<bt>Alexandria's Simpson Stadium Dog Park was the site of a search for another American Idol last Thursday. The difference was these winners will each have four legs and a wagging tail.
Owners of dogs of all sizes, breeds and colors brought their canine "family" members to be photographed by representatives of "Milk-Bone" on a nationwide search for the next models to be featured on its boxes of dog snacks. The present portraits are now a decade old, according to Scott MacDougall, Milk-Bone representative from East Hanover, N.J.
"We will be traveling to 34 cities across the country between now and August on this "Make Your Dog Famous" tour. We started in Orlando, Florida, and then came here where we are taking photos in Alexandria and Chantilly," he said. They were also at the Pet Expo this past weekend at Dulles Expo Center.
By 12:30 p.m. last Thursday they had taken pictures of 35 dogs. Arriving at 10 a.m., Milk-Bone representatives remained at the Alexandria location until 2 p.m.
"EVENTUALLY WE WILL select four dogs to be pictured on our snack boxes which are marketed according to the size of the dog. We get thousands of entrants and then a panel of judges will bring that down to a select few. Those pictures are placed on-line and the public votes. It's the American Idol for dogs," said Beth Talbot, Milk-Bone tour manager.
"After the dog's photo is taken, the owner receives a card with a number on it. They use that to go on-line and follow the instructions to enter their pet in the contest," she said.
The size categories are small, medium, large and extra large. "Everything is broken down by weight because that's how the products are marketed. Under the dog's photo on each box is the designation of what size dog they are geared to," Talbot said.
Alexandria resident Dave Scavme brought "Java," a lab mix, and "Maybe," a staford terrier. "They took a picture but I have better ones at home. I might submit one of those later on when I go on-line," he said. Owners were encouraged to select and submit any picture they already had if they thought it better captured their pet's personality.
"Each winner will receive a $250 prize and a one year supply of Milk-Bone dog snacks. In addition to the four winners, we will select 16 first prize winners. They get a Milk-Bone cookie jar with their picture on it and a one year supply of snacks," Talbot said.
CAPITALIZING ON the event were representatives of the Animal Welfare League of Alexandria who provided information not only on pets available for adoption but also on various programs available through the League.
"We are here trying to get people interested in adopting our animals and to tell them of our programs," said Dolores Murray, manager, Volunteer Services, Animal Welfare League. She also was displaying pictures of many of their potential adoptees, both dogs and cats.
"We normally have 12 to 13 dogs available for adoption at all times. Puppies and kittens go very fast. Unfortunately older cats and dogs are not taken as readily," Murray said.
"But, we have been experiencing some good success with older animals. We had one senior lady come in recently and adopt an 11 year-old dog. She said she could affiliate with being older," according to Murray.
"How we get our animals is about half and half between give-ups and strays. The biggest reasons for give-ups are people moving or developing allergies to the animal," Murray said
Two League efforts, rabies vaccinations and microchipping clinic, are scheduled for Sunday, April 10, from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. Vaccinations cost $10 and microchipping is available for $30, according to the flyer at their display area.
Rabies vaccinations are required by Virginia State law. Microchips enable owners to permanently identify their pet. In order to participate in microchipping, owners must bring proof of ownership, such as veterinary records or adoption contract, according to the League.
For vaccinations, which are good for three years, owners "will need to provide the appropriate documentation that their pet's rabies shot is still current." If this can not be provided "a one-year vaccination will be given."
A FEE OF $50 is charged by the League to adopt dogs, cats and ferrets. The fee for birds, rabbits and other small animals is $20.
"If the animal is not altered, spay/neuter surgery must be performed and paid for at the time of adoption," according to the League. It is Virginia law that "all animals adopted from shelters must be spayed or neutered." There is an additional charge of $50 to $100 for this service depending on the size of the animal.
"We also have a really good lost and found program. It is very active and very successful," Murray said. "And, the first Wednesday of every month we offer grief counseling to people who have lost their pets or they have died."
Other services performed by the League which the adoption fee helps to support to are:
• Providing shelter, food, medicines and other care
• Distemper combination vaccination for dogs
• Upper respiratory combination vaccination for cats
• Deworming medication for both dogs and cats
• In-home adoption consultation
• Initial veterinary exam at a participating veterinarian
• Supplying identification tags
Additional information is available at the League, 4101 Eisenhower Avenue, Alexandria, by calling 703-838-4774, or on its Web site at www.alexandriaanimals.org. Hours of operation are Monday through Friday, noon to 8 p.m.; Saturday and Sunday, noon to 5 p.m.; closed Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year's Day. Adoption Department and viewing is closed on Wednesdays.