A springtime bumper crop of joy in Royse City

Pam and Robert Shives hold Dolly Parton and Kitty Wells while JLo and Reba McEntire await their turn.

(ROYSE CITY, TX – March 29, 2015) You’d think Pam and Robert Shives spend each springtime immersed in song. Especially since they live with Dolly Parton, Kitty Wells, Reba McEntire and JLo. But truth be told, the Easter season is relatively tuneless around their Royse City home. That’s because they’re raising a crop of little dogs.

“We’re small dog people,” Robert explained in the understatement of the century.

A nightly ritual: All the dogs end up in the lap of Robert Shives.

Their current crop of five took root nearly 10 years ago with Cookie, a stray rat terrier whose previous family never claimed her. It wasn’t too long before fate intervened. “We wanted to get another dog to give Cookie some company,” Pam said. “Then we saw Dolly on Channel 4.”

Sure enough, Dolly was making a Christmas appearance dressed in an elf hat, part of a TV adoption promotion by Operation Kindness. She was an overbred chihuahua/terrier mix who had escaped a miserable life in a puppy mill. “She’s still the mother figure of our family, because that’s all she’s ever known,” Pam said.

“Instead of a playmate for Cookie, I had a lap dog for me,” Robert added. “I told Dolly, ‘you’re in doggie heaven now.’” Obviously, Dolly Parton answers only to her first name.

Pam and Robert had such a positive experience with Operation Kindness that they went back for another rat terrier. Faced with a decision between two adorable dogs named Reba McEntire and Tillie, they took the easy way out. Pam and Robert adopted both.

They now had a bumper crop of five dogs, since they purchased a papillon named Kitty Wells in Canton. “When we got Kitty, I didn’t know what puppy mills were like,” Robert explained. “We don’t even look at puppy mill dogs now.”

Pam and Robert had discovered the unique joy that comes from adopting a shelter pet. “I really get the feeling that when we rescue a dog, they really appreciate it,” Robert said. “I can only imagine how stressed these dogs must be when they’re in a shelter.”

Their happy lives were turned upside down when tragedy struck. For reasons no one could discover, Tillie died unexpectedly one night. In an instant, it felt sad and empty around the Shives household with only four little dogs. “I can’t imagine life without a dog,” Pam said, recalling the tragedy.

After a long period of grief, Pam and Robert discovered a little ball of energy at Rockwall Pets. JLo, a young terrier mix, brought an immediate jolt of enthusiasm to the house. “JLo causes everyone to play – except Dolly,” Robert said. “JLo’s just like a little kid,” Pam added.

That means it’s going to be a happy, albeit energetic and tuneless, Easter season at the Shives house. Their five dogs are obviously thrilled about their carefree lifestyle. And Pam and Robert, even after 35 years of marriage, cherish the love and joy that comes from adopting shelter dogs. That’s sweet music to everyone’s ears. “We did our part by adopting,” Pam said. “They’re doing their part by providing entertainment for us.”

You’d expect nothing less from entertainers like Dolly Parton, Kitty Wells, Reba McEntire and JLo.

Story and photos by Blue Ribbon News guest columnist Michael Kitkoski, co-founder of Rockwall Pets and No Kill Solutions.

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