'Dudley Vader' wins pet photo contest

11/24/2012 8:02 AM

11/24/2012 8:02 AM

Dudley the dog did not set out to be Darth Vader for Halloween, but it must have been his destiny.

With his short, stout body, wrinkly face and pointy ears, owner Debra Burnett had envisioned the pug-Boston terrier mix more as Yoda from the “Star Wars” saga.

But the Yoda costume she bought was too snug, and when she returned it to Walmart, the Darth Vader outfit was the only one left in his size.

Dudley’s journey to the dark side turned out to be a good thing, as his photo was a runaway winner in The Eagle’s Howl-o-ween pet photo contest, gathering 288 votes.

Burnett said some friends and family members told her they’d vote for Dudley, but she was surprised at how many votes he got. His closest competitor was Powder Puff the UniKitty, with 194 votes, followed by Madame Esther, a fortune-telling pug that received 132 votes.

Burnett, of Wichita, says 2-year-old Dudley has been through a lot, surviving, first, a household that was not puppy-friendly and then a bout with the parvovirus.

“I came close to losing him, but I tell you he’s been a joy,” Burnett said. “He’s an awesome little guy.”

Dudley was just a few weeks old when Burnett first met him, at the house of a friend.

“That little rascal would fit in the palm of your hand,” Burnett said. “He was taken from his mom before he was ready to go.”

This friend had some kids who were “pretty mean,” and Burnett told the friend, “If you ever want to get rid of that puppy, let me know.”

Dudley would growl and bite at the kids, so it was no surprise when the friend soon called Burnett and told her she could have him.

“He was defending himself because he thought he had to,” Burnett said. “Once I got him away from there, you couldn’t ask for a better pet.”

Dudley settled in quickly in his new home, with his beagle sister, Ditto. Then he got very sick with what turned out to be parvo.

When Burnett took him to the veterinarian, “she gave me absolutely no hope because he was so bad,” Burnett said. Dudley was at the vet’s office for five days, and when Burnett would visit after work, in tears, “he would just look at me. He couldn’t even stand up.”

On the fourth day, the veterinarian called and told Burnett to come by, that she was going to be surprised. “He was up and trying to tear the gate off the pen. I said, ‘Oh, thank you, Jesus.’ With him up and acting like that, I knew he was coming home.”

Dudley doesn’t mind wearing costumes, Burnett said, and even strutted around with a bit of attitude in his Darth Vader costume. At Christmas, he and Ditto dress up as Mr. and Mrs. Santa Claus, Burnett said.

For her winning photo, Burnett wins a $50 gift card to PetSmart, but she says she won’t use the money to buy toys.

Dudley’s favorite thing to play with is a furry slipper, Burnett said. “He doesn’t care anything about toys, but let me go get a new pair of house shoes, and first thing you know he’s got one under the bed.”

Although he snores loudly, has a bark that’s more like a scream and can be ornery at times, Dudley has been a blessing to her, Burnett said.

“He’s such a joy,” she said. “He’s everything to me.”

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