A towering tale of human – and canine – love

May 25, 2023
A man and a woman frame a golden retriever, kissing him on either side of his head
Steven and Ashley Miller with their lovable 2-year-old golden retriever. Photos provided

Right before you cross the border into North Carolina, in a tiny little town off I-77, lives a dog named after a building. On its face, it doesn’t seem like the most fitting moniker for an energetic 2-year-old golden retriever. But if you dig a little – you know, under the right metaphorical fence – you might just find that he’s really named after a love story.

Paying it forward

Ashley Miller dreamed of being a doctor when she was just a teenager. Born with an inherited neuromuscular disease that causes progressive muscle weakness, she spent her fair share of time in hospitals growing up. To date, the 34-year-old has had more than 30 orthopedic surgeries because of her Charcot (pronounced “shahr-KOH”)-Marie-Tooth disease.

“No, I do not have shark’s teeth,” Miller said with a laugh.

It was during those many trips to see doctors all over the country – ones that resulted in procedures to reinforce her hips, lower her arches, straighten her toes – that she saw some of the best of humanity. 

“The way all those people were able to help me, my family … I just wanted to be able to do that for others.”

That selflessness, a willingness to want to help those less fortunate, was something else she inherited at birth. The daughter of a pastor, Miller always leaned on her faith to guide her. Sometimes it was in the form of small acts of kindness. Other times, it was to volunteer at her church or local food bank. 

But in 2012, those core values led her two hours south – she would be starting her first year at MUSC’s College of Medicine – touching off a journey that would deepen her love for health care and eventually, lead her to meet her now-husband of seven years.

The meeting spot

Steven Miller needed a job. Winters in Wisconsin were rough, and a friend in Charleston, South Carolina, said his company was looking for some part-time employees. The prospect of warmer weather and a paycheck was all it took to get him packed, out the door and on the road. 

A man holds a fluffy puppy 
Steven with his early Christmas present from Ashley.

Because that job was only part time, it meant that Miller needed to do other things to supplement his income. One of those side gigs was waxing floors during the night shift at MUSC. Though the job was largely thankless, there was one giant perk: occasionally, when their shifts lined up, he got to flirt with a young woman he had met at church. A second-year med student named Ashley. During those short-but-sweet late-night rendezvous, the two would discuss their faith, their respective futures and their love of dogs.

Over time, their connection deepened, and they began dating. All the while, they continued to meet – in the same spot they always did on the second floor of Rutledge Tower – planning out their lives. This time, together. In that shared future were a few constants: family, faith and the understanding that one day – when Ashley’s work schedule finally settled down and Steven had his degree in radiology – they would get a dog. 

In 2016, in the span of just two days, Ashley graduated from MUSC and tied the knot with Steven. “That was a busy weekend,” Ashley said, laughing. Her blossoming career would take the married couple to Austin, Texas, and then Durham, North Carolina, before eventually – in 2021 – bringing them back to South Carolina to the town of Fort Mill, located just five miles from the North Carolina border. 

This is where they finally got that dog. It was October, and Ashley surprised Steven with a 7-month-old golden retriever puppy as an early Christmas present. 

“He was so happy,” Ashley said.

Fondly remembering that special building where, years ago, they had all those late-night heart-to-heart talks and fell in love, the new pup’s name was a no-brainer. 


side by side photos of the same dog, one as a puppy the other as a 2-year-old dog 
Left, Rutledge being obnoxiously precious on Day 1 with the Millers versus the still-handsome version today. 
A man, a woman and a dog stand in front of a sign that says Rutledge Tower 
A rare double Rutledge Tower sighting.

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