Long before #pandemicpuppy was trending across social media, the Kurtz family of Naples has been a dog-digging bunch. However, these serial builders haven’t succumbed to adding a pandemic puppy to their team of two dogs that includes Bentley, developer Randy Kurtz’s beloved Goldendoodle, and Riley, his daughter Carolyn Gordon’s chocolate lab. “Bentley is 11 or 12 now,” says Elizabeth Kurtz, the youngest of Randy’s two daughters, both of whom work with him at Kurtz Homes and at The Collective. “He is getting up there; his life expectancy is 13 or 14 years. We are hoping that a puppy will bring life to an older dog. That’s why my dad is thinking about reaching out to the breeder we got Bentley from. But then again, it would be quite the feat to have two Goldendoodles to care for.”
Sales from reputable breeders, like the one Bentley came from, have boomed during the COVID-19 pandemic, and so have national dog adoptions. That trend took off locally, too, with Humane Society Naples finding homes for nearly 1,600 animals in 2020. Why are dogs benefitting from such strong popularity right now? Dogs, unlike humans, cannot grasp the concept of social distancing. Instead, they commandeer your side of the bed, act like a lap dog when they weigh in at 50 pounds, and lick your face with slobbery kisses. Their utter disregard for staying 6 feet apart could be exactly why the country and Collier County residents are rolling over for dogs.
Years ago, when the pound sign was not yet a hashtag, the Kurtz sisters cared for a slew of critters. “We are such a big pet family,” explains Carolyn. “Our dogs are always spoiled and treated well as an extension of us. I can’t imagine it any other way. I think it was our parents trying to instill responsibility in us.” Elizabeth adds: “That’s why I don’t have a dog right now. I am never home. I wouldn’t do that to a dog.”
Elizabeth and Carolyn agree that being raised in a house full of pets also taught them about the wonderful connection people can have with animals. “Growing up we had a Yorkie, Alex P. Keaton, named after the Family Ties character,” recalls Carolyn, a married mother of three children ranging in age from 2 to 7. “Then we got another Yorkie, Cooper, a real scraggly, manic, neurotic dog who had more than nine lives.”
Carolyn has lots of fond and funny memories of the various pets she and her sister brought home. Naturally, some random lizards and frogs were smuggled in from the outdoors. “We had countless fair fish that made our mom mad,” notes Carolyn, who also shares the tale of an exceptionally fertile hamster named Chloe. “My really cute, chubby hamster turned out to be pregnant. She lived in my room and gave birth to six baby hamsters: two black, two cream, and two brown. We ended up giving one of each color away. Lizzy kept a black one, Rascal. My mom kept a cream one and named him Stuart Little—until we found out he was a she, then she became Martha Stewart. And I kept a brown one, Peanut. She smelled like peanut butter and was an escape artist. She lived the longest and acted like a dog. We often found her out of her cage, walking down the hall like she was a Labrador. She would chew through the twist ties we used to keep her door shut and get out of the cage, then flop down the main, curved staircase in the foyer. When we had a painter come do family portraits at our home, she painted a portrait of Peanut on the grand staircase. It’s still there.”
Not surprisingly, Carolyn’s husband, David Gordon, who also works at Kurtz Homes, is a dog guy. “David had a little lab mix named Annie when we were dating in college at Elon University,” Carolyn recalls. “She was our first baby. After she passed, we got a beagle, Penny, out of grief, while we were still in school. She was a good dog and is now buried in our backyard. We got Riley right before we had kids. We have a big backyard for kids and dogs, but we are a one-dog family for now. Before we had kids, our dogs were our world. Dogs are expensive, but kids are more expensive.”
Bentley helped Randy get through his divorce from his wife and the mother of his children about six and a half years ago. Randy and his ex both have roots in Iowa, but most of his family, including his mom and dad, whom he started the construction business with in 1982, relocated to Naples. Randy and his mother have homes in Mediterra, while Carolyn lives in Livingston Woods and Elizabeth in Bonita Springs.
Carolyn notes that when Randy is away on golf trips, “Bentley is the main dog and everything revolves around him. We have a friend who watches my dog if we travel, but we have to look after Bentley.”
Elizabeth explains that Bentley is really attached to their dad and any time Randy leaves town, the dog gets high anxiety and hot spots on his skin. “The poor guy ends up in a cone,” she says.
The sisters assert that the occasional Bentley inconvenience is more than worth it. “He is our dad’s buddy,” says Carolyn. “When Dad gets home from work, Bentley grabs a tennis ball to play with him on the lawn. It’s part of the routine. Bentley has been a constant companion for him. He even goes to the job sites. He’s the sidekick.”
Elizabeth adores Bentley, and she often walks him around The Collective—one of the Kurtz’s most impressive projects to date—during her lunch break. “He is spoiled and eats better than I do,” she says. “His bed in my dad’s office costs more than my bed.” Yet, she still finds his personality endearing. “Bentley gets groomed at the house and turns into a fluff, then he runs through the office like he’s in a parade to show us all how beautiful he is.”
Though Bentley sometimes ignores Elizabeth’s commands—despite ample time spent with a trainer—she happily dotes on him. “He eats a special mix of wet and dry food and, at my house, he eats rotisserie chicken,” she says.
Bentley has a soft spot for Elizabeth, too. Every morning at work, he greets his top five favorite people at the office—and one of them is inevitably Elizabeth. When she hears his collar jingle and sees him rounding the desk corner, she says she smiles and thinks, “Oh good, Bentley is here.”