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It made perfect sense that this year's pet show at the Galax Public Library was dedicated to the late Dr. Don Fincher, a beloved Galax veterinarian who passed away last month.
Fincher, as you'd expect, loved animals and caring for their well-being. He also loved books, making the site of the pet show the ideal venue.
The critter competition was once an annual feature of the library's summer reading program, but it hadn't been held for a few years. Children's librarian Carlene Poole brought it back to coincide with the last summer program under her direction.
She's retiring in September after more than 30 years.
Between that and the dedication to Fincher, the show was bittersweet, but it's impossible to be melancholy amid bouncing puppies and precocious kittens.
Traditional pets made up the majority of entries — 13 dogs, six cats and one fish — but there were five “designer pets,” too.
(The judges used this category to allow entries like a toddler's Glow Worm toy, a pink stuffed puppy and a family of origami paper rabbits.)
Poole said that past shows have featured ponies, snakes, calves, bugs, ducks and every animal you could imagine.
Linda and Bill Dale, who have a vacation home in Fries, brought Pomeranians Trixie, 10, and Precious, 4.
Linda said they always timed their visits to the area so that Dr. Fincher could treat their dogs and give them shots. “He was so kind, and we always appreciated his expertise.”
Fincher's wife, Lois, attended the pet show and was delighted by all the animals on display. She thanked Poole and the library “for honoring Dr. Fincher's memory in such a fun, fitting way.
“His first love was caring for animals. He often was referred to as the 'James Herriot of the Blue Ridge,'” Fincher said, referring to the famous veterinarian and author. “His second love was reading and books.”
Later, Fincher helped Poole present the Best in Show award — a metal feeding dish with an engraving in memory of Dr. Fincher and a special ribbon — to Fuzzball the cat and his owner, McCain Griffith.
Griffith said the enormous feline was “the laziest cat in the world,” and Fuzzball certainly lived up to the honor.
He went limp as Griffith heaved him up on the table before judges Harriet Meinecke and Pam Russell, balls of fluff shedding from his long coat and taking flight in the breeze.
The polar opposite of Fuzzball was Owen, a rambunctious pug who went everywhere but where his owners told him. He got the Biggest Baby award.
In the grass on the library lawn slept little Marley, a seven-week-old fox terrier/cocker spaniel mix brought by Chad Spence. The puppy wouldn't even wake up for judging, falling back to sleep in his owner's arms. For this, he earned the award for “Most Adorable.”
Emma Thompson's dog had the most unique name — Sir Whipsy Noodles — and his aristocratic demeanor earned him the Most Dapper Dog award.
Little Bradley Dalton roamed the lawn making friends with all the animals, especially Carissa and Brody Robinson's blue heeler puppy, Ringo, which Bradley kissed right on the lips.
His mom, Shannon Dalton, brought her dog Maggie, who showed off the tricks she learned after extensive obedience training.
In addition to the non-flesh-and-blood “designer pets,” one entry didn't even have to attend to win. Bella the month-old black kitten won based solely on 3-year-old owner Alex Funk's description.
The award: Quietest Pet.
Every pet owner received a prize, in addition a ribbon.
• Best Cow Wrangler — Banjo the dog
• Best Gurgle — Fiona the fish
• Best Manners — white puppy
• Best Name — Magnet the cat
• Best Smile — Pugsy the dog
• Best Trick — Trixie the dog
• Biggest Baby — Owen the pug
• Bounciest — Thursday the dog
• Daintiest Dancer — Precious the dog
• Most Adorable — Marley the dog
• Most Ancient — Dino the dinosaur
• Most Colorful — Ringo the dog
• Most Dapper Dog — Sir Whipsy Noodles
• Most Impressive — Fuzzball the cat
• Most Original — John the origami bunny
• Most Regal — Maggie the cat
• Most Talented — Precious the cat
• Most Well-Behaved — Willy the glow worm
• Nicest Pet — pink stuffed puppy
• Phatest — Sadie the dog
• Prettiest Eyes — Smokey the cat
• Quietest — Bella the cat
Prizes for children were provided by Galax Tastee Freeze.