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And the winner of the 2010 Model Pet contest is ...

Admit it. Do you feed your pet table scraps?
Posted 12:10pm on Wednesday, Jun. 30, 2010

They make us giggle and coo, and when they're naughty, they make us want to rip our hair out. Pets fill our homes with shenanigans and joy; they make us feel wanted, and sometimes, a little less lonely. We ache when they take ill, we grieve hard when they leave us.

And today, we give a four-paw salute to all pets, with our second annual Model Pet of DFW contest.

We asked readers to tell us why they think their pet is the Metroplex's top dog, coolest cat or No. 1 whatever-the-heck.

In response, we got essays and photos of more than 120 pets -- scrappy rescue cats and dogs, regal purebreds and one handsome rabbit. We had a blast looking through them all, but began to agonize when it came down to narrowing the many beautiful, hilarious and heart-tugging entries. (Make sure to check out the whole glorious gallery!)

But narrow we did.

And our winner feels like an oddity in these sunny parts: a Siberian husky named Sacha.

Sacha is a 9-month-old husky submitted by Rachel and Brandon Wiggins of Fort Worth.

The funny thing is, neither of them were dog people -- in fact, Rachel was a little frightened by them, and she went out of her way to avoid dogs.

The funnier thing? One day the couple walked into a pet store to buy a cat toy, and they walked out with a Siberian husky. In Texas.

Like our Model Pet judges, they were suckered by Sacha's gorgeous face, the perfect markings and ... aaahh, yes, those piercing, ice-blue peepers.

Sacha is a regular at Fort Woof Dog Park, where she chases bigger dogs with playful sneak attacks to their jowls. She also enjoys trips to Sonic, rides in the Jeep and being adored on the patio at Chick-fil-A. "She has changed our lives for the better, by encouraging us to play harder, watch more Animal Planet and learn to laugh," Rachel wrote in the essay she submitted. "She made us a family."

We asked Rachel a little more about the lovely Sacha.

What's the main thing we should know about Sacha?

Her tricks are really her claim to fame. She took to dog tricks very easily, and she likes to high-five more than most of her other tricks. And it's funny: If you have a treat, you don't even have to say anything -- she'll just start doing things, like, 'OK, let me try to sit, let me spin, let me do this, what do you want?'

What's this about Sacha "talking"?

She's got that cute little howl like a wolf. But she's also got what we think of as Sacha's little vocabulary, where she makes noises. Huskies have a trait where they actually talk -- and when people first told me that, I thought that was just dogs whimpering because they want attention. But the older she got, she actually makes these funny little noises like: 'Wahwahwah, bahbahbah.' We haven't figure out if they mean anything. I think they all mean: 'Give me a treat.'

Is Sacha a troublemaker?

The thing with huskies is that they're a very smart breed, and they get bored very easily. She has been a handful. She ate an entire air-conditioning filter a couple of weeks ago. She must have really wanted to cool off! After we got her, we found out that people say huskies are not the breed for first-time dog owners. We have been told she needs a minimum four miles a day run. Minimum. There is no maximum. She was born to run for sure. When you see her run, it's a beautiful sight. And I never thought I'd say that about a dog.

You were not a dog lover before. So is it just Sacha, or has she turned you around on the whole dog issue?

Oh, absolutely. Dogs used to be kind of scary to me. A dog was like a werewolf to me. Sacha just has such a good attitude. I've never had a dog -- I didn't realize she would never get mad at me. And if she hasn't seen Brandon for a long time, when he comes home, she talks up a storm. And now that I know how to act around dogs, I love them.

How do people react to Sacha?

Some kids come running up to her screaming, 'Snow dog!' And since she looks like a wolf, that's scary to some people. I had one kid tell me: 'I'm not touching that dog. She's a flesh-eater.'

You got Sacha at a pet store, not through a rescue group -- but you've since learned a lot about huskies and husky rescue.

I wish I could tell you [we got her] through a shelter. Knowing what I know now, I would tell people that if they think they are interested in a husky, there's a rescue service in Dallas [Adopt a Husky of Dallas, at www.adoptahusky.org]. Because they are dogs with special needs, so that means a lot of people who get them get rid of them pretty quickly.

How does a Siberian husky like the North Texas summer?

She takes a little swim now and then, and she likes biting the water stream that comes out of the hose. She's actually in the season where she's blowing her coat, which is a really spectacular husky occurrence where her undercoat comes out. So it's like she knows it's summer now, it hit 100 degrees, and she's shedding this extra-thick fur that she has. She's about 35 pounds, and probably a good 5 pounds is fur.

So she's adapting, and not immune to having fun in the sun. But do you think she craves a colder climate?

We were watching a TV show on the Discovery Channel about Siberia. Even where they were just showing the scenery, [Sacha] actually sat down on the couch and started watching it. It was like, she knows. She's like: 'Look at that tundra! I wish I was there!'

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