Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

For two dogs, contest is a big, hairy deal

He's lazy and a thief with a passion for newspapers. She's elegant, works full time and loves butterflies. They've never met but have a common bond.

Courtney, a cinnamon-colored golden retriever, and Rufus, a pound adoptee of unknown lineage, are finalists in the Hallmark Card YourPets Card competition.

Their happy doggie faces can be found on cards for sale online and in more than 13,000 stores.

A couple of years back, Ron Twardosky was looking for a puppy, a companion to enjoy the family's home in rural Hernando County. He and wife Pati found a little white furry fellow at the Citrus County pound.

After some thought, Twardosky decided that the tiny fur ball was the one, not realizing he would grow so big. He needed just the right name. Ron settled on Rufus.

The little fuzzy guy with standup ears and a big nose found adventures around the house. One morning when Ron walked outside, Rufus plopped down at his feet with innocent eyes but a telltale black circle around his mouth.

He offered a "Who, me?" look and Ron dashed for his camera. He clicked once and got a winning photo that's now on Hallmark cards and has earned more than $500 for the Twardoskys — $250 for being a contest finalist, and another $250 in a subcategory of "Best Hair" — and another $500 for charity that the Twardoskys chose: PetLuv Non Profit Spay Center in Brooksville.

Rufus' dirty face came from a romp in a 20-pound bag of potting soil.

When Pati learned of the Hallmark contest, she added the caption, "What Chocolate Cake?" to Rufus' picture and mailed it.

Soon news arrived saying their entry was one of 67 chosen as a finalist from about 7,000 submitted to the greeting card giant.

Meanwhile, there was the case of missing newspapers. Twardosky said that sometimes the paper was there in the early morning, sometimes not. The mystery continued until one day he went to clear some tall grass. He found about 50 newspapers, still in their delivery bags.

Not all were his. Rufus had also collected from the neighbors and hidden them in the same spot.

"He's the laziest dog in the world. He will go for the newspaper, but who knows where it'll turn up," Twardosky says with a laugh, petting the now-large wire haired Rufus, who offers a doggie smile and turns belly-up.

Unlike Rufus, Courtney, owned by Barbara McCormick of Trinity, goes to work every day. McCormick, director of the Crisis Center of Tampa Bay, has owned Courtney for four years. The soft and gentle dog is often just what a child needs when something bad has happened.

Courtney was a student in the Kids and Canine program at Dorothy Thomas Exceptional Center in Tampa. The center pairs a golden retriever with a truant middle school student, who is responsible for training the dog to be an assistant for physically disabled people or children with autism.

Her distraction with things that moved, like butterflies, proved that Courtney was not a good candidate for the disabled. McCormick arrived, looking for a dog.

Jennifer Wise, Kids and Canines program director, said, "The career change for Courtney from service dog to Crisis Center dog was just perfect."

Rowena Wilkinson, a colleague and friend of McCormick's, caught Courtney sitting in an elegant pose, and Wilkinson, who has garnered awards for her photographs, grabbed her camera.

The picture was a finalist in the Hallmark contest, awarding McCormick $250, which she shared with Wilkinson.

"It was a spontaneous moment on a balcony. Courtney just seems to know she's pretty," said McCormick, stroking the retriever's silky, sleek fur.

Courtney and Rufus are now up for the final award, including $1,000 and a trip with their owners to Hallmark for a professional photo shoot, their card on sale for a year and possibly becoming part of the Hallmark permanent collection.

Gail Diederich can be reached at gdiederich@sptimes.com.

>>THE CONTEST

To vote

The winner will be chosen through an online voting process that continues through Sept. 14. To participate, go to www.hallmark.com/you. Click on "Your Pets" and then "vote."

For two dogs, contest is a big, hairy deal 08/08/08 [Last modified: Monday, August 11, 2008 12:15pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Tampa man driving ATV killed in Gibsonton crash on U.S. 41

    Public Safety

    GIBSONTON — A 24-year-old man driving an all-terrain vehicle died Monday afternoon in a crash on U.S. 41, the Florida Highway Patrol said.

  2. Questions about Russia chase Trump during first Israel visit

    World

    JERUSALEM — President Donald Trump solemnly placed a note in the ancient stones of Jerusalem's Western Wall on Monday, sending a signal of solidarity to an ally he's pushing to work harder toward peace with the Palestinians. But his historic gesture- and his enthusiastic embrace of Israel's leader - were shadowed …

    President Donald Trump shakes hands with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu after making joint statements, Monday in Jerusalem. [AP photo]
  3. Data breach exposes 469 Social Security numbers, thousands of concealed weapons holders

    Corporate

    Social Security numbers for up to 469 people and information about thousands of concealed weapons holders were exposed in a data breach at Florida the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services. The breach, which the agency believes happened about two weeks ago, occurred in an online payments system, spokesperson …

    Commissioner of Agriculture Adam Putnam on Monday that nearly 500 people may have had their Social Security numbers obtained in a data breach in his office.
[Times file photo]

  4. Trigaux: Can Duke Energy Florida's new chief grow a business when customers use less power?

    Energy

    Let's hope Harry Sideris has a bit of Harry Houdini in him.

    Duke Energy Florida president Harry Sideris laid out his prioriities for the power company ranging from improved customer service to the use of more large-scale solar farms to provide electricity. And he acknowledged a critical challenge: People are using less electricity these days. [SCOTT KEELER   |   Times]
  5. Editorial: Preserve wild Florida before it's too late

    Editorials

    The last dairy farm in Hillsborough County has milked its final cow, the pastures sold to developers who will build 1,000 new homes. The remnants of the last commercial citrus grove in Pinellas County, where the Sunshine State's famed industry began in the 19th century, were sold last year to make room for 136 homes. …

    As dairy farms and citrus groves disappear, much more needs to be done to avoid paving over Florida’s wild spaces.