Canine Companions -- The More The Merrier

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Donna and Mike Rokoff are just about as close as their two dogs are, and together the foursome are darned near inseparable.

The Rokoffs went from a traditional one-dog family to a pair because Katie, their golden retriever, was fast becoming a lazy, pampered pooch.

"I got Katie for my birthday six years ago," Donna said. "She became such a spoiled brat and a couch potato. She wouldn't move unless we made her move."

"She'd rather sleep and eat than anything," added Mike.

"If she wanted to play, she wanted to play with us," Donna recalled.

"Very demanding," Mike emphasized.

The Rokoffs, artists who semi-retired to Payson nine years ago, decided Katie needed a friend, so the trio went to the Payson Humane Society. It would take three visits to find just the right dog -- a shelty, husky, maybe-some-shepherd mix they named Phoebe.

"To tell you the truth, she picked me," Donna said. "We took her out into that little area to play and I sat down on a stool. She came over and looked at me and then she put her little head against my knee and closed her eyes as if she had just made it into heaven."

"Kind of like what I did when I first met you," Mike said. The Rokoffs, who met when they both worked for Hallmark, the greeting card company, in Kansas City, Mo., have been married 29 years.

When Phoebe joined the Rokoff clan, they became convinced that two-dog families are exponentially better than one-dog families.

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Phoebe (left) and Katie "doghandle" a tennis ball. The two dogs, a shelter mutt and a purebred golden retriever, have become best buddies.

"We just went to get a dog for Katie, and she's turned out to be one of the sweetest animals in the whole world," Donna said.

Even though Katie is very much an alpha female, she and Phoebe are inseparable.

"They've been together three years now, but they took to each other right from the start," Donna said.

And Katie has regained her zest for life.

"Katie will grab something and then go limp," Donna laughed. "Then Phoebe will grab the other end and drag her around the floor. Phoebe is all muscle."

"Katie will let Phoebe do anything," Mike said. "They make up these games. All of a sudden they'll have this hide and seek game going."

"Or they'll be racing around the coffee table together," Donna added. "They chew on the same bone and eat out of the same dish."

But the Rokoffs have gained as much from the addition of Phoebe as Katie has.

"When we go out to eat or something, go to a movie, we can leave them for three or four hours at a time and they're perfectly fine because they have each other," Mike said. "And the same goes when we're out of town and we board them. They put them in the same kennel because they don't like being separated."

Before Phoebe came along, Katie had developed a real affinity for television, to the point where she'd jump up on the bed and bark at the television when the trio checked into a hotel.

Now, when the Rokoffs want a truly guilt-free evening on the town, they allow Katie and Phoebe to indulge.

"The two of them are really contented if we let them sit on the bed and watch TV -- especially if we turn on ‘Animal Planet,'" Donna explained. "It gives us such peace of mind when we go out to know that we're not leaving a lonely dog at home."

But Katie and Phoebe love to go on the road with the Rokoffs, and the foursome travel to the Valley together whenever the weather allows.

"I'm not a shopper, but Donna does, so I stay outside with the dogs," Mike said. "Those dogs are babe magnets is what they are."

"Women will speak to a man with dogs," Donna laughed. "I come out of Ross or somewhere and he's surrounded by women and children and the dogs are on their backs getting their tummies rubbed."

"They just love it because they're the center of attention," Mike added. "They're, like, rolling on their backs going, ‘Next.'"

The bottom line for the Rokoffs is that Phoebe has been little short of a wondrous addition to their family, to the point that they want other people to know how much a second dog can add to a family.

"Dogs are pack animals and the family is their pack," Donna said. "When we had just Katie, we were her pack. Now she's got Phoebe, too. It's a more natural pack for them."

Too many people don't even think about a second dog because it just isn't part of our culture anymore.

"It's the Dick and Jane and Spot and Puff thing," Donna said. "Except for farmers and ranchers, people have that thing that two children and one dog make a good family."

The Rokoffs readily admit that it costs more to have two dogs, but the rewards easily outweigh the expense. And they firmly believe the humane society is a great place to get that second dog, or two dogs if you don't have one yet.

"We had purchased Katie, and we felt there were a lot of dogs that needed help and rescuing," Mike said.

"We didn't want another puppy," Donna added. "We wanted to know enough about the animal, about his personality, to make a choice. You have no idea what a puppy is going to turn out to be personality-wise.

"Besides, there is just something about a dog from the shelter," Donna said. "Phoebe had been at the shelter a long time, and I think she is everlastingly grateful. I don't think she ever forgets."

"That's because we remind her every evening," Mike added as Katie and Phoebe laid side-by-side at his feet. "We tell her the story about how we rescued her and what a lucky little dog she is, and it works. She falls for it every time."

Among the Rokoffs, Katie and Phoebe, it's hard to tell who's the luckiest.

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