Dogs to dragons: Branson’s newest pets

By Ryder Lariviere

Pets make the world go around and Branson a happier place. Last year, I wrote an article on the nine staffulty dogs that call Branson home. Since then, a total of three more dogs and two bearded dragons live on campus, each with their own unique personalities and all wanting to share their love and energy with our community. Let me introduce you to the new Branson pets!


Daisy is English teacher Maddie Lesser’s 5-year-old rescue mutt: part Pomeranian, part Chihuahua, part Cocker Spaniel, part Shih Tzu, part Poodle and a whole lot of energy. Daisy loves to run off-leash on trails, play ball and snuggle for hours on end.

“She’s very athletic, very playful and very very barky!” Lesser said.

While on the trail, she will always sprint over to whatever animal she encounters, even a flock of turkeys. She isn’t afraid to get close. Daisy enjoys snacking on stolen burritos, as well as cheese, peanut butter and almost any kind of meat.

“There have been times when we have been having steak before, and we’ve walked out of the room, and when we walk back in the room, she’s on the table,” Lesser added.

At the dog park, you’ll be sure to find Daisy playing with other small fluffy dogs. However, her territorial personality dominates the moment she gets home. “Daisy is very jealous of my baby. Anything the baby chews on, she will take! We’ve lost a lot of toothbrushes, utensils and various baby toys that way … overall, she’s extremely playful, very very loyal and very protective!” Lesser concluded.


Lily, Head of School Chris Mazzola’s oldest dog, is a 5½-year-old newly-rescued golden retriever who craves strawberries but will eat just about anything you give her.

“I planted ten tomato plants over the break, and they dug them all up in nice clean holes and ate them. They’re always doing bad stuff like that,” Mazzola said.

At home, Lily loves hanging out with Ruthie, Mazzola’s younger golden retriever. Lily has filled the void left by Ted Williams, Mazzola’s older dog who recently passed.

“Ruthie is very happy to have Lily, and what’s really funny is that they already look like identical twins,” Mazzola added.

Even when Ruthie runs around barking, chews her bed, and sits on Lily, Lily is always calm and gentle. Ruthie and Lily play like crazy, occasionally get grumpy but still love each other like sisters.

When asked how she would sum up Lily’s personality, Mazzola said, “She’s like Nana in Peter Pan, always taking care of everyone, and being the sweetest and most gentle dog she could be!”


Millie, English teacher Giles Scott’s youngest dog, is a 1½-year-old Bernedoodle who will eat almost anything she can find.

“She loves to crack a good pencil, eat my eyeglasses and especially enjoy a pair of socks,” Scott said.

As a skilled and energetic traveler, Millie loves to go to the dog park and play tug-of-war with her favorite rope toy. Anytime you take her in the car and park to run an errand, you will always come back to find her in the front seat behind the wheel.

At home, Millie is prohibited from going upstairs, whereas Mr. Lemon, Scott’s 8-year-old rescue dog, is allowed in all parts of the house. An oftentimes funnier moment of Millie’s is when she’ll purposely block the stairway to prevent Mr. Lemon from going upstairs and leaving her. Even though she tends to enjoy chewing on non-food items, she recently robbed a piece of fish from the counter.

“It was like a three-star Michelin restaurant fish, and she ate it off the counter, and broke the plate. You got to keep an eye on her all the time!” Scott added.

Checkers and Leppo

Checkers and Leppo are the two bearded dragons raised by math teacher Paul McCarthy. Named after their exotic reptilian skin patterns, checkered and leopard-like respectively, both enjoy snacking on crickets, superworms, hornworms and green vegetables. While Checkers can be calm and relaxed, Leppo is quite the opposite, much more hyperactive and unpredictable.

“We got them as a fun activity at the start of COVID. Leppo laid fourteen eggs after one year, and another 24 eggs after 18 months. We hatched them all and gave the baby lizards to a pet store,” McCarthy said.

At home, they both love to play in the bath and study alongside McCarthy’s son and daughter.

“My kids definitely love their bearded dragons!” McCarthy exclaimed.

Pets, both big and small, fluffy and scaly, have always brought comfort to our lives. They get us outdoors, keep us active and always bring smiles to our faces, even when they steal our food. Next time you see any of these adorable and friendly pets on campus, take some time to greet them. Remember, peanut butter will always guarantee you a new friend!