Pets might be the biggest perk in humans’ lives.
For so many people, their world would be naked without pets. Animal friendships made with dogs, cats, birds, scaled critters such as fish and reptiles, and horses, add color, different kinds of companionship, and a camaraderie that perhaps no person can match.
Now that we’ve passed the midpoint of winter celebrated with woodchucks and shadows – at least on the calendar – take a moment for five reminders of the many ways that pets reward us with their own smiles and unconditional love.
Don’t fault Jeanne Dalesky of Conway for getting dogged in explaining dividends she finds in canines.
She’s president and chairwoman of the Myrtle Beach Kennel Club, which meets at 7:30 p.m. on the first Tuesday monthly at Friendly’s Restaurant, 4705 N. Kings Highway, Myrtle Beach. The club also will have its next annual dog show April 26-27 at the Eastern Carolina Agricultural Fairgrounds, 5226 E. Palmetto St. Florence. (Club details at 365-1622 or www.myrtlebeachkennelclub.org.)
Praising her several “toy dogs” that are “always glad to see me when I come in” – Manchester terriers and Japanese chins – Dalesky said having a dog “changes your attitude” toward life, “and lowers your blood pressure.”
“The dog loves you with all of his or her self,” she said, also citing a safety factor.
With a police officer in her family, Dalesky said she learned that a household with a dog also helps with looking after things as a sentry, especially for someone widowed or living alone.
“When you lose a loved one or spouse,” she said, “believe it or not, you have a dog to come home to.”
Dogs doing “the funniest things” never escape Dalesky’s eyes, either. Take the snow and ice that gave the Lowcountry a taste of tundra life last week.
“I don’t think many of my dogs had ever seen snow,” she said. “At first, they would put a paw in it, then their nose in it, then back up, realizing it’s cold and wet. But the next day, they were perfectly happy with it. It’s funny to see them act that way because just didn’t understand it.”
Dalesky also brought up many service capacities dogs learn; for instance, their training to live with deaf people, such as to let their caretakers know “when the teapot’s boiling,” as well as becoming companions for returning deployed service personnel who might cope with depression and anxiety. She also saluted Rich Kaplan’s Canine Angels (917-575-6235 or www.canine-angels.net) a nonprofit in North Myrtle Beach that trains and matches up animal shelter pooches with veterans with disabilities and with first responders. That’s a case where the dog and person benefit equally.
“It just changes their entire life,” Dalesky said, “but the dog is the center of it.”
She said such scenarios prove a dog’s loyalty and devotion.
“A dog never asks you questions,” Dalesky said. “Dogs just accept whatever you do for them.”
Ted Sejda had had dogs for many years, but no cats until the then-widower met his wife-to-be. A board member and the publicist for Sav-R-Cats International, an adoption center based in the South Seas Village Plaza, 1117 S.C. 544, just west of U.S. 17 Business, across from Walgreens, Sejda clarified who adopts whom.
When people bring home a cat, he said, “our cats adopt the human.”
Sejda said he didn’t know cats also bear so much love until meeting his fiancée’s cat, that upon greeting him, “jumped on my stomach, walking really slowly up to my face,” he said, imagining the “Jaws” theme in his head at that moment.
“He licked me on the nose, lay down on my chest and started purring,” Sejda said.
With two cats at home – Mischief the calico and Sniffy the mancoon – Sejda said a fun characteristic is “how they like to play with you,” such as through a dash from under the couch or paw tap on his leg.
Watching the Super Bowl on television on Sunday, Sejda was happy to welcome both cats sofaside with him.
“Now I’m surrounded,” he said. “They do that every day.”
His wife’s “blanket time” on a loveseat also draws Sniffy to nestle in.
“They’re just so relaxing for you,” Sejda said of cats overall. “It’s very comforting for a cat to give you that amount of love. You hear that purr ... they’re very content.”
He also said the dashboard of his truck as well as a desk with a computer provide other happy perches for the felines.
Sav-R-Cats (222-8057 or www.sav-r-cats.com) will benefit from proceeds from food sales at, and cat-food donations brought to, the Myrtle Beach Car Club Cruise-in 11 a.m.-2 p.m. Feb. 15 at Joey Doggs, 1818 U.S. 17 Business N., Surfside Beach, for which admission is free (details at 742-9802).
Sejda said Sav-R-Cats thrives with volunteer help, including youth ages 12-14, and with people performing community service.
“It’s amazing to see how cats adopt you,” Sejda said. “I say that over and over again, and it’s true.”
Shirley Major, manager of the adoption center, said the cats enjoy socializing there outside of their overnight quarters, and that they know they’re pampered.
“Dogs have masters,” Major said. “Cats have staff.”
An employee at Coastline Pet Supply, on S.C. 707 in Myrtle Beach, just west of U.S. 17 Bypass, Bill Hunt spread his feathers about why birds bring joy in people’s homes.
“The biggest thing is companionship,” he said, noting that a bird’s company rivals a dog’s, but with less mess.
“Birds are very colorful,” Hunt said, “and they can actually talk to you. ... We have a cockatiel that can talk a little bit.”
Macaws and African grey parrots also are known for some vocalizing and mimicry, he said.
Hunt said parakeets could be a starter bird for folks going the avian route for a pet. He also said budgies are “way bigger than a regular parakeet,” looking “the same but bigger.”
A popular seller of late at Coastline has been Latino cockatiels, which are all yellow, Hunt said.
Coastline Pet Supply’s Hunt spoke about the serenity a fish tank furnishes in a room. Among freshwater tanks, oscars and cardinal tetras have been popular sellers of late and that 30-gallon aquariums have been commonplace.
He said children find a fancy with mollies and platys and those type of tropical fish. The hobby of fish keeping is “constantly growing” because with new species of fish, “there’s always something new.”
“We just got a blueberry Oscar,” he said, “that’s blue and orange.”
Bruce Campbell, owner of Sea Critters Depot, on Airport Boulevard in North Myrtle Beach, specializes in saltwater tanks, with fish sales and aquarium maintenance. He also attested to “a calming effect” that tanks have not just in homes, but in businesses such as doctors’ offices.
He said the saltwater hobby has lent itself well to people who like clownfish, anemones and coral, especially in 75-gallon or larger tanks. Despite their bigger sizes, Campbell said the hobbyists never see this pastime, or fish feeding and upkeep, such as changing out a portion of the water regularly, as work.
Campbell said his career in pet fish, now 15 years in business, arose from a “hobby gone wild.” He remembered suggesting to his wife, when both their children were younger than 6, making this full time.
Folks pondering the addition of a fish tank should consider “a great room,” a living area for its placement, Campbell said.
“That way, they can enjoy it a lot,” he said.
On the saltwater side, Campbell said clownfish keep growing in demand. The field has expanded to “designer clownfish,” with ones that might be mostly white, or all orange.
About fish hues in general, he said orange, blue, and “believe it or not, black and white” have reigned.
With a store with “4,200 gallons of saltwater,” Campbell’s right at home right at work, with his pets for sale.
In December 2011, Sue McKinney started the Barnabas Horse Foundation for Children in Socastee (241-3331 or www.barnabashorse.org), an all-volunteer charity that helps children ages 4-17 find new happiness among surviving personal abusive situations, and will soon assist veterans with post traumatic stress disorder as well as women in crisis.
With 14 horses spread across two farms, the foundation sees about 30 youth a month, with help from 14 horses ranging from miniature size to a former carriage horse from New York, said McKinney, Barnabas’ president.
She sees horses as more than pets.
“They’re magical,” McKinney said of their majestic nature and their individual personalities.
“I could be having a bad day, and go out to the barn and sit there striking the neck of one ... and have the horse’s head over my shoulder, giving me a horse hug. A couple of them will lick my hands.”
McKinney called horses “strong, fierce, always on alert and so in tune” with surroundings. Because of their ancestry as “a prey animal, their survival depends on being alert.”
“They pick up on people’s energy,” she said. “We have seen it.”
She remembered one boy on his first visit to Barnabas who bonded with “our oldest horse,” Rocky, 33, formerly of Dolly Stampede’s (now Pirates Voyage) Dinner Attraction.
“He takes Rocky and walks around the pasture with him and talks to him,” McKinney said, never intruding on their quality 1-on-1 time.
She appreciates how “horses don’t tell your secrets; they just listen.”
McKinney said the child’s therapist was in tears of happiness seeing the instant friendship made, because the aide had said the youth “was afraid of his own shadow.”
Shedding her own tears of joy on the way home pleases McKinney on such days “because I have been able to stand and witness miracles” seen through horses’ own way of helping humans heal their heart and feelings.
From 4 to 7 p.m. on Wednesdays this month, munch on a Carolina Gumbaya gumbo meal to benefit Barnabas, at Secret Chef Cafe, 1000 Second Ave. S., North Myrtle Beach, for $10 for dinner or $5 a taste (details at 360-2023 or www.carolinagumbaya.com).
Also with two dogs, two cats and a bird that all enrich her family, McKinney said for Barnabas’ growing mission, “The horse is our therapist; they just require you feed and clean up after them.”
Even having youth begin each visit by brushing horses, McKinney said not only does the horse’s heart rate relax, it “gives children the chance to bond with the animals.”
“It’s like being transported to another world,” she said.