Must Love Dogs

By Adam Miller | Photography by Samantha Shal

Almost every day there’s a chance you’ll see John and Janice Opila traipsing along the idyllic trails of Cheatham Hill, or elsewhere in Marietta’s Kennesaw Mountain National Battlefield Park, with their canine kids, Rocky and Maggie.

The parents of two grown children, the Opilas don’t see themselves as empty nesters, not with the explosive energy of their Coon Hound Boxer (Rocky) and Weimaraner/Chocolate Lab (Maggie) bursting into the yard when the door is open.

“Now [the dogs] are our kids,” says John. “We walk them every day no matter what. Rain, snow, ice. It’s been good for us, because it makes you exercise no matter what. It’s really helped our marriage because it’s down time for me and my wife.”

The couple started with dogs (Janice wouldn’t date him if he didn’t buy a dog) and they’ll always have dogs. Over their 35-year marriage they’ve had six dogs in all–Jazz, Jackson, Coco and Sam–each generation teaching the next. Sam, who died over a year ago, taught Rocky the ropes and Rocky taught Maggie.

“Those two are inseparable,” says John. “If we ever split them up, they’d fall into a deep depression.”

The couple’s dogs are all “pound puppies,” as they like to call their Humane Society adoptees. Janice has volunteered with the TK Humane Society for years.

The couple has also owned fish, birds and cats, but the dogs have their hearts. An LED light salesman, John feels better leaving the house and wife behind with two full-size canines who like to bark and growl. And when the couple is together, which is most of the time, Rocky and Maggie bring energy and rhythm to their relationship.

“It’s a part of our lifestyle,” says John. “We never board them when we go on vacation. We just take them with us.”

And with the fall months coming, John and Janice’s favorite vacation spot with their half-furry family is at a campsite in Blue Ridge.

“They love running through the woods,” says John. “It’s the best.”

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