A three-legged pit bull’s “ravishing golden eyes” recently helped her win the title of Portland’s Next TopDog Model.
The 10th annual installment of the popular Oregon Humane Society fundraiser drew more than 200 entrants, whose owners each paid $25, submitted a photo and filled out a questionnaire to enter their dogs into the contest for a chance to compete for prizes.
The top 12 dogs in each of the two divisions – large dog and small dog – were chosen by judges to take part in the sold-out finale gala on Nov. 16 at downtown Portland’s Monaco Hotel. All told, the fundraiser earned $16,200 for OHS.
The pit bull, Jenny, owned by Heather Matson, 34, of Vancouver, took home the top prize in the large dog category. Matson, who grew up in Washougal, was encouraged to enter the contest by friends and family who would gush about Jenny’s gentle nature and outgoing personality.
Contestants answered several questions related to the theme, “Paris.”
Matson listed Jenny’s eyes as her best quality.
“When these big golden colored eyes gaze at you, your heart will skip a beat,” the entry read.
Jenny’s personal style was billed as “creative and compassionate.”
“I dress according to my moods, so my style is forever changing. I wear clothes that are feminine, with lots of soft details.”
Asked to create a motto for Jenny, Matson’s answer hinted at the trauma the dog suffered as a puppy.
“Carry a heart that never hates; Carry a smile that never fades; Carry a touch that never hurts.”
During the event’s runway fashion show, emceed by Fox 12 Oregon host Andy Carson, the contestants twice made their way down the catwalk. After being judged by a panel of local celebrities, the winner was announced.
“Jenny pulled it off,” Matson said proudly, adding that the win came with a prize package worth $1,000, as well as a stay at the Monaco Hotel.
Those who are familiar with Jenny’s Instagram profile — @tripawdjenny — might not find this precocious pup’s win surprising.
Titled “Jenny’s Life and Friends,” it showcases an array of photographs of the 3 1/2 -year-old canine. Many of the images feature the dog happily dressed up in costumes including Wonder Woman, a ballerina in a pink tutu, a three-eyed fuzzy purple monster, a bunny rabbit, and in Seattle Seahawks gear.
It’s a stark contrast to what Jenny’s life must have been like during her first 1 1/2 years, when it is believed she was used as bait in a dog fighting operation discovered in the Arizona desert.
According to Matson, Jenny was rescued in April 2014 by the ASPCA and brought to California by a pit bull rescue organization. Its officials then contacted a local rescue group that Matson worked with in Vancouver.
“I was only going to foster her until we took care of her medical expenses and she could be adopted,” she said. “But she never left. We fell in love with her as soon as she got off the plane.”
It was Jenny’s eyes, full of expression, which first captured Matson’s heart.
“Her eyes are just this gleaming gold color. They are humanized. They melt you. They tell you a story,” she said. “She trusted us. She loved me unconditionally. She loved everyone — kids, adults, other dogs and even cats.”
About a year after Matson adopted Jenny, injuries inflicted by other dogs while she was in Arizona led to the need to amputate her right leg.
“I tried everything I could to save it,” said Matson, who works as a veterinarian technician at Forever Pet Dental in Vancouver. “We just couldn’t do it.”
After the surgery, there was an immediate change.
“Before having her leg amputated she was a happy girl, but she was favoring [one] leg,” she said. “Within a month after her amputation, my dog was happy, running around, her tail wagging. She was perfect. She’s so happy with it.”
Jenny attends physical therapy, hydrotherapy and acupuncture treatment sessions that help her adjust to life with three legs. She is learning rally agility skills and is also taking obedience classes, on her way to applying for the American Kennel Club’s Canine Good Citizen dog behavior test.
At home, Jenny lives with two “siblings,” a pit bull named Talli and a dachshund named Jewels, as well as two cats, Mia and Mostar — all rescues.
Matson hopes Jenny can serve as an example of the type of loving animals that can be found through Humane Societies and shelters, and as a reminder that a traumatic background or past abuse does not have to be a barrier to pet adoption.
“I am so excited to share Jenny’s stories with others and show people that rescue pets are not broken and can fill everyone’s heart full of love.”
For more information about the OHS Portland’s Next TopDog Model event, visit www.oregonhumane.org.