South's Best Pets 2020
Charlotte, North Carolina
Age: 3 years
Call of the Wild
This leash-trained cat has visited 39 national parks, 40 states, and 2 countries (and counting). Kazuki’s preferred playground is the outdoors. “He loves exploring new places, especially if they’re isolated and have lots of leaves, trees, and rocks,” says his owner.
Top Southern Spots
Kazuki loves Grayson Highlands State Park in Virginia and Congaree National Park and Kings Mountain State Park in South Carolina. “He likes weekend trips to the mountains and sticks his head out the window as we drive along the Blue Ridge Parkway,” his owner says.
Baton Rouge, Louisiana
Breed: Golden retriever
Age: 8 years
An iconic actress inspired this golden retriever’s name: Lucille Ball. “I Love Lucy is one of my favorite shows. The name was a perfect fit. Lucy is stubborn, is a redhead, and is always making us laugh!” says owner Claire Williams.
Lucy’s favorite place to play is the pool. “Her love of water started when a golf ball rolled into the pool and sunk to the bottom. Lucy was just learning to get her feet wet but was determined to retrieve it,” says Williams. After rescuing that ball, this dog became a
Claim to Fame
“In 2017, Apple used one of my underwater pictures for their ‘Shot on iPhone’ campaign. Lucy was on billboards around the world—from New York to London and Bangkok. She’s been to more countries than I have!” Williams says.
Breed: Long-coated Dalmatian
Age: 1 year
“Buckley is a goofy dog. He’s a typical Dalmatian who wiggles from head to toe and loves to ‘dance,’ as we call it, where he walks around on his hind legs,” says owner Amanda Shaw.
He was born with a few unique features. “Buckley has one blue eye and one green eye and also has a spot on his nose that’s shaped like a heart,” says Shaw.
This spotted dog is the youngest of five pet siblings (follow their fun on Instagram, @_thefuramigos_).
Breed: English bulldog
Age: 7 years
Owners Jackie Turvey and Keith Thornburg say that Rukus is the epitome of a stubborn bulldog—in all the best ways. “He is steadfastly loyal and persistently playful,” Turvey says.
Find him exploring D.C. with his 5-year-old pet sister, Regina (also an English bulldog). “Rukus loves walking down to the National Mall and interacting with tourists visiting the museums and monuments. He’s been known to lie frog style (belly on the ground and legs splayed out) in the middle of the sidewalk when large groups of kids are walking by so they can all feel comfortable petting him,” says Turvey.
Number One Fan
Rukus dresses to impress in athletic jerseys repping all his favorite local sports teams, like the Washington Capitals and the Washington Nationals.
Breed: Irish wolfhound
Age: 11 months
Big and Tall
The American Kennel Club’s tallest breed is the Irish wolfhound. These puppies grow at an exceptional rate compared to others. “In the first four months we had him, Sully gained 10 inches in height and 70 pounds in weight,” says owner Caitlin Condon. “Sully is still a puppy, so he can be very goofy at times—like running around the yard in circles or throwing his toys in the air and trying to catch them. He’s just so excited to live life.”
“Sully and I go on long walks around Savannah and enjoy the scenery (and the smells). We live in the East Victorian district, which is filled with beautiful old houses. He especially loves meeting new people, so a tourist town is a great place to be!” says Condon. “Sully’s favorite places to walk are Forsyth Park, Bonaventure Cemetery, and the downtown historic district.”
Breed: Irish setter
Age: 2 years
Out and About in Arkansas
You’ll likely find Annie Mae romping around state parks like Woolly Hollow (for swims), Petit Jean (for hikes), and Mount Nebo (for stunning views). When on an outing with owners Mallory Anderson and Will Church, Annie Mae prefers splashing around in Beaverfork Lake Park and then swinging by the Chick-fil-A drive-through. “You just look at Annie Mae and know she’s a happy dog,” says Anderson.
Thanks to Instagram, Annie Mae’s owners were able to connect with some of her littermates.
Breed: Domestic shorthair tabby
Age: 3 years
Leaps and Bounds
Calvin has quite the repertoire of talents—like completing agility courses and giving high fives—but he's best known for his long jump. His record leap: 8 feet! "Calvin and I also have a trick called a "trust jump," where he springs from the kitchen counter onto my shoulder," says his owner.
Sleep, Eat, Repeat
The tabby recharges for outings around Austin with frequent catnaps. "The only thing he likes more than sleep is food. If you aren't paying attention, he might steal a slice of pizza right out of your hand," reveals his owner.
Breed: Hound mix
Age: 2 years
Looking on the Bright Side
Glenn was born with a condition that causes him to have seizures, but he doesn't let his disability get him down. "He is happy-go-lucky and the wildest dog at the park," says owner Julie Chabot. She begins each of Glenn's Instagram captions with a "dad joke," as she calls it. "Sharing a joke of the day helps show off Glenn's silly personality," Chabot says.
Glenn stars alongside T-Pain in a music video for the rapper's song "It's My Dog Birthday." The pup partied at the celeb's mansion and ate peanut butter cupcakes.
Kansas City, Missouri
Breed: Cocker spaniel-poodle mix
Age: 6 years
The secret behind Griffon's enviable locks? "Good genes and regular brushing," says owner Lauryn Newhart.
Making a Splash
"Griffon's favorite season is summer because he's a sucker for anything water related," Newhart says. "Swimming, boat rides on Lake of the Ozarks, kayaking at Smithville Lake—he loves them all." After a day on the water, Griffon rocks his gorgeous waves for an evening out with his owners at local pet-friendly spots like Bar K (part dog park, part bar and restaurant).
Breed: French bulldog
Age: 6 years
Put A Smile On
Contrary to her Instagram handle, Lola isn't terrible at all. This spirited girl loves life in her sunny hometown of Naples, Florida, strutting around in her go-to outfit: a colorful tutu (she has 30 in her closet) and patterned harness from Frenchie Bulldog Pet Supply. What brings out Lola's million-dollar smile? Belly rubs, healthy treats from local Smilin' Dog Bakery, and shopping sprees with her owner, Shannon Dye. "Whatever Lola wants, Lola gets," admits Dye.
On weekends, you'll find Lola enjoying surf and sand on dog-friendly beaches in nearby Fort Myers or poolside at resorts in South Florida. "She loves soaking up the sun, whether it's a playdate on the beach with her French bulldog friends or lounging in a chair," says Dye. To keep those sweltering days at the shore safe for Lola, Dye always packs a buggy with accessories like a cooling mat, fan, umbrella, and plenty of water to keep her pet hydrated.
Breed: Labrador retriever
Age: 9 months
Captain joined the Washington Capitals hockey team as their service dog in training for America's VetDogs at just 10 weeks old. "From the moment he arrived in team captain Alex Ovechkin's arms, he's captured the hearts of fans and players," says Megan Eichenberg of the Washington Capitals.
"Captain is confident, well-mannered, and spunky—the best personality traits for a future service dog," says Eichenberg. During his time on the hockey team, he'll learn basic obedience and socialization. He watches practices, hangs out in the front office, and attends games, where he greets fans and works on skills like standing in lines. After 14 to 16 months, the Labrador will return to the America's VetDogs campus and begin formal training to become a service dog for a veteran or first responder.
Off the Ice
He loves chasing his teammates around the locker room and chewing on stuffed-toy versions of rival teams' mascots.