Pooch Playoffs brought the community together to help pet families in need
Local pups put their best paw forward and helped raise funds for pet families in need during the 2023 Pooch Playoffs in Santa Barbara County.
Photographer Valerie Villa just completed Santa Barbara County’s 3rd Annual Pooch Playoffs, with proceeds benefiting local nonprofit C.A.R.E.4Paws and Otto the Great Dane emerging as the 2023 playoff champion. The March Madness–style event involved the community both in voting for the favorite pooch contestant and with dozens of local businesses providing swag bags and prizes for those participating. A record $1,564 was raised to help pet families in need.
“We came together in a fun way that everyone could enjoy and support C.A.R.E.4Paws, a great organization that does so much for pets and their families here locally,” says Villa, owner of Images by Valerie Photography, who put months of work into the Pooch Playoffs contest. “We can create amazing change in our community if we all work together, and this is truly one of those moments I am proud to be a part of.”
This was Villa’s third year putting on this fundraiser that she created locally after she learned of a group of like-minded photographers hosting their own Pooch Playoffs nationwide. In the Pooch Playoffs competition model, Villa photographed 16 local dogs (with session fees being donated to C.A.R.E.4Paws) and organized an online voting bracket that lined up with the NCAA Basketball March Madness Tournament to determine Santa Barbara County’s “ulti-mutt cutie.”
Over the course of a week and a half, almost 2,000 votes were cast on the Images by Valerie website to select the cutest canine. Ultimately, it was Otto, a two-year-old Great Dane owned by the Grimmesey family, who took first prize.
Pet House Goleta, La Cumbre Animal Hospital, Ruff Ranch, Blenders in the Grass, Carpinteria Art Center, C-Dog, Scarlett Begonia, Dirt Botanicals and Target Santa Barbara are local companies that stepped in to help Villa create swag bags for all participating and prizes for Otto and the other top-placing dogs in the Pooch Playoffs. All participants received special photo keychains designed by Villa, featuring their own Ulti-Mutt Cutie. Villa has also entered Otto into the international competition of 29 dogs from Pooch Playoffs around the United States and Canada. Together, the photographers participating in Pooch Playoffs around the country in 2023 raised $50,766 for their selected animal-related charities.
“All of us at C.A.R.E.4Paws extend a big, heartfelt thanks to Valerie for her incredible dedication and generosity, and to the many participants of the Pooch Playoffs,” said Wendy Domanski, community programs coordinator for C.A.R.E.4Paws. “We greatly appreciate the generous donation and compassion for our pet families in need. It’s an honor to continue our collaboration with Valerie next year—get your pups geared up for the 2024 Pooch Playoffs!”
Villa says she shares that sentiment: “I look forward to working with C.A.R.E.4Paws again next year and making Pooch Playoffs better yet!”
For more information about the Pooch Playoffs, visit imagesbyvalerie.com/pooch-playoffs.
To learn more about C.A.R.E.4Paws and its programs, visit care4paws.org.
About Images by Valerie
Images by Valerie is a boutique natural light photographer specializing in family photography with a special love working with maternity and children here in Santa Barbara, California. My love for photography is driven by my passion to beautifully capture families’ everyday moments and create archival memories to pass on for the future generations. After 20+ years in sports medicine, traveling around the county and sometime internationally with athletic teams, I realized I was missing moments in my young family’s life. I also realized that my family albums passed on to me were focused on the kids with a sprinkling of mom…and the one being created of my own family were missing me. I realized that as a mom, or parent, you are either behind the camera or phone taking all the pictures or are too self-conscious to come out from behind it. It’s an easy excuse to become invisible in your child’s story. I redirected my path to be there for my family but also to capture these moments not only for me but for others. Learn more at imagesbyvalerie.com.
C.A.R.E.4Paws—short for Community Awareness, Responsibility & Education—works to reduce pet overpopulation, keep animals out of shelters and improve quality of life for pet families in need. Its critical services include free and low-cost spays/neuters, veterinary care and vaccine events in C.A.R.E.4Paws’ own mobile veterinary clinics; distribution of pet food and supplies; support for pet families exposed to domestic violence through Safe Haven; Paws Up For Pets humane education; and Pet Emergency Training (P.E.T.) for First Responders. Since 2009, C.A.R.E.4Paws has worked in Santa Barbara County and, in 2022, the nonprofit expanded its mobile clinic services to San Luis Obispo County. To learn more or to make a contribution,
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