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Jayne Miller, WBAL-TV chief investigative reporter, with Cooper
Jayne Miller thought her new dog was defective. The first time her chocolate lab, Cooper, jumped into the water, Miller saw he couldn’t swim. “I was used to Labradors who were excellent swimmers, but he was just thrashing. It was embarrassing,” she recalls. “I jumped in the water and tried to tell him to level out, to doggie paddle. But he was in a total panic! I called the breeder, and I said, ‘He’s a defect.’ She said, ‘Just give him time.’ So, sure enough by the next year, he was swimming. Now he loves the water.”
 
Cooper is the latest in a long line of dogs Miller has owned dating back to her childhood in Pennsylvania. Her last chocolate lab, Pup, lived 16 ½ years. When he died five years ago, Miller headed to the famed Wild Goose Kennels in Federalsburg on the Eastern Shore and picked out Cooper. “He’s actually a relative of Buddy, the chocolate lab that [President] Clinton got during the Lewinsky scandal,” she says. “And when that dog died, they went back to the breeder and got another chocolate lab, Seamus. [Seamus] and Cooper share the same dad.”
 
Cooper usually wakes Miller early in the morning and the two go for a 20- to 30-minute walk. More often than not they head to the Canton Dog Park, a fenced-in, several-acre plot at the corner of South Bouldin and Toone streets. Miller, who sits on the park’s board of directors, is currently trying to raise funds to improve the site. The TV reporter wants everybody— especially those in city government— to know the importance of dog parks for downtown residents.
 
“You have to understand, dogs provide two really important things for people: one is companionship; the other is security. I tell everybody: You want people to live downtown, you have to have a place to accommodate their dogs.”
 
And Miller, whose dog was a faithful companion during her recovery from brain surgery several years ago, simply couldn’t imagine life without one. “Dogs just make life brighter,” she says. “Even on your darkest day a dog can make you smile. You come home after a lousy day and there’s nothing quite like that sound when the door opens.”  —Joe Sugarman

Dorothy Hamill, Olympic figure skater, with Pan and PennyDorothy Hamill, Olympic figure skater, with Pan and Penny
Dorothy Hamill was one of those kids when it came to pets. You know, the kind who brings home every stray cat or rabbit and begs her mom to let her keep it. “I used to sneak them into the house,” admits Hamill, who grew up in Greenwich, Conn. “People would say, ‘Do you want a kitten?’ And I’d say, ‘Sure!’ My parents were pretty good about it, though.”

These days, Hamill has just two pets: a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel named Penny and a long-hair German shepherd, originally her husband, John’s, named Pan. (“As in the Greek god of shepherds,” she points out.)

Hamill says she fell in love with Penny the first time she saw her at a pet shop.

“There was just something about her. She wasn’t barking, she was up on her hind legs and wagging her tail with excitement and peeing on it at the same time. I didn’t know anything about Cavaliers. She just spoke to me. I couldn’t leave her there.”

Penny and Pan get along well, says Hamill, despite, or maybe because of, the 80-pound difference in their weights. “Pan is very protective of her, but every once in a while he’ll put her in her place. He’s a little scary looking, but he’s just a big baby.”

The dogs spend a good part of the day outside, barking at deer, squirrels, red-tail foxes or the cats that live next door to the couple’s north Baltimore County property. Often, Hamill and Penny will go on “goose duty,” scaring the Canada geese that frequent the pond, upon which Hamill skates when it freezes.
 
But mostly, Penny is the ultimate lap dog, never far from her owner’s side.  “[Dogs] provide that unconditional love,” says Hamill, who often brings Penny along when she travels. “They never complain. They just want to be loved. … And they’re such wonderful company.” —Joe Sugarman

Julie Mercer, Senior Director, American Red Cross, with chicoJulie Mercer, Senior Director, American Red Cross, with chico
It all started with Bill, Hillary and Chelsea. They may not be the former first family, but Julie Mercer’s birds quickly took on some of the characteristics of their namesakes. “About four years ago, [my husband] Raphael came home from a shopping trip with a gilded bird cage,” Mercer explains. “Two days later, he purchased two cockatiels, who we named ‘Bill’ and ‘Hillary’… Bill quickly learned to whistle ‘Hail to the Chief’ and inquire ‘Where’s Monica?’ Later, we acquired a third cockatiel and named her ‘Chelsea.’”
 
Mercer, who had always been a cat lover, explains that her passion for birds began after meeting Raphael. After the couple bought those first cockatiels, they fell in love with a baby cockatoo named ‘Chico’ at the store. Then Mercer discovered ‘Sweet Pea’ at the same shop and adopted her to be Chico’s cagemate.
 
“Sweet Pea said ‘I love you’ as I passed her cage, and that simple phrase sealed her fate,” says Mercer. “After Sweet Pea’s adoption, we learned her life story. Not from the shop, but from Sweet Pea herself. She revealed two distinct personalities: a nasty one, ‘Mary,’ and a sweet one, ‘Candy.’  She can sing ‘Happy Birthday,’ offer a kiss and say ‘thank you.’  She can also curse like a sailor, drink wine from my glass and bite viciously until she draws blood.”
 
Chico is a little more predictable, and he can typically be found on Raphael’s shoulder as he waters plants outside their Mount Vernon home. “Like many pets and their owners,”says Mercer, “the two have begun to resemble each other.”
 
After buying two more parrots, the couple now owns six birds—Hillary flew away a few years ago— and four cats. “As you can imagine, they all contribute to a noisy, chaotic living situation, but we wouldn’t have it any other way.” —Lauren Hooper

Kathy Harvey, president of Harvey and Daughters Branding, with Bert, Hap and ZekeKathy Harvey, president of Harvey and Daughters Branding, with Bert, Hap and Zeke
Bert and Hap are golden retrievers, and Zeke is a black Labrador. To Kathy Harvey, president of the marketing firm Harvey & Daughters Branding, her dogs are her children. Hap is the brat of the three, always hogging the attention. Zeke, the oddball of the group, is the most determined beggar, always vying for a free meal. And although Bert’s the youngest, he’s the most mature. Very reserved, he rarely makes a sound unless his mouth is full.

And to the rest of the staff at H&D, they might as well be co-workers, since they come into the office every day. 

“I’ve brought dogs to work since day one,” Harvey says. “They’re mama’s boys.”

That much is obvious. Though the dogs have free rein of the large, trendy-looking office, they rarely leave Harvey’s side. The dogs range from 9 to 10 years old, but probably behave better than most kids that age. In fact, Harvey says they’re assets to the family business because they keep everyone calm.

“They get upset if there’s a stressful meeting going on,” she says. If things get real bad, they’ll hide in the corner until the tension subsides. “I don’t know what I would do without them.”  —Gregory Howard

Suzan Garabedian, first vice president, SunTrust bank, with SaintSuzan Garabedian, first vice president, SunTrust bank, with Saint
Every once in a while, someone comes along who changes your life. Even less often, you meet someone who saves it. For Suzan Garabedian, that someone was Saint, her 14-year-old Dalmatian.
 
Garabedian began her banking career at SunTrust in her hometown of Richmond, Va. When SunTrust acquired Loyola Federal Savings and Loan 15 years ago, she relocated to Baltimore to manage the human resources department at the new branch. The first few months, she worked 12 to 14 hours, seven days a week. As the days blurred, she feared she was working herself to death. So she bought a puppy, Saint.

“She brought me back to life,” says Garabedian. “She’s my great friend.”
   
Owning Saint meant that Garabedian would have to leave the office throughout the day to walk her dog, feed her and forge what would become an inseparable bond. Now, Garabedian speaks to Saint as if she’s an old friend, sharing stories from their past. “When I traveled for over three days at a time, I would wear really red lipstick and kiss her on her forehead so my friends would know that I’m gone. I still do that, don’t I, girl?” she says, gesturing toward Saint.
 
During one Fourth of July parade in Federal Hill, where she lives, Garabedian painted red and blue spots on Saint. Everyone loved Saint’s “costume,” and Saint won the award for best pet. “After the parade, the blue washed off, but the red didn’t,” Garabedian says, chuckling. “She had red spots for a few months!” —G.H.

Sharon Akers, Executive Director, Edward St. John Foundation, with ColonelSharon Akers, Executive Director, Edward St. John Foundation, with Colonel 
“I think I was born wanting a horse. As far back as I can remember, at Halloween I’d ask for a horse, at Easter I’d ask for a horse, for birthdays I’d ask for a horse,” says Sharon Akers. When Akers, who was trained in English riding, finally got the OK from her parents to get a horse of her own, it came with one condition: she had to be old enough to have a car and buy the gas to drive out and visit it. Her lifelong dream came true when she bought her first horse at age 18, and she’s never looked back.
  
Colonel, a 19-year-old, 1,200-pound registered quarter horse gelding, is the fourth horse she has owned, and it’s easy to see why she is so attached to him. “He doesn’t realize he’s a horse— he thinks he’s a big dog. He comes when you call him, bows and gives kisses. This is a horse that a lot of kids have learned to ride on, and I put adults on him that are first-time riders,” says Akers. “It’s funny, though, I used to say to him, ‘One of these days, if you have anyone who treats you like a horse, you won’t know what to do.’”
  
Akers laughs when she describes how much she’s spoiled Colonel in the 16 years she’s owned him. “Colonel has led a very luxurious life. He’s had a lot of TLC,” she says. “But he has given me so much back. I cannot even begin to share some of the good times when we’ve been out walking through the woods. When things get upsetting or I’m under pressure, I get on the horse and all my stress and cares are gone away and I can think clearly.” Though Colonel lives on a 100-acre farm in Howard County, Akers tries to get there as much as she can. “I’m happiest when I’m on horseback,” she says. “My theory is, it’s much cheaper than therapy.” —Lauren Hooper

Stephanie Rawlings-Blake, Mayor of Baltimore City, with BelugaStephanie Rawlings-Blake, Mayor of Baltimore City, with Beluga
In 1997, when Stephanie Rawlings-Blake bought her first house as a single 27-year-old woman, her family recommended that she get a dog for companionship. As it happened, a family friend’s bouvier had recently had a litter (thanks to a visit from their neighbor’s black Labrador, who jumped the fence) and Rawlings-Blake took home the fattest puppy, appropriately named Beluga. In the early days of Beluga’s puppyhood, Rawlings-Blake would rush home between work and court and City Council meetings to walk him.
 
Growing up, she’d always wanted a Chihuahua. Beluga is about the furthest thing from that: he’s big and fluffy and low-key— and just about the least fussy dog you’ve ever met. The now-13-year-old Beluga pulls Rawlings-Blake this way and that, panting and prancing and, above all, drooling. (It was a good thing she came to the Style photo shoot armed with wet wipes because Beluga tagged her bodyguard’s sleeve.)
 
“My daughter thinks of Beluga as her little brother,” says Rawlings-Blake.
 
Though Beluga was originally Rawlings-Blake’s dog, he’s now glued to her husband, Kent’s, side. “It’s like I don’t exist,” she says. “They have a boys’ club. My husband calls him ‘the great equalizer,’ because he’s the other man in the family.”
 
Beluga commits occasional transgressions— he likes to sneak cheese and eat clothes— but Rawlings-Blake says he’s a great guard dog. “He barks at everything. He’s the alarm system for the neighborhood,” she says. “And he’s been a good friend.” —Laura Wexler

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