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Heartfelt: Neighborhood walk brings pups, people together

Norine Dougherty gets a shake from Cody while Connie Kleber and her dogs, Cookie and Mollie, watch. Mollie is Cody’s sibling.

BRYAN THOMAS | Times

Norine Dougherty gets a shake from Cody while Connie Kleber and her dogs, Cookie and Mollie, watch. Mollie is Cody’s sibling.

DANA SHORES

They were siblings, only 10 weeks old and about to be euthanized. A day away from death, Lost Angels Animal Rescue saved the brother and sister, born from the same litter to a Labrador and a cocker spaniel now long gone. Terrified of men and even some young children, both seemed to suffer from abuse. Within a week, however, Connie and Bob Kleber came along to adopt the girl. They named her Mollie. Soon after, Norine and Ted Dougherty adopted the brother, naming him Cody.

That was in 2008 and might have been the final line in a happy ending. Then, one day by chance, something especially heartwarming happened — something that brought together the pups and two strangers who lived just four streets apart in Dana Shores. We'll let Connie, 55, and Norine, who prefers only to mention that she's well over retirement age, tell the story for themselves.

Tell us what happened.

Connie: Because (Mollie) was so afraid of everybody, I wanted to walk on different streets to get her used to other people. So we happened to go onto Norine's street. … Norine was standing outside with her husband and another couple and Cody. Mollie won't go up to anybody and she wanted to go over to these people. Four people. I couldn't believe it. … So we walked over there and that's when Norine said, "Is that a Lab-cocker mix?" And I'm like, "Yea." Then she goes, "Did you get her from Lost Angels?" And I'm like, "Yea," thinking who the heck is this person. And then she tells me, "I've got the brother!" And all of a sudden we realized that they were related.

Why did you decide to adopt a dog in the first place?

Connie: My shelty had died (coincidentally on the day that Mollie was born). We had her for 11 years and we just knew we had to have a second dog, but this time my husband and I decided to do a rescue. I went on the Internet and found that face, and I couldn't pass it up.

Norine: We had a corgi for 12 years. … We lost her and we just had to have a dog. My daughter said to me, "We are going to go to the rescue station. All the dogs are up on display in Carrollwood." So we went on up there. We looked at all the dogs in the pen, and I saw this one sitting on a lady's lap on the other side, and I thought, look at that. He was looking at me, and I was looking at him.

How have they changed your relationship with each other?

Connie: Norine and I have become really good friends. We know so much about each other. (They meet about twice a month for "dog parties.")

Do you have any cats?

(Simultaneously): Noooo.

Norine: We're dog nuts.

How have they changed you?

Norine: It's something else because he never lets me out of his sight. He's taught my husband so much. He goes every place with us. (A day later, she added: "He has brought more joy and calmness to us than we ever thought possible.")

Connie: I'm a cancer survivor, so I've learned this is the best medicine in the world. Don't ever pass up an opportunity to kiss them, hug them, give them a little scratch. And since she wants it all, more so than any dog I've ever had, I take more time. I stop, get on the floor or get on the ground. I don't stop and smell the roses. I play with Mollie — she's my rose.

What do you see in the future for Mollie and Cody and your relationship?

Connie: One of my concerns is that she (Norine) moves away one day. I don't ever want to see that. I want them to be friends the whole time, forever.

Norine: We won't. We'll make a pact. We won't move. If we move, then you have to move.

Stephanie Bolling can be reached at (813) 226-3408 or sbolling@sptimes.com.

. FAST FACTS

Heartfelt is a summer series that features interesting affairs of the heart, such as wedding romances, reunions and special family ties. If you have a "heartfelt" idea, contact editor Sharon Tubbs at (813) 226-3394 or e-mail tubbs@sptimes.com and put "heartfelt" in the subject line.

Heartfelt: Neighborhood walk brings pups, people together 06/23/11 [Last modified: Thursday, June 23, 2011 5:30am]

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