Unleashed Pets and Their People

By Lee Rennick

No matter how the old saying goes, we believe that behind every successful person is a great pet. Pets can not only be our best friends, but according to HelpGuide.com playing with one can elevate levels of serotonin and dopamine, which calm and relax us.

“The more time you spend with your four-legged companion, the better you feel,” explains Marty Becker, DVM, the featured veterinarian at Vetstreet.com and veterinary contributor for Good Morning America. Here are some successful people in our community who totally agree, their pets stand behind them through thick and thin.


Mac Nolen
Rutherford County Solid Waste Director

By day Mac Nolen is in charge of educating us about recycling and managing our garbage, but every evening he plays with what he calls his “sissy dog,” Tater. “I agreed to us having a puppy because his mother was a Labrador,” said Nolen, “and I thought his dad was a Great Pyrenees.  We were going to have a huge manly dog.  But his dad was a Poodle! He can jump up and place all four feet on your chest, but he can’t jump up into the back of my pickup truck. He may not be the cutest or smartest, but he is mine!” photo by Lisa Nolen


Claire Wilson Oliver
United Way Director of Marketing and Communications

A newlywed as of last November, for the last three years Claire Wilson Oliver has helped educate us about opportunities United Way offers to the Rutherford and Cannon County communities. At home her husband Kris shares her affection with their rescue dog, Boone. “He is a Coonhound,” says Oliver. “They are known to be like toddlers -- you have to watch them constantly. If not, they will eat a bag of donuts, half a lemon pie and 10 hamburger buns off the counter before you even turn around. Yes, it happened! It’s not often you see a Coonhound in the city, but he makes a great companion. And he’s really Kris’ baby.”


Dr. Alanna L. Vaught
Middle Tennessee State University, College of Basic and Applied Science Professor and Graduate Program Coordinator

Dr. Alanna Vaught stays busy working with graduate students in the School of Agribusiness and Agriscience, teaching classes including hands-on learning courses and the newly introduced Agritourism, working with 4-H and Future Farmers of America, and coordinating the Agriculture Education Spring Fling attended by over 800 pre-Kindergarteners to second graders each year.  She also often utilizes local industry to introduce students to job opportunities in the field of agriculture. Her favorite pet is her goat, Allie.  “Goats are extremely smart and full of personality,” says Vaught.  “I have 31 goats and I enjoy raising them to show in competitions.”  photo by Allison Higgins


Art Growden
Art Growden Designs, Owner

Art Growden’s design work has won many national awards and been seen all over the country, but most notably it’s seen locally as the logo for Rover. He also does commissioned paintings of pets under the name Pup Portraits by Art, through which he has worked with Beasley Animal Foundation. After having lost a longtime canine member of the family, he wasn’t even sure he wanted another dog, but after a couple of months, the house seemed too quiet. “There was something missing,” Growden said. “We started discussing the possibility of a new family member, eventually taking a compatibility quiz online. My wife, Mary, youngest daughter, Sarah, and I all got the same result, a Havanese. It is the national dog of Cuba. They aren’t very common here, but have a great personality and are extremely intelligent. We’ve had Diego for eight years now. He’s a wonderful companion and entertainer, a real member of our family. He can get away with most any dog crime by gazing at you with those big brown button eyes.”


Mary Dahlin
Mary Dahlin & Associates, Owner

For many years Mary Dahlin was an executive with State Farm, and she has recently opened her own insurance business. While at State Farm she was involved in the community with such activities as the Business Education Partnership’s Summer Business Camp, and she continues her community involvement as a member of Rutherford CABLE and Rotary Club of Murfreesboro. Her dog, Brownie, she calls a silent partner in her new business venture. She adopted him last year from PAWS. “Brownie is the most grateful dog I have every known,” said Dahlin. “He is happy about everything and loves everyone. Plus he is very polite and backs up when exiting a small space such as a closet. You can almost hear the warning beep as he starts to back up!”


Peter & Kristin Demos
Demos’ Steak & Spaghetti and Peter D’s Restaurants, Owners

Restaurants, community service and the Demos family are synonymous in Murfreesboro. Peter Demos is the President and CEO of Demos’ Restaurants, has served as president of Rutherford County Chamber of Commerce, and has worked with organizations such as Habitat for Humanity, Special Kids, and Fisher House.  Kristin stays equally busy with Saint Thomas Rutherford Committee and United Way, as well as being involved with her children’s school, Providence Christian Academy. As busy as they are, they both find time to relax with family and their pet. “Our dog’s name is Bitsy,” said Kristin. “She is a four and a half month-old Goldendoodle. She has been the best dog. Her sweet disposition and goofy personality has made her a dream dog that our whole family is obsessed with. We think everything she does is cute and funny and it’s becoming impossible not to spoil her rotten!” And Peter adds that Bitsy is the best medicine after a long day at work because just seeing her makes him smile!


Jennifer Moody
City Of Murfreesboro, Assistant City Manager

Jennifer Moody, who has just finished her first year as assistant city manager for Murfreesboro, assists with economic development issues, grant writing and implementation, as well as urban revitalization. She has been right in the middle of all of the community development research being conducted concerning redevelopment opportunities in areas around downtown. One of her other responsibilities is the City Arts Council, where she works with community arts advocates to promote local arts and artists. When not tackling the affairs of one of the fastest growing cities in the country, she plays with her cat, Norma Jean, at least she does when she can catch her. “I had to chase her across the yard just to get this photo,” Moody said.


Missy Thomas
TrustPoint Hospital (recently acquired by Acadia Healthcare)
Director of Pharmacy

Working with Bulldog Rescue helps to explain Missy Thomas’ two pups, eight year old A.W. (the larger dog), who was rescued in July, and five year old Fern who came to live with Thomas and her husband, Scott, in November 2015, after having lost two older bulldogs last year. When she gets off work from TrustPoint, an inpatient physical therapy and behavioral health facility, A.W. and Fern LOVE to ride in the car! “If you say ‘ride’,” says Thomas, “they are ready to go! They prefer to travel in my VW Bug convertible with the top down. Fern enjoys the backseat, so she can get the sun and breeze on her face, while A.W. prefers to ride “shotgun”, looking at everything!”


Kim Edgar
Middle Tennessee State University Office of the President
Executive Assistant to Dr. Sydney McPhee

During the 22 years that Kim Edgar has worked for Dr. McPhee, the university has grown to now produce the most graduates under the Tennessee Board of Regents system, and it is the second-largest producer of graduates in the state among public universities. She has also seen the addition of the new facilities for the Student Center, College of Education, College of Basic and Applied Science, and Honors College. When she gets home from her busy days, she and her husband David, who also works for MTSU, unwind with their five dogs. Hershey and Jack are six year old Chihuahua’s, Reagan is a five year old Feist, Waylon (not pictured) is a two-year-old fluff ball black Pomeranian, and Brandy is a Chocolate Labrador. “Brandy adores David,” says Edgar, “who is her buddy and hunting partner.”


Terry Cunningham
Rutherford County Emergency Medical Services
Community Relations Coordinator

Making sure the public is informed and educated about health, emergency response, first aid, and child safety is what Terry Cunningham does for the Rutherford County EMS Education Division through “show and tell” programs for all age groups. Her current focus is the Yellow Dot Program, which provides first responders with an individual’s critical medical information in the event of an emergency on Tennessee’s roadways. The information this program provides can make the difference between life and death, especially for seniors and those with unique medical histories, physical limitations, or mental impairments. Her true caring for others includes her dog, Baby. “I found her wandering around the parking lot of our office on Burton Street,” said Cunningham. “She was so cute we just knew she had to belong to someone, but no one ever claimed her. I took her home that afternoon and she has been with us for four years. She loves to play ball and run around in circles in the yard.”


Lisa Trail
Murfreesboro City Schools
Director of Communications

Lisa Trail and her staff keep the community informed about what is happening in Murfreesboro City Schools through traditional means as well as social media. With a growing city like Murfreesboro, and over 7,500 children in 12 schools, they have to keep up with the latest forms of communication technology. But when Trail gets home from work her Peekapoo dog, Hershey, doesn’t make a single sound. “She greets me with love every day at the door by wagging her tail and then her whole body starts shaking because she’s so happy to see me,” says Trail. “She’s supposed to be my daughter Laurel’s dog, but when she goes off to college, Hershey’s staying with me.” The family also has a “very particular” cat, Dora, who was found underneath Trail’s uncle’s barn.


Alan Brown
Edward D. Jones
Investment Advisor

As a representative of Edward D. Jones, Alan Brown helps people plan for their financial future. And as President of the Rutherford County Chamber of Commerce Diplomats, he knows how important it is as a business owner to help invest in the future growth of the county by giving his time to the Chamber’s economic development activities. It is also important for him to spend quality time with his full blooded blue-eyed Siberian Husky named Dakota. “She is just beautiful,” Brown said proudly. “And so smart. We’re buddies.”


Pet 13 Kerrie Robinson.jpg

Dr. Kerrie Robinson
Associate Veterinarian
Animal Care Veterinary Hospital

Dr. Kerrie Robinson has worked for 10 years at Animal Care Veterinary Hospital where they care for small animals and exotic pets; including birds, reptiles, and small mammals. While she loves animals, her favorite are her own dogs, one year old Popeye, and his adoptive doggie “brother,” eight year old Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, Tucker. Popeye was found at Popeye’s Chicken after running into the restaurant. He is full of energy and loves chasing his brother. Tucker was adopted from a client and he loves to cuddle and sleep. Tucker often goes to schools with Robinson when she speaks to children about her job and also about Dog Bite Prevention. “He absolutely loves all of the attention he gets from the kids,” said Robinson. photo by Jamie Pratt


M. Keith Siskin
Circuit Court Judge, Division III
Serving Rutherford and Cannon Counties

Judge Siskin currently serves as Presiding Judge of the Sixteenth Judicial District, and he is one of four circuit court judges. He was appointed into this position by Governor Haslam in 2012. Previous to that he had been appointed by Judge Donna Scott Davenport as Referee/Magistrate of the Rutherford County Juvenile Court. His daschund, Princess, passed away in December 2015, but she was a fixture on Facebook and brought joy to all who shared in her antics. “We recently adopted a stray and got another puppy,” said Siskin,” but there will never be another Princess. She was one of a kind and enriched my life more than I can put into words.”