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Pets: Four French divas

Bill Furman

Amid the change the comes with growing up in a military family, one of the consistencies of Bill Furman’s childhood in Ohio, North Carolina and Texas was the presence of pets, especially a macaw parrot that became a sort of family heirloom.

“I grew up with a macaw that belonged to my grandmother,” Furman recalls. “When my grandmother passed away, my mother took over it, and so I grew up with it all through middle school, high school, and then when I went to school I took the macaw with me. I’ve kind of always had a bird in my house.”

Furman and his partner, Rob Walter, started exploring purchasing a large bird four years ago and Walter quickly became enraptured. Along with getting birds of their own, Furman and Walter have worked with an Atlanta vet to serve as foster parents to half a dozen birds over the last year, nursing them back to health and finding homes or safe environments.

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Pets: The compassionate party animal

Arthur and Fire

Arthur Graves’ best friend sounds like a fairly typical gay party boy in Atlanta.

They marched together in last year’s Gay Pride parade alongside their Southern Bears brethren, and the best friend spent the day flashing his incredible blue eyes and broad smile, luring men close to him so he could sniff their crotch, then acting stand-offish when they would start paying more attention to Graves.

“He managed to last the whole day, and then he got home and he just pooped out for like 30 minutes, and then he was ready to go again,” Graves says of his best friend Fire, a nine-year-old huskie that Graves adopted from DeKalb County Animal Control five years ago.

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Pets: The power of unconditional love

Sure, many of us giggle at the misspelled “I can haz cheezburger” adventures of felines on websites like, or forward the viral videos of dogs playing when their parents aren’t home that seem ubiquitous on Facebook and YouTube.

But the unconditional love that pets are known for can be extra meaningful for people who go through life being judged. Few episodes illustrate this more clearly than the early days of the AIDS epidemic when cats, dogs and other pets took the place of the mothers, brothers and best friends in the lives of those dying from the disease.

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Pets: Pet-friendly restaurants

Dog treats from Taj Ma-Hound

They’re staring at you with those big sad eyes as if to say, “Please take me with you.” You’re heading out to dinner and you want to take them, but where? Luckily, Atlanta is filled with pet-friendly restaurants — well, mostly I mean dog friendly, but some cats like to go on trips also. The other day at Moe’s in Midtown I saw two gay guys bring their pet Lemur named Moxie – fierce.

One of my favorites is the groovy Universal Joint in Decatur, which has a great dog-friendly patio. If you go to their website you’ll even see a pooch on their patio. Take a stroll around Oakhurst Park and then head to U Joint for excellent pub fare. The warm convivial scene is urban which means no one cares if you’re gay or straight.

I love their take on eggrolls with spicy chicken and mango chutney, or if you’re feeling bad, get the scratch fries smothered in melted cheddar, bacon and jalapenos. The joint has superb specials and burgers, including a black bean version for vegetarians.

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Pets: Celebrating the circle of life

Christine Hunsaker and her partner, Kellie Rowker, with Myrtle, Suki & Big Red

It’s easy to assume that someone who works with death and bereavement every day would develop a numbness and clinical detachment toward the subject, but the same passion, the same pain, that caused Christine Hunsaker to create the Paws, Whiskers & Wags pet crematory in 2005 resonates within her today.

Devastated by the loss of her dog Cassie — and the lack of compassionate death-care available to pet owners — Hunsaker left her career in the human cremation industry to found a pet crematory to help other pet owners make it through the grieving process. That Paws, Whiskers & Wags has experienced double-digit growth each of the five years it’s been in business, in the face of the severe economic downturn, is a testament to how appreciative Atlanta pet owners are to have an opportunity to say good-bye to their animal loved ones in a tender, dignified way.

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Pets: ‘A love beyond our own’

Tristan Skye

As is the case with many blended families, it wasn’t easy for Tristan Skye to win over his girlfriend Sicily’s young one, a fiery teacup Chihuahua known as Cleo to friends, Cleopatra to admirers.

“We’ve kind of joked around about how she’s kind of like my stepdaughter,” Tristan Skye says. “It took a little bit of work because she didn’t take so well to me at first — she liked me, but she’d still be very territorial and very protective of my wife. But Sicily just said that it would take some time, and it did, and now we’re very close.”

The couple adopted a Pomeranian named Vinnie a year ago, who was supposed to be their last dog. However, after unsuccessful attempts to add a human baby to their family, an angel in the form of a five-week teacup Chihuahua appeared to help alleviate their disappointment.

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Pets: Piedmont Dog Park returns

Piedmont Park's new dog park

Area pet owners will soon be able to bring their beloved pooches back to Piedmont Park’s popular Dog Park. The park re-opens Aug. 12, complete with a grand opening ceremony.

The former Dog Park opened to the public back in 2002, but closed when the Piedmont Park Conservancy decided to upgrade it. According to Yvette Bowden, president and CEO of the Piedmont Park Conservancy, there has been much discussion since that time on how to expand the Dog Park location and make it as enjoyable as possible to everyone.

Bowden acknowledges that the Dog Park has long been one of the most frequented areas of Piedmont Park and that she, like many others, is looking forward to the opening.

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Pets: ‘Lick the tears off my face’

Paris and Lulu

In the summer of 2008, Paris Johnson’s friend urged him to get a puppy from a litter of Boxers, but Johnson didn’t believe he was ready to devote himself to a new pet just six months after burying his companion of 16 years, a dog named Jazz. However, just seeing a picture of the freckled-nose dog that looked like a miniature version of Snoopy changed his mind.

“It was a good transition to a new dog, but it was like a baby, getting up at god-awful hours to get her acclimated to her new surrounding,” Johnson says of his two-year-old Boxer, LuLu. “I had to get used to her yelping in the middle of the night and having to get up at 3 o’clock in the morning so she could pee, and all of that stuff was brand new.”

Johnson considers his dogs his children, and talks about them as such.

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Get lei’d at PALS Bingo

“Luau” is the theme for tonight’s Bingo, which raises funds to help people with HIV and other health concerns care for their pets