SUMMIT, NJ - The contestants were furry and friendly, small and slimy; they came in all colors and sizes. Families brought their cats, dogs, turtles, fish, hamsters and crabs to the annual Summit Police Athletic League Pet Show on Sunday morning, where they competed for prizes provided by downtown vendors.
The P.A.L. awarded first, second and third prizes, along with “honorable mentions” in the categories of Big Dogs, Little Dogs, Puppies, Cats, Kittens, Birds, Fish, Reptiles, Rodents and others.
The judges considered the relationship between the owners and their pets. “We take into account the uniqueness of the animal. Names are also important,” P.A.L. board member Peter Reinhardt said. “We look at how much time the kids spend with their pets and what they say about their relationship.”
Throughout the morning, families shared stories about their beloved creatures. Seven-year-old Jake Model brought “Chacka” the hamster. “He likes the climb and does the monkey bars,” he said of the small, tan rodent.
Matthew Wesson, 9, entered the large dog category with “Luna,” a two-year-old Golden Retriever. “She likes to run. Every time we come home she runs a track around our yard. She chases chipmunks and squirrels, and sometimes is successful. But she always lets them go!” he said.
The first-place winner in the Small Dogs category has visited several continents and has traveled on airplanes, boats and trains. “Aris came here from Greece and has also lived in Spain and Turkey,” said owner Apostolos Digbassanis. “He is a vital member of the family and is a great traveler.”
Ody, 10, was very proud of Aris’s prize. “Aris’s mom came from Hungary and his dad came from Scotland. His mom took part in a national competition there so showing has been passed down from generations,” he said of his West Highland Terrier.
Winners received gift certificates from Monster Sushi, Village Trattoria, Body and Soul Hair Solon, Pizza Tonight, Brownie Points, Summit Photo, Urban Paws, Summit Ski & Sport, Toy Professor, Juice Caboose and Winberies.
“We are so grateful that local business were generous with gifts this year,” said P.A.L. board member Ray Merritt. “It is a great yearly event and is run solely by volunteers. We can’t even keep track of how many years it has been held. It has been at least fifteen, maybe twenty years”
Participants all received a free copy of “Captain Cur & Wonderflea,” a book written by Ray Merritt Senior.
“My father wrote the book and wanted members of the community to have it. The book is about tolerance and equal opportunity, which is what P.A.L. is all about,” Merritt said.
Summit P.A.L. is a leading organization and positive conduit between the children of Summit and the police department. It is a non-profit charitable organization run by a volunteer board that is comprised of Summit residents and Summit Police Department officers.
The Summit P.A.L. underwrites or runs numerous programs throughout the year for the benefit of the youth of Summit, now including the nationally recognized D.A.R.E. program. The goal is to promote activities that foster lifelong health, community spirit and a feeling of goodwill and awareness between the children and police officers.
The P.A.L. also coordinated the morning with Home for Good Dog Rescue, a Summit-based organization to raise awareness about the pet foster program. Attendees at the competition met three dogs currently looking for homes.
Since its founding in August 2010, Home for Good has adopted 450 dogs to local families. “We rescue dogs mostly from Georgia, where there is an 86 percent euthanasia rate. We also rehabilitate dogs with mange or who have injuries and illnesses,” President Toni-Ann Turco said.
The organization frequently holds pet adoption days at Urban Paws in Summit, Village Pet Center in New Providence and PetSmart in Millburn. On Saturday June 25 and Sunday June 26 the organization will bring 42 dogs in need of homes to the Millburn PetSmart adoption day, which will run from 11a.m. to 4 p.m. It will also hold an adoption and microchip day on June 25 at Village Pet Center from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.
Animal lovers enjoyed hot dogs and met friends and their pets. Families also found the event to be good quality time together. Jeff and Lucy Miller entered 18-month-old Golden Retriever “Bode” in the Big Dog category.
“It is great father-daughter time. I spend hours at my sons’ sporting events so this is a great event for Lucy and I,” Miller said.
Arranging her bouncy companion for a pose, Lucy, 11, remembered last year’s contest: “Bode was in the puppy category last year. Well... he is still a puppy at heart!”