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County Commissioner John Fritchey shares a pretend cigar with Smudge./photo courtesy Karen Morgan 0

Secret life of Chicago pet owners revealed

January 3rd, 2017

A new coffee-table book reveals the secret lives of Chicago pet owners.

“The Chicago Pet Project” features portraits of notable names and love letters they’ve written to their feline and canine friends.

Terry Duffy, chairman and CEO of CME Group, is photographed in his office with his two Italian greyhounds, Mia and Koko, sitting on his lap. “Our family wouldn’t be complete without you,” he writes to the dogs. The photograph also reveals his love for sports memorabilia.

Cook County Commissioner John Fritchey’s letter to Smudge, a Shar-Pei, reads as if the two met on a dating app. “I scrolled upon your picture posted on Facebook,” he writes. “I immediately set up a time to come see you.”

In the photo of Alderman Scott Waguespack and his pit bull Kai, it’s the alderman who’s planting a big wet one on his dog.

Stephanie Neely, a vice president at Allstate Insurance, wrestles her 4-year-old rottweiler Zeke on her couch and reveals she’s got high expectations for him to compete as a show dog. She also competes as a horsewoman.

Circuit Court Judge Richard Posner stays focused on the issue of pet care in his letter to Pixie. He calls the Maine coon cat “an ambassador of peace among species.”

A few pets passed on to pet heaven since the book went to press, including auctioneer Leslie Hindman’s beloved Bengal cat, Bob. She’s got other pets, too, so the letter is still worth sharing as it describes Hindman as much as it does her late cat.

“You’ve broken my Tang pottery lady–and she was so lovely. You think the leg of my favorite Louis XVI chair is a scratching post. You’ve attempted repeatedly to scale my 17th century Belgian Tapestry,” she writes. “You’ve stood on the head of my marble bust of Julius Caesar during dinner parties. I forgive you. I’d be bored to tears without you.”

Like their pets, these animal lovers come from all walks of life.

Musicians Mike Retondo of Plain White T’s and Carl Giammarese of the Buckinghams both have terriers. I wonder what that means.

Andrea Zopp, a deputy mayor to Rahm Emanuel, is mom to two cats and two dogs.

Actresses Regina Taylor and Barbara Robertson, comedienne Nora Dunn and Black Ensemble Theater Founder Jackie Taylor sing the praises of how pets ground their lives.

Chefs and restaurateurs have no qualms about animals in the kitchens. Among those featured are Brad Young, Paul and Jennifer Virant, Mindy Segal, Gale Gand and Karyn Calabrese.

And more radio and TV folks exchange saliva with their pets than I care to count. Retired magazine editor Sherren Leigh is photographed hugging her cats, Rumble and Bumble, who, like so many pets, sleep in the master bedroom.

Folks in the pet and animal industries are featured, too, including Paula Fasseas, who founded Paws Chicago. She’s featured with Pippen, the late “spunky terrier” she found years ago during a trip to Greece. The dog inspired her daughter, Alexis, to do community service at a local humane society. And that led to the family starting Paws, a no-kill animal shelter.

The Puppy Mill Project produced the book and profits from it are going to Millie’s Mission, a fund that pays for veterinary costs of dogs rescued from puppy mills that often house dogs in overcrowded and unsanitary conditions.


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