For the 13th year, The Times and Democrat is helping celebrate the joy and fun-filled companionship that animals bring to their owners’ lives with a contest designed to also promote the basic tenets of literacy and animal welfare.
The first round of voting in the newspaper’s Pet Idol Contest, featuring Breezy, Ziggy and other colorfully named pets, begins today. (See Pages C4-5)
The T&D urged everyone to present images of their pets for the 13th Pet Idol contest, which drew 46 entries – including a horse and guinea pig -- this year. Today’s Pet Idol pages include pictures of the 2019 contestants. Information about each owner’s pet is also printed along with a picture of the pet.
A loving labradoodle who enjoys chasing ocean waves, taking long walks, getting belly rubs and playing ball captured the heart of not only her family, but the entire community as the winner of the 2018 Pet Idol contest.
Reece, a 50-pound chocolate labradoodle, won last year’s contest to the delight of her doting owner, Morgan Townsend-Smith of North.
“She really enjoyed it. We had an outfit for every month, and that was exciting. Some months were easier to photograph than others depending on cooperation. As far as her basket of treats and all of her gifts, we were very appreciative of those. I let her keep a few items and we donated to rest to the SPCA,” Townsend-Smith said.
Each year the Pet Idol and four finalists receive items and prizes from contest sponsors and personalized pet calendars with fun themes for each month of the year. Each winner also has their own photo shoot with a T&D photographer.
All of the contest proceeds from sponsorships and voting go toward funding The T&D’s Newspapers in Education program, which provides electronic newspapers and resources to schools at no charge. A donation is also given to the Maude Schiffley Chapter of the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals in Orangeburg.
Townsend-Smith was an English teacher at Edisto High School for 12 years before taking on a new position as an instructional technology facilitator with newly consolidated Orangeburg County School District.
As an educator and SPCA supporter, said she it was important to support both of the contest’s causes.
“I think the contest is a wonderful opportunity to raise money for Newspapers in Education, which is obviously something I support being an educator here in Orangeburg County. I’m always promoting literacy and reading and getting students to be interested in reading the newspaper.
“And then it also raises money for the SPCA, which is an organization that I support because we have lots of animals in the county that need love,” Townsend-Smith said.
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She said Reece certainly has no shortage of love, with the contest also having made her somewhat of a celebrity.
“She’s definitely my only child and the only grandchild. She is also very spoiled by my mother. She really is the heartbeat of our entire family. To bring her into my life is the best decision that I’ve ever made. I couldn’t go a day without her,” Townsend-Smith said.
She thanked everyone who took the time out to vote for her beloved pooch, who even got recognized as the Pet Idol Contest winner when Townsend-Smith stopped at a gas station.
“A guy looked in the car, looked at me and then looked at her. He said, ‘That’s Reece! She won the newspaper thing!’ I said, ‘Yes, sir, she did.’ I thought to myself, ‘And I’m right here. She had to get there. She didn’t drive herself,’" Townsend-Smith said, laughing.
T&D Marketing Manager Carla Hall said the contest is a fun way for pet owners to showcase their beloved animals.
“In a nutshell, people love their pets! They are like family members. Just as a parent likes to show off their children, pet owners like to show off their pets,” Hall said.
She added, “Each pet is brought in to The T&D for a photo shoot. We take hundreds of pictures that the owner will get on a CD for their personal use. We choose pictures to use for the personalized 2020 calendar that we design and print for them.
“The Pet Idol and four finalists also receive a goody bag full of toys and treats and, of course, there are the bragging rights!”
Hall said the contest is also an entertaining way to raise money for worthwhile community causes.
“Newspapers in Education is the nonprofit part of our business. There is no cost to teachers who participate in the program for getting the electronic copies of the newspaper and the resources we give them to help use the newspaper as a teaching tool. In addition to funding this valuable program, we give a portion of the proceeds to our local SPCA,” Hall said.
Petsense is the top sponsor for the Pet Idol contest, with Orangeburg Veterinary Associates, Edisto Pet Clinic and Bamberg Veterinary Clinic serving as other contest sponsors. Contributing sponsors include: Tail Waggers Retreat, Barking Mad Pet Supply and Tailspin Dog Grooming.
Readers will be the judges for the Pet Idol contest.
Individuals can vote for their favorite pet by making a voluntary 25-cents-a-vote donation to the NIE program. Voting ballots will be published in The T&D. Voters can make one free vote per valid T&D newspaper ballot; no copies will be accepted.
Ballots are also available at The T&D office and online at TheTandD.com. Look for the Pet Idol promo box under the PROMOTIONS heading on our home page.
The Pet Idol contest features three rounds of voting, with all contestants being included in the first round. Readers may submit multiple votes during each round of voting. Votes will carry over from round to round. Each consecutive round will eliminate approximately half of the contestants, with the lowest vote-getters being eliminated until the final round.
To learn more about the Pet Idol contest, contact Hall by phone at 803-533-5528 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.