Hello fellow pet lovers/writers,I want to thank everyone who entered this round of the Petlitzer Prize contest. The competition was fierce, and we judges truly struggled to narrow down our choices to just a few winners. But we finally did so, and here they are:1st place—”Window of Opportunity” by Sumaiyyah Rodrigues
2nd place—”Officer McDuff” by Sue Storms
3rd place—”Give Me a Hug, Give Me a Break” by Jenny Pavlovic
Honorable Mention—”Saving My Dog Puggie” by Kenna Arndt 

Scroll on to read this round’s winner’s works, or click on the audio player button below to listen to these stories and the first round’s poetry winners read live on “Dog Works Radio.” Click on “Listen to Radio Interviews” above to listen to these and the first round’s poetry winners read live on “Dog Works Radio.”—Sid

Petlitzer Prize Short Story Winners

Honorable Mention:

Saving My Dog Puggie

Written by Kenna Arndt, age 9, of Appleton, Wisconsin

It was the afternoon and Dad, Mom, my younger brother Hayden, and I were in the car driving to the animal rescue shelter to see a dog.  Hayden and I played Nintendo DS for the whole two hours we drove there.  When we arrived I said, “This place looks like a dump.”

Mom said, “That is not nice.  Do not say that in front of the desk lady.  Now, we are here to get a small dog, not a big dog.”

Kenna and Puggie

We walked into the building and the desk lady showed us the dogs.  I saw a large dog that had 14 puppies.  I asked Mom, “Can I have one of those puppies?”

But Mom said, “No.  Those puppies could be as big as their mother.  Look how big that dog is!”

Then the desk lady showed us the beautiful puggle that we wanted to see.  But the thing was, she was beat up, weak, and had bloody injuries from being attacked by another dog.  The desk lady said, “She will get put to sleep next week.”

Mom said to the desk lady, “We will give her a whirl.”  So she gave us a leash.  Then we put the leash around the puggle’s neck and then we went into the woods to see how she would act.  We each got a turn to walk the puggle.  Mom asked, “What do you think about this dog?”

Dad said, “I like the dog.  Kids, what about you?”

Hayden and I said, “We like the dog.  She is cute and friendly.”

So we decided to buy her.  She was only $100.00 and we decided to have her keep the name the shelter gave her, which was Puggie.  We got in the car and we were on the way home.  When we were driving I was playing with Puggie and petting her instead of playing Nintendo DS.  We had a towel on the seat so then Puggie got tired and fell asleep.  I fell asleep to.

When we got home it was nighttime.  Hayden went to bed.  Mom went to go to get supplies for the dog but Dad and I stayed with the dog to keep her company.  Puggie was sniffing around because it was a new place for her.  When mom came back she came back with a kennel, dog bowls, food, dog toys, and dog shampoo.

Dad said, “Mom is home.  Say good night to Puggie and go to bed.”

Kenna with Puggies puppies

I went upstairs, said a prayer and then went to bed.  Little did I know that we not only saved Puggie’s life that day but we also saved the lives of the seven puppies that she was carrying.  Puggie was going to be a mommy.


3rd place:


Give Me a Hug, Give Me a Break

by Jenny Pavlovic of Afton, Minnesota

My friend Sarah in Virginia rescued Chase, a suspected cattle dog-collie mix, from a violent man who was going to shoot him for chasing sheep. When Chase first came to live with us, he discovered that he could get my undivided attention when I was, ah, sitting on the toilet. That’s right, I said sitting on the toilet. When I’m the only person around, I don’t usually latch the door. There’s a stool next to the toilet that I use when bathing dogs or reaching for high places. One day Chase pushed his way into the bathroom and put his front feet up on that stool. I hugged him and told him how handsome he was, and how lucky we were that he traveled all the way from Virginia to Minnesota to live with us. He ate that up (making up for lost time on the love front) and developed the habit of following me into the bathroom and putting his front feet up on that stool. Now he sometimes even does that when I’m standing at the sink. I used to think it was a sign that he needed a hug and would love to hear me tell him how handsome he is and how lucky we are to have him here. But now I know it’s more than that. If I’m having a really bad day, Chase might actually lead me into the bathroom to give me the hint, at which point I realize that I’m badly in need of a hug.

Bandit the Australian Cattle Dog has the habit of bringing me the ball, rubber chicken, or tennis ball bone when I’m sitting at the computer. If I don’t notice him right away, he’ll whack me on the leg with the rubber chicken, or drop the ball in my lap. He’s not a very subtle guy. After all, he was bred to push a herd of cows around. What’s one person? I used to think he was just ball obsessed, but I’ve come to believe that he also pesters me because he doesn’t want my fingers to grow onto the computer keys. He knows I need a break and wants to get me out to play. I call him my recreation director.

It’s the same deal with Chase, especially when he goes to that stool when I’m not sitting on the toilet. Chase just knows when I need a hug, just as Bandit knows when I need a break. They’re really looking out for me, aren’t they? 😉

Jenny Pavlovic with Chase, Cayenne and Bandit

"8 State Hurricane Kate" by Jenny Pavlovic

"Not Without My Dog" by Jenny Pavlovic


2nd place:

Booker “Officer” McDuff

By Sue Storms of Eden Prairie, Minnesota

Booker is a good boy.  He has good manners, follows the rules of the household well and rarely gets himself into trouble.  He is also a very good police officer and tattletale when it comes to disciplining the kitty, Hobie. He often lets me know when Hobart is in places he’s not supposed to be; the kitchen counter, the dining room table and on top of the TV!  It didn’t take him long to learn what is taboo for the kitty and take it upon himself to help with the discipline.  This police behavior earned him the nickname “Officer McDuff”.  Little did I know that one day he would earn the respect and admiration of a fellow officer.

Booker and I were traveling back from South Dakota, riding in the back seat of Cousin Lynn’s Explorer with Cousin Kay riding shotgun.  Coming into the town of Lake Crystal, we found ourselves being followed by an officer in a squad car who then put on his lights, so we pulled over.  Lynn rarely speeds so we didn’t know why we were being stopped.  As the officer was lecturing Lynn about speeding with phrases like “didn’t you see the sign”, “people have gotten killed at that intersection”, etc. etc., I was sure she was seething.  I wondered if she would play her trump card.  Lynn is a Sergeant with the Minneapolis Police Department yet she is not one to announce this to everybody.  I wondered if she would say anything because it appeared he would give her a ticket.  But she played it cool and said nothing while it seemed she was destined to get the ticket.  As she started to get out her license and registration, the back seat window started coming down, then it went up a bit, then down a bit….up, down, up, down…  I remember thinking, “What is Lynn doing with the window button? Does she realize what she is doing?”  I then realized it wasn’t Lynn on the button – it was Booker!  He was pushing the window button up and down with his paw!  Before I knew it, the window was all the way down, his head was out of the window and he was greeting the cop!  I quickly apologized to the officer and rolled the window back up.  As he watched the window go up he asked Lynn, “Are you a police officer as well?”  Well, that was it – they chatted (he being a bit humbled when he discovered her status and length of service – he was maybe 24 years old!) and voila! No speeding ticket!  Kay and I agreed that would never happen to us.  How did Booker “tell” the officer that Lynn was one of the good guys?  There is a tiny Minneapolis Police Federation member sticker on the back window.  When Booker was rolling the window up and down, the sticker caught the eye of the cop, compelling him to ask about her occupation.

Needless to say, Cousin Lynn has a newfound respect for my little man, her rookie colleague “Officer McDuff”.  He will always be allowed to ride in Lynn’s car!  Maybe next time, he’ll be promoted to shotgun status!


1st place:

Window of Opportunity

By Sumaiyyah Rodrigues of London, England

Agatha was seated beside her bedroom window. It was her only tangible connection with the outside world. She opened it to hear the birds chirping in the trees, to feel the wind blow her hair. But most of all, she used it as a sentry position to watch over Socks, her faithful companion.

Socks himself was lazily scratching himself in the grass. He was a scrawny tabby cat with a scar under his right eye. They had been together for three years now and Agatha couldn’t imagine life without him.

The garden was small and uncultivated. The old fence had a few planks loose. The apple tree no longer bore fruits. The grass needed trimming and the bushes needed pruning. Although the garden used to be a source of pride for Agatha, she barely noticed it now. All her concentration was focused on Socks. Would he be safe in that patch of grass? Only his tail was visible, swishing like a flag in the wind. Agatha tensed as she heard a meow from Socks. Had he sensed something?

Despite her daily pep talk, Socks couldn’t – or wouldn’t – stand up to his tormentors, hence Agatha’s daily window vigils. The worst one was a marmalade cat almost double his size. It would stroll into the garden as bold as brass and scan the area. As soon as it spied Socks, it would hiss and snarl at him. Socks would meow pitifully and edge backwards. At this point, the marmalade cat would pounce on him, scratching and biting his thin body. His howls of pain pleaded with Agatha to race down the stairs and into the garden to rescue him. Cursing the polio which had left her crippled as a child, she would shout and angrily beat her fists on the windowsill. All she could do was hope that the marmalade cat would get bored of such a speedy victory and leave.

Socks seemed to understand that Agatha wanted to help him, but was unable to. He would jump from the fence onto the roof of the conservatory. From there, he could easily jump through the open window into Agatha’ bedroom.

Suddenly the marmalade cat jumped over the fence and landed a few feet away from Socks. Socks could run fast, but his pursuer was always faster. Agatha felt frustrated with her useless legs. Her eyes narrowed to two slits. She wouldn’t sit there and let Socks get bitten again. She wouldn’t. Her gnarled hands moved with surprising deftness. Grabbing her weapon, she fired at the marmalade cat.  Her aim was accurate. A jet of water hit the cat on his back. Hissing with indignation, the marmalade cat beat a hasty retreat. Agatha relaxed, elated. She had done it!

Within moments Socks was climbing into her lap. He purred contentedly as Agatha stroked him. His paw resting on her hand resembled a congratulatory handshake. They had won this battle… but could they win the war?

Faaris, Sumaiyyah's cat


Since the first-ever Petlitzer Prize Contest was such a resounding success, I decided to announce a second round. This time, submissions will be accepted for pet-related short stories. The deadline is January 15, 2011. That gives you and all your creative cohorts a chance to compose a masterpiece. Please spread the word. And mark your calendar so you don’t forget that date. Good luck to all!—Sid

Here are some basic ground rules for Petlitzer Prize entries in any or all categories:

1. You must be the author of the piece. Plagiarism is an absolute no no!

2. Entries should not have been previously published in book form (on your own blog is fine) as of the date you submitted it. Meaning that if you get it snatched up by Random House the week after you send it to me, you’re still qualified for this prestigious contest—and congratulations! :)

3. For Round 2, I must receive your entry by January 15, 2011. A winner will be chosen and posted by no later than January 31. (I and a panel of pet experts, including but not limited to Dr. Robert and Michelle Forto, dog trainers and co-hosts of popular Dog Doctor” Blog Talk Radio show, will be  judging the submissions.)

4. Please be sure to have a second pair of eyes proofread your entries well. Grievous typos/grammar gaffs will most likely disqualify you.

5. You may only enter one piece in any given round, but you may enter a different single piece in every subsequent category throughout the year. New categories will be posted shortly after the after the deadline is reached.

6. Winners (First, Second, Third  and/or Honorable Mention, depending on the number and quality of submissions) will receive a certificate of achievement for their efforts and have their work posted on my blog, Facebook fan page, Twitter, etc. (As well as on the Dog Doctor’s sites.) If you have a website, please be sure to submit your URL to be directly linked from my blog in case you win.

7. Winners may also have their works (or excerpts from them) read live on Dr. Robert Forto’s very popular Blog Talk Radio show “The Dog Doctor.” (Air dates will be announced in advance.)

8. No pornography whatsoever will be allowed. Nor will pieces depicting gratuitous violence toward animals (except for the purpose of decrying such acts or as truly salient parts of a story’s plot). I have the final say as to whether entries will be accepted. People of all ages and walks of life may be seeing or hearing these, so the work must be acceptable for a general audience.

9. Send your submission in a Word doc or pasted directly into an email with Petlitzer Prize Entry in the subject line, along with your full name, email address, mailing address, phone number, and a short (sentence or two) bio about yourself if you wish, to me at <goodgriefpetloss@gmail.com>. I will forward only your actual submitted story with your name to my fellow judges. None of your contact information will be shared without your express permission. They’re only so I can notify you of who won the contest and/or to mail you your certificate.

Guidelines for Round 2—Pet-related Short Stories:

You may submit any short story as long as it pertains to companion animals (not restricted to dogs and cats) and/or the human-animal bond. These may be of humorous or serious nature. Please keep length within 400–700 words.

Tell all your animal-loving friends about this contest. I want to be flooded with wonderful submissions!—Sid


Scroll down  to read all the great submissions to the first round of the 2010 Petlizer Prize contest for pet-related poetry!

Hello all,

For quite a while, I’ve wanted to start a friendly contest for those who write pet-related literature and call it the “Petlitzer Prize” (kind of an all-companion-animal-focused Pulitzer Prize). I was recently a reader at the Dog Days of Stockholm in Stockholm, Wisconsin, and was very impressed by several of the pieces read by other authors there. In fact, I asked the evening’s emcee, Peter Hautman, to allow me to reproduce his charming poem “A Note from the Dog,” to get things started (posted below). For this first round, I will have entries be strictly pet-related poetry, but in the future, other forms of fiction and nonfiction will be the categories in turn—such as short stories, news articles, blogs, children’s lit, humor, bumper stickers phrases, etc.

Submissions (including winners) for round one:









And now, the poems themselves…

Divine Canine

My dog has issues that need to disappear

She is naughty, defiant and cavalier.

I have taken her to trainers and behaviorists, galore.

She will listen for a day or two but sadly no more.

I am frustrated and my mood is always black.

I am tired and the breeder won’t take her back.

With screams of anger, I yelled at the ceiling,

“Why is my life so hard?  I hate this feeling!”

Just then a soft muzzle licked at my hand,

She was the teacher and I listened for her command.

Embody the essence you seek in me

And we shall live in harmony.

When I am afraid be present and strong.

Loose your sense of right and wrong.

As I jump up on you and scratch your arm,

Give love to everyone and wish me no harm.

When I am distracted and hard to reach,

Caress me gently with hands that teach.

I am your dog but I will lead the way.

I will teach you peace without delay.

Breathe and let your troubles disappear,

Resistance may come, but we shall persevere.

All the answers of the universe are near,

All we have to do is choose love and not fear.

I knew my dog was special you see,

For she laid back down and winked at me.

Our future is glorious, for this woman and her canine.

Inner peace and stillness is now mine.

by Lisa Sellman, Top Dog ~ Aloha Pet Care & Dog Training


A Note From the Dog

When the freezer died
And the meat had to be eaten quickly
I was happy.

When you lost your job
And stayed home all day
I was overjoyed.

When you had your cardiac event
And the doctor told you to go for a walk every single day
I was ecstatic.

How would you live without me?

by Pete Hautman



Animals Lost

With all the tales lost

Among the rubble.

Broken trees scattered,

Covering the barks,

Pieces and odors of our

Hardest decisions.

The purrs and last licks,

Were received as final

Choices were made.

Too-familiar smells,

Little noses and paws,

Poking through to us all.

Those tender eyes

Can hold much more

Than the deepest flood.

For within them is the comfort,

The purest kind of love.

For those sweet beauties left,

Wagging, wandering and waiting.

For the moans and the cries

That are no more.

For those who are not found.

If you listen to the silence,

Pure as the day,

A mound of huddled tears,

A mass of hearts that say,

Their prints,

Will never, ever, ever

Wash away.

by Fran Mengaziol-Adams




Beloved, bagpiping boy—

Barky boss begging biscuits, but bestowing bliss

Bearded, bewitching bachelor bursting babes’ bubbles.

Brainy, brave burglar burying bones below boulevards.

Bouncy bronco blindly bulldozing blizzards.


Beautiful, blues-busting breed—

Behold! Best Buddy!

by Sue Storms


Losing Jake

There’s a hole in my heart where a dog used to be.

He’s nuzzled my soul and is now part of me.

His pain is his life and I know what to do.

But when I release him, I’m losing me, too.

The puppy I cradled three short years ago

is a ninety pound bundle of love, and I know

that he’d lick away all of my tears if he could.

It’s his sense of duty to make me feel good.

It’s my obligation to do what is best.

The love of his “master” is put to the test.

It’s a wrenching and sorrowful way that we part;

it doesn’t hurt less when the head rules the heart.

There’s a hole in my heart where my Jake has passed through.

When we say goodbye part of me will go, too.

by Amy Rosenthal


Telling Time

My old, cold cat

Follows the sun from room to room,
Even on cloudy days.

She is my clock.

by Annette M. Larson


For the Love of All Canines

Whether fluffy, sleek,

or hairless skin,

Or blocky build

or cattail thin

Whether striped, spotted,

or large or small,

How can we not

love them all?

Whether bug-eyed, pea-eyed,

blue-eyed or brown,

Or flop-eared, prick-eared,

or folded down,

Whether coarse or curly,

or silky fall,

How can we not

love them all?

Whether spirited

or calm as night,

Or sweetly shy

or strong of might

Whether work or leisure

is their call,

How can we not

love them all?

For with their differences

put aside,

The same canine heart

beats inside

So faithful that

we must recall

We cannot fail

to love them all

by Janice Biniok


To My Little Pug by Samantha Veldhouse

To my little pug who is full of pug hugs

Your big pug eyes bug from your little pug mug

Your little pug heart chugs all the pug love it can handle…

And then some

This pug can tug at the rug under my feet

And can shrug off the crunch of performing for a sweet treat

Were he big he’d be a lug,

But he’s small so he’s just smug

To my little pug: I love you



Paw Prints by Elizabeth F. Baird, DVM

They come into our lives suddenly,

and often unexpectedly.

The ball of fur with liquid brown eyes,

so willing to be a loyal friend.

Looking only for a meal and a kind word,

Offering their hearts to us without restraint.

Their unbridled joy at our entrance,

their unconditional love that never fails us.

The warmth on a lonely night,

the shared understanding of an eternal friend.

The void they fill is exceeded only by the void they leave behind.

The gift they give us is unmatched,

the loyalty incomparable,

the love immeasurable.

Their paw prints remain forever on our hearts.


For Sebastian by Debbie Evert

Don’t worry, Mom.

I can run like a puppy and keep up with the big dogs.

My legs and hips don’t hurt now.

Nothing bites me like those mean fly larvae did.

I don’t have anemia and I don’t get sick, either.

I’ve met Topaz and Bitsy, your dogs of youth.

Dad introduced me to Reggie and Ginger.

I met your dad and grandparents.

I’m taking good care of Dad, and he’s taking good care of me.

Then Grandpa Evert joined us and we raced.

I’ll wait for you by the Rainbow Bridge.

I love you!


A Limerick for Charlie by Thomas Lancaster

When Melissa and Myrna come walking
Past our window while Charlie is gawking,
He sets up a din
So frightful within
Our house we can’t hear ourselves talking.


For Honey by Belinda van de Loo

A seed was planted before I came
And grew in your heart, becoming my name
With joy you searched for just the right one
Oh lucky me that I was chosen

I licked you and nipped you, but you just laughed
You chased me around but I was too fast
I jumped into your arms, I slept in your lap
Our breaths were in sync as we snuggled and napped

The threads of our lives are woven each day
As we take our walks and I challenge you to play
Our love is unconditional and will never end
I know you’re my master, but I’m your best friend

Monte by Kathy Barksdale

He’s got a hitch in his gitty-up, always ready to go
He’s somethin’ else, with his confidence in tow
He’s a lover, not a fighter.
Anytime he’s around girls, I have to hold his leash tighter!
So, so handsome, and he knows how to work a crowd
I wish his mom Amelia could see him, she would be proud….