How many people are needed to take a picture of a dog? Four: one to hold the leash, one to shake the doggy toy, one to make funny noises to grab the dog’s attention, and one to take the photo.
It took a lot to photograph the almost 100 zaguates, or mixed-breed dogs, that showed up at Pets y Más magazine’s recent auditions for a cover dog for its September edition.
Tryouts were held at San José’s La Sabana and La Paz parks with a lake for a background. Christine Bork, director and founder of Pets y Más magazine and TV program and planner of crazy canine events, spent both days crouched on the ground, whistling, coaxing, crawling and making faces in an effort to get her subjects to look at the camera long enough to take a picture.
Dogs came in all mixes, colors and sizes. Many had been abandoned and rescued. All were loved by their owners, and some were outright spoiled. Dogs got to meet and play with new friends, and proud “moms” and “dads” had hopes their pets would be chosen as “supermodels.”
Theo, a little gray pup with black ears that looked more like a teddy bear than a dog, didn’t want to leave his owner’s arms. Bobby, a brownish dog whose tail never ceased wagging, kept running up to the camera to see what it was. Bobby had been left behind in a vacant house when his previous owners moved on, but his new family knew he was destined for greatness.
There was also a long-haired, all-white dog with black rings around its eyes like a raccoon – nobody could guess what genetics produced that. And the Dalmatian-German shepherd mix was obvious in Manchas, whose shepherd head and tail separated a long-haired, spotted body.
Then there was Duque, who got disqualified. The big dog gave his owner quite a workout and wanted nothing to do with photos. He slipped his chain and plunged into the lake, surfaced and vigorously shook water all over Bork and her camera equipment. Then he drank up the water set down for another canine customer. He was last seen running around the lake with his owner in pursuit.
According to Bork, all the dogs (except Duque) will be featured in the September issue of Pets y Más, though only one will make the cover, and it is Bork’s difficult task to choose.
Bork has engineered other animal events in the 14 years since she came to Costa Rica from Munich, Germany. There was “Cumpleaños Canino,” a doggy birthday party where hundreds of dogs and their owners showed up for games, contests and cake, not to mention the piñata full of dog treats, which was broken open by a cocker who lunged at it. At last year’s “Canine Karaoke,” dogs howled, growled and whined while their owners sang, demonstrating just how gaga we pet owners can get.
There were also contests for Miss Canine Costa Rica and Mr. Canine Costa Rica, and the annual Ciudad de Mascotas, or Pet City, with competitions and exhibitions for all kinds of pets, including turtles and rabbits. And the biggest event of all that made news around the world was the wedding of Princesa, a schnauzer, and Ringo, an undistinguished zaguate, in full bridal array, with a reception and multi-tiered wedding cake.
These activities represent more than fun and prizes.
“We want to educate the public to care for their pets and to help animals, and not just see a dog as an object,” Bork said.
Bork’s love for animals goes way back.
“We always had dogs and animals when I was a child,” she said. Among them were four Russian guinea pigs named Anastasia, Smirnoff, Constantin and Tchaikovsky. More recently there was Natz de la India, a German shepherd who was the official mascot of Pets y Más, and is still listed as a founder. Natz died two years ago, but his son, Alfi de Oktoberfest, inherited his role with the Pets y Más empire and somehow writes a column each month for the magazine.
Natz was also a patron of the Natz Foundation, which receives donations to help groups that work directly in animal rescue as well as families that cannot pay for veterinary help. Early this year, the foundation provided funds for the Golden Paw Award for groups working in animal rescue and adoption, won this year by Animales de Asís (TT, April 1).
Pets y Más magazine is sold in Casa de las Revistas stores and pet food and supply stores. The TV show airs on Channel 33 Sundays at 4 p.m. You can also catch Pets y Más at www.petsymas.com and on Facebook and YouTube.