I train PTSD service dogs for military and first responders. Goose is my year-old black Lab. I originally got her from the shelter to train for a placement. She does everything perfectly. She can turn light switches on and off. Do anxiety alerts. But she has this tiny thread of shyness when it comes to yelling. Some of our veterans yell. So placing her as a PTSD service dog didn’t work out. I wound up keeping her and she’s now the official ‘spokesdog’ for Got Your Six support dogs. ‘Got Your Six’ is military slang for ‘got your back.’ The majority of support dogs we train are rescues.  Goose gets to go everywhere with me. Presentations. Movies. Restaurants. She’s happy because she’s never alone. And I’m happy because she’s just a great dog.

Nicole Lanahan, 36, of Collinsville



My dog Rodney is a Bassett-Lab mix. He’s really kind of weird looking. He’s got these stubby legs and a Lab head. He’s a complicated dog. He’s very selective in who he likes. But that’s OK. He’s attached to me. I can’t do anything wrong in his opinion. I used to volunteer at the Humane Society and Rodney had been adopted and returned more than once. Everyone said he was destructive when they were gone. I have two other dogs, so I thought having the other dogs for company would calm him down. He’s had no problems at all at my house. No destructive activity or separation anxiety whatsoever. The only problem is Rodney hates men. He’s finally gotten used to my husband, though. I told him, ‘He earns the money that puts the kibble in your bowl.’

Lorna Whisenhunt, 54, of Belleville

Willy & Figgy

I adopted my two cats Willy and Figgy (formerly Billy and Figero) because they were FIV positive. I felt so sorry for them. I thought nobody would adopt them because they’d think they were sick. They’re not really. They’re doing great. The vet said they could have a shorter lifespan but my daughter has had a cat that’s FIV positive for years. My two cats are darling. One’s cuter than the other. Figgy is the little one. He’s a brat – still half kitten. I can’t wait till he outgrows that. And Willy is just a lover, so sweet. The two of them follow me from room to room and sleep with me at night. Willy sleeps up toward my head and Figgy is down by my feet. They’re not there all night of course. They like to get up and romp around. There’s never a dull moment with those two.

Patricia Sullivan, 77, of Belleville

Boss – A Pit Bull


Boss is a pit bull-mastiff mix. He’s on the couch right now looking at me real strange because I’m eating a piece of pizza. Guess he wants it. He spent the day with me hanging out while I bartended at my bar the Double Deuce in Cahokia. All the customers know him there and the mailman brings him a dog biscuit every day when he drops off the mail. He’s just a great dog. My wife picked him out at the shelter as an anniversary present. He doesn’t get along well with other animals. But he loves people. He has no prejudiced bones in his body. Black. White. Purple. Polka dot. They’re all the same to him. He just doesn’t like dogs and cats. We don’t have any animals in our bar — just people — so that works out great.

Mike Olish, 66, of Cahokia

A Cat Named Cali


My cat was originally named Cali Wilson. I know some people change their pets’ names when they adopt them. But I kept the name Cali because my late husband’s name was Charlie. Take out a few letters from ‘Charlie’ and you get ‘Cali.’ I figure she’s my Godsend. She doesn’t like other people, though. She hisses and hides. But she and I get along fantastically. She sits in my lap for hours and touches my shoulders with her paws. She looks into my eyes and purrs. She follows me around the house and I love it. After my husband died, I needed someone to take care of. I needed a purpose. When I was looking at adoptable cats, the shelter employees thought Cali would be perfect for an older person without children – and they were right.

Cindy Walker, 64, New Athens