Best in show
Entries in the third annual Mercury News Dog-Person Look-alike Contest were so sensational we were wagging our tails. Picking the winner was a real dogfight, but in the end, only one pair would be named . . .
By Linda Goldston
Michele Ganey's co-workers pointed it out first.
She was trying to show them her vacation photos, but they all kept grabbing a picture of Ganey with her dog, Nate. The resemblance was startling.
``People were just rolling in the aisles at work,'' said Ganey, who lives in the Santa Cruz Mountains and is a marketing manager at a San Jose home-building firm.
By the time Ganey heard about the Mercury News' third annual Dog-Person Look-alike Contest, she yielded to fate and entered.
We're glad she did. Ganey and Nate, a 2 1/2-year-old standard poodle, are standing in the winner's circle.
Competition in the contest is always fierce, but the judges were struck by the similarities in their hair, noses and smiles.
``It's kind of embarrassing,'' said Ganey, 52, who expects to endure endless kidding from her co-workers, even though they encouraged her to enter the contest and ``the girls in the marketing department'' did her hair and arranged a photo shoot at work for the entry.
Ganey and Nate, whose formal name is Nathan Detroit (from the show ``Guys and Dolls''), scratched their way to the top of the heap in a field that included dozens of other dogs and proud look-alike -- or not -- owners. And let's not forget the horse.
After Ganey and Nate garnered top dog honors, four Best of Show winners were selected out of the more than 50 entries. They are Greg Martin of Santa Cruz and his American red nose pit bull, Moose; young David Corona of Morgan Hill and his new dog, Saffire; Ashwini Gupta of San Jose and her Rottweiler, Sam; and Patricia Hassel of Cupertino and her Havanese, Teddy.
``The very first day I got him, one of our teachers came up and said, `I knew, I knew it, he looks just like you,' '' said Hassel, who is a teacher and program coordinator for health technologies at De Anza Community College.
Teddy is 5 months old and is the spitting image of his mom -- well, his human mom.
David Corona's guardian, Patsy Maaske, obtained his new pup at the shelter in San Martin, and all three are enrolled in puppy training classes.
When she first brought Saffire home, the Australian shepherd mix was sitting in 9-year-old David's lap, and Maaske thought, ``Oh! you look alike.''
Parag Gupta had just been telling his wife, Ashwini, how much he thought she and the dog looked alike when he noticed a story about the contest in the Mercury News.
``They're also very similar in personality -- they're clowns,'' the proud husband said.
The limelight is nothing new for Ashwini, a former model, and Sam, who's 5, posed like a pro during the photo shoot.
Martin, a bartender, said Moose has a huge group of fans in Santa Cruz and enjoys being a goodwill ambassador for the breed with the bad rap.
``He's a sweetheart,'' Martin said.
If there had been a best-hats category in the contest, Steve Lopez of Milpitas and his 1-year-old Chihuahua, Duke, would have led the pack. Lopez had his and Duke's hats custom-made at Hatterdashery of Seattle. (See photo on Page 3E.)
When they wore them at the Half Moon Bay Pumpkin Festival last year, ``we were showstoppers,'' Lopez said. ``Everybody was stopping us, and we were asked to join the parade.''
While technically a dog-person look-alike contest, the competition captured the attention of Maddy Feliciano of Los Altos, who couldn't resist submitting a photo of her and her horse, Wicket.
And for all the jokes by her co-workers, Ganey's entry was a sentimental one, too.
Her late husband, Dennis King, had been active in poodle rescue. ``He brought Nate home for me with the thought that although he might be leaving me soon, Nate was a young dog that would be around for awhile,'' she said. King died last summer of cancer.
``In these past months, Nate has been my friend and companion, and a reason to get up in the morning and live life,'' Ganey said. ``So, as is often the case with dogs, who rescued whom?''
But entering and winning the contest brought laughs and fun to both Ganey and Nate -- and more kidding from her co-workers.
``This guy at work said, `Think about this. Do you really want to win this? If anybody Googles you, that will be there for the rest of your life.' ''
We think that's a good thing.