Courtney Rutherford and her 17-year-old daughter, Katie Beth, took a moment in late December to enter the family canines in the Invitation pet contest.
Katie Beth entered 8-year-old Barkley, a shih tzu; her mama entered Belle, the family’s 3-year-old Dalmatian. Rutherford gave it not one more thought until she received word from a friend that Belle was one of the top four finalists.
“My husband, Jackie, is the fire chief of the Falkner Fire Department,” said Rutherford, choral director at Ripley High School. “He wanted a Dalmatian.”
After losing a beloved pup, the Rutherfords waited until they were ready for another dog, and their search led them to a litter of Dalmatian puppies in Corinth.
Since Dalmatians are white when born, the family waited a few weeks until spots began to appear before choosing Belle.
“We picked the puppy with the most spots,” Rutherford said.
The beautifully marked Belle loves tennis balls, but her most favorite thing to do is give hugs.
“She doesn’t jump on people,” Rutherford said. “She gently eases up until her paws are on your shoulders, then she actually hugs. She is the sweetest dog I’ve ever had.”
Though a high percentage of Dalmatians are deaf, Belle hears just fine. She sleeps with 12-year-old Karson Rutherford, and though she doesn’t spend a lot of time at the fire house with the chief, she has visited several times. She also likes to curl up in a lap, any lap. At 75 pounds, Belle’s not a lap dog, but she believes she is.
“We are so excited she was chosen for the cover of Invitation,” Rutherford said. “We certainly think she’s cute, but there were so many cute animals submitted.”