Local Focus: Going to the Dogs–Local Canines and Their Human Companions

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Wilbur, a Malti-Poo, and his human, Duffy Evans
Wilbur, a Malti-Poo, and his human, Duffy Evans


Rudolf might have a red nose, but he’s got nothing on pink-nosed, pink-eyed Wilbur, a rescued one-year-old Malti-Poo who recently joined the family of Little Balboa residents Duffy Evans, and his 13-year-old son, Riley.

Because Wilbur is an albino pup, Duffy applies sunscreen to Wilbur’s pink-pigmented sniffer every time they go for a walk, up to five times a day.

Wilbur was adopted from a Los Angeles-rescue group called Eloise Rescue (Eloiserescue.org); he had been abandoned in coyote country in the Inland Empire.    “When I saw his picture, he spoke to me,” Duffy said.  His look said, “I need a daddy and a brother.”

Duffy said that Wilbur was “very timid, super shy and introverted” when they picked him up. However, for whatever reason, “he just loves girls.”

On their first 7 a.m. stroll, Wilbur avoided everybody and everything. By 7 p.m., he was doing what dogs should do: sniffing it all and reaching out to every two-legged and four-legged mammal that crossed his path. His innate friendliness just needed some loving guidance to express itself.

“This dog will be a member of our family; it will learn what it wants to learn, we won’t force tricks on him,” Duffy said. Fortunately for Duffy, Riley and their carpeting, Wilbur joined the family having mastered that most important trick of all: holding it ‘til he goes for his walks.

165-pound Gunner, a great dane, and human Jan Murray
165-pound Gunner, a great dane, and human Jan Murray


When Jan Murray takes 165-pound Gunner for his daily walk around Big Balboa Island, it’s like not taking a walk at all, Jan says.

What should take no more than 30 minutes at a relaxed pace inevitably requires a minimum of one hour – and it’s not because either of them gets tired. It’s because virtually everyone stops to pet the best-known Great Dane in Newport. And Gunner, of course, laps it up.

Now seven years old, and considered a “senior dog,” Gunner has been one of Jan’s best friends since he joined the family as a nine-week-old, 38-pound puppy. And from day one, he has been one of the friendliest dogs around town.

“He talks to everyone, he seems to know everybody,” Jan said. No matter who pets him or where along his black-and-white fuselage, “Gunnar never flinches,” Jan said.   Gunner has uncommon tolerance, even for kids who don’t quite know how to control their excitement or reflexes.

However, Gunner’s publicly calm, seemingly imperturbable demeanor shifts gears at home when he hears or smells something that doesn’t quite fit his programmed brain.

“I never have to set the alarm when Gunner’s home,” Jan said. “He has different barks when he doesn’t know who’s at the front door.”

He also communicates with his eyes: for instance, he’ll stare nonstop at the refrigerator until he’s fed – hopefully, some watermelon.

Because of his size, Jan shopped for a car that could accommodate both Gunner and her 93-year-old mom.  She purchased a Land Rover LR4, which hydraulically lowers for easier entry.

Jan didn’t say who rides “shotgun.”

Charlie and Finley, both pugs, and human Jen McGilloway
Charlie and Finley, both pugs, and human Jen McGilloway


It would be very safe to bet the farm that 11-year-old Charlie is America’s only pug named after an American Minister to Austria-Hungary, and later Ambassador to Russia prior to the outbreak of WWI.

Charlie is short for the elegantly-named Charlemagne Tower, Jr., (1848 – 1923), businessman, archeologist/scholar and diplomat, and the great, great uncle to Charlie’s owner, Jen McGilloway, 40, of CdM.

Doubtlessly through maturity, Charlie (a retired therapy dog at a Philadelphia children’s hospital) has the disposition of a cultured senior, unlike his perpetually effervescent, two-year-old buddy, Finley.

“Charlie is my calm Buddha, while Finley is my Tasmanian devil,” Jen explained.    “Finley is the outgoing one. People are always stopping him when we go to Fashion Island, so they can pet him.”

Venerable ol’ Charlie is happy just plopping down, and welcomes whatever human pays attention to him.”

They have two favorite (interestingly fruit-themed) venues that they like to visit in Fashion Island: Lulu Lemon (for no fathomable reason) and the Apple Store, where the always-cool tile floor encourages full-bodied, refreshing flops. When there, Jen says, Charlie and Finley seem to attract as much attention as do the latest I-phones.

Short pug legs coupled with Charlie’s advanced age mitigate the speed with which Jen likes to strut — she is a marathon runner, avid hiker and yoga aficionado — and the distance the dogs want to walk, so she has purchased a pet stroller for their Ocean Blvd. outings. The grass above the channel, with its canine-enticing scents, seems to be Charlie and Finley’s preferred daily destination.

Jen attributes Charlie and Finley’s silky soft fur to their raw food diet, as well as the extended remission from three bouts of cancer suffered by Charlie. Never the less, both dogs, she says, shed “a pug a week.”  But, really, what could be better preparation for that local run than marathon vacuuming up another pug?

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