Making a Fashion Statement
Local rescue pets and their owners dress for the season and share their adoption stories.
Written by Leslie Criss | Styled by Jennie Lee | Photographed by Joe Worthem
Some people adopt pets through established rescue organizations like Oxford Animal Resource Center or Tupelo Lee Humane Society. Others just fortuitously cross paths with stray animals and have the heart to take them in. No matter their backstories, these much-loved pets, each of which was rescued by a big-hearted human, are proof that saving an animal is always in fashion.
Ruby Walkington, an 11-year-old, sixth grader at Regents School of Oxford, has a pet named Midnight, a brown-eyed bunny that is solid black, except for about three white hairs on her back. Two years ago, Ruby’s friend Delaney had what she thought were two female bunnies in the same cage. Turns out, one was a male, so Ruby took the female.
“I trained her to use a litter box like a cat,” she said. “And now, she’s a free roaming bunny.”
Midnight knows her name, and she also will do a little dance if a treat is held up in front of her. Though she’s mostly a house bunny, she enjoys time outside where her best friend Ruby puts her in a stroller and pushes her up and down the street.
“They make bunny leashes, but Midnight doesn’t like those,” Ruby said.
Eagle River Yukon, a 9-year-old Appaloosa, has lived at North Grove Equestrian Park for five years.
“Yukon came to us not saddle broken,” his owner Hayden Edwards said. “We sent him off for a month of training and have been continuing training here in dressage, show jumping and cross country.”
Appaloosas are noted for their unique coloring and personality.
“They are very much a horse you have to have a conversation with,” Hayden said. “They see the world differently. Yukon has helped teach me to have more patience, empathy and learn what boundaries are.”
Yukon was not found in a rescue situation, but in the horse industry (including in Mississippi), there are many rescue and rehabilitation organizations.
“Owning a horse is quite expensive,” Hayden said. “Fortunately, there are programs that allow people to get to know about horses before getting in over their heads.”
A year ago, David Misenhelter, owner of North Grove Equestrian Park in Oxford, offered his barn to a feral cat who is now quite at home.
“Some riders found this wild cat,” he said. “They caught it, fed it and taught it they meant no harm. They already had a cat in their barn, but I’d never had one, so they brought it over.”
Named Gimli (think “Lord of the Rings”) for his orange fur, the cat is now friends with all the horses and dogs, and never misses an opportunity to visit anyone around the barn.
“He has free run of the place,” David said. “He likes to ride in the car and on the Gator. He follows everyone around while they do chores. You can pick him up and carry him around. For starting off feral, he’s awfully friendly.”
One Sunday morning two years ago, Kris Wells of Tupelo received a call from her daughter McKenzie in Savannah, Georgia.
“She wanted to see if I wanted to help with a dog rescue in north Mississippi,” Kris said. “There were a ton of starving dogs, lots of Great Danes, both outside and inside a home.”
Save Rocky the Great Dane Rescue and Rehab became involved, and there were enough people helping that morning for the Great Danes to be taken into foster situations. It’s where Kris met Ellie.
“Ellie attached herself to my side early that morning and never left it,” she said. “She weighed less than 100 pounds that day; today she’s up to 150 pounds.”
In addition to being malnourished, Ellie was treated for a badly infected mammary gland, heartworms and lost an eye to glaucoma. Today, she’s thriving in the care of the Wells family and sister Sadie, another Great Dane. Kris loves the breed.
“They are fiercely protective,” Kris said. “They are such good-natured dogs, just big, old goofballs.”
When 15-year-old Isaiah Barbour was 8, his grandmother decided to get him a dog for Valentine’s Day. Grandmother, mother and young Isaiah, all from Tupelo, visited the Oxford Lafayette Humane Society.
Isaiah met a dog who was quite excited and a bit nervous. He and his mom walked off to look at other pups, but returned when his grandma said that dog cried when Isaiah walked away.
“When I heard that, I knew she was the one,” Isaiah said. “Dogs choose you.”
And so, Alice Valentine Barbour — her nose looks like a heart — went home to Tupelo that very day. Now, she’s nearly 8. She and her boy have been through a lot together, including an injury that left Alice paralyzed.
“Isaiah truly nursed her back to health,” said mom Taneill Barbour.
Alice gets excited when Isaiah gets home from school and to share a pepperoni snack.
“Most of the time, she just lays out and wants to be loved,” Isaiah said.
Special thanks to Neilson’s, The Only and College Corner for providing some of the accessories worn here, and to North Grove Equestrian Park for providing the beautiful location for these photos.