Say Cheese: Special Edition:
National Pet Month is observed annually during the month of May in the United States.
It’s a time to celebrate the many benefits that companion animals bring to people.
by Laura Emery, Deputy Editor
Courcy’s Cuddle Buddy
Izzy the cat was exactly what Rappahannock Electric Cooperative members Nicole and Lory Empie decided their family needed in the middle of the pandemic lockdowns. Nicole says, “With all the extra time together at home, we decided it would be a great time to finally get our first family pet.”
She picked Izzy out of a litter of six after being drawn to the kitten’s sweet, calm and tolerant demeanor. When she brought Izzy home to meet her daughter, Courcy (who is named after Courcy Castle in France), it was love at first sight.
“Izzy loves cuddles and affection, and is also very vocal when she feels she needs to announce that she isn’t getting the attention she deserves,” Nicole explains, with a laugh.
“Courcy loves to read, learn new things, run and play outside, swim, do gymnastics, create artwork, play games—and she also loves all things StarWars,” her mother says. “She is a kind friend to everyone and a hard worker in school.” Courcy is often spotted reading books with Izzy and playing dress up with the patient cat.
The Empie family has lived in Spotsylvania County for the last five years. Courcy has a 10-year-old sister, Leasil, who enjoys playing video games with Izzy.
Nicole says, “Izzy brings so much love and peace into our home.”
Pet ownership in the U.S. has jumped significantly over the past three decades. As of 2022, 70% of U.S. households (90.5 million homes) owned a pet. Also, 78% of pet owners surveyed acquired pets during the pandemic. — Forbes Advisor, 2022 survey
A Girl and Her Pets
Four-year-old Shanley Overstreet, of Charlotte County, Va., loves all kinds of animals. They’re all “her pets,” if you ask her. From the chickens and cats at her grandparents’ house, the cows at her uncle’s house, and the three beagles — Nelly, Rip and Marlin — at home, Shanley has never met an animal she didn’t like.
Ashley and Josh, Southside Electric Cooperative members, say their daughter “lights up” when she sees animals. “Our family’s pets bring us all so much joy,” Ashley says.
Ashley, who is a Charlotte County school teacher, describes how this issue’s cover image came about. “We were taking family pictures and Shanley had kind of gotten tired of doing the ‘sit and smile’ thing. The chickens were out, so she asked the photographer, Hailey Holt, if she could hold ‘her chicken.’ And so, the photographer captured the most beautiful picture of her and her chicken,” she says.
The Overstreet family spends a lot of time outdoors. Says Ashley, “Shanley is a very outdoorsy child. She just started playing T-ball and is enjoying that. Her interests, though, are mainly animals. She truly loves all animals.”
Pets can reduce stress, boost mood, and lower blood pressure and cholesterol. Pets help boost overall happiness and well-being. — American Heart Association
Ariana, 8, and Luna are the best of friends. “Ariana loves Luna and loves holding her almost like a doll,” says her mother, Rapa B.
Ariana and her family live in Prince William County and are Northern Virginia Electric Cooperative members. She is active in gymnastics, volleyball and Girl Scouts. “Ariana is very adventurous and has a great sense of humor,” her mother says.
Ariana’s family adopted Luna and brought her home when she was only 5 weeks old. Rapa explains, “We are all she knows. She’s part of our family and we love her. She is the sweetest dog you’ll ever meet. I call her a cat-dog because she naps on the tops of sofas or on windowsills. Luna has become an important part of our lives and makes us all very happy.”
Nothing has Changed
Nothing has changed since John Huff, a member of Shenandoah Valley Electric Cooperative and resident of Stuarts Draft, submitted a photo of his 10-month-old granddaughter, Charlotte, and her dog, Rosie, sleeping together to the magazine’s reader-photo column, Say Cheese.
“Charlotte will turn 3 years old in July, and nothing has changed,” he says. They’re still the best of friends.
Charlotte’s parents, Tyler and Katie Ward of Augusta County, Va., say their “sassy and sweet” little girl has a “very sweet” relationship with the family’s dog.
When Charlotte isn’t singing or dancing, playing with her Barbies or giving out hugs, she’s playing with Rosie. “Rosie is very gentle with Charlotte,” Katie says. “She lets her climb all over her. They like to share food — Charlotte leaves food out where Rosie can get to it. Charlotte likes to hit her T-ball and let Rosie chase the ball. Charlotte also loves to give Rosie treats and brush her.”
70% of people sign their dog’s name on their holiday cards. — American Kennel Club
Rilyn Carlson, 11, describes the bond between herself and her dog, Braxson. “Whenever I feel stressed or worried, I always turn to my Braxson boy for comfort. He is always there for kisses and rubs,” she says. Rilyn’s parents, Christy and Len, are members of Rappahannock Electric Cooperative and reside in Caroline County, Va.
Says Christy, “The love, fun and energy he brings to our house is just the four paws we were missing and we wouldn’t trade it for anything!”
Dogs are the most popular pet in the U.S. (in 2022, 69 million U.S. households reported owning a dog), followed by cats (45.3 million households) and freshwater fish (11.8 million households). — Forbes Magazine