Animal Appeal: Introducing the Winners of the 2022 Best of the Beasts Pet Photo Contest | Animals | Seven Days | Vermont's Independent Voice

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Animal Appeal: Introducing the Winners of the 2022 Best of the Beasts Pet Photo Contest

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Published August 10, 2022 at 10:00 a.m.


Delilah - KITT CARELLA
  • Kitt Carella
  • Delilah

Why do we love our pets? Believe it or not, that question has fueled decades of rigorous scientific study around the world. It turns out there are about as many reasons for us to adore our furry, scaly and feathered friends as there are different types of pets.

For instance, we might love pets because having them is good for us. The connection between domestic animals and mental well-being is long established. While socioeconomics also factor in, kids who grow up with pets tend to be at lower risk of severe mental health problems and to have higher self-esteem, according to a 2018 review of the evidence published in BMC Psychiatry. Adult pet owners are also less likely to experience anxiety or depression. And companion animals have been shown to lessen the severity of symptoms in people with dementia.

Basic biology might also explain the profound affinity many pet owners have for their little buddies. According to a 2015 report in Science, gazing into a dog's eyes boosts the feel-good hormone oxytocin — the same physiological response that bonds parents to their infants. So maybe referring to Mr. Sprinkles II as your "fur baby" isn't so far off the mark after all. (It is still, however, insufferable.)

With apologies to the global scientific community, we here at Seven Days have a simpler theory about why we adore our pets: 'cause they're freakin' adorable! For proof, we humbly submit the winners of this year's Best of the Beasts pet photo contest. Go ahead and check 'em out now, then come back. We'll wait...

I mean, come on, right?

The 2022 contest set a record for submissions at 1,387, up from 911 in 2021. It also set a record for smooshable faces at roughly infinity. Clearly, all those pandemic pets are just getting cuter with age.

Readers submitted photos in five categories: Doggone Adorable (dogs), Purrfect Poser (cats), Best Dressed (animals in costume), Lady & the Tramp (multiple cute animals together) and Wild Card, which included everything from reptiles to birds to miniature horses to this year's Wild Card champ, Russet the hedgehog.

Along with the winners, you'll find a handful of pet photos that the judges felt were just too darned cute not to include. It's easy to see why certain critters charmed. Just look into their eyes.

Doggone Adorable

Winner: Delilah (Human: Kitt Carella)

Delilah - KITT CARELLA
  • Kitt Carella
  • Delilah

Runners-Up

Thacher (Human: Lesley Gendron)

Thacher - LESLEY GENDRON
  • Lesley Gendron
  • Thacher

Tripp (Human: Emily Scharff)

Tripp - EMILY SCHARFF
  • Emily Scharff
  • Tripp

Purrfect Poser

Winner: Cookie (Human: James Lockridge)

Cookie - JAMES LOCKRIDGE
  • James Lockridge
  • Cookie

Runners-Up

Meeko (Human: Bailey Rowland)

Meeko - BAILEY ROWLAND
  • Bailey Rowland
  • Meeko

Gravy (Human: Emma Pearson)

Gravy - EMMA PEARSON
  • Emma Pearson
  • Gravy

Lady & the Tramp

Winner: Cali, Stormy & Mae (Human: Skye Elkins)

Cali, Stormy & Mae - SKYE ELKINS
  • Skye Elkins
  • Cali, Stormy & Mae

Runners-Up

Pippin & Gimli (Human: Claire Denning)

Pippin & Gimli - CLAIRE DENNING
  • Claire Denning
  • Pippin & Gimli

Daisy, Kodi & Stranger (Human: James Squires)

Daisy, Kodi & Stranger - JAMES SQUIRES
  • James Squires
  • Daisy, Kodi & Stranger

Best Dressed

Winner: Rizzo (Human: Troy Headrick)

Rizzo - TROY HEADRICK
  • Troy Headrick
  • Rizzo

Runners-Up

Luna (Human: Erin Randall)

Luna - ERIN RANDALL
  • Erin Randall
  • Luna

Acorn (Human: Emma Interlandi)

Acorn - EMMA INTERLANDI
  • Emma Interlandi
  • Acorn

Wild Card

Winner: Russet (Human: Robin Wagner)

Russet - ROBIN WAGNER
  • Robin Wagner
  • Russet

Runners-Up

Willie (Human: Jane Swift)

Willie - JANE SWIFT
  • Jane Swift
  • Willie

Gojira (Human: Ryan Freebern)

Gojira - RYAN FREEBERN
  • Ryan Freebern
  • Gojira

Not enough cute for you?

See all the submissions here