other rat, Little Rat, has a tumor. Although her rat may be sick and her family is in the process of moving, Close is still looking forward to a future of keeping more rats.

“I would like another rat,” Close said. “It’s really fun watching them play around and explore their cage.”

Surrounded by Pets

Unlikely friendships have always been one of the staples tropes in movies and books. But that doesn’t mean such friendships can’t exist in real life too.


Ruanne Ewing stands with her son Christopher, their giant but gentle leonberger Biffle, and pug Boo Radley.

Even in the Ewing household of McLean, a giant Leonberger named Biffle and a tiny pug named Boo Radley get along together well, showing that size does not matter.

“They’re good friends with each other,” Ruanne Ewing said. “Although Boo is kind of pesky with Biffle.”

Boo is currently five months old while Biffle is seven years old.

“Boo is very much a puppy. He’s very curious and energetic,” Christopher Ewing said. “He enjoys making new friends. Biffle is like the annoyed big brother.”

Surprisingly, the dogs even get along well with the four cats that live in the house: Stella Blue, Princess, Millie and Cruiser.

“One of the cats like to egg Boo on but all the cats adore Biffle,” Christopher Ewing said.

Both Biffle and Boo were bought from breeders while the cats were all adopted. In fact, Cruiser was a stowaway, found as a kitten inside the hood of Martha Ewing’s car.

“We’ve always had pets for all I can remember,” he said.