Spaniel's smile wins a spot in national dog mag

By Shannon Jenkins

Rudy's toothy smile recently landed him in a national magazine.

But the publicity hasn't gone to the golden cocker spaniel's head.

"Rudy's taking his new celebrity status lightly," said Lacey Bloom, the dog's owner. "He doesn't take himself or his accomplishments that seriously."

However, Bloom said she and her husband, Jim, are very proud of their four-legged friend being included in The Bark, a national lifestyle magazine based in Berkeley, Calif., for dog owners. Rudy was one of 17 dogs selected as the winners of the magazine's "Smiling Dog" contest, which was published in The Bark's recent spring issue.

Bloom shot the winning photo of Rudy one afternoon while she was taking pictures of her house and yard in McDonough.

"I had the camera in one hand and my lunch in the other when Rudy gently jumped up on me with his front legs at my waist and smiled at me," Bloom said. "He wanted my sandwich."

Since the picture was "so cute," she sent it to her family and friends.

"They loved it," she said. "So I thought I'd send the picture to the staff at The Bark magazine to enjoy. They had printed in the magazine a few pictures of smiling dogs before, and I hoped that Rudy's charming smile would make the cut."

On a particularly bad day when nothing was going right for Bloom, she received the spring edition of The Bark and discovered Rudy's picture. The photo made her day, but the canine was less impressed.

"I showed Rudy the picture in the magazine," Bloom said. "He didn't really care."

Claudia Kawczynska, the editor of The Bark, said she was happy to include the Blooms' beloved pet.

"We were proud to publish Rudy's photo," she said. "Rudy has a particularly lovely way of smiling, displaying his full set of bottom 'whites.'"

At one time in his life, however, the dog didn't have much of a reason to smile.

"From his papers, we've determined that Rudy was a puppy mill dog," Bloom said.

A puppy mill, she said, is where dogs are bred en mass for profit with "no concern for the parents' or puppies' well-being," and "the quality of care ... is negligible."

He was shipped to a pet store in Virginia and bought by his first family, who Bloom said mistreated him. Somehow Rudy ended up at Friends of Homeless Animals in northern Virginia, where he was adopted about six years ago by a friend and co-worker of Bloom's. That friend knew Bloom, who lived in Virginia at the time, also worked as a dog sitter and asked her to watch Rudy.

"Because of his mistreatment, Rudy was a pretty shy and scared little dog," Bloom said. "But, we fell in love with Rudy after baby-sitting him for a week in our home. We could hardly bear for him to go home."

The Blooms watched the Cocker Spaniel on a regular basis for about a year when Rudy's owners asked them if they'd like to keep him.

"We were thrilled," Bloom said. "What a wonderful gift; he is such a great dog. To be so sweet and loving after such a difficult puppyhood."

She said he's still a bit shy, but he's come a long way.

On Saturday, Bloom will host a birthday party for Rudy, who recently turned 7. All of his dog and human friends are invited, and they'll also celebrate his new "celebrity" status.