Nearly the next face of Milk-Bone

March 01, 2009|By Susan Gvozdas Special to The Baltimore Sun

A promotional contest for Milk-Bone dog biscuits landed a Brooklyn veterinarian and her Boxer on a national talk show and in an advertising campaign this week.

Jacqueline Falke and her dog, Wyatt, were among the top three vote-getters in Milk-Bone's nationwide search for the face of Milk-Bone products during the brand's 100th anniversary. Falke and Wyatt appeared Monday along with two other finalists on The Bonnie Hunt Show, which appears weekdays on NBC affiliate WBAL-TV.

Though Wyatt wasn't top dog, he still will grace the cover of a series of Milk-Bone biscuit boxes. He will also have a lifetime supply of the treats.

The contest was the buzz of the Everhart Veterinary Hospital in Brooklyn, where Falke works, said Rob Goodman, owner of the hospital. Falke often brings Wyatt to work with her.

"He's very well-known here," Goodman said. "He has such a compelling story."

Falke, who lives in Cape St. Claire, said she was disappointed that she didn't get the top prize of $100,000. She had planned to use it to establish the nonprofit Wyatt Rescue Fund to pay for medical care for animals whose owners can't afford it.

"In my job, I see a lot of people who can't afford care for their pets," Falke said.

Since online voting ended in November, Falke filed paperwork to get the nonprofit started. She also set up a Web site, drjacquelineandwyatt.com, to educate people on where they could take their dogs to donate blood for animal hospitals. Wyatt has donated enough blood to save the lives of more than 50 dogs, Falke said.

More than 6,500 dog owners submitted photos to Milk-Bone in the fall. Milk-Bone posted the photos and short bios of the 100 finalists on its Web site and invited people to vote for their favorite. Five of the finalists were from Maryland, including Colleen O'Brien and her golden retriever, Ginger, also of Cape St. Claire.

Falke found out Dec. 15 that Wyatt made the top three, but she had to wait until the Feb. 16 taping of the show in Los Angeles to get the final results. She couldn't tell anyone - including her co-workers at Everhart - until the show aired Monday.

Falke hung a poster of Wyatt at Everhart and passed out fliers to other veterinary hospitals in the area asking for votes. The campaign wasn't enough to defeat Matt Ruppert, the owner of the winner: a 2-year-old Great Dane named Winston. Ruppert, of Mosinee, Wis., gave Winston to his wife, Melisa, as a first anniversary gift.

Not everyone was happy with the results. Postings on The Bonnie Hunt Show's Web site indicate viewers thought Milk-Bone should have selected the dog with the best message, not the most votes. They pointed out that the other dog in the top three also had a good story. Ruby, a 5-year-old pit bull terrier mix. is a therapy dog in nursing homes in Minnesota.

A spokesman from California-based Del Monte Foods, which owns the Milk-Bone brand, was not available for comment.

Falke responded to the postings by pointing out that Winston won fair and square.

Theresa Connelly, an outreach specialist at the Eastern Veterinary Blood Bank in Severna Park, said she was glad Falke got a chance to promote dog blood donation. Wyatt is a regular donor at the bank. Falke showed Connelly a mock-up of the Milk-Bone box that will feature Wyatt.

"We're going to have to make a tower of [the boxes] in our waiting room," Connelly said.

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