The connections between these Tulsans and their dogs are more than fur deep.
It has been said that people, being self-centered in nature, frequently pick pets that look like themselves. That was the initial concept for this article, which features five adorable dogs that seem to uncannily take after their adoptive parents. However, we quickly found that similarities in temperament between man and beast were far more fascinating.
To look alike is one thing, but to act alike, to be a part of one another’s daily routines, is a far better testament to these priceless connections. And perhaps, by seeing a bit of ourselves reflected in creatures that only know how to love unselfishly and unconditionally, we actually become better people.
Lauren and Dede
In Dede’s short life, she has seen Lauren Yoder through three moves, a handful of breakups, a great many hairstyles and eventually, a marriage.
When Yoder, a stylist at Ihloff Salon, first moved out of her parents’ place seven years ago, she quickly wanted some company in her new, independent life. Having grown up with dogs, she knew just what could fill the void, and her only requirement was that it be duplex-sized.
That’s when Yoder spotted Dede’s picture on Facebook — a tiny puff of fur with two giant black eyes staring out soulfully. Since Dede’s Pekingese/Chihuahua parentage was an “accident,” the breeders were giving away the puppies for free — though let’s face it, Dede turned out a whole lot cuter than the sum of her parts.
Yoder couldn’t resist, and the rest is history.
“She is one of my best friends,” Yoder says. “I feel like we have a connection.”
Though most canine companions prove to be better at listening than doling out advice, Dede has never had trouble making her opinions known.
“I probably should have listened to her, because (husband) Brandon is the only guy that she’s liked,” Yoder says. “With my other boyfriends, she wouldn’t go near them.”
Yoder makes a laundry list of other things the pampered pooch can’t stand: loud music, thunder, small children, unusual food, other dogs …
“She definitely has an attitude,” Yoder says. “Her personality speaks for itself.”
Dede also has a hilarious aversion to a certain F-word.
“Do you have fleas?” Yoder coos. Dede emits a tiny yet ferocious growl, transformed from pleasant puffball to vicious little monster. Yoder quickly reassures her that it was just a joke, and her poised, princess-like expression returns.
“We both say a lot in our eyes and our attitude,” Yoder says.
John and Patrick, Maggie and J.R.
John Orsulak and Patrick Hobbs were Westie parents long before their own hair turned white.
When their first pair of Westies, Phyfe and J.P., passed away, “There was kind of a hole,” Orsulak says. “You didn’t hear the pitter-patter of paws. Nobody greeting you at the door.”
So, the couple contacted Oklahoma Westie Rescue, a nonprofit that takes in West Highland White Terriers (Westies) and similar breeds — terrier mixes, Malteses, Yorkies and more — who are unwanted, abandoned or rescued from puppy mills.
“It’s amazing — sad — how many dogs there are needing homes,” Orsulak says.
Maggie and J.R. had belonged to a breeder and came as a pair. Within 30 minutes of arriving, they were making themselves at home. That was seven years ago.
The dogs, both 11, keep watch at the window of their home overlooking Woodward Park. They loyally warn the household of such dire threats as the mailman, passing joggers, construction workers, garden volunteers, squirrels, senior portrait sessions and even Orsulak and Hobbs themselves as they leave the house.
The men have been together for 25 years and married in Canada 11 years ago. But they have no children of their own, and other family is far away.
“These are the kids,” says Hobbs of their Westies.
Though both Orsulak and Hobbs are retired, they’ve kept busy with local theater productions and volunteering within the community.
At home, Maggie and J.R. make sure the family stays on a routine.
“They get us out of bed,” says Orsulak, referring to their habit of waking up around 7 a.m. to bark at aforementioned threats.
The dogs especially love going to the Woodward Park Arboretum.
“When they do escape the yard, which has happened a couple times, nine times out of 10 that’s where they head,” Orsulak says.
In the evening, they anticipate a healthy treat of canned pumpkin.
“They can hear the clink of the ramekins that we feed them in,” Hobbs says. “I don’t care where they are in the house — two seconds later, they’re right there.”
And at 9 p.m., like clockwork, J.R. decides it’s bedtime and retires for the night. Maggie stays up to enjoy some much-deserved “me time.”
Otherwise, the two are inseparable. When it’s time to go outside, they scamper across the hearth in the same stride.
“It’s like ‘Grease,’” Hobbs says, singing, “‘We go together …’” as the dogs enter again, still side by side.
Ryan and Argus
“He looks like you. We should get him.”
Kate Friedl had just seen a photo of 4-week-old Argus online. While her husband, Ryan, could have been offended by this comparison, he has since come to terms with the striking resemblance.
“I actually think it’s really funny,” Ryan says as his canine twin, now 1 year old, wanders curiously around the office.
“The more we’ve let Ryan’s hair grow,” says Kate, “the more we’ve let Argus’ hair grow. It’s been getting funnier and funnier.”
This comes in handy as the couple prepares for Argus’ first Halloween costume: Chewbacca of Star Wars fame.
Kate, a paramedic at Saint Francis, and Ryan, a trader with Cavanal Hill, chose a labradoodle because they wanted a dog that didn’t shed much, was intelligent and would keep them active. So far, Argus has fulfilled all three desires.
“We have to go on runs and walks every day,” Kate says.
But it seems Argus’ infectious energy cannot be contained by exercise and play.
“He’s always gotta have something in his mouth,” Ryan says. Kate goes on to list the various objects that an excited Argus has delivered at their feet — doorstops, shoes, part of a lamp, a lint-free cloth and half of Kate’s mother’s birthday gift (an exotic plant from Hawaii).
“He ate the other half,” Kate says.
The Friedls also have a “fun job” on the side — Kate and Ryan Photography — through which they photograph weddings. Fittingly, Argus turned out to be a natural in front of the camera.
Despite the young couple’s extensive research and childhood experience with dogs, Argus still delivers plenty of surprises.
For instance, about halfway through the interview, an unpleasant odor fills the office. “Oh, I’m sorry, he farted,” says Kate, visibly embarrassed but hardly shocked. “One of his other great features; he’s very gassy.” She says he’ll even startle himself when his emissions are, ahem, audible.
“It’s really funny,” Ryan admits, proving that you’re never too old or professional to appreciate a fart joke.
While they knew Argus would be smart, Ryan and Kate couldn’t have anticipated the sheer size of his personality, sense of humor and heart.
“We definitely laugh a lot more with him around versus before,” Kate says.
Shannon and June
It’s hard to imagine someone more glamorous than makeup artist and fashion stylist Shannon Schroeder. However, her precocious Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, June, may be a close second.
“I had my eyes on the breed for a while and knew that was exactly the kind of dog I wanted,” Schroeder says. “And so, my husband graciously obliged.”
The couple acquired the 4-month-old puppy in December 2009 and named her June Carter Schroeder — it seems Schroeder got to pick the breed, while Johnny Cash fan hubby Jon got naming rights.
June has been loyally — and stylishly — by Shannon’s side ever since. With their long red hair and brown eyes, the two make a perfect pair as they run errands together.
“She especially loves prancing around Utica Square,” says Schroeder of her shopping companion. “She gets a lot of attention, which she loves.”
Beyond the obvious semblance, the two have similar dispositions.
“We are loyal, love people, are generally happy and both have a taste for the finer things in life,” Schroeder says. One of the few things they disagree on is when to wake up in the morning (June is an early riser, Schroeder … not so much).
June, now 6, also has formed a close bond with the Schroeders’ 2-year-old daughter, Sloane. Given that June has always been an inextricable part of her short life — the beloved spaniel gets presents at Christmas and costumes at Halloween — the adorable “partners in crime” development was inevitable.
“It surprised me how much I could love an animal and how much they can be a part of your family,” Schroeder says. “I think owning any animal can enrich your life and provide a wonderful sense of unconditional love.”
And if that lovable companion can keep up with your runway-ready lifestyle, that’s just icing on the cake.