Friday, October 12, 2007

The Best Pet 2007

Casey: Best Pet 2007

I was driving along on my way to work last March, just singing along with the music – I don’t remember what the song was, but I’d guess it was “Come Sail Away” by Styx because at the time I was very into that song and because I like to listen to that in the car since I can sing along with it without people staring and wondering if I can hit at least one note right, but that’s really all beside the point – and as I was singing, I was thinking about how great the NCAA Basketball Tournament was, not because of basketball but because somehow the Tournament got even people like me, people who are awful at basketball and who don’t like to watch it, to pay attention to it.

And I was also thinking about Mateo and McHale Shaw, two little boys who have been through an awful lot in their lives. They were born conjoined twins, and were separated while still young, and had to go through what seems to me to be every available medical procedure known to man. Despite all that, Mateo and McHale are always smiling in pictures. And so are their parents.

Those two thoughts combined into one brilliant idea: Tournament of Pets. Over on Gather, I announced that I would hold Tournament of Pets 2007 and through the magic of the Internet, choose the best pet this year. People would then vote on them, and the points generated by the voting would be donated to Mateo and McHale’s mom and dad for their honeymoon.

Like all great ideas and good causes, it worked. The nominations flooded in, and eventually 64 pets set out on the Tournament. Their owners submitted pictures and essays about a variety of topics, and rallied the rest of Gather to vote. The pets competed through rounds, just like the NCAA Tournament, and in brackets. It was a lot of work for the owners (not so much for the pets, who just had to be themselves.)

I’m not going to recap all the great entrants here; you can go see them on Gather, where I’ve kept all the essays up with the pictures. This isn’t about all the competitors, it’s about the one that won:
Casey, The Best Pet 2007.

Casey is owned by Lisa Coan, who wants you to know that in addition to Casey, she loves loons. Lisa also loves string cheese and scrapbooking. Learn more about her by clicking on that link and reading some of her stuff on Gather.

Lisa deserves your recognition, since Casey’s victory as Best Pet 2007 was spurred on in part by Lisa’s efforts, not just by Casey’s looks and talent. Lisa had to write the essays for each round. The theme for one round was to say why the entered pet was better than something, anything – the entrants had to pick the thing and say why it was inferior to their pets. Here’s what Lisa and Casey submitted:

My pet is better than pain medicine because he soothes my pain by kissing it away"

"My pet is better than a cloudy day because he brings sunshine into my life just by his smile"

"My pet is better than popcorn because he loves to share it with me everytime"

"My pet is better than water because his swimming and retrieving is so joyful to watch"

"My pet is better than friends because he never says a harsh word"

"My pet is better than relatives because he never has expectations"

"My pet is better than the computer because he shows me true unconditional love"

How could you top that? Better than popcorn, relatives, and water? Better than computers? Those are great.
But Lisa and Casey outdid themselves, because the final competition required them to create a holiday celebrating Casey. So henceforth, here is how we will celebrate Casey’s Day:

If there were a holiday just for Casey, we would celebrate it by inviting all of his doggie friends and doggie neighbors and going to the off-leash dog park.

We would celebrate with fancy-made dog treats and bottled water. We would have cupcakes (Casey loves cupcakes - we have them every year for the dog's birthdays), party hats, and toys for all the dogs to play with.

We would spend time playing fetch with all the dogs and walking around the trails. We would then spend time down by the lake letting the dogs that like to swim have time swimming and retrieving. Those that don't like to swim can play by the shoreline. We would then go play on the hay bales where the dogs can jump and play going up and down between the bales of hay running and jumping from one to another.

We would have an obstacle course set up for the dogs so they could play with their parents trying to master some of the obstacles. Most of these dogs are "family" dogs so it would be fun to see if any of them could do any of the obstacles. At the end of our day, each dog will be sent home with a special doggie gift bag full of goodies just for them.

That day sounds great to me. It would beat most other holidays. (Hello, Arbor Day? I’m looking at you.)

Casey faced stiff competition. There were cats, dogs, a tarantula, something that I think might have been a mouse. As you can guess, all of the animals (yes, even the tarantula) were not only loved by their owners but were lovable and interesting, and the response that Tournament of Pets generated was great, and helped the Shaws a bit.
I didn't know what to expect when I started Tournament of Pets. I hoped that it would be popular, and I hoped that it would do some good. What I never considered was just how much people love their pets, and how much people love other people's pets, and how much people love other people, too. The outpouring of excitement and fun and attention to each other and concern for the Shaws was great. I loved seeing the pictures and reading the essays and watching the voting, and I loved that the charity part of it seemed to add to the interest and fun for the entrants and voters.
And I loved that in a small way, it maybe made a difference in some people's lives. We all spend most of our time talking about how great our pets are anyway, and dreaming of spending a day swimming and playing fetch with them. Through Tournament of Pets, a lot of people were able to help a great family by doing what we do anyway. It made our lives seem a little more special.
Casey's victory helped sum that up. Lisa's entries that I've pulled out here show why the combination of pets and charity was so potent. Pets can help ease our pain, can share our lives, add to our fun, and show us unconditional love without expecting anything in return.
And we, at our best, can help ease the pain, share our lives, add to someone's fun, and show unconditional love without expecting anything in return. Our pets encapsulate and reflect what is The Best in all of us. The Best Pet really shows those qualities that make for great human beings, too.
Congratulations, Casey, on being The Best Pet 2007.


ChiefManyshots said...

so, how do we sign up for the best of 2008???

The Trouble With Roy said...

Go to Gather: and get an account, then do a search for "Tournament of Pets 2008." And even if you miss the first sign-up, hang around because we're always adding new pets.