Happy Holidays From Our (Furry & Feathered) Families to Yours: Celebrating with McGrory Pets

A strong theme for us, especially this past year, is family—and not just because we’ve been a family owned and operated company for the last 36 years when John and Mary McGrory first opened our doors. Today, the second generation of McGrorys (seven siblings!) are at the helm of our growing company.

We all know that ”family” comes in lots of forms: biological, blended, extended, roommates, friends, work, online, and of course, our animal friends.

This holiday season, we asked some of our employees to share the heartwarming stories—and photos to make you, smile, laugh, and melt—of how their pets joined their families, both during the pandemic and before. Enjoy!

MEET AIYA
KELSEY NORK, Senior Project Manager

McGrory Pets Kelsey

This adorable 8-year-old boxer is named after a “Game of Thrones” character. Her special tricks? She loves giving high-fives, sits nicely for treats, and gets excited when anyone walks through the door. Aiya joined Kelsey’s family back in 2012 as a puppy after Kelsey’s first dog, Shadow, passed away.

McGrory Pets Kelsey

“Aiya was the perfect addition for us back then,” Kelsey says. “And this past year, long walks have become a regular ‘thing’ to get out of the house. Our family is so lucky to have her great company during this pandemic.”

MEET STORMY
BRIAN DEMKO, Regional Sales Manager

McGrory Pets Brian

Brian and charming chocolate lab Stormy met on September 14, 2015, a day Brian remembers like it was yesterday. McGrory Vice President Tim Matthews and Brian were playing in a charity golf tournament in Annapolis, MD, that day.

As they made their way through the course, they came to a hole sponsored by Lab Rescue of Northern Virginia. “That’s where I met Stormy and instantly fell in love,” Brian says. “I lost Charna, my dog of 18 years, in 2013, and getting a replacement was the furthest thing from my mind.”

McGrory Pets Brian

Brian brought Stormy home to meet her new family the next day. One of Stormy’s claims to fame? She dresses up for all of the family’s holiday parties, like a pirate for Halloween and a cute elf for Christmas.

MEET HUNTER
EMILY CLAYTON, HR Coordinator, Production, Planning & Procurement

McGrory Pets Emily

Emily affectionately refers to Hunter, her beagle-basset hound mix, as her “bagle hound.” Back in 2012, Emily and her then-boyfriend, now-husband went to the Gloucester County Animal Shelter to see another beagle who was already adopted before they arrived.

Luckily for them, Hunter was separated from the other dogs because he had a case of kennel cough. “That doggy cold worked out for us though, because we put Hunter on hold before anyone else could see him,” Emily says. “And once we saw him, it was love! 

While Emily worked at home earlier in the year due to the pandemic, she thinks that actually upset Hunter’s usual routine. “My husband works a night shift while I work days,” she says. “Hunter usually sleeps all night with me, wakes up for a bit when I get ready for work, and then sleeps all day. Being home most definitely threw a wrench in his sleeping plans!”

McGrory Pets Emily

Hunter has also been the best “doggy big brother” since Emily’s son Zachary was born last year. “Zach can be a rambunctious toddler, but Hunter just takes it in stride,” she says. “I think Hunter puts up with it because he knows Zach will share his food!”

MEET NOLI
DANIELA RAMPA, Regional Sales Manager

McGrory Pets Daniela

For years, Daniela wanted to adopt a Golden Retriever puppy—and 2020 was the year she and her boyfriend brought 8-week-old Noli (short for Cannoli) home at the end of June. Daniela’s family dog had passed away while she was in college, and she knew she wanted to adopt a new friend at the right time. Fast forward to 2020: “My boyfriend and I planned to bring home a dog this year, regardless of the pandemic,” she says.

Daniela decided to adopt from a reputable source, and after months of extensive research, she found her match. “Cannoli was one of seven puppies in her litter,” she says. “The day we went to meet the puppies, Noli came right over to us, curled up in my lap, and fell asleep,” she says. “Ironically, later we were told that she was the ‘spunky one’—and that adjective still fits her well.”

McGrory Pets Daniela

Noli, who has her own Instagram account, is a very vocal dog who’ll have a full conversation with you. “Although she sleeps 80% of the work day, I still need to hide Noli’s squeaky toys before a Zoom call just in case,” Daniela says. “Noli has made this time easier to deal with, since she always makes me laugh no matter what kind of day I’ve had. She’s been my best friend from day one.”

MEET MARLEY
JESSICA GULNICK, Marketing Intern

McGrory Pets Jess G

Jessica and her partner Ralph first met cuddly guinea pig Marley in May 2019, when their friend asked them to watch his two male pigs while he traveled. “We were apprehensive since we already had three female pigs, but we did it anyway!” she says. Since the pigs arrived at Jessica’s house in poor health due to neglect, she and Ralph kept them. “We’ve had our boys ever since,” she says.

The pair adopted another friend named Calvin in summer 2019, bringing their pig family to six members. Unfortunately, Marley’s brother, Mr. Shneuffers, sadly passed away in June 2020 due to health problems. “We’re glad Marley had Calvin to lift his spirits,” Jessica says.

McGrory Pets Jess G

During the pandemic, Jessica’s relationship with Marley hasn’t changed much (“given that he’s a small animal with little perception of routine,” she says), but it’s been wonderful for Jessica and Ralph to have lots of extra moments to bond with all of their pigs. “I’m especially grateful for the time I’ve spent with Marley, to give him extra love as both a rescue animal and as a little guy who recently lost his brother,” she says.

Marley fun facts: He loves to cuddle once he’s comfortable in your lap—and he’s got all kinds of funny nicknames, including “Mar Mar” and “Skunky Boy.”

MEET WINNIE
JESSICA WAGNER, Senior Project Manager

McGrory Pets Jess W

Back in 2011 in North Carolina, Jessica and her family adopted Winnie, a female English Mastiff, who started out as a tiny 5 lb. puppy. Every two weeks her weight doubled until she reached 150 lbs.

When Winnie was a year old, Jessica’s family moved to Okinawa, Japan for three years. “She’s probably traveled farther than most people,” Jessica laughs. “In Japan, large dogs aren’t common, so people always stared when we walked her. She’s big, but when people meet her they quickly realize she’s a lover.”

You could call Winnie a gentle giant, because she’s scared of vacuum cleaners and water, whether it’s in a bath, pool or the ocean. Once Jessica was walking Winnie in the dog park in the off-leash area. “People got out of the way when they saw her coming,” she says. “As we passed a group of people, a beagle barked loudly. WInnie got scared and ran away at top speed, and everyone laughed.”

McGrory Pets Jess W

Winnie’s relationship with Jessica’s young son Hunter has really grown during the pandemic. “She’s one of his only playmates right now, so she’s getting more attention from him than she probably wants,” Jessica says. “Hunter has always sat on Winnie to watch TV, but now he dresses her up and takes her toys so she chases him. They also share a room, and Winnie is such a great sport about all of it.”

MEET “THE MENAGERIE”
RICHARD WHITCOMBE, Senior Project Manager, Performance & Fire-Rated Division Lead

Burlap the Cat: Richard and his wife adopted Burlap, a brown tabby kitten the day after their wedding in June 2014. The wedding venue, The Country Barn in Lancaster, PA, was home to numerous farm cats that lived on the grounds. “During the dress rehearsal, the owner saw that my wife and I had wandered off to a garden where there were half a dozen kittens roaming around,” Richard says. “They told us we could take one if we wanted to!”

McGrory Pets Blog Richard and Burlap

The next morning, Richard and his wife picked the most playful kitten to join them in their starter 300-square-foot apartment. However, Burlap could barely open his eyes due to a rampant case of feline herpes, so they took him to the vet immediately. “After getting the right medication, within weeks he was a healthy young boy ready to explore the world,” Richard says.


Burlap is an indoor cat, but he’ll beg to come outside if Richard is sitting on the porch of his farmlette property. “He’ll sit on my lap for hours if I let him while he sniffs the fresh air and watches the squirrels running around the yard and trees,” Richard says. “Burlap also plays fetch with bottle caps, string, tiny sticks or whatever he’s in the mood to carry around.”

 

The “Ladies” (aka Chickens): Back in spring 2019, Richard and his wife discussed “maybe”  getting chickens. Then, a trip to Tractor Supply turned into adopting six BSL hens—Cow, Goat, Horse, Pig, Boscovs, and MC —for 50 cents each. “This spur-of-the-moment idea blossomed into a whole new way of life for us,” Richard says.

McGrory Pets Blog Richard and the Flock

With nothing more than basic setup supplies like food, a heat lamp and bedding, the couple brought the chicks home. However, they quickly outgrew their Rubbermaid tub and then a makeshift coop in the basement. “We were working on an outdoor poultry penthouse,” says Richard, who was about to leave for Army National Guard duty. “We cut it close, but we got them set up in their new home just in time.”

BSLs are a hybrid breed between a Rhode Island Red Rooster and a Barred Rock Hen. You can determine their gender when they hatch: Males have a white spot at the top of their head and females are all black. “This particular breed is also known for their excellent egg production and weather hardiness,” Richard says.

“Each chicken has a unique personality,” Richard says. “Pig will sit on my lap without assistance. Boscovs wants to hang out, but prefers not to be touched. MC always gets into mischief. I’ve co-hosted Zoom calls out at the coop with my ladies and have had more time to let them out into the yard to forage.”

“When we’re working in the yard, we’ll let them out to forage across the rest of the land,” Richard says. “They love to scratch for worms and cicada shells at the roots of a tree or lay out and sunbathe on a grassy knoll.”

Unfortunately on a cold autumn morning in October 2019, Horse passed away overnight. “Chickens are notorious for sudden, unexpected deaths,” Richard says. “We buried her under a willow tree where she spent most of her summer.”

MEET ROCKO
HELENA MUTAK, Director of Marketing

McGrory Pets Helena

During the pandemic, Helena and her boyfriend, Les, adopted Rocko, an 80 lb. hound mix. “We think he might be part potato, part sausage, and part T-Rex,” she quips. Rocko originally hails from Atlanta, where he spent more than a year at a shelter after being picked up off the streets by animal control. Then, Saved Me Adoption Center brought Rocko up to Philadelphia in a last-chance effort to find him his forever home.

Since she was a child, Helena has wanted to adopt a dog – and this year that dream finally came true. Originally, she wanted to rescue a small, younger dog who’d fit in her third-floor apartment, and be comfortable with stairs and city living. “All these requirements fell apart when we met Rocko. We just knew he was the one,” Helena says. “ I don’t know why he was overlooked for so long. He’s an amazing dog.”

Living in the City of Brotherly Love, Rocko is named after Rocky. Remember the famous scene where Sylvester Stallone runs up the 72 stone steps to the Philadelphia Art Museum? Ironically, for the first six months of their lives together, Rocko couldn’t climb stairs at all. And he was terrified of the second floor hallway. “We carried him up and down three flights for months, until a lot of agility training, positive behavior reinforcement training, and patience got results,” Helena says. “Now, he can run up and down like a turbo-charged muppet, and indeed he does.”

McGrory Pets Helena

Helena hired Curtis Kelley, a trainer at Philly Pet Parent Allies, to work with Rocko during the pandemic via video one-on-ones, outside meetups and training walks, and chat consults. “With his help, Rocko became a confident, happy part of our household (and learned to climb stairs!) so much faster than he would have otherwise,” she says. “Curtis’s flexibility and dedication to dogs is second to none.”

“Adopting Rocko has been one of the most rewarding adventures I’ve had in my life.” Helena says. “It was a bit of a roller coaster at first – having never owned a dog before, almost everything Rocko did was a surprise to me!” Helena credits Les with providing insight, humor, and stability throughout the process. “He’s owned dogs his whole life, and provided the ‘always calm’ part of the equation,” she laughs. “I don’t know where we’d be without him.”

TOP TIPS FOR RESCUING A DOG

To round things out, Daniela and Helena have some great tips if you’re ready to adopt or rescue an animal friend:

  • Make sure you can commit to the time, money, lifestyle, and needs of caring for an animal. “I recommend looking into pet insurance for any future medical issues,” Daniela says.
  • If you rent an apartment or have a landlord, check on their pet policy before bringing the animal home. “Many times animals need to be rehomed due to a no-pet policy or breed restrictions, so do your homework upfront,” Daniela says.
  • Do research on your adoption center and their animals. “Look into the center or breeder,” Daniela says, “and the way they treat their dogs, facility cleanliness, medical records, and adopter reviews.”
  • Consider adopting an adult dog if you have the emotional resources to handle it. On the plus side, Helena says, you know how big your dog gets, their basic personality/ energy level, and if they’re house trained. That being said, prepare for surprises: Helena points to the 3-3-3 rule in rescue: “Just like you don’t know someone on the first, second, or even third date, you need time to get to know your dog, and your dog will need time to get to know you, to trust you, and to love you,” she says. “Almost all shelter dogs have experienced trauma to varying degrees, and they’ve learned to cope in different ways.”
  • Give your new dog time, and have patience without expectations. “Be willing to work with your new dog as an individual—and absolutely get a trainer, especially for the first three months,” Helena says. “The rewards and positive behavior changes will come sooner than you know if you don’t chase them.”
  • Go with the name you love! “Don’t worry about other people’s opinions,” Daniela says. “Name your pet with the name you want to name them!” Helena agrees. “My friend Natalia’s family adopted a beagle puppy to grow up with her young son, Alejandro,” she says. “He named the puppy ‘Tiny Chef’ and now they’re inseparable.”
  • Take lots of pictures and videos. “If you think you took too many, I promise you didn’t,” Daniela says. “They grow up too fast.”

Holiday Rescue Dogs Brianna Nastasi

HAPPY HOLIDAYS FROM OUR FAMILY TO YOURS

While this has been a year unlike any other in our recent past, we’ve come together even more as a work family to support each other.

Of course, without our clients, partners, and vendors, none of this would be possible. We look forward to many more years of growing together. Thank you.

From our family to yours, we wish you a healthy, safe and very Happy Holidays. Here’s to 2021!

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