Pets In Paradise

We teamed up with Born Free Pet Shelter to introduce you to a few Key Biscayners who have opened their homes and hearts to animals in need. The furry rescues they have added to their families have changed their lives forever — one cute quirk, one lovable lick, one adorable tail wag at a time.
Words by Jorge Arauz | Production by Isa Zapata | Photography by Josue Acosta | February 28, 2020 | Lifestyle

Lucky Pup 

When a family friend of the Barrantes Tarafa clan was blessed with a litter of 5 puppies and was considering giving them up to a shelter, the first call they made was to Nicolle Barrantes. “My family ended up finding loving homes for all of them, including the one we kept for ourselves!” Today, that cheeky Chihuahua Mix named Cruz loves to show off that he knows everyone at the local dog park. “It’s adorable,” says Nicolle. Cruz is also extremely loving and playful. “He loves to destroy stuffed animals,” says Nicolle’s father, Alberto Tarafa. “Whenever we buy him a new toy, we start finding the stuffing in different areas of the house — he will literally walk around with the toy in his mouth to show his progress!” But chewing cute peluches isn’t his only hobby. “When he got his first bed, little by little, he sucked and chewed on it…by the end of the day, the bed had holes all over it and we had to buy him a new one — and 10 more after that!”

Living His Best Life 

Lucia Bassi’s feisty 9–year-old Rat Terrier Mix, Butsh, is an inspiration day in and day out. He, along with his Chihuahua Terrier Mix siblings, Wally and Sweetie, have their fair share of adventures in and around Key Biscayne. Adopted from Born Free Pet Shelter, Butsh lost both of his eyes and spent many years in shelters before Lucia came along to save his life. “At first, he was a little bit rough around the edges, but with some patience and lots of love, he has become part of our family,” she says. Among his favorite activities, Butsh likes going to the beach. “Even though he can’t see, he loves to chase the waves,” she says. “All pets deserve a loving family and Butsh is now one of my babies! I can’t imagine life without him!”  

Sibling Revelry

There’s a prince, princess and queen at the Gell-Levey household in Key Biscayne and their names are Josh, Eta and Cindy, respectively. Arthur & Rocio say their lovable trio of pups enjoys strolls around the lake, often accompanied by Nana, who has been with the family for longer than the dogs have been alive, almost 20 years. “Each of our pups has a unique talent — Josh likes to dress up in the winter; Eta loves to snuggle and Cindy enjoys picking up coconuts and alerting you when the phone is ringing,” says Rocio. “Josh is an alpha male who likes to play with Eta and steal her toys — but he can’t boss Cindy around…she’s the boss!” What’s more, the dogs accompany the family everywhere they go between their home in Key Biscayne and The Berkshires up north. “When you adopt a rescue, you don’t know what you’re going to get — but with a lot of love and affection, they will bring more happiness and joy to your life than you could have ever imagined!”

They Love Lucy

Whenever The Striflings — Warren, Caro, Sarah and Nick — leave their house and return, their rescue dog, Lucy, welcomes them with quite the show! “She makes really funny noises that sound almost like a bird chirping, and she shakes her back hips — Caro says like Shakira,” says Warren. For Warren’s birthday a few years ago, Caro organized a trip to a dog-friendly destination so Lucy could tag along. “The birthday weekend quickly turned into a celebration for Lucy who had the time of her life,” she says. “We have a large-framed picture of her from that weekend digging excitedly in the bed sheets!” The Striflings say they can’t imagine life without Lucy. “The experience of going to a shelter and rescuing an animal creates an unbelievable bond,” they say. “Lucy has proven to us that an adopted, mix breed dog can be the perfect pet for a family with kids because they respond to affection and attention, and what you receive from them in terms of complete loyalty, protection, happiness and love far outweighs any costs or efforts associated with caring for them!” 

What’s In A Name? 

Chris Mack and her family always name their dogs according to how or when they came to them. That’s why when they rescued their Wheaten Terrier-Schnauzer-Lab Mix from Friends Forever Pet Rescue on Labor Day, they named her Holiday. Similarly, her brother, August, a Shihtzu-Australian Shepherd-Pomeranian-Cairn-Terrier Mix was adopted from Paws 4 You in the month he was named after. Previous rescues were named Beach, Street, Friday and Sunday. “Holiday is my Velcro dog — she’s always next to me and watches over me at all times, while August is affectionate and the man of the house. He watches the front yard from a bench by the window and faithfully patrols the backyard by walking the periphery of the property several times a day!” But that’s not their only quirks. “When we’re getting ready to go on a walk, Holiday repeatedly vocalizes a phrase that sounds exactly like ‘Hurry up!’, and August has a strange ability to look into people’s eyes and maintain incredible eye contact. It feels like he is looking into your soul!”

A Girl’s Best Friend

Valeria Stecchi and her parents, Maria Patricia Somarriba and Diego Stecchi, love their Terrier Mix rescue Mela Zoey, or Memi, as they affectionately call her. “Mela’s original name in the Miami-Dade Animal Shelter in Doral was Mella with two l’s, but since Mela means apple in Italian and we are Italian, we decided to drop one of the l’s when we adopted her,” they say. “Mela is super sweet, super patient, and she loves to cuddle — she can always make you laugh or make you feel better when you’re having a bad day.” One time, Mela had the family in hysterics when she took part in a photoshoot for a school project. “We have photos of her dressed up for different activities such as sunbathing and yoga,” they say. “She has been such a blessing to our family and adopting her has been one of the best decisions we’ve ever made!”