Few things can make a person happier than seeing their pet grinning at them, especially if they can capture that moment on camera! The Miles of Smiles Photo & Story Challenge celebrates moments like that. Users submitted snapshots and tales of their pets, and our panel of judges has narrowed the field down to 25 finalists.
Three grand prize winners will take home a $500 cash prize, as well as $2,000 in cash and supplies for their favorite shelter. That’s certainly something to smile about! Here are five of our finalists.
Carter, Supporting Shenandoah Shepherd Rescue
Carter brings our family so much joy. At about 10-months-old and 65 pounds, he’s a big puppy who loves to give you hugs with his long, gangly legs. There is not a toy Carter has met that he doesn’t like! (Even if it doesn’t last more than 24 hours!) We were introduced to this love bug by Shenandoah Shepherd Rescue (SSR) who saved him.
The first half year of his life, Carter was abandoned to the streets where he contracted heartworm disease and was ravished with mange, leaving him hairless and sick. An hour before he was to be euthanized, the miracle-working SSR founder Jennifer rallied the SSR community – dog warriors – and they raised the money needed to save Carter and placed him with amazing foster parents Jomy and John who rehabbed Carter, curing his mange and beginning an aggressive heartworm treatment. At last, Carter received the care he needed to restart his life.
We found Carter at a time where we both needed each other. You see, our family had suffered two furbaby losses over seven months, including a very sudden loss when our six-year-old GSD Ripken was diagnosed with HSA, an aggressive cancer. My husband saw Carter’s story on the SSR Facebook, and he knew this was the pup that needed us and all the love our hearts ached to give.
Today, Carter makes us smile for so many reasons. He takes awkward, big puppy steps that make us laugh. He provides companionship to our GSD Luca, who had lost his brother. He is a goofy home office ‘co-worker.’ Carter likes to stand in your lap and lean his entire weight against you; he just wants to be with you. He makes us smile when he curls up in his dog bed, sits patiently for his meals and treats, and when his tail wags when he sees us.
He looks at us and he knows that he’s secure, warm, and loved. And what makes us smile the most is that we’re the lucky family that gets to make Carter smile every day, too.
Story submitted by Kristen Appel.
Catsby, Supporting Homeless Animal Rescue Team of Maine, Inc.
Catsby is a handsome 12-pound, 6-year-old mackerel tabby. We met the day after my 59th birthday when he was still a young adult. I had been calling the local shelters seeking to adopt a cat who was already declawed, neutered/spayed, and under 10 years of age with no known serious medical conditions. He had just arrived from a high kill shelter in Louisiana along with 50 other lucky cats.
At the HART shelter, I observed him among many felines in a large area where they were all free to roam and socialize. Catsby certainly seemed to be in charge, strutting about confidently as though he owned the room. Though there was otherwise no particular bond, I adopted him anyway, and home we went. The next 18 months were touch n’ go as we learned to share the apartment, negotiating rules and boundaries. Catsby is opinionated and it quickly became clear that he is an Alpha. This was a problem in terms of his aggression, so I put him on a regimen of low-dose Prozac. This seemed to help, and after nearly two years I was able to wean him off the medication with good results.
Catsby is a curious, quirky boy who can be verbose. He trills, coos, meows, and chatters at the birds from his window perch, and he’s not shy about hissing (but hasn’t growled). At first the hissing offended me. Now I realize that it’s short-lived and used only to make his displeasure about something known. I’ve been reminding him he’ll get farther with me by offering “kisses not hisses.”
Catsby’s more like a dog than a cat when it comes to food, as he lives to eat (and sleep). He tolerates a degree of being held, but is not a lap cat, except with Auntie Fran and maybe Uncle Alex. He especially likes their feet and shoes. The smellier, the better. It turns out he especially likes the company of ladies, but I keep telling him that he’s stuck with me.
Catsby does not prefer to share my bed, but in the morning he will visit to make it known he’s hungry. To awaken me, he will find any visible skin and give “love bites” – ankles are best. When that doesn’t work, he’ll lick my beard or just walk on me. Usually the “no biting” command is unsuccessful, and sometimes he’ll receive my knee-jerk response where he “gets the foot” and ends up on the floor. After a hearty breakfast, then grooming, he naps on the bed- alone.
Catsby likes his privacy, but doesn’t want me to have any. At night he’ll often yowl, and carry “stick” around, dropping it most anywhere I’m apt to step on it. In the morning he enjoys bonding over bathroom activities, and climbing in or on the bathtub to play the “shower curtain game.” Wow- his teeth can be sharp. It’s a good thing he doesn’t have front claws.
Catsby is naughty, occasionally munching on house plants, or chewing the plastic liner in the trash can, tipping it over. He likes to jump at nothing in the air, and he listens for me to come walking around the corner so he can surprise-attack, sliding on scatter rugs. Occasionally he’ll poop in the bathtub, despite having a clean litter box right there. Sometimes we play hide and seek, or he manifests his ‘crazy cat’ persona and trots around the apartment, or escapes down the outside hallway, sounding like a stampede of cattle.
Article continues below
Our Featured Programs
See how we’re making a difference for People, Pets, and the Planet and how you can get involved!
He purrs only with his “inner purr” as Alphas don’t like showing vulnerability – but I can feel his quiet throttle if I rub his chin and head, all while I receive “slow blinks” of approval. Catsby also likes it when I tug gently on his tail- until he doesn’t. I’ve learned not to rub his belly when he flips on his back: I no longer fall for that trick (remember the teeth)? In nice weather he enjoys sitting with me outdoors on the back porch, playing with errant leaves or eating the occasional meandering insect.
I especially enjoy Catsby’s “James Cagney impression” which is a disapproving grimace he makes, for example, after trying a new food that he then decides tastes bad. He eats everything meat and fish (though he draws the line at shrimp and crab) and he’s a fan of dairy, especially yogurt and cottage cheese. He has his nose in my shopping bags when I come home from the market, and has been caught dragging a sleeve of bagels around in his mouth. One time he ate a piece of broccoli. He especially enjoys the empty brown paper bags from the store, and any empty box is his territory as well. No size is too small.
He is often underfoot, sneaking up quietly behind me, occasionally getting stepped on (here comes the hiss), and I can count on him to lay down and stretch out in exactly that place that I need to walk. Catsby likes to visit me when I’m on my laptop. He bites the cursor, and when that’s unproductive, he’ll paw the power button off if he’s forced to resort to that. Sometimes just walking across the keyboard seems satisfying enough for him.
On annual vet visit days, Catsby is eager to get into the carrier, but not so much out of it. He is well-behaved with Dr. Ferrell (Yup, that’s her name, no kidding) and the lady technicians who stroke his ego with lots of praise and attention. While the adjustment phase in the beginning was rough, Catsby and I have, over time, settled in nicely together. He brings me joy and laughter every day, and I can’t imagine my life without him.
Please visit him on his Instagram page @Catsby207.
Story submitted by James Fereira.
Daisy, Supporting Happy Paws Rescue
Daisy is an animal testing rescue, however that doesn’t change the fact that just about everything makes HER smile. She’s a happy little dog with an absolute zest for life despite everything she’s been through. Don’t get me wrong, it did take her a while to get used to being a dog, and she still can be a bit of an oddball, but Daisy is so full of love that it’s impossible not to smile when she’s around.
Story submitted by Diane Puso.
Emma and Vista, Supporting Animal Shelter of Schoharie Valley, Inc.
Both of these girls are rescues. They both had very rough starts. Emma was found on the streets of Manhattan. She was very young and had already had had a litter of puppies. She had scars all over her face and it was evident by her behavior she had lived her life in a cage. We found Vista on the side of the road. She was living off roadkill and was very skittish.
These girls make me smile everyday because they now live in a loving home and are treated like royalty. This photo is of them eating green beans out of the garden. They live in the country and love to be outside in the sun. Although they were treated awfully in their early lives, they have learned to trust and love their family.
Story submitted by Donna Pesta.
Francy, Supporting North Shore Animal League America
About two years after losing my Chloe, a piece of my heart was crying out for another furbaby. I started looking at adoption sites online, but each time the tears would come and I would close down the computer. Eventually, it became easier and I became determined.
I inadvertently expanded my search when I spied a rescue purported to be 3-years-old. It sounds far fetched, but it was love at first sight. As I read further I discovered that Francy was being fostered in California. She had been rescued by a Bichon rescue group after being placed in a shelter. She was malnourished, appeared to have given birth, was treated for heart worms and didn’t even know what to do with a toy. I called the Bichon group and, although it was unusual because I was living in Texas, they agreed to have me meet Francy and her foster mom.
After completing a plethora of paperwork, I flew to California. As if it was meant to be, friends lived 10 minutes from where Francy was living. The foster mom was lovely and asked me to sit down on the couch next to Francy. The mom was shocked when Francy didn’t scamper away. Tears were streaming down our faces when I left with my new baby. That was six years ago and both Francy and I smile when we look into each other’s eyes. I call her my Velcro dog and you can guess why!
Story submitted by Gail Zack.
These are just five of the Miles of Smiles finalists. There are 20 others. To hear more of their stories, click here!
Help Rescue Animals
Provide food and vital supplies to shelter pets at The Animal Rescue Site for free! →