- Wally (Human: Michelle Henry)
Seven Days regularly puts out calls to readers asking for feedback, input or leads. Sometimes those crowdsourced fishing expeditions come up empty. Other times, as when we asked for readers' experiences waiting for medical care, nominations for Pandemic All-Stars or (in 2019) suggestions on what to do with Burlington's infamous pit, the responses are robust.
Then there's the Best of the Beasts pet photo contest.
Not only are our readers quick to share their horror stories from the medical-industrial complex and their creative and snarky takes on city planning, but they seem eager to share their pet photos with total strangers.
According to Seven Days marketing and events director Corey Grenier, this year's contest received a whopping 911 submissions from 585 readers. That doesn't quite measure up to the 2,641 votes for, and 1,041 respondents to, our Pandemic All-Stars package, which highlighted Vermonters who went above and beyond to help their neighbors and communities during one of the worst periods in living memory. But, given the narrower parameters of the pet photo contest, we'd call the turnout pretty close.
The takeaway is that Vermonters love our pets as much as, if not more than, we love other people. Even when those people are heroes.
Browsing through the pet photo submissions, one easily sees why. Our pets are often better than we are — or at least way cuter. (Wally the rescue dog from Texas, I just wanna smoosh your shmooshy widdle smooshface! Whosagooboy? Whosagooboy?!)
Speaking of heroes, recently a small, dedicated crew of Seven Days staffers combed through all of those submissions to identify winners in preselected categories: Doggone Adorable (dogs), Purrrfect Poser (cats), Wild Card (pets that aren't dogs or cats), Best Dressed (critters in costume) and Lady & the Tramp (best pals). It was a daunting task.
"It's almost impossible to pick favorites," art director Diane Sullivan said. "I love all of the fuzzy bastards and want to eat their damn faces."
Production manager John James concurred. "I spend 90 percent of my time on the internet looking at memes about animals, so judging this contest should've been a walk in the dog park," he said. "But there were so many great entries, it was difficult picking the best of the litter."
Despite the challenges — and the puns — the experience led to a revelation for at least one staffer.
"Looking through all these pet photos made me realize that I really want a cat," designer Jeff Baron said. "Unfortunately, I'm allergic to them! But they're so darn cute, I might chance it."
Fortunately, there is no risk of allergic reactions to this post, which contains some of our favorite submissions. Fair warning, though: You may experience a cute overload.
Winner: Wally (Human: Michelle Henry)
- Wally (Human: Michelle Henry)
Runners-UpZuri (Human: Clarence Davis)
- Zuri (Human: Clarence Davis)
Rufus Jude (Human: James Lantz)
- Rufus Jude (Human: James Lantz)
Winner: Acorn (Human: Emma Interlandi)
- Acorn (Human: Emma Interlandi)
Mylo (Human: Brian Duda)
- Mylo (Human: Brian Duda)
Winnie (Human: Lauren Handy)
- Winnie (Human: Lauren Handy)
Lady & the Tramp
Winners: Robroy and Lucy (Human: Nancy Malhotra)
- Robroy and Lucy (Human: Nancy Malhotra)
George and Gracie (Human: Betsy Perlman)
- George and Gracie (Human: Betsy Perlman)
Percy and Max (Human: Renee Langevin)
- Percy and Max (Human: Renee Langevin)
Winner: Pontch (Human: Greta Barker)
- Pontch (Human: Greta Barker)
Henry (Human: Mara Puppy)
- Henry (Human: Mara Puppy)
Peanut (Human: Sophia St. John-Lockridge)
- Peanut (Human: Sophia St. John-Lockridge)
Winner: Emma-Oots (Human: Anjanette Lemak)
- Emma-Oots (Human: Anjanette Lemak)
Gustav, aka "Gus" (Human: Morgan Luce)
- Gustav, aka "Gus" (Human: Morgan Luce)
Iggy the axolotl (Human: Matilda Kauffman)
- Iggy the axolotl (Human: Matilda Kauffman)