Four-legged models come from near, far

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PITTSFIELD -- A winning smile, bright eyes and a tail -- all requirements to take part in this weekend's casting call for catalogue models.

The Dash & Albert Rug Co., one of the Annie Selke Cos. based on Pecks Road in Pittsfield, is preparing a new rug catalogue. Since the start, the company has used dogs as models in the photographs of its rug offerings.

Until now, the dogs of employees and friends have been featured in the annual catalogue. But now that the catalogue will be issued in both the spring and fall, more fur-bearing fashion models will be needed. So officials put out a canine casting call, asking only that applicants' humans donate as little or as much as they choose to the Eleanor Sonsini Animal Shelter in Pittsfield.

The casting call was issued to coincide with the Pine Cone Hill Memorial Day tent sale on Friday, Saturday and Sunday. By mid-day Saturday, more than 70 panting, drooling potential models had been processed and photographed, and more than $1,500 raised for the Sonsini Shelter.

This is the rug company's 10th year in business, and like the company's owner, Annie Selke, is canine-friendly, according to Kate Hill Tapia, organizer of the casting call.

"It was really obvious to us when we started this thing that dogs and rugs just go together," she said. "And we're really thrilled with people's generosity to the Sonsini Shelter."

The scene in the staging area for applicants was definitely dog-friendly, with dogs and their owners mingling with each other -- plenty of chatting, sniffing, laughing and barking. And the love and pride in the faces of the humans was readily apparent.

Among the applicants was Sandy, a 20-pound mixed breed who was rescued from death row in a West Virginia shelter after Hurricane Sandy struck.

Sandy's owners, Dave and Carmela Barger of Falls Village, Conn., saw the casting call in a shopping guide and decided to head north.

Carmela Barger said Sandy is a natural for this sort of thing.

"I just think she's so darn cute," Barger said. "She's just a love -- she's had a hard life and she's such a good dog. I don't know whether she's the lucky one or whether we are."

Aaron D. Tarjick of Lanesborough brought his Scottish deer hound Canaan to the casting call. Canaan weighs about the same as his owner -- he is a giant dog. He's also docile and friendly.

"I heard about it and just thought I'd bring him in and see if we can get him in a book," Tarjick said. "It's just something new and fun to do with him. He loves going out for hikes."

Then there was Daisy, a nervous little two-pound, red-headed chi hua hua in a summer dress.

Her owner, Alexandra Renton of Pittsfield, said she cherishes Daisy so much she wants to share her charms with others.

"A friend of mine works here and she knows about my dog so she sent me an invite," Renton said. "She figured I couldn't say no, and she's right. My dog is my favorite thing in the world -- she's so pretty and so photogenic ..."


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