A Contest, a Kid, and a Dog

July 5, 2013  

Ruby enters a contest to try and become the first pit bull on a Milk-Bone box

By Ruby the dog, as told to Patrick Bettendorf

In mid-September 2008, Mom noticed a contest on the back of a Milk-Bone box for “first ever spokes dog” in their 100-year history. Top prize was a $100,000 contract. All we had to do was send in a picture of one of us dogs and a family member having fun, relaxing or being silly. Milk-Bone called it a “Milk-Bone Moment.”

I heard Mom say to Dad, “Hey! What about that lucky shot you took of Sadie and Ruby at the 4th of July parade?” The pair of us were both wearing sunglasses with red, white and blue outfits. It was also Sadie’s first 4th of July in America having come all the way from China. Besides, we were best buddies!

Dad had to write a short story about the picture. Off went the entry only to discover he used far too many words in the essay. I dictated the second one and we sent yet another entry, just a day before the contest deadline, Sept. 18. Enclosed was a note explaining my Dad’s dumb mistake. The do-over essay would prove effective: “I’m Ruby along with my human sister and best friend, Sadie. We’re both adopted. This was taken at our 4th of July parade. I was an abandoned, starving puppy, but now I’m a therapy dog with lots of friends. Life’s good nowadays, and I am happy!”

A week later, we received a call telling us that our entry had been accepted! Whoever was on the line tipped her hand, “Great picture and story.” She wanted to talk about a password and some techy thing, so Dad handed the phone to Lynn. When it comes to computers, poor Dad is a dinosaur. Then it was waiting time. But my life was busy with Sadie and the “The Tribe.” The contest was soon forgotten. My parent’s luck with such things is lousy anyway.

Though I was looking for something new, fun and interesting to get involved with, I took my job as Sadie’s guardian angel and fun playmate seriously. Demand for my volunteer work also kept me on the run. Saturday morning, Oct. 18, our lives took a screeching turn from the daily mundane routine. Mom had been rummaging through the spam folder on the computer when a supposed junk e-mail caught her eye. It was dated two days prior.

It read: “Congratulations! You and your dog have been chosen as one of the top 100 Eligible Finalists in the ‘Milk-Bone 100th Anniversary’ contest. Your entry will be posted on milk-bone.com for online voting. Voting will occur from Oct. 19, 2008, to Nov. 18, 2008. At the end of the online voting period, the finalist entry receiving the highest number of votes will be eligible to win the grand prize!”

Wow! Out of the thousands of entries, we made the cut! Mom’s eyes welled up in a gentle cry, soft and sweet. Dad was like a deer in headlights, not so soft or sweet, just goofy. Sadie was napping, but us four-legged kids felt something in the air. With what everyone calls my cute little skip-run, I led the pack into the den where we sat wondering what to do next. A plan was quickly formulated. Meanwhile, me, Carla, Venus and Molly responded to the increasing excitement. We were like minnows in a bucket; round and round we went, wiggling, mouths open in a happy smile. “Gee! What’s going on?” “Don’t know, but it sure is fun!” “OK, it’s time for a good snooze.”

A campaign began as if I were running for office. Posters and flyers using that impossibly cute picture were produced: “Vote for a real American. Vote for Ruby!” Cars in parking lots, shopping malls and gas stations, and innocent people on the street received my campaign materials. Media was notified. Newspapers and television got in on the action. They thought it was a fun tie-in with the presidential election!

I must say, I ran a good, clean campaign, no digging up somebody else’s dirty bones. We stuck to the core issue. Paws down, I should be Milk-Bone’s spokes dog! Then it was over – the running, kissing, tail wagging, panting. All that was left to do was wait for the votes to be tallied, the winner to be announced, and for someone to hand me that $100,000 check.

The money would sure be handy. The radio station where I worked had been sold, and local broadcasting was ending, and my salary with his other job was reduced to less than part time because of funding issues. Within a few months, Mom’s position at her company would be eliminated after 21 years.

While we kidded about winning the contest, we truly never thought it would happen. Yes, we made the final one hundred, but that would be it. Then on Dec. 10, 2008, a FedEx envelope arrived. The note inside the package read, “We are contacting you to inform you that, subject to verification of eligibility, you have been designated as one of the top three finalists in the Milk-Bone 100th Anniversary, ‘Make a Milk-Bone Moment’ Contest.”

It went on to make us promise not to tell anyone including family about this latest development. Further, Dad and me had to be available to travel to one of three cities, New York, Chicago or Los Angeles on or about Jan. 8, 2009, to participate in an on-air publicity event. The note warned us that if we leaked any details and they found out about it, we would be disqualified.

What?! Top three?! We were wildly excited. Unbelievable! Wait! They never mentioned top three before. We dug through every page of the rule book. Nothing. Hmmm, what’s going on? Oh well, it didn’t matter. This was great news. But not tell family or close doggie friends?! Ugg!

They soon knew something was up, repeatedly asking about the status of the contest. Mom and Dad would smirk and say, “We’re under contract and can’t say a thing.” That really irritated some, family especially. Then, everyone had the answer. “You won, didn’t you?! … I just know you did!”

Jan. 8 came and passed by. Nothing. Weeks ticked by. Still nothing! We made calls, but “Shhh, we’re working on it” was the only reply we received. With all the hush-hush going on, I thought we might be working with former CIA operatives. Finally, on about Feb. 4, 2009, we got the word. It’s Los Angeles!

Shortly afterward came, it’s “The Bonnie Hunt Show!” Cool. We liked her, enjoyed her movies. She’s also a dog person and, like Mom, from Chicago. We liked her talk show, too, with its playful, fun humor.

“When do Ruby and I leave?” asked dad.

“Shhh, can’t tell you that yet.”

“Well, can we give our family the scoop now?”

“Shhh, not yet!”

Then on Feb. 9 around 5 p.m. came a final word, finally! We were to leave from Minneapolis the next day at 9 a.m.! Not much notice, but hey, Dad and I were going to Hollywood! OK, OK, the show was actually taped in Culver City, but who cares? We were trading snow and ice for green grass and flowers!

We didn’t win first prize but, I still was crowned the first pit bull ever on a Milk-Bone box! No money, but lots of biscuits!

This article was originally published on July 12, 2011

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