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Two Top Dogs Win 2009 Spay Day Pet Photo Contest

The Humane Society of the United States

  • Gus, whose most endearing habit is "digging in the yard for 'Gary's,'" won the 2009 Spay Day Online Pet Photo Contest's Judged Category. Lanmana Parys.

  • Roger Kieser's photo of his dog, Martina, won the 2009 Spay Day Online Pet Photo Contest's Fundraising Category. Roger Kieser.

By Victoria Fisher

Lanmana Parys of Spirit Lake, Idaho, was taking care of her aunt's house when a mutt named Gus won her heart.

"[My aunt] helped start and runs the Tuba City Humane Society on the Navajo Reservation in Arizona, so her house is always full of animals," said Parys. "[She] had always said he [Gus] was special, and she was right."

Gus was named the winner in the Judged Category in The Humane Society of the United States' and Humane Society International's 2009 Spay Day Online Pet Photo Contest.

More than 45,000 pet lovers entered their pets' photos in second annual contest, which raised more than $550,000 for spay/neuter efforts worldwide. Nearly half of those funds went to local animal organizations; the remaining funds went The HSUS's and HSI's spay/neuter projects.

The story behind the winning shot

Gus's photo was taken in Long Beach, Calif., when Parys and her fiancé were caring for four foster kittens. Penelope (Penny) is the white kitten in the background; Lucille (Lucy) is the tabby sleeping near Gus' nose.

"Gus was doing what he loves best: sleeping on the couch," she said. "More often than not, the kittens would lay all over him, some even trying to nurse on him. The look on Gus' face seemed to explain it all."

Parys said she is a huge advocate for spay/neuter programs and education. "To support this issue is important, especially for where Gus came from," she said.

"My family and I have supported rescues by adopting almost all our animals from shelters, many from the reservation," said Parys. "The life of the reservation dog is tragic. Disease is rampant, abuse is prolific, funding non-existent, and spaying/neutering education is a difficult hurdle.

The fact that this puppy who was tossed aside, starved with his littermates, and almost died from parvo and tick fever is able to be a part of Spay Day is incredible. Spay/neuter programs and education have been on the top of my aunt's [list] in hopes of giving the dogs on the reservation a new chance."

What's a Gary?

In Gus's caption, Parys said his most endearing bad habit is "digging in the yard for 'Gary's,'" which, as it turns out, are backyard critters.

"I was working on the yard, and Gus started sniffing around. Before I knew it, I turned around and saw nothing but a butt in the air. He had dug a three-foot-long hole in the ground searching for the gopher he smelled. The running joke of 'Gary the gopher' turned into an obsession for him," Parys said. "All you have to do is say the word 'Gary' and he starts whining and takes off running around looking for the squirrels and gophers."

'Foster homes are always needed'

"For about the past 14 years, I have fostered for local humane societies in Nebraska, California, and Idaho," she said. "I worked at vet clinics for a large portion of my working life, and I used what I learned there to help any animal I could. Giving these animals another chance in a loving temporary home gets them to a place, both physically and mentally, to find a forever home.

"Foster homes are always needed, and it's a great way to help from the comfort of your home. Gus is always a perfect gentleman and more gentle and patient than I could have ever imagined, and he and his sisters always enjoy having visitors."

Parys and her fiancé work from home with a computer graphic/visual effects company, "so it gives us the perfect opportunity to foster complex cases as we are home most of the time," she said.

Meet Martina

The photo contest's Fundraising Category winning entrant is Martina, who garnered more than 12,000 votes—raising $12,268 for The HSUS' and HSI's spay/neuter efforts. Martina's photo was submitted by her owner, Roger Kieser of Isle, Minn.

"I still can't believe it! Martina means the world to me," said Kieser. The funds Martina raised in the contest are being donated to The HSUS and HSI on behalf of the Carrie Underwood Fan Club at Kieser's request.

"Martina is my 'Baby Girl' that I love so much," he said. "She mostly plays by herself with her stuffed animals  but loves to be by my side when she senses that I'm blue … I am just thrilled and honored that Martina won!"

About Spay Day

Spay Day takes place on the last Tuesday of February, with events in honor of the day occurring throughout February. Event organizers across the United States and around the world hold special spay/neuter clinics and conduct outreach efforts to raise funds and promote spaying and neutering. Since its inception in 1995, more than 1.5 million dogs and cats have been spayed or neutered as a result of Spay Day.

Victoria Fisher is the online producer for the Companion Animals section of The HSUS.

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