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As the year comes to a close, let’s look back at a few fun and furry stories involving our loving pets in the D.C area. A dog is a man’s best friend, sure, but pets come in all shapes and sizes, and many have gone beyond being just pals this past year. We have heroes, endurance athletes, jungle-defying foster parents and more. Here are some of the most heartwarming, inspiring and fun pet tales from 2011.

Pet stories worthy of a Purple Heart
There is a high military presence on this year’s list of heartwarming pet stories. Dave Sharpe, a war veteran who suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder, decided to help other veterans after his pit bull Cheyenne helped him through hard times upon his return home. Sharpe started Pets2Vets (P2V), an organization that brings wounded veterans together with furry companions. All of the dogs and cats for P2V come from a D.C. shelter and continue to help our brave men and women of the armed services transition back to civilian life.

Laurie Sheik is a U.S. Marine whose dog Moose was severely injured after being hit by a car. Sheik did not have the $10,000 required to cover the vet bill that would save Moose’s life, until one group stepped in and decided that supporting the troups meant supporting their furry family members as well. The Bruder-Sullivan Fund picked up the entire tab at the Friendship Hospital for Animals in D.C., and Moose and Sheik are now both happy and healthy.

Best exotic pet story
Zazi is a nine-year-old cheetah in Front Royal, VA. A new mom of a single cub, Zazi was given a second cub to care for that was born from another cheetah at the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute (SCBI). In the wild, single-born cubs are often left to die by their mothers, so they can try for another litter with multiple cubs. However, the foster parent experiment worked, and both cubs are doing great— a rare and remarkable feat.

Best heroic pet story
Mittens, ASPCA Cat of the Year, showed the strength and devotion only a mother could. As a stray cat, Mittens was severely abused and had been lit on fire by two teenagers. She managed to extinguish the fire and continue to nurse and protect her kittens despite her critical injuries. Eventually, she was discovered still caring for her kittens, and she has since made a full recovery. Her kids are safe, she now lives in a loving home, and the law has since caught up with the Mitten’s abusers.

Best homecoming pet story
A driver on Interstate 95 near Dale City, VA was surprised to find a 9-month-old basset hound alone on the side of the road with no identification tags in February. With no way of finding the puppy’s owner, the local media stepped in and ran the story of “Doggy Doe” in hopes of finding the dog’s home. “Doggy Doe” turned out to be named Cupcake, who had escaped from her backyard in Dumfries. Luck has it that her owners’ friends happened to be watching the local news at the time the story aired, and Cupcake is now back home, vowing never to hit the road again.

Best athletic pet story
Talk about seeing Spot run: Dozer, a 3-year-old golden retriever-poodle mix ran a portion of the Maryland Half Marathon in Howard County this July. He had accidently escaped from his home and inadvertently joined in the race. Dozer was able to go the distance, and even crossed the finish line. After being reunited with his family, Dozers marathon adventure turned him into a YouTube sensation. His owners capitalized on the fame, and have since setup a fundraising page for the race’s beneficiary, the University of Maryland’s Greenbaum Cancer Center. Plans are for Dozer to be included in the 2012 race, and he certainly has a leg up on the competition—two actually.

Feeling warm and fuzzy yet? Tell us what you think the coolest pet would be.

Carly Mannava is a freelance writer living in the Washington, D.C. Metro Area. Her work can be found on

Comments (3)
  1. Rabbit Lover says:

    Headline: Best Exotic Pet Story
    Breaking News: A “cheetah” is not a pet.

    This article was the perfect opportunity to acknowledge Washington DC’s favorite celebrity rabbits, William and Shakespeare! These Angora bunnies have been appreciated and adored as pet-therapy animals all over the nation’s capital (and recognized nationally, too.) The two “pets” continue to make charitable appearances and free visits bringing joy to thousands. For those who, perhaps, have not met them yet … Go To YouTube and search: Celebrity Rabbits William and Shakespeare.

  2. Jamie Grover says:

    As an evolutionary biologist, I found the story about the fostering of the cheetah cub interesting, but I agree that it is not a pet story. I therefore second the nomination of Willy and Shakes.

    It happens that my life, and the lives of my immediate family were touched in a very personal way when Willy and Shakes were brought to the Inpatient Home of the Community Hospice of Washington DC in early 2010, where my mother and I spent the last month of her life.

    My mother, Linda Grover, was a writer, and activist, and a long-time crusader for a global holiday of peace. It was in the Hospice that Willy and Shakes brought some much needed comfort and peace to my mother, gently tucking themselves by her side, and on her lap, and hopping entertainingly about the community spaces of the facility there.

    The two bunnies, and their caregivers visit, were truly a gift, and one that was entirely unexpected, but gave us all a lift in a time of great need.

    They really are some remarkable little beings. Thank You Boys!

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