Pets add another dimension to the family dynamic

We’ve included some community people in our feature on pets and kids to show how important pets are to family life. Whether dogs or cats – canaries or turtles – it is evident that their addition brings joy to the families who take them in. 


The Burk Family

Chris, Tara, Avery (9) and Addison (7) Burk have had Max, an Australian Shepherd, with them since March, 2016.

Tara flew to Pine Ridge Aussies in Nebraska to pick up the puppy.

“He was a bit big for nine weeks, and we barely met the in-flight requirements,” she says.

Since then, Max has become an integral part of the Burk’s family life.

“He is always the first one to greet me with his big waggly behind (Aussies have no tails), which always brings a smile,” Chris says.

According to the family, Max has been a great family dog. He is always happy and likes to chill with them. If he’s hungry or has a need, he will make cute dog sounds, and he always sits and waits for someone to say ‘okay’ before he begins eating. The family has a bell by the back door, and he rings it anytime he needs to go outside.

The girls say Max has an arsenal of tricks: sit, stay, down, high five, give me your paw, walk, turn around, etc.

“I love it when Max double high-fives me,” Addison adds. “My favorite trick is when he dances with us on his hind legs,” Avery says.

Chris and Tara have given Max the task of waking up the girls each morning. Max pushes open the door and gives them kisses to wake them up.

“He takes that job very seriously, and the girls love it,” Chris says, smiling.

But, most of all, the family says Max is cuddly and affectionate and always seems to know when someone needs a hug or kiss.

“He has been an unconditional best friend,” Tara shares.


The Curci Family

Janet Curci and her grandson Jonathon, who she raised, brought Frankie into their lives in an unusual way. Jonathan was 16 years old and doing his Mater Dei High School service requirement by volunteering at his grade school’s annual Our Lady Queen of Angels auction. He took care of the live auction Lhasapoo puppy (Lhasa Apso and Poodle mix) through dinner and showed him off to attendees to gain interest in bidding. Falling in love with the puppy, Jonathan ended up bidding on him (he had a credit card on file and a bidding card), eventually winning him. Mother Janet was at the movie theater and was very surprised to hear the news.

It didn’t take long before Frankie became the love of their lives.

“He loves to roll over and have his belly rubbed,” Janet says. “And, he likes to groan when he’s really loving it.”

Jonathan adds:

“Frankie can be very loving. He loves to lick you when he sees you and fall asleep while watching TV.”

There is a cantankerous side.

“If Frankie’s been home alone all day, when you return, he likes to ‘chew you out,” Janet says. “He will bark and whine, then run over to you and turn over for a belly rub!”

As he grows older, the Curcis say Frankie has become grumpy. He sleeps on the bed and growls if you move while he’s sleeping.

“He needs his beauty rest,” Janet laughs.

“Animals are magical creatures, each with their own individual personalities. It doesn’t matter what kind of day you’re having, Frankie, who is nearly 10 years old, is always there to put a smile on your face and cuddle up to you,” Jonathan says. “He has enriched our lives in countless ways,” Janet concludes.


The Penner Family

Jacqui Penner and her son Jack, 18, have two cats. The Blue Point Siamese, Sassy, now 12, was adopted for Jack when he was six years old, and Max, a Tuxedo cat, now 10, was adopted for Jacqui two years later.

Jacqui says that Max greets her at the door, is very social and thinks he’s a dog.

“He talks to everyone in our house,” she says, “and when I get home, he jumps on my bed and strikes a pose until I give him some love and affection.”

Jacqui says that Sassy adores Jack.

“She’s cuddly cute,” Jack says of Sassy. “If I’m feeling down, she’s there for me. She likes to sit on the couch with me and purr. I don’t even have to pet her, and she purrs up a storm! She’s a good companion.”

There are a few problems. Jack says Sassy poops on his bed when he leaves, and, much to both their distress, Max loves to pounce on Sassy.

The compelling story about Sassy is that when Jacqui’s husband and Jack’s father Mark was dying of cancer in May, 2017, Sassy, who never paid any attention to Mark, suddenly was resting on the sofa with him and sitting on his lap. Near the end, when Mark went to the hospital for more tests, Sassy became ill and had to be taken to the vet. The vet thought it might be cancer, to Jacqui’s horror, but was hoping it was an infection. Mark passed away, and Sassy did get better.

“Sassy went in Mark’s room after he died and stayed there for two days,” Jacqui says. “She missed him.”