Paws vs. Claws

My Outer Banks Home decided to find out if our residents preferred cats or dogs. Nationally speaking, dogs are the preferred pet in 46.3 million households while cats are in only 38.9 million. However, the same survey conducted by the American Pet Products Association also stated that with cat owners adopting their favorite animals in higher numbers, there are about 10 million more cats in the country than dogs. Read on for a (very unscientific) survey of the Outer Banks in the Paws vs. Claws debate: 

Don Milbrath

Don Milbrath is a retired Navy Captain and currently a volunteer firefighter at Nags Head Fire and Rescue. True to the “rescue” portion of his new job, he is also the rescuer of Kodi, a Chow. Milbrath philosophizes that he considers himself to be a dog person, “due to the ancient bonding compact between man and canine.” He cites the benefits of his regular walks with Kodi as, “I get aerobic exercise and an added layer of security around me. Kodi gets a walk and to bark.”

Milbrath adds, “Dogs can be great companions who show you they think you are great by just greeting you when you return home.”

Jennifer Gilbreath

Jennifer Gilbreath is a Kitty Hawk resident and Conservation Coordinator at the Nature Conservancy. She’s also a mother of two and owner of a Corgi mix. She says, “Though I have loved a couple of kitties, I am a dog person.” She thinks the stage was set for her to be a dog person during infancy when she was found teething on the family dog’s rabies tag.

Gilbreath adds, “I feel more connected to dogs because they share more of themselves with people through body language and … my very favorite: expressive eyebrows. There is just nothing cuter than a dog telling me something with its eyebrows and an excited bark… like the time that the author’s Yorkie gave me that sweet ‘eyebrow look’ and took off into the wilds of Southern Shores with me several steps behind, wine glass sloshing, and realizing there was no way I could keep up even if I ditched the beverage.”

Lauren Deal

Lauren Deal spends her days teaching English and directing theatre at First Flight High School and her evenings locked in an eternal battle with two playful, headstrong kittens, Walter and Zettie.

“[I am] definitely more of a cat person than dog person!” Deal says, “I had the world’s most wonderful cat for 16 years. She was the perfect low-key, low-maintenance companion for me from college until adulthood. After losing her last year, I’ve been trying to embrace a new normal with two bizarre kittens. They drive me a little bit crazy, but they can be very sweet when they want to.”

Kim Bowman

Kim Bowman has been an Outer Banks resident for 14 years and works at a variety of seasonal jobs, everything from pool cleaning to wallpaper hanging.

Bowman says, “I’m definitely a dog person. I don’t have a dog right now, but I’m waiting for a golden retriever to rescue. Senior dogs don’t get adopted so easily; I want to help them out.”

Bowman says that she hears of many rescued animals that come from the Fayetteville area near the military base and adds, “It’s sad that people get transferred and have to give up their dogs.”

John Wojcik

John Wojcik identifies himself as an Outer Banks beachcomber, a broker at Southern Shores Realty, and “obviously a dog guy.” 

“At age three, my first pets were a gaggle of ducks and a German Shepherd who herded us around,” which began his affinity for the breed. He says “German Shepherds are loyal, and they have a heart as big as a country ham.”

When John and his wife, George, were newlyweds, they rescued a German Shepherd from the shelter. 

“George was really not on board with getting [a big dog], but that little female took a look at George … realized that I was a sure vote and she needed to convince George to be her ticket out. She turned on the charm for George and pretty much ignored me. That same day she rode home on George’s lap, and the adventure began.”

Wojcik says that when watching the movie, Megan Leavey, “I get a glimpse of every dog I’ve ever owned, and the tears that roll down my cheek are happy thoughts.”

Tim Crank

Tim Crank was born and raised on the Outer Banks and owns Creative Jewelers. Crank says he is a dog person, “because you can interact more with a dog.” 

It’s not unusual for his menagerie to join him at work, but it takes an observant customer to notice them sleeping in the side office of the jewelry store. Crank says, “I love having them at work and seeing people’s reaction when they see we have four dogs in the store.”

David Warner

David Warner has been an Outer Banks resident for over 26 years and is an investment advisor at Hutchins Allen & Company. 

Warner explains why he considers their family to be dog people: “In some respects, it was a necessity that we get a dog. My eldest daughter, seven years old at the time, had an irrational fear of dogs. We thought the only way to ‘cure’ her was through full immersion. It worked.”

One Christmas, his sister-in-law gave him a commissioned portrait of their pet beagle. Warner remembers, “I half-jokingly teared up and proclaimed to the large group assembled in my living room that it was the best gift ever. I leapt up, pulled the only professional portrait that we had of my two daughters off the wall and replaced it with the painting of Lucy.”

Jim Ryce

Jim Ryce is an electrician who has lived on the Outer Banks for 40 years and owns Seacoast Electric.

He says, “I don’t have a problem with cats,” but currently he and his wife have three dogs, “One that is ours and two that we sort of took over from our kids.” (In a fair twist of fate, their outdoor cat moved next door and is living with their daughter now.) 

When asked why he likes dogs more, Ryce explains, “Maybe it’s their sense of loyalty. And dogs seem to enjoy the outside, going on walks, and playing with them. If you throw a ball to a cat, I don’t think it would ever come back.”

To mix things up a bit, we asked a couple of international students who were working here this summer.

Yana DeBoer & Katia Ostapko

Yana DeBoer (left) is a sophomore from the Netherlands who worked at the Black Pelican restaurant. While she likes both cats and dogs, she says that she is more of a dog person now. “Well, I’ve had two dogs since I’ve been on this earth, and they’ve helped me through rough times.”

Katia Ostapko (right) is a senior from Ukraine who worked at the Hilton. When asked which kind of pet she prefers, she answers quickly, “Cats, because I have cats. I think they are more sweet, cute, and easy to play with.”

While our very own survey shows that dog lovers outnumbered cat lovers on the Outer Banks, readers may be surprised to learn which pet outnumbers all the rest in this country. 


Attesting to the fact that it’s easy to add ‘just a few more’ to an aquarium or a pond, there are almost more pet fish in the U.S. than dogs and cats combined. Perhaps we should have included a different pet in our poll of seaside dwellers?♦

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