South's Best Pets 2021
Colby & Bleu
Breeds: Goldendoodle & Sproodle
Ages: 4 years & 10 months
In Gouda Company
"When we were looking for a dog, we always joked about getting a 'cheese doodle.' Colby [on left] is an orange-and-white goldendoodle, so her name was a perfect fit. Our wedding was postponed due to COVID-19, so my now-husband, Adam, surprised me with my 'something Bleu!' " says owner Morgan Reese of the younger dog, pictured on right. After being the big cheese for four years, Colby was initially jealous of her new sibling until she realized Bleu would be her playmate 24-7.
"We will ask Colby, 'Do you want to go swimming?' She gets the biggest smile and starts spinning around," says Reese. These pups have a blast splashing at Quiet Waters Park's dog beach in Annapolis, Maryland.
Breed: Miniature Dachshund
Age: 3 years
"Penny got her name due to her copper color and because she shares the bubbly personality of the character Penny in The Big Bang Theory," says owner Hannah Kretzschmar. "She's often described as a ham because she's insanely outgoing with a side of goofy! She rolls over on her back for strangers to rub her belly and has even done so in the middle of crosswalks," Kretzschmar says.
New Girl in Town
Last summer, Penny and Kretzschmar moved to Houston from San Diego, California. Now that they've adjusted to Texas' heat, find this duo hanging out on dog-friendly patios or meeting up with other local dachshunds.
Breed: Golden Retriever
Age: 6 years
Hopping into Hearts
A video of this golden retriever leaping into his owner's embrace stopped us dead in our TikTok-scrolling tracks. "Once he was big enough, Riley started jumping into my arms whenever I came home," says owner Nick Kime. "I've now trained him to do it on command with a hand gesture. That's 90 pounds of fur flying at you! It's the best greeting anyone could ask for."
Man About Town
Riley's charismatic personality has landed him in a few commercials for brands like CarMax and Capital One, but the fame hasn't gone to his head. Off camera, this dog enjoys hanging out at Richmond's Belle Isle and at breweries with his owner.
Breed: Maine Coon
Age: 5 years
"Sophie loves fiercely but with a sweetness you might not expect," owner Allison Belton says. "She also has the wisdom to sniff out people who aren't huge cat fans. First, she'll sit in front of them, look deeply in their eyes, and then slowly walk up to them. After that, she'll nuzzle their feet trying to win them over." Sophie has a knack for making friends, like her Labradoodle neighbor as well as other pets around the world via Instagram.
A Day in the Life
"You can find Sophie enjoying the sun and squirrels on the screened porch. Once my workday begins, she makes guest appearances on Zoom to see her favorite teammates. She walks on a leash, but if jogging is involved, she prefers to ride in her pet stroller," says Belton.
Breed: Shih Tzu
Age: 10 years
Flair for Fashion
"Sparkles' style ranges from casual chic to couture and from classy to sassy," says her owner. "Don't forget about the accessories! Big, bold bling is a must. Of course, she never leaves home without her pearls." This furry fashionista has a foolproof glamour routine. "She visits the dog salon once a month for a conditioning bath and to keep her famous bob perfectly trimmed—not a hair out of place," her owner says. "Getting plenty of beauty sleep also helps her look fabulous."
"She's been on the runways in New York, partied it up in Las Vegas, and sunbathed on the beaches in Florida," her owner says.