Labs and shepherds and poodles. Oh my! In an attempt to keep our spirits up during these dog days of summer, we decided to have a photo contest. We asked you to send us images of your four-legged buddies enjoying the best the season has to offer—and you heard us. Loud and clear.
We received more than 150 pictures, everything from a setter in water wings and a Yorkie on a surfboard, to a pug as a wedding accessory and a beagle who appears to be changing the oil in a car.
As much as we enjoyed every photograph, we, with some help from Georgetown Veterinarian Hospital’s Dr. Mike Fietz (C-VILLE’s Thoroughly Vetted columnist), had to pick the best in show.
So without further ado, first place goes to Aspen, followed closely by Milo and Caysun. See their photos below, and keep scrolling for dozens more mutt mugs and some sweet stories on local canines. Oh, and in case you were wondering, The Old Farmer’s Almanac says the dog days are the 40 days that begin on July 3 and end August 11. They coincide with the ancient heliacal rising of the dog star, Sirius, which, with the exception of the sun, is the brightest star visible from earth. Hot dog!—Susan Sorensen
Meet the winners!
Service dogs with a smile
Service Dogs of Virginia’s tag line says it all: “Life can change in an instant.” Nobody knows this better than Peggy Law, the organization’s founder and executive director.
While she suffered no permanent damage from a horse-related accident more than a decade ago, the incident got Law thinking about others who weren’t so lucky. In 2000, she started the Charlottesville-based agency in her garage, with the goal of giving people with disabilities a permanent companion that enables them to live with greater independence. In other words, a helping paw.
Those paws belong primarily to Labrador Retrievers, as well as some Great Danes, Golden Retrievers, and rescue dogs. “The most important qualities we look for in a dog, regardless of breed, are excellent health, a friendly, intelligent personality, a strong work ethic, and a desire to please,” Law said. It costs about $40,000 and two years of time to purchase, raise, train, and place a service dog. The nonprofit does not charge its clients for the dogs, which means it depends solely on grants, donations, and sponsors.
Some of SDV’s support, however, isn’t monetary. It comes from puppy raisers, the volunteers who train potential service dogs in their homes, helping the pups learn the ins and outs of malls, grocery stores, and the chaos of family life.
“None of us could do our work without these dedicated people,” Law said. “And hearing stories of how their puppy has made a huge impact in someone’s life really seals the deal [for them].”
Each volunteer must complete a five course series where they learn the dos and don’ts of proper puppy training. The classes are intensive, but involve lots of hugging, petting, and praising of puppies, so it’s certainly not hardship duty. Once the courses are complete, volunteers receive an official certificate and a bundle of canine cuteness to take home.
But after 18 months, the puppies must be returned to SDV for advanced training in one of three areas in which Service Dogs of Virginia specializes: assisting the disabled with day-to-day tasks like opening doors, picking up items, and getting the telephone; providing support to autistic children by keeping them safe and helping with communication and social interactions; and helping people with Type 1 diabetes better control their sugar levels (thanks to their keen sense of smell, the dogs can tell when their owners’ blood sugar levels drop).
While it may be tough for puppy raisers to say goodbye to their short-term faithful companions, there’s never a shortage of puppies in need of good homes. And as Law said, “This is a real gift of love that makes a positive, tangible difference.”—Logan Boggs
For more information about Service Dogs of Virginia call 295-9503 or send an e-mail to email@example.com.