A dog trainer from Pensacola picked up some extra cash for dog treats after winning first place in the National Dog Show’s “Dogs Until 2 Meme Contest.”
Kelli Whitfield, a professional dog trainer with the Clever Dog Academy in Pensacola, pocketed $500 for her creative entry into the contest. She snapped a photo of her three dogs wearing hats and sunglasses and holding signs as if they were hitchhiking.
“I was really surprised, there were a lot of good entries, so I was shocked that we won,” Whitfield told the News Journal on Wednesday, a little more than a week after learning the good news. “But definitely excited.”
The contest was showcased on the National Dog Show, which airs annually on Thanksgiving Day on NBC and goes head-to-head with the early NFL football game, another Thanksgiving tradition. The “Dogs Until 2” theme this year derived from the show’s attempt to encourage viewers to watch the dog show until 2 p.m. when it ended, then they could switch over to football.
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Two of Whitfield’s three dogs — Griffin, Cooper and Winston — are holding cardboard signs in their mouths in the prize-winning meme. One sign reads “Dogs Until 2,” and the other says “National Dog Show or Bust!” to round out the hitchhiking theme.
Whitfield had a leg up on the competition, saying her dog training expertise came in handy when it came time to snap a photo of her pooches’ poses.
“They’re actually pretty well-trained, they enjoy posing and doing tricks, and they compete in a lot of (American Kennel Club) events,” Whitfield said. “And I’m a trainer, so you’d hope they were trained for this.”
Whitfield added that she’s long trained them to wear hats and costumes since they were puppies and said they’ve grown to become very photogenic.
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“Basically taking a picture like that, you need them to be able to stay away from you at a distance and then to focus on you in a distracted environment,” Whitfield said. “So we’ve always worked on things like that. And they know they’re going to get paid, so there’s something in it for them.”
Whitfield entered a few different memes into the contest, but the judges enjoyed the hitchhiking version the most. The Pensacola resident believes there were more than 50 entries coming from all over the United States and possibly even overseas.
In a press release, National Dog Show expert analysis and contest judge David Frei said they received triple the number of contest entries this year that they did in 2017.
Winston is a 9-year-old male Glen of Imaal terrier, Griffin is a 5-year-old male Glen of Imaal terrier and Cooper is a 3-year-old male Russell terrier.
Whitfield’s middle dog, Griffin, comes from a decorated family of Glen of Imaal Terriers in the dog show community.
“Griffin is actually from Pennsylvania, his breeders are in the Pennsylvania area, and his brother was on the show and won ‘Best of Breed’ for his breed,'” Whitfield said. “And his father before him has won several times on that same show for ‘Best of Breed.'”
Jake Newby can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 850-435-8538.