South’s Greatest Pets 2023

From Teacup Yorkies to Great Danes and everything in between, this year’s Greatest Pets contest winners prove that cuteness comes in all shapes, sizes, and personalities.

Red Gate Campground & RV Resort, provides adventurers with a scenic and peaceful oasis within Savannah’s charming countryside. Photos / Angela Hopper

1. Karl

Owners: Susan and Pam Peterson

Breed: Staffordshire Terrier

Age: About 8 years

About Karl: Karl is snuggly, goofy, and chonky, but he didn’t start out that way — well, not the “chonky” part, at least. His parents were driving back to Savannah on I-16 one day when they noticed a dog collapsed on the shoulder of the highway, dangerously close to traffic. He was uninjured, but extremely skinny and dehydrated. In this state, he still managed a tail wag, and Susan and Pam brought him to One Love Animal Rescue where they agreed to foster him while the rescue nursed him back to health. After some time, no one claimed Karl, and although they had a house full of rescue dogs, Pam and Susan couldn’t say no to Karl. He now spends his days frolicking on their land, chasing chickens, and taking plenty of naps.

Karl’s people: Dr.Hazlett at Village Crossroads; Jared Warren at Southern State K-9 Training.

{ L-R: Rhett Vaughan, Harlow Young, Kenzie Stephens, Abby Marek, Kathie Neyman, John Newman, Campbell Griffith, Ella Lanman, Bentz Stewart, William Askew-Norton } Photo: Johny Hoffman

2. Otto

Owners: Kathie Neyman & Henry Skoog

Breed: Golden Retriever

Age: Almost 5 years

About Otto: Otto the Golden hails from Atlanta, and was adopted from the Guide Dog Foundation for the Blind as a career-changed service dog. His parents work as trainers for the foundation and adopted Otto when he transitioned to pet life. Otto’s favorite place is the Atlanta Speech School, where he works as a therapy dog, listening to the children read and boosting their confidence. Otto also lives a double life as a member of a gang — the “Golden gang”, that is, with his pals Lark and Paddy. He keeps in shape by doing “puppy push-ups”.

Otto’s people: Dr. Jerry Diaz at East Marietta Animal Hospital.

Otto the therapy dog volunteers weekly at Atlanta Speech School (Buckhead area) on Thursdays where he listens to 5th graders gain confidence in their reading skills. Special thanks to the Alliance of Therapy Dogs (ATD).

3. FannieMae

Owner: Karen Cotugno

Breed: Teacup Yorkie (Yorkshire Terrier)

Age: 10 months

About FanniMae: She may be tiny, but her less-than-a-year-old self has a big personality. This sassy gal likes to spend her free time perched on the living room windowsill, people watching. That is, until the mailman comes by — then she sounds the alarm to her doting parents. She’s a little bit spoiled, but only because she’s so cute. She wears the latest designs from PetSmart and has a diet of Royal Canine with a healthy dose of delicious bites from mom and dad’s dinner. But all her sass is balanced by humility — she even knows how to put her paws together and pray for all her blessings!

FanniMae’s people: Central Animal Hospital, PetSmart for all of her food, toys, and puppy outfits, and her mom and dad who are self-proclaimed pet professionals.

4. Stetson

Owners: Tom Brown & Jenna Berry

Breed: Boykin Spaniel

Age: 1.5 years

About Stetson: Stetson is a free-spirited island spaniel. He spends his best days traveling around by boat, running free off leash, frolicking in the waves and swimming his heart out. He especially loves meeting new friends out on Wassaw Island. This sea-faring pup even prefers a salmon-based diet that, combined with sea minerals, keep his coat shiny. For as free-spirited as he is, he is also a bit of a “velcro dog”; he tends to stick to his people and loves cuddles after a long day of play.

Stetson’s people: The team at Islands Veterinary Clinic, especially Dr. Subbarayan.

Lafayette Square, home to the ornate Cathedral of St. John the Baptist, with the centerpiece of the square the Semiquincentenary Fountain presented the city with to commemorate the 250th anniversary of the Savannah’s founding.

5. Hattie

Owner: Kristina Giles

Breed: Great Dane

Age: 4 years

About Hattie: Hattie is 124 pounds of pure love. She’s a gentle giant who is great with children. This playful girl loves to join in on a game of soccer (she’s got serious skills with her nose), evening walks in Daffin park, ruling the beach on hurricane evacuation days, greeting customers at the Contractors Depot, and capping off the day with an ice-cold drink of water at the Peregrin rooftop or puppuccino. Her goal this year is to earn a therapy dog certification so she can make some special therapy program visits one day!

Hattie’s people: Dr. Brian Mulvey at Savannah Veterinary Medical Center; Priscilla, trainer, at PetSmart on Victory Dr.; Hipster Hound for doggy daycare.

Savannah Arts Academy, the first dedicated performing and visual arts school in Savannah.

6. Tilly

Owner: Casey Bowers

Breed: German Shepherd

Age: 1 year

About Tilly: Tilly is one of those dogs that has beauty and brains. From the outside, she’s majestic, but on the inside, she’s super smart. You can catch her doing typical dog activities, playing in the backyard, running super fast, chasing a soccer ball, and playing fetch. But, she also spends her spare time solving dog puzzles! One of her favorite things to do is to visit her grandparents, Vadah and Leo. And after a long day, feeling mentally and physically exhausted, she loves to snuggle.

Tilly’s people: Dr. Kicklighter and staff at 204 Animal Hospital.

7. Jack

Owner: Mike and Melissa Austin

Breed: Terrier mix

Age: 6 years old

About Jack: Jack, in true terrier fashion, is always on the go, looking for his next adventure. When he’s not running around his big backyard or having occasional playdates with his neighbor, Nash, he’s out on the town. In such a dog-friendly city as Savannah, he likes to stop in all the shops and sneak some treats. His favorite stop is at his parents’ bike tour and rental shop, Savannah on Wheels. Unbeknownst to his parents until he turned one, Jack is quite the water dog! He’ll let out his signature howl jumping from boats, docks, or running into the waves.

Jack’s people: AJ and Cody Hetzel from Ardsley Park Pet Sitters; Dr. Kristin Hiers at Companion Animal Hospital.

Monterey Square, centered on the Pulaski Monument was laid out in 1847 and the film location of the famous Mercer Williams House in “Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil.”

8. Evie & Sandy

Owners: Robby, Leigh Anne, Brody, and Charlotte DiVito

Breed: Labrador retrievers

Age: 2 years (Evie), 1.5 years (Sandy)

About Evie & Sandy: Evie and Sandy are both very appropriately named. Sandy, with her unique coat, is named for the sandy-yellow color throughout her mostly white fur. She was also born in the summer and lives near Tybee. Evie was born on Christmas Eve, so she is a gift in more ways than one. Affectionately nicknamed “Chocolate lab” and “White-chocolate lab,” Evie and Sandy are happiest when playing in the backyard, running through sprinklers and splashing in kiddie pools with their human siblings, Brody and Charlotte. But, belly rubs are a close second!

Evie & Sandy’s people: Dr. Thomas Griner at Landmark Veterinary Services – Mobile Vet; Barks Dog Daycare, Savannah for daycare/boarding.

Tybee Island: known for its wide, sandy beaches, including South Beach, with a pier and pavilion. Located only 18 miles from Savannah, take dolphin cruises, hop on a jet ski or enjoy an ecology tour. Beach rules: no pets or glass on the beach!

9. Saint & Wilbur

Owner: Madison Hagan

Breed: Cocker Spaniels

Age: 3 and 1 years

About Saint & Wilbur: Saint and Wilbur and two dogs of many talents: Saint can sit, shake, and dance; and Wilbur can sit, stay, and lay down. Not only do they know tricks, but they are also extremely emotionally intelligent, as well. Both spaniels are emotional support animals and can tell exactly when either of their parents are having anxiety or feeling down. The duo are always there to cheer them up or calm them down. The dogs have learned the easiest way to do this is cuddle up right next to them for a big nap on the couch.

Saint & Wilbur’s people: VCA Greater Savannah Animal Hospital.

Saint And Wilber 5 Final

Honorary Mention: Mahi (The world’s cutest cat in a diaper.)

“Caregivers”: Tabby Tales Rescue. Currently looking for a furrever home

Breed: Domestic short hair (short coat) medium adult female

Age: 6.5 years

About Mahi: Cute as a button, Mahi fills her caregivers’ days with non-stop love and entertainment and loves to cuddle and play. A special needs cat who is deaf and has trouble with incontinence (mostly while sleeping) she is otherwise in good health. She wears her diaper like a champ and is great with her daily routine.

What’s it like to have a special needs cat? We’re glad you asked!

Great at secrets: She’s deaf, so you can tell her all your secrets and rest assured, she will never share them with anyone!

Loves to talk: Even though she can’t hear, Mahi does like to talk, please be prepared to listen.

Loves her food: She likes to be fed often. Three times per day to be exact, plus treats. This makes it super easy to add herbs and supplements to her food. She is generally not picky.

Loves dressing up: You’ll do a little more laundry than normal. She’s an incontinent cat who wears diapers, laundry is to be expected. The side bonus here is that it will be OK to “dress up” your cat. There are some seriously cute cat diapers out there.

Adopt Mahi!

Mahi would thrive in a home without a lot of activity and where she can be the center of attention. To learn more about Mahi, contact Tabby Tales

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