Feb. 20 became National Love Your Pet Day via the people who come up with an idea somewhere and throw darts at a huge, wall-size calendar to pick a random day for it. According to the various websites, you’re supposed to spoil your pet more than you usually do.

That’s an eye roll for everyone of the subjects, human and animal, in this article. One guy’s dog gets a birthday party complete with cake every year; another person’s dog goes to the movies with her, still another regularly cooks steak for his parrot.

The important thing to remember about loving a pet isn’t how much you shower them with rhinestone tiaras and tell them they’re princes and princesses but to provide for them and remember that they weren’t put on the planet for our pleasure. We’re their guardians. Do they show love in return? That’s one of the things I asked these human companions in Long Beach.

black cat faces camera with dark-haired human female lying upside down next to her
Jenna Lynn Schultz and Lucy. Photo courtesy of Jenna Lynn Schultz.

Jenna and her boyfriend, Brian, adopted Lucy from the Seal Beach Animal Care Center when Jenna’s old cat, Babylon, passed away. Lucy is presently recovering from Cryptococcus, a severe fungus infection, which she got when she accompanied Jenna into the backyard and sniffed at bird excrement or sumthin’ rotten.

Rather than euthanize the cat, Jenna and Brian decided that it was worth the struggle, both financially and timewise, to save her life. Why other than love would anyone nix the idea of putting an animal to sleep and opt instead to feed, medicate and hydrate her via an esophageal tube several times a day, apply a nebulizer treatment, take her to the vet once a week for intravenous treatments, and get a second job in order to help pay the vet bill, which totals thousands? (Note: There’s a GoFundMe for Lucy here if you want to help.)

“I don’t care if I have to work extra for Lucy because she’s worth it to me,” Schultz said.

Schultz said that she and her boyfriend have a strong emotional bond with Lucy. Lucy and Brian carry on a running conversation, and Lucy showers Schultz with play bites

“She bit my cheek last week—it was adorable,” Schultz said.

Older man in striped shirt with green parrot on shoulder and huge brown-and-white Newfoundland at his side
Dennis Anderson, Regina (aka Reggie) and Boomer. Photo by Kate Karp.

You haven’t really earned your Local Badge, at least in the Belmont Shore area, unless you’ve seen a shirtless Dennis Anderson stroll the streets or grab a taco with a huge Newfoundland dog at his side and a parrot usually on his shoulder. Boomer is Dennis’ third Newfie, but he’s had about 30 birds in the past—he has three presently.

In 2011, two of Dennis’s parrots were stolen from his porch in broad daylight while Dennis was walking his dog. The birds are family, and Dennis’ heart was broken. Today, no one’s outside unless Dennis is there as well.

Dennis cooks steak for both Boomer and the birds. Boomer gets plenty of exercise on his walks—several miles daily with Dennis and sometimes accompanied by Reggie traveling on Dennis’ shoulder. This tuckers Boomer out—he usurps the bed and allows his human to share it.

“I call him Lord Boomer—he runs the show,” Dennis said.

Reggie, a 47-year-old severe macaw, became part of the family a few years ago when Dennis accepted her from the neighbors. Reggie had been their son’s parrot, and when he went away to college, the parents didn’t want to put up with the noise. Dennis is fine with it—that’s what parrots do. Dennis makes sure that they walk off the steak by running around on his floor. They don’t use a litter box, but they demonstrate their affection for their person in a catlike way by sitting on his lap in the house and in the yard as well. And Regina loves it when Dennis rubs her tummy and tickles that forbidding beak.

White-haired woman about 80 rubs her brown tabby cat's belly. The cat is lying on a gray rug with a scene of the city out the window.
Ella Dean and Kitty. Photo by Kate Karp.

The prevailing wisdom about pets and senior citizens, particularly those living in independent- or assisted-living facilities, is that animals can alleviate loneliness and depression, help with socialization, get someone through the loss of a loved one, and reduce blood pressure and anxiety. Ella Dean lives in a cozy little unit in an independent-living facility with her cat, Kitty. Ella is no shut-in—she volunteers at her facility in several capacities and performs vocal numbers both solo and with other residents. A Kansas native, her life is storied enough to write a rich biography, but this chapter is about how she rescued Kitty and how Kitty enriches her own life.

Pets are allowed in the facility, and Ella thinks that’s a very good idea.

“You’ve got to have some creature to love—someone who’s glad to see you when you get home,” Ella said.

Several years ago, Ella and her husband, now deceased, had moved into another facility that allowed pets. Her husband was wheelchair bound, and because they could no longer travel, they decided that this was a good time to adopt a pet.

“I asked if someone nearby had a cat they no longer wanted,” Ella said. “Then, along comes this girl with a sack of dry cat food and a kitty.”

Some stories of rescue are terribly said, and others are eyebrow raising. This was the latter—the cat’s owner said that she got blood clots in her legs from the cat sitting on her lap.

The cat was already an older cat—Ella estimates that she was 12 when they adopted her and likely 13 when they moved to their present location. She thinks she’s about 16 now. As with people, senior cats have age-associated health issues, and Ella gets it and has no problem dealing with it. That’s part of love as well—Kitty has a few thyroid issues, which Ella and the vet is dealing with. Kitty also gets daily groomings with a brush glove, and loves the attention.

“I love it as much as Kitty does,” Ella said.

Kitty gets the requisite food and playthings, but the most important thing Ella feels that she’s done for her is to have taken Kitty out of a situation where she wasn’t wanted. Even if Ella doesn’t know whether Kitty appreciates the love, it’s obvious that she’s one of the most contented, happy, friendly cats you can find. And any time a cat presents you with their belly, it’s a compliment to you.

three women, two holding small brown dogs, standing at a railing overlooking a marina filled with boats on a beautiful, cloudy day
Carol Rohr and Ellie (center), flanked by friends Nancy Strakowski, holding Charlie, and Gloria Breault. Photo by Kate Karp.

Carol Rohr lives on a boat in Alamitos Bay. When she decided she wanted a dog, she decided not to get her sea legs as a puppy mama but to adopt an adult dog.

“I actually met Charlie and decided that he was such a cool dog that I wanted one similar,” Carol said.

Carol found Ellie at Adopt and Shop in the Lakewood Center Mall. The store houses animals pulled from local shelters and offers them for adoption in a pet-store-type atmosphere. Ellie was 6 years old, and after watching her socialize with the other dogs and walking her around, Carol found her perfect.

Carol makes sure that Ellie is fed properly with organic grain-free food and treats. She monitors her meals and makes sure that she gets plenty of exercise. Ellie’s also by her side constantly—she’s been registered as a service dog and goes to the movies, where she sits in Carol’s lap and makes not a yip.

She loves life on a boat and according to Carol is a life preserver.

“I spoil her—I don’t know whether I saved her or she saved me,” Carol said, paraphrasing an oft-stuck bumper sticker.

There are a whole lot of quotes coupling cats and books and also cats and bookstores. Sadly, there aren’t that many bookstores anymore. Acres of Books did have a cat named Penny, but they’ve been lost to us for years. Happily, Long Beach still has a viable independent bookstore, called Gatsby, and even more happily, there’s a cat inside. Her name’s Ruby.

Ruby is actually a career bookstore cat. About 15 years ago, she insinuated herself into a now-defunct new/used bookstore on Lakewood and Carson when she was an upstart kitten. Sean Moor, Gatsby’s owner, agreed to take Ruby in as a package deal when he opened Gatsby eight years ago, and she’s been the resident bibliofeline there ever since.

Sean estimates Ruby’s age as 15. He shows her love by giving her plenty of food, lots of rest (which she’d likely take anyway), and her own litter box in the employee restroom.

There’s no shortage of love from either Sean or his clients, many of whom just come in to see Ruby.

“Kids on their way to high school come in, plop down their backpacks, and talk to her,” Sean said. Hope they buy books, too.

Sean said that he acknowledges Ruby every time he passes her by, which goes a long way, he said, whether it’s cats or people. Ruby, being a cat, has her own idea about returning love.

“She can be finicky—she rolls over for some or gives them the stink-eye,” he said.

A bookstore is a fine place for a cat, and Gatsby is a books-only bookstore. No e-books here, and no kindle of kittens, either. Ruby’s the sole cat, and that’s how it’s going to be.

Woman with dark hair in green jacket and a black T-shirt with the logo "What am I, chopped liver?" stands next to her helper dog, a black lab in a red jacket. Another person stands next to her; you can only see an arm.
Marcia Harris and Laurene. Photo by Kate Karp.

Can a working dog be considered a pet? Local author and teacher Marcia Harris has had a few of them, but Laurene is special. Marcia, whom you may have seen portraying Fanny Bixby Spencer at the annual Historical Cemetery Tour at Sunnyside Cemetery, has diabetes and has severe vision problems. Laurene is her latest medical-alert dog and is a graduate of Early-Alert Canines, in Concord, California, and Marcia said that she saved her life the first night she had her.

“I went to sleep at 11 at the hotel in Concord, and Laurene was with me,” she said. “At 2 a.m. she was on top of the bed and on top of me. She sensed myblood-sugar level. I wouldn’t be here now talking to you if she hadn’t.”

Marcia said that Laurene has saved her life several times since, but that’s her job. However, there’s something special about Laurene that has touched Marcia.

“She stares with concerned, caring eyes—she gives me a paw, and if I don’t respond, she licks my face,” Marcia said. “And when she’s off her jacket, she’s my pal. She walks me to my book-club meeting and we do everything in the community together.”

The affection between the two can’t be divided into what Marcia does for Laurene and how Laurene gives it back to Marcia. It’s a continuous flow. Marcia said that Laurene’s only “problem” is that she doesn’t have an off-button. When she gets excited, Laurene gets excited. They work it all off by dancing together.

“We have more of a relationship than any dog I’ve ever raised,” Marcia said. “I can’t remember saying ‘I love you’ to any other dog.”

Woman wearing glasses and with dark hair, beige jacket and halter top stands in a grassy area with her black lab in front of her. Trees flank her.
Laura Gutierrez and Frida. Photo by Kate Karp.

Socializing your pet with other dogs, as long as your dog is friendly enough, is one way to love them. Long Beach houses 10 dog parks, including one dog beach; I met Laura Gutierrez in one of them, watching her boisterous black lab, Frida, bump butts and frolic with the other canines. Laura said that she brings Frida to the park quite a bit because they both enjoy it. She also takes her for walks—exercise is important.

Frida’s just a year old and still is at the puppy stage, but she’s current on all her vaccines. That’s important in itself, but if your dog’s a social pup, as Frida is, a curious nose is subject to picking up a bug. You don’t know if the other dogs are thus protected.

I didn’t bother asking how Frida shows her love—it was right there. Laura was home base for Frida every time she wanted to tell her about a new friend or just find her person to make sure she was still there.

Young man sits with a Chihuahua on lap near a sea barrier. Water and oil islands in background. Man is wearing a cap and jacket and is smiling broadly, hugging his dog.
Dharrel Kabiling and Coconut. Photo courtesy of Dharrel Kabiling.

Dharrel Kabiling has dealt with plenty—homelessness, the death of his beloved mother, getting back on his feet. You need a friend for all that, and he has one: a Chihuahua mix named Coconut.

Coconut, a regular at Beacon for Him Ministries where her human helps out to give back, joined up with Dharrel when she was a puppy. He’d gotten her from his cousin. She’s been fixed and vaccinated because “I don’t want her to catch any bad diseases—and no puppies! She’s my baby!”

Coconut enjoys outings with Dharrel, especially to the dog beach. Dharrel said that she’s a snuggler and always wants to be by his side. They have a place to stay now, and I asked Dharrel if he worried about losing it.

“Oh, no,” he said. “She’ll be fine.”

He added that he will be as well, but notice who came first.

Young woman wearing glasses with black frames and a black sweater lies on the bed holding a rabbit with brown, dark brown and white patches.
Kieara Carroll, Jelly and Darius. Photo courtesy of Kieara Carroll

Is that a picture or what? Kieara Carroll, pictured here with a flopped-out Jelly, actually has two rabbits. She and her boyfriend, Ryan, have a completely rabbit-proofed apartment—no wires for them to chew up—with pens for the bunnies, litter boxes for their leavings, and a protected bunny patio outside.

Darius, named for Kieara’s boss, was their first rabbit. Kieara and Ryan adopted Jelly when they learned that to be completely happy, most rabbits need a bunny buddy, preferably of the opposite sex. (And spayed/neutered, of course—I don’t know how the gender makes a difference, but hey.) They obtained Jelly from a rescue.

“The bunnies show their love with lots of head nudges to be pet and flopping next to us in the couch,” Kieara said. “Jelly loves to follow me around the house as I am doing things—she’s like a little shadow.

They’re one big hoppy family.

I asked the Post staff if any one of them would like their pet feature, and the fur flew, along with a few scales, on the thread replies. Three of them railed with “Mine’s unique!” “Mine’s cuter!” “Mine inhaled his entire birthday cake and didn’t whoops it up on the carpet!” So I posted them all.

Small cat with pink nose and tabby patches on a white coat curls up on a bed.
Valerie Osier and Jones. Photo courtesy of Valerie Osier.

Valerie takes great videos and says she “reports stuff.” She has a little tabby-patched cat named Jones, whose former owners committed one of the several sins of lousy pet ownership when they dumped him at the apartment complex where they used to live.

“I would always stop and pet him, and he would follow me when I would go do my laundry,” Valerie said. “He started trying to run into our apartment when we left the front door open. We decided we were going to TNR him at the very least. We let him in, gave him flea treatment, got him fixed and his shots. We just ended up failing at the ‘Release’ part.”

Valerie thinks that Jones is about 2 or 3. He got his name from her sister-in-law, who was talking about a band with the word Jones in it when the cat ran up. The name stuck like the proverbial dryer sheet. Valerie and her husband do spoil Jones—they feed him well, coax him into backflips with wand toys, rub his chin and scratch him behind the ears, and cuddle him whether he wants to or doesn’t. Valerie said that he’s the most curious cat she’s ever met—he opens closet doors because he feels like it and performs gravity-defying leaps to startle the crows on the skylight.

Love reigns at the Osier household, except where the dog’s concerned.

“He’s a jerk to the dog and will hide behind the counter and pop out just to scare her,” Valerie said.

Two feet in blue socks with pit bull dog photos all over it next to the same brown pit bull in a head shot
Mango, next to Jason Ruiz’ feets wearing his Mango-print socks. If that ain’t love… Photo courtesy of Jason Ruiz

Jason Ruiz has the enviable job of attending City Council meetings and engaging with locally sourced political issues. He and his fiancée, Kristina, deserve a good dog. They have one—her name’s Mango. She deserves them, too.

Mango struck Jason’s fancy on the Long Beach shelter’s adoptable dogs page. She was 11 months old and looked like a pure pittie to him.

“Because we had just bought a house, we finally had the space to have an animal,” Jason said.

Ah, Jasons of the universe, where art thou? We need you in great numbers.

Mango wasn’t her original name, but Jason decided to choose it as her name when he remembered a trip to Cuba a few years back and the locals calling Kristina “mango,” which is slang for “hot” or “sexy.”

“Kristina did protest that she didn’t want a sexy dog, but she was too beautiful and sweet not to be a Mango [Note: Jason may be referring to both fiancée and dog, of course],” Jason said. “Besides, I’ve always felt that dogs should have two-syllable names for conciseness.” [Another note: This is what it’s like working with reporters.]

Jason agrees that you don’t need a special calendar day to love your pet—they show it every day. If they know that they’ll be home after dark, they leave the light on for her and make sure that jazz, instrumental hip-hop or some other type of soothing music is playing so she’s not sitting in a silent house all day. She gets birthday celebrations, she gets patties with no salt from In-N-Out every time they go there, she has a bed in every room, is the “sole beneficiary of the AC during the summer,” and has a wardrobe of stylish bandanas

Young woman wearning black-framed glasses with dark hair pulled back cuddles a reddish-brown bearded dragon on her light-gray nubby sweater.
Stephanie and Austin. Photo courtesy of Stephanie Rivera.

Stephanie writes about Long Beach proper, improper and everything in between. Austin is her lucky little lizard whom she adopted from a friend who went away to college and could no longer care for him.

“Never having had a reptile before, I learned from my boyfriend how to show love,” said Stephanie, whose partner has had experience with bearded dragons. “We gently pet Austin’s sides and top of his head. We most definitely cuddle! It helps that he loves—and has to be in—warm spots, so he enjoys resting on my chest or snuggling right next to me if I’m lying down.”

Stephanie said that she’s seen a lot of “beardie” Instagrams popping up, so she feels that they’re at least trending. She’s seen them on leashes as well—she likes to “walk” Austin in a pouch on her jacket.

Does Austin return the affection?

“I’d like to think the affection is mutual, especially when I have him resting on my chest or shoulders and he snuggles near my ears,” she said. “At first I’d think he was going for my neck to bite, but I’ve stopped flinching now! He just wants someone or something warm to sleep next to!”