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People and their pets
Across the Carolinas gays and lesbians share their stories of the pets they’ve come to love.

by Donald Miller
Brandy Knochel and her partner Brandy Moore make their home in Charlotte’s Piney Grove neighborhood in a three-bedroom, 1,400 square-foot home.
They share the home with a virtual zoo.

“There are seven animals in all,” says Knochel.

In this vast menagerie there’s a potbellied pig named Maggie; two dogs — a German Shepherd-Rottweiller mix known as Cassie and a Mountain Fesist that goes by the name Olivia; three cats of no particular breed known collectively as Oreo, Phishcat and Foose; and the most recent acquisition, an as of yet unnamed black dwarf bunny.

Another member of the Knochel-Moore private zoo, a standard Peking Duck, met with an unfortunate accident and has since passed away.

“I loved that duck so much,” says Knoechel. “She was awesome and so friendly. She wanted to be near you all the time and she even liked for you to pet her. She had quite the personality and was even potty trained!

“She liked to swim in the pool and sometimes she’d even play with the other animals.”
At first, Knoechel and Moore thought the duck was male, so they named her “Mister Kwackers.”

“When he started laying eggs that was when we realized he was a she so we just started calling her ‘Duckie’ after that.”

As one might suspect, the pot-bellied pig is the star of the show.

“Maggie started out so tiny,” Knoechel recalls. Now she’s anout forty pounds and she’ll eventually get to be about 200 pounds.

“She’s quite the pampered diva around here. We like to buy her little dresses to wear, but we always have to put velcro around the neck because her head is so big.”

Unlike the other animals around the house, Maggie seems to have some command of the English language.

“It’s really funny, actually,” says Knoechel. “I built her a ramp so she could go outside to use the bathroom, because she couldn’t walk down the stairs. Sometimes she wants to eat later in the evening, but I always want her to go outside and do her business before she eats and I think she gets mad at me. You can hear her going down the ramp making this noise that sounds like ‘mah-mah’ over and over. It sounds like she’s saying ‘mama,’ but I actually think it’s her version of cussing me out cause she didn’t get what she wanted.”

Despite the vast size of their animal collection, they say it doesn’t take a huge bite of their living budget.

“You’d be surprised,” says Knoechel. “We buy everybody’s food in these giant bulk bags, so it only costs about $50 a month to feed them all.

Greensboro residents Frank Brooks and Brad Newton are the proud parents of a golden retriever named Cooper, a black lab named Zeus and two wonderful cats — Stella and Figaro. “Our cats came with the purchase of our house,” Newton explains. “The owners were moving to Buffalo in the winter and insisted that the cats stay with the house and yard that they already knew, so we welcomed them into the fold.

Newton and Brooks met 10 years ago at a mutual friend’s party. At the onset of their relationship, they each brought with them two pets they had maintained as single men for a few years.

“Frank had two dogs,” says Newton. “Winston, a Golden Retriever and a black lab named Tate. I had two cats — Spike and Slim.”

The pets the two men brought with them into the relationship have since passed on — but their love of animals drove the two to seek out other animal companionship in the form of Cooper, Zeus, Stella and Figaro.

“Amazingly they all get along pretty good,” says Newton. “Occasionally one of the cats will take a swipe at a dog if they get too close, but sometimes they all just lay around together.

Like most Labradors, Zeus is obsessed with playing ball. Cooper, the retriever, is less inclined for such activities. “Cooper is shy and skittish,” Newton explains. “He’s outgoing at times and loving, but freaked out in social situations.”

Dinnertime for the cats around the Brooks-Newton household might give other cat owners cause for alarm.

“It’s very odd,” Newton professes.

“When they’re hungry they don’t just meow, they scream at you. They just start screaming and screaming, even after you’ve put the food down for them. They don’t stop until you pick them up and put them down directly in front of the food.”

Eric Hinson and John Johnson are owners of Greensboro’s Biltmore Hotel. The couple renovated the basement of the hotel a few years back and make their home there, along with two male Basset hounds named Cleveland and Theodore.

“We’ve had Cleveland since he was born, and Theodore since he was about six months old,” Hinson recalls. They have there own room in our apartment where they stay during the daytime or when we’re not at home — but when we’re around they’re allowed to go wherever they want.”

The two dogs are now four years old. Cleveland came from a pet store and Theodore came from a Bassett rescue service.

“They’ve really bonded,” says Hinson. “They’re absolute best friends and can’t stand to be away from each other. When we take them to the groomers they have to keep them in the same room or they’ll both start howling like crazy.”

Because the dogs spent most of their early formative months living in downtown and only walking on floors, sidewalks and the street, the two were initially afraid of grass in their first forays to a nearby park.

“They were truly city dogs,” Hinson explains. They had never been around grass. They were scared of it. They’d sniff at it and look at it, but it took about three months before they would walk on grass.”

When it comes to playtime, Bassett hounds aren’t much for human interaction.
“They want to be with you and cuddle, but they don’t want to play with you,” Hinson chuckles. “Their favorite toy is a plastic bottle they like to chew on and throw up in the air. They don’t like to play fetch and if I try to get them to, they just look at me and want to know why I threw whatever it was I threw. They do like to wrestle and play with each other, though, and they’re always very friendly and affectionate with all the guests. It’s great because they let all the guesst who have dogs know they’re welcome at the Biltmore.”

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