The votes have been tallied and Leader area pet lovers have spoken – Jasmine the dog and Leonardo the cat and came out on top, even though their owners have long been convinced of their importance.
For third grader Isabella Sterr it was love at first sight in November of 2004 when she accompanied her dad and brother to a soccer game on a wet, cold day and discovered Jasmine abandoned under the playground.
“Jasmine found Isabella,” said her mom Heather Sterr, who noted that brother Vincent got the naming rights.
Jasmine settled in nicely to her new home. She discovered that she really liked Beggin’ Strips. The Sterrs learned that Jasmine was great at fetch.
While both her fur sisters passed away last year, Jasmine is friendly and gets along with animals and people.
When Isabella learned about The Leader contest, she went to the offices to enter her pooch in person. Heather said that Isabella campaigned to her family, schoolmates and fencing partners to garner online votes. When Isabella learned that Jasmine had won, she gave credit where credit was due.
“She was excited for her dog, not for herself,” said Heather.
Heather also says that Isabella is ready to add to their brood – “She would like to rescue a dog named Rose from Friends for Life so Jasmine can have a new sister.”
Feline Leonardo came from Friends for Life back in 2010, so it’s fitting he won since the rescue group is the beneficiary of The Leader’s contest this year.
Karen Imas remembers when she and husband Walter Baker found their forever cat.
“When my husband and I walked into Friends for Life Leo came right up to us in his cage,” said Imas. “We went in to check out his brother, Davinci, and we fell in love with Leo right away. We decided to keep his name and add his brother’s name as his middle name. Watching Leo and his brother play in Friends for Life, we noticed Leo letting his brother beat him up. I said to my husband, ‘Walter, look how calm he is! That’s the one for us.’ And that was it. He’s the best decision we ever made with adopting a pet.”
Leonardo was living the high life long before the Leader contest, snacking on salmon cat treats and yogurt and generally being chill. When he’s not listening to music and looking out the windows, he’s playing fetch with pipe cleaners in the shape of a circle or hair bands.
“Leonardo is the most calm creature you will ever meet in your life,” said Imas. “Sometimes I think he thinks he’s a dog because his demeanor is similar to a calm dog. He’s super friendly and loves to hang out for hours. He loves company whenever we have it. He’s not a ‘run away and hide’ type of cat.”
After Imas entered him in the contest, she put his picture on the Friends for Life Facebook page to help him get votes. The win was sweet all around, although Leonardo remains humble in victory.
“We’re high school teachers and winning anything for my husband and I is an honor,” said Imas. “We love Leonardo like he is our child. He means the world to us.”
In addition to the top vote getters there were also two photo judge winners, which were determined by judges at Friends for Life. Judges liked the looks of two pets in particular – Wolfie the dog owned by Jennie Rexer and Libby the cat, who belongs to Leslie Rogers.
Prizes for the winners include treats for humans and pets. Eateries Ginger and Fork, 3 Brothers Bakery, and Olive Garden on 290 donated gift cards, as did pet connected businesses Paws Pet Resort, Polka Dot Dogs, Scoop Le Poop, Yuppie Dog, The Purple Cat Resale, Kriser’s Pet Store and C&D Hardware.