Dog days of summer

Mutt mascots, a service dog story, and more than 100 of your best friends

Samantha Brooke Tobias

Labs and shepherds and poodles. Oh my! In an attempt to keep our spirits up during these dog days of summer, we decided to have a photo contest. We asked you to send us images of your four-legged buddies enjoying the best the season has to offer—and you heard us. Loud and clear.

We received more than 150 pictures, everything from a setter in water wings and a Yorkie on a surfboard, to a pug as a wedding accessory and a beagle who appears to be changing the oil in a car.

As much as we enjoyed every photograph, we, with some help from Georgetown Veterinarian Hospital’s Dr. Mike Fietz (C-VILLE’s Thoroughly Vetted columnist), had to pick the best in show.

So without further ado, first place goes to Aspen, followed closely by Milo and Caysun. See their photos below, and keep scrolling for dozens more mutt mugs and some sweet stories on local canines. Oh, and in case you were wondering, The Old Farmer’s Almanac says the dog days are the 40 days that begin on July 3 and end August 11. They coincide with the ancient heliacal rising of the dog star, Sirius, which, with the exception of the sun, is the brightest star visible from earth. Hot dog!—Susan Sorensen

Meet the winners!

  • Third place winner Caysun, shot by Brian Thacker.

  • Second place winner Milo, shot by Cathy Clary.

  • First place winner Aspen, shot by Samantha Brooke Tobias.

Creature comforts:

Service dogs with a smile

Service Dogs of Virginia’s tag line says it all: “Life can change in an instant.” Nobody knows this better than Peggy Law, the organization’s founder and executive director.

While she suffered no permanent damage from a horse-related accident more than a decade ago, the incident got Law thinking about others who weren’t so lucky. In 2000, she started the Charlottesville-based agency in her garage, with the goal of giving people with disabilities a permanent companion that enables them to live with greater independence. In other words, a helping paw.

Those paws belong primarily to Labrador Retrievers, as well as some Great Danes, Golden Retrievers, and rescue dogs. “The most important qualities we look for in a dog, regardless of breed, are excellent health, a friendly, intelligent personality, a strong work ethic, and a desire to please,” Law said. It costs about $40,000 and two years of time to purchase, raise, train, and place a service dog. The nonprofit does not charge its clients for the dogs, which means it depends solely on grants, donations, and sponsors.

Some of SDV’s support, however, isn’t monetary. It comes from puppy raisers, the volunteers who train potential service dogs in their homes, helping the pups learn the ins and outs of malls, grocery stores, and the chaos of family life.

“None of us could do our work without these dedicated people,” Law said. “And hearing stories of how their puppy has made a huge impact in someone’s life really seals the deal [for them].”    

Each volunteer must complete a five course series where they learn the dos and don’ts of proper puppy training. The classes are intensive, but involve lots of hugging, petting, and praising of puppies, so it’s certainly not hardship duty. Once the courses are complete, volunteers receive an official certificate and a bundle of canine cuteness to take home.    

But after 18 months, the puppies must be returned to SDV for advanced training in one of three areas in which Service Dogs of Virginia specializes: assisting the disabled with day-to-day tasks like opening doors, picking up items, and getting the telephone; providing support to autistic children by keeping them safe and helping with communication and social interactions; and helping people with Type 1 diabetes better control their sugar levels (thanks to their keen sense of smell, the dogs can tell when their owners’ blood sugar levels drop).

While it may be tough for puppy raisers to say goodbye to their short-term faithful companions, there’s never a shortage of puppies in need of good homes. And as Law said, “This is a real gift of love that makes a positive, tangible difference.”—Logan Boggs  

For more information about Service Dogs of Virginia call 295-9503 or send an e-mail to

Pup pics: Babe Ruth to Gwen

  • Babe Ruth. Owner: Mary Birkholz.

  • Baggins. Owner: Minal Mistry.

  • Ballback. Owner: Hamilton Ridge.

  • Banjo. Owner: Kelly Ridenhour.

  • Bandit. Owner: August Fordhann.

  • Bella and Emrys. Owner: Melody Robbins.

  • Bella. Owner: Russ Sprague.

  • Bianca. Owner: Randolph Pope.

  • Bubba. Owner: Vincent Pero.

  • Buttercup. Owner: David Bridges.

  • Claire and Zoe. Owner: Hillary Simons.

  • Claire. Owner: Marcus Bowen.

  • Clemson. Owner: Kailah Critzer.

  • Comet. Owner: Kelly Arbogast.

  • Cooper. Owner: Kate Nesbitt.

  • Daisy May. Owner: Liz Lewis.

  • Denali and Bella. Owner: Sharon Golema.

  • Dixie. Owner: Heidi Crandall.

  • Dixie. Owner: Nadia Zahran.

  • Dolly. Owners: John and Samantha Bishop.

  • Elliot and Khola. Owner: Denise Egan.

  • Emma. Owner: Debbie White.

  • Ernest von Pepper Jack Cheese. Owner: Sybil Anne Strimbu.

  • Fritz. Owner: Elizabeth Clark.

  • Georgia. Owner: Karen Clark.

  • Grace. Owner: Tom Chmiola.

  • Gwen. Owner: Rebekah Ross.

R.I.P. Beta and The Great Seal:

Remembering UVA’s mutt mascots

Long before the University of Virginia had that guy on a horse, there was Beta, a black-and-white mutt who was adored by the UVA community in the 1920s and 1930s and became the school’s first mascot. Named after the Beta Theta Pi fraternity, the pooch “pursued a wide range of interests—from football to scholarly discourse, and was welcomed at most University functions including dances, fraternity parties, and lectures,” according to the University’s athletic department website.

It’s also been reported that Beta rarely missed a Plato course in Cabell Hall, so he was added to the roll and barked when his name was called. Touted by UVA as the country’s “No. 1 college dog,” Beta was hit by a car and put to sleep on April 6, 1939, and nearly 1,000 students marched in a funeral procession from Beta House to the University Cemetery, where he was buried.

A cross-eyed pooch named Seal (because of his sleek fur) was adopted by UVA students and staff in the 1940s. Like Beta, The Great Seal of Virginia, as he became known, was welcome almost everywhere on Grounds and on the Corner, including at restaurants that had posted signs that said, “No Dogs Allowed (except Seal).” When not dining at nearby eateries, Seal took his meals in the University dining hall and fraternity houses, and reportedly could often be found at the home of Dr. Charles Frankel, a longtime UVA football team doctor.

The Great Seal of Virginia, as he became known, was welcome almost everywhere on Grounds and on the Corner.
The Great Seal of Virginia, as he became known, was welcome almost everywhere on Grounds and on the Corner.

Seal’s true claim to fame came during halftime at the 1949 football game against the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia when, wearing his blue blanket with a large orange ‘V’, he sauntered over to the 50-yard-line, where the Penn cheerleaders’ megaphones lay. According to the Cavalier Daily, Seal then “indifferently inspected their cheerleading appurtenances. Eighty thousand people watched with bated breath. Coolly, insolently, Seal lifted a leg—the rest is history.”

When Seal died, his funeral was attended by about 1,500 friends and fans.

Seal and Beta are buried next to each other, and Seal’s tombstone reads:

“To perpetuate the

memory of SEAL

Mascot and Friend of

the students of the University

Died Dec. 11, 1953.” 

Pup pics: Jack to Phoebe

  • Jack. Owner: Michael Levatino.

  • Jackson. Owner: Ray Mishler.

  • Jeff. Owner: Rammelkamp

  • Jesse. Owner: Andrew Hersey.

  • Jessie. Owner: Polly Tarbell.

  • Joey. Owners: Emily Eppard and Abdi Mohamed.

  • Kai. Owner: Diana Rockwell.

  • Kramer. Owner:

  • Kylia. Owner: Angela Seay.

  • Leonard. Owner: Penny Purcell.

  • Lex. Owner: Maggie Shipe.

  • Lily Mae and Velvet. Owner: Beth Schrank.

  • Lincoln. Owner: Anne Fishwick.

  • Lucy. Owner: Meredith Coe.

  • Max. Owner: Linda Thornburg.

  • Midas, Gracie, and Aspen. Owner: Linda H. Martin.

  • Milo. Owner: Cathy Clary.

  • Milo. Owner: Chris Egner.

  • Minnie. Owner: Tricia Wood.

  • Mojo. Owner: Erika Evans.

  • Morgan. Owner: Rammelkamp

  • Mosby. Owner: Debbie Ripley.

  • Norton. Owner: Coe.

  • Oscar. Owner: Tracie Skipper.

  • Otis. Owner: Stephen Wolf.

  • Panda. Owner: Emma Paine.

  • Phantom. Owner: Rex May.

  • Pheby. Owner: Dabney Farmer.

  • Phoebe. Owner: Jim Bosket.

Home sweet home:

Stacey Norris gives outdoor dogs
a warm place to sleep

Stacey Norris was out for a walk during the fall of 2007 when she noticed two outdoor dogs with only barrels for shelter. Instead of tsk-tsking and thinking to herself what a shame that was, Norris decided to do something. And just like that, Houses of Wood and Straw (HOWS) was born.

Once she’d obtained dog house building plans fron PETA, Norris enlisted the help of area schools’ shop classes, Boy Scout troops, and volunteer adult carpenters. Since they began work in 2008, more than 400 properly sized houses—with raised floors, offset entries, and insulated bases—have been built and distributed to local dogs owners. The organization also offers other items, including rustproof food bowls, non-tip water buckets, nylon collars and walking leashes, tarps, long light-weight tethers, straw bedding, and waterproof entry flaps that supply additional comfort and warmth in the cold. In addition, HOWS has provided custom-designed homes to cats, goats, pigs, and rabbits.

Norris visits her HOWS families at least once a year to check on the dogs, which is often the best part of her job.

“It is rewarding to arrive at a residence on a cold day to find straw bedding already in the dog house,” she said. “It is rewarding to see a clean, full water bowl when we show up unannounced. It’s rewarding to see the children playing with Spot, and it is rewarding to see that the chain has been replaced by a pen.” What’s most satisfying, though, is when the pen is no more, and the family dog is inside for good.

Since Stacey Norris started Houses of Wood and Straw in 2008, the organization has distributed more than 400 custom-made shelters to outdoor dogs in need. Photo courtesy HOWS
Since Stacey Norris started Houses of Wood and Straw in 2008, the organization has distributed more than 400 custom-made shelters to outdoor dogs in need. Photo courtesy HOWS

Norris learns about dogs in need through a variety of sources, including good Samaritans, Animal Control, and people who know their dogs need a better house. “And I do a lot of driving around myself,” she said. “Peering into backyards for possible recipients.”

Norris wants to be clear, though, that “we have a very nonjudgmental approach with people.” She said HOWS’ goal is to “meet people where they are,” and help educate them with the ultimate goal of improving their animals’ lives. “We want to be a positive part of the lives of these animals and the people who care for them.”—Savannah Williamson  

Pup pics: Riley to Zoe

  • Riley. Owners: Neal and Val Piper.

  • Rocco. Owner: Amy Mynakha

  • Roscoe. Owner: Gaby Mackey.

  • Rosie. Owner: Anna Brown.

  • Rosie. Owner: Michelle Kampsen.

  • Ruby. Owner: Geri Carlson Sauls.

  • Sabrina. Owner: Peter Mead.

  • Shadow. Owner: Debra Weidman.

  • Sophie. Owner: Laura T. Pietro.

  • Talley. Owner: Diana Rockwell.

  • Tasha and Rosa. Owner: Katherine Magraw.

  • Téa. Owner: Catherine Emery.

  • Terk. Owner: Terri A. Corcoran.

  • Tika. Owner: Robin Romer.

  • Tiki. Owner: Tara Fontenot.

  • Titus. Owner: Beate Casati.

  • Tobias. Owner: Samantha Brooke.

  • Trelle. Owner: Grace Croonenberghs.

  • Tucker. Owner: Marie Grant.

  • Winston. Owner: Kate Nesbitt.

  • Wylie. Owner: Christopher Paine.

  • Zoe. Owner: Carolyn Schoemer Huyghe.