Some dogs live it up in high-end dog houses

Published 12:00 am Sunday, February 22, 2009

A yellow house in the historic garden district of Natchez has central heat and air, a window box with flowers, a red front door and a stained glass window, but its inhabitants can’t open the door.

Linda and Ronnie Harper own the Washington Street house, but the Harpers don’t live in this beautiful home.

Their five dogs do.

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“I call it their doggie condo,” Linda said. “The front door is open when the weather’s nice, and it has two doggie doors.”

The house — built by Atkins Handiman Lumber and Building Supply of Natchez specifically for the Harpers — cost approximately $1,900 and is modeled after their own home. It measures 10-by-10 feet in size.

Linda said the home was essentially built for the bulldog she adopted from the Natchez-Adams County Humane Society, named Maggie Mae.

“We built it four years ago when we moved downtown,” she said. “Bulldogs cannot take the heat or cold, so (all the dogs) got to benefit from Mae needing a particular climate.”

Mae has had two surgeries — one on an eye and another on a wound that refused to heal.

Linda said Mae spent nine months inside the Harpers’ own home during the healing process, but the other dogs rarely come inside.

“Mae misbehaves a little bit,” she said. “We bring her in for timeouts for the other guys.”

The Harpers also have a black-and-white Great Dane, a one-eyed Beagle-mix and two Catahoula-Cur mixes.

One of the Catahoula-Curs, she said, is colored “like Mossy Oak” camouflage. The other is albino, deaf and blind.

“She’s a pretty amazing dog,” Linda said.

“When we lived in the country we would let her out so she could run, and she wouldn’t run into anything.

“To watch her you’d never know she’s blind. She knows I’m outside in about two minutes.”

The blind dog does not go into the doggie condo because she can’t see the other dogs inside, Harper said. Instead she has two doghouses of her own that keep her warm in the winter.

The other dogs spend their time in the condo during storms and extreme weather.

“I figure it was worth it,” she said of the cost. “This has saved my furniture. (When the dogs came inside) they chewed up a couple very nice chairs, so this was worth every penny.”

Linda, who helps out at the NACHS and was formerly president of the board, said she has been an animal lover since she was a small child.

She grew up in the country, and her grandparents were farmers.

“We always had animals out there,” she said. “But a lot of those pets became meals. I wondered why our three pigs disappeared, why some of our cows disappeared. So I think at an early age I became very worried about all of nature.”

Linda said she’s known around Natchez as an animal lover with all her rescued pets.

She said no one even batted an eyelash when she had the doghouse built.

Her husband — District Attorney Ronnie Harper — said he comes home every day and counts puppy heads in the backyard to make sure no new dogs have been added to the pack.

“When we lived in the country, it was not uncommon to have dogs show up in our yard,” he said.

“Three of the ones we have now literally walked up to the house.”

Ronnie said he understood the condo needed to be built, especially because of Mae health needs — and he really didn’t have much choice.

“What can you say about it?” he said. “At least if I get put in the doghouse it will be nice and cozy.”

The dogs, he said, are close to his heart, and he and his wife will do anything to keep them safe and happy.

“He’s just learned to accept it and not fight it,” Linda said, “because when it comes to my animals, I’m going to win that battle.”