With an abundance of wagging tails and adorable faces, the first ever Piedmont Park Dog of the Year Contest was a ‘bone’ified hit! Leading up to the in-park contest, almost 80 dogs competed in a photo-based contest online to rack up the most votes on their photo by the July 29 deadline. From dogs in bow ties and sweaters to pups exploring all areas of Piedmont Park, the voting page was so cute that it racked up a total of more than 50,000 votes over the course of one month of voting.
On Saturday, July 29 at 11:00am, the top 12 finalists with the most votes on their photograph that also met the contest requirements (including proof of rabies vaccination and a Piedmont Park Conservancy membership) went into an in-park competition at the Piedmont Park Dog Parks. The Piedmont Park Conservancy in-park competition was hosted by Conservancy volunteer Fred McFarlin, and guests enjoyed free giveaways including cold water, dog treats, and one free drink for every contestant and viewer at Park Tavern after the show!
The top 12 contestants were all able to earn over 1300 votes on their photographs, ultimately earning them a spot in the finals. Finalists included:
- Addison, also known as Addie – an 18-month-old Sheepadoodle from Sandy Springs “Oliver Row”
- Django – a four-year-old Goldendoodle from Midtown
- Harlow – an one-year-old King Charles Cavalier Spaniel from Midtown
- Callie – an 11-year-old Goldendoodle from Midtown
- Kooper – a nine-year-old Vizsla from Virginia Highlands
- Ponce – a two-year-old Doberman from Midtown
- Duke – a three-year-old miniature Pinscher (Min Pin) from Midtown Garden District
- Rocky – a two-year-old Beagle/Blue Tick Coonhound from College Park
- Rocket – a five-year-old Terrier mix from Reynoldstown/Cabbagetown line
- Porter – a two-year-old mini-Australian Shepherd from East Lake
- Sarah – a 10-year-old Golden Retriever from OTP Atlanta
- Tank – a 14-year-old mini-Pomeranian from Peachtree Battle
At 11:00am, these top 12 finalists found out they were going into the in-park portion of the competition and lined up in the contestant waiting area. Amy Han Dietrich from the Piedmont Park Conservancy then made remarks about how over 700,000 visitors enjoy the Piedmont Park Dog Parks each year, and how the Conservancy thought that was a great reason to host a Dog of the Year competition. Also, Dietrich reminded the viewers that each of the finalists are members of the Conservancy, and how they were all good dogs of the park. The Conservancy utilized this competition to celebrate the frequent use of the dog parks as well as raise awareness that the dog parks are 100% maintained by the Conservancy and relies on private donations from users and corporate sponsors.
Dietrich then introduced the judges:
- Bridget Matheson from Dog Days Atlanta who donated 3 free days of doggie day care for any of their 3 locations, treats, a toy, and a doogie poop bag to the winner.
- Bryan Kolton from Bark ATL who donated a food scoop and water bottle to ALL the top 12 contestants, a free day of daycare to the top 11 runner ups, and a Day of Bliss coupon for the winner that’s good a free day of day care as well as a free bath and nail trim.
- Liz Rupp from Dancing Dogs Yoga Atlanta who donated one month of yoga and a manduka yoga mat to the winner— as well as one week of yoga to each participant.
- Kalia Edmonds from the Piedmont Park Conservancy
- Mark Nelson from the Piedmont Park Conservancy
The competition then began with a mini-dog parade that allowed viewers to take their first look at the finalists, and for the judges to rate their behavior.
Then each dog was directed by their owner to “sit,” and then had 30 seconds to “free-style” and win over the judges. Free-style acts included laying down, turning, jumping, just being absolutely lovable, and so much more.
Finally after each pup had a moment in the spotlight, the contestants were released in their respectively-sized dog park, and judges watched as they rated friendliness with other dogs.
Finally after much anticipation, Ponce was named the Piedmont Park Dog of the Year! Ponce came up to the stage and briefly held a pose for pictures, but then laid down after his amazing performance in the competition, allowing onlookers to continue taking his picture.
As Piedmont Park Dog of Year, Ponce will hold the status from August 1, 2017 through July 31, 2018. Ponce and her owner Chris Beauregard will help announce the opening of this year’s Splish Splash Doggie Bash on October 7-8, 2017 as well as announce take-off at the Conservancy’s Doggie Dash 5k in the spring of 2018. Ponce will also receive a photo shoot and be featured as the Dog of the Year on Piedmont Park’s social media, dog newsletter and more!
The contest wrapped us with appreciation extended to the contestants, judges, Park Tavern for the post-Yappy Hour, and the Piedmont Park Conservancy volunteers and staff.