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Schnauzer's fame spurs whirlwind week for Washington Township family

| Monday, Aug. 11, 2014, 10:30 a.m.
Lillian DeDomenic | For Trib Total Media Rebecca Svetina and her family's schnauzer, Casey. The pair have gone viral on youtube after Casey passed out while welcoming Rebecca home.
Lillian DeDomenic | For Trib Total Media Rebecca Svetina and her family's schnauzer, Casey. The pair have gone viral on youtube after Casey passed out while welcoming Rebecca home.

Casey Ehalt loves her family and friends. She's prone to dancing, jumping and whining whenever friends and family drop in to her Washington Township home.

She'll jump up and down and enthusiastically lick beloved visitors.

The 9-year-old miniature schnauzer's exuberance made her a YouTube sensation last week after her reunion with a family member garnered more than 33 million views on the video site. Casey was squealing and greeting Rebecca Svetina with dozens of doggie kisses when the schnauzer passed out, so excited to see her “sister” after two years.

“She got so excited she wouldn't stop howling,” said Svetina, 29. “But then I realized she wasn't breathing and stopped howling. We were afraid she had a heart attack or stroke, but she got up and started running around.”

Casey got a clean bill of health from her veterinarian, who said she got a bit too excited after seeing her loved one. Svetina decided to put the video of her reunion with Casey on YouTube to send to family in Slovenia, where she lives with her husband.

Dogs have deep emotional connections to their humans, said veterinarian Ruth Heller, owner of Borderbrook Animal Hospital in Murrysville. It's very common for the animals to be overwhelmed with excitement when their family members come home.

“They're social animals. They didn't develop to be solitary animals,” Heller said. “We are their pack. They've evolved to show welcoming reactions to their pack members.”

But there were plenty of unintended consequences to Casey's enthusiastic welcome to her old pack mate, Svetina said. Svetina and her husband had come home to celebrate their 2013 marriage with family and friends who couldn't travel to Slovenia for the ceremony last year. While trying to help her family decorate and prepare for the party, Svetina was inundated with calls from national and local media outlets.

“We had to act very quickly when it wasn't very convenient,” she said. “We connected quickly with a media agency. It just snowballs. You don't know where's going.”

Sveltina also was hacked last week, since her YouTube account was under her name. She spent one of her last days in Pittsburgh trying to make sure that none of her financial accounts were affected.

“It's become a matter of privacy now, trying to control this thing that has gone out of control,” Sveltina said. “You don't know where it's going. It might stop relatively fast, or it might stay popular.”

Casey is dealing with her stardom with plenty of naps. Sveltina said her family is watching the dog closely, as Casey got overly excited when Sveltina came back from a day trip to Pittsburgh last week. For now, the schnauzer is getting plenty of tender love and care.

“Schnauzers, in general, are fiercely loyal. There are certain friends she gets really attached to,” Sveltina said. “She loves chasing chipmunks and squirrels, too, then goes to take a nap.”

Sveltina hasn't been able to figure out what made the video so appealing to such a wide swatch of people.

“There are a lot more important things in the world,” she said. “But with all of the negative things in the world, maybe a short video of something so authentic was just something to make people smile on a coffee break.”

Daveen Rae Kurutz is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-871-2365, or dkurutz@tribweb.com.

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