They came down the paved runway, one after another and sometimes in pairs or trios. Which dog was the most handsome, the cutest, the most lovable, or fashionably dressed for the occasion?
From apple pies to zucchini pickles and many pounds of barbecue and bowls of chili, I have judged numerous contests. But the Pooch Parade at the Little Sisters of the Poor is the toughest.
Being a pet lover, I could take any one of the dogs home, but that is not what makes the contest so challenging. The glowing pride of the humans as they walked their "best friend" in the competition is touching. Some people showed two and three dogs. In my book, during a time when we hear so much about abuse and cruelty to animals, anyone who shows a pet loving care and wants to show it off to the world is a winner.
But that is not the way contests work. When the votes of the four judges were tallied, Benjie, a year-old poma-poo wearing a sunsuit and sunglasses had the highest score. Benjie and his owner, Lisa Szilagyi of Millbury, stopped in front of the judges long enough for Benjie to dance on his hind legs.
Fin, a year-old Belgian Tervuren, took second place, and Cody, an Alaskan malamute, was the third-place winner.
The 43 dogs that were registered for the parade and many others attended the Little Sisters' Dog Days of Summer Festival. All sizes, colors, and breeds could be spotted, from Sophia, a 10-pound blue Italian greyhound owned by Pat and Wayne Lindsay, to the 205-pound Chase, a Great Dane, as gentle as a lamb.
The Little Sisters covered all bases in their annual fund-raising event. Father Joe Wiegman blessed the dogs. Limbo, Fast Ball Retrieval, Loudest Bark, and Ball Toss were among the competitive games that got the attention of both pets and owners.
Anyone who knows the sisters and their dedication to food and feeding people shouldn't be surprised that they also were prepared with dog fare. Sales of their famous Nun-Better Dog Biscuits were brisk, and the proceeds were added to the sisters' fund for their mission to care for the elderly poor. The bone-shaped biscuits contain flour, cornmeal, oatmeal, water, peanut butter, eggs, vanilla, beef, and chicken flavoring, according to the label, which also reads, "There Ain't Nun Better."
Therapy dogs were in the parade and dress themes for canines included Mickey Mouse and Ohio State. Tiffany Rudolph's golden retriever, Max, wore a sign declaring he had the secret baked-bean recipe, as a take off to the Bush bean TV ad.
Children starred along with pets. Mindful of her best friend's discomfort in the high heat, Bailee Mohon made sure Macy, her yorkie poodle, had a cold drink before the parade started. Both Bailee and Macy chose pastel pink for their debut.
Sophia and Fiona, a schnauzer and Boston terrier mix, rode in a float featuring an elaborate first birthday cake. They were adopted at last year's Dog Days festival; thus this year's event was considered their first birthday. The float was pulled by Anderson Schacht and Isabel Haack, grandchildren of Becky Massey, Little Sisters' dietary director. Fiona is Isabel's dog and Sophia is Massey's.
For the parade Annie Bella, a poodle, wore the same dress she had for her second birthday party, but she did sport a new look. Cara Thomas, her owner, painted her claws in a glitzy color, all 20.