They’ve got it all — cuteness, charisma and hilarious habits. 

For their ability to make us smile, we’ve deemed them the neighborhood’s  best pets. What makes an Advocate pet edition model?

It is not necessarily impeccable breeding or a pretty mug but, rather, a personality — a certain je ne sais quoi — that jumps off the page.

Our 2011 model pet search garnered piles of adorable photos and amusing anecdotes. These finalists are the non-human neighborhood residents that most captured our hearts.

Millie the rescue

Photo by Benjamin Hager

Lisa Gewax knew she wanted a Havapoo, or Havanese/poodle mix, for her family of four in Hillcrest Forest. The rare breed is hypoallergenic and doesn’t shed. She found no luck with breeders online, so she tried looking for poodle mixes at Dallas Animal Services.

All the dogs were riled up, barking loudly.

Then, there was Millie, her fur dirty and matted — you could barely see her eyes.

“She was sweet and quiet,” Gewax says. “She came up slowly to the window. You could tell by the look in her eye. I knew immediately that she was the one.”

Millie had just been brought in and wasn’t quite ready for adoption. So, Gewax returned every morning for the next eight days. On the last day, she drove to the shelter, braving the icy roads last February. She had to have that Havapoo — and she got it.

Millie turns heads wherever she goes. Her groomers rave about her incredibly soft fur.

“They say they wish they had a pillow as soft as she is.”

She spends most of her time lounging on her bed. The Gewaxes call it her tuffet — as in “Little Miss Muffet sat on a tuffet.” Millie gazes out the window, waiting for her best friend, a goldendoodle named Pudding who lives next door. They often have play dates together.

As luck would have it, this dingy drifter is now one pampered pooch.

Diego the YouTube star

Photo by Can Türkyilmaz

Watch video of Diego saying “I love you”

That’s not a pig, that’s Diego.

The pudgy-nosed French bulldog was mistaken for such last Halloween by a 3-year-old trick-or-treater who seemed to recognize the species of Diego’s pal, Giorgie, a Yorkshire terrier.

“When the boy turned to leave, he said, ‘Bye, doggie. Bye, piggie.’ He thought Diego was a pig.”

Diego’s owner, Brad Behringer of Northaven Park, doesn’t mind the mix-up — it just makes his dog all the more special. That, and the fact that Diego can speak. Not bark — speak. YouTube videos catch him in the moment, trying to mimic his human’s voice saying “I love you.”

“He has been doing it since we brought him home.”

Behringer and his fiancée, Diana, wanted a friend for their 6-year-old yorkie, Giorgie. So, almost two years ago, they traveled to Terrell to visit a French bulldog breeder. Diego was the sole survivor of his litter and came with a few complications. He’s smaller than normal and was born with an umbilical hernia, which caused a large and dangerous bubble to grow on his stomach.

“We couldn’t leave with him,” Behringer says.

After a nail-biting five months, Diego was old enough for surgery to fix the hernia. Now he deals with chronic allergies and must receive a shot once a week. But Diego’s health issues have never dampened his spirits.

Coco the entertainer

Photo by Can Türkyilmaz

Coco gets caught in the act, unrolling the toilet paper in the bathroom.

She has been hugged and squeezed, dolled up and stuffed into a stroller. But unlike most felines, Coco is perfectly content providing amusement for little girls.

“She is always good when one of the girls runs and tackles her down and gives her hug.  She just smells their chins and acts like she really appreciates them taking the time to love on her,” says Kathleen Ekstrom, who lives in Glen Meadow Estates with her husband, Doug, and her two daughters, Alexis, 7, and Loni, 5. They call Coco “a dog in a cat suit.”

The Ekstroms bought her from a Maine Coon breeder in Fort Worth and gave her to Alexis as a Christmas present about three years ago.

“We wanted a big cat with a great personality,” Kathleen says.

The mischievous cat has been caught in the act, unrolling the toilet paper in the bathroom. But Coco has another unexplainable quirk — she loves to carry balloons around by the string.

“I mean, for hours. She will just circle around the house. We’ll be in the living room watching TV, and there she goes, walking across with the balloon. She has given us a lot of entertainment.”

But Coco didn’t come without health issues. She has gingivitis, and has to take medication and get her teeth cleaned regularly.

“She’s high maintenance but so worth it.”

Photo by Benjamin Hager

MayBelle the Southern girl

All Southern girls have to have two names, says Don Neilson, who lives in Hillcrest Forest with his partner, Freddie White. Their dog, MayBelle, certainly lives up to her moniker, rocking the “Dora the Explorer” haircut.

“She has the sweetest personality,” Neilson says.

The 3-year-old MayBelle hails from a breeder all the way in Idaho. Neilson has always loved Griffons, so when his first one died at age 12, he knew he wanted another. They’re sporting dogs born to run and hunt, but they also love to chill out indoors.

“It’s an unusual breed that’s not that common.”

MayBelle is obsessed with shadows and reflections — and she’s determined to catch them one day. When Neilson boards her at Downtown Dog, she spends all her time tracking the lights from a disco ball outside.

And people might notice something odd about MayBelle’s toys. They’re all missing legs because she chews them off.

“All of her lizard toys look more like snakes.


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