Stella’s journey to Best in Sheaux was not easy. The winter of 2016 was a cold one, and the scruffy ball of grey fur found herself living rough, dodging cars and people on Kings Highway, making her home somewhere in the environs of Mall St. Vincent. Locals and passersby had spotted her all around the neighborhood for weeks, and tried to catch her numerous times, but had no luck. She was utterly terrified of people, and remained at large until one particularly cold night. It had dropped below freezing, and it was only by pure luck that Stella ended up on the porch of a local dog-lover who lived not too far from the mall. The homeowner spent hours, in the middle of the night, drawing Stella onto her porch with food, then slowly coaxing into the house, until finally she was safely inside, and had her first warm night’s sleep in a long time. Unfortunately, the home she found was already claimed by a dog who wasn’t one for company, but thankfully, her rescuer was friends with Amanda Dewett, who would be Stella’s savior and change her life forever.
Amanda and her fiancé Justin already had two rescued dogs, so taking in another pitiful soul was nothing new to them. Stella had been living on the streets for weeks, scrounging food where she could and avoiding contact at every turn, but within a few days, she was already a part of Justin and Amanda’s family. Remarkably, Stella and Amanda bonded immediately, and the distrust she had shown toward people melted away under Amanda’s loving care. Stella went from a raggedy street dog to the beautiful snow-white spitz she was always meant to be; if dogs wore clothes, it would be a classic rag to riches tale. Amanda’s mother Pam and her husband, Harry Avant, have been long time supporters of Robinson’s Rescue, and Amanda had already had her other dogs spayed and neutered there, so bringing Stella in was a no-brainer. When Pam was named chair of 2019’s Best in Sheaux, it was a perfect opportunity for Amanda to put her money where her mouth was and sponsor her newest furbaby’s spot in the show.
For Amanda, putting Stella in the dog show was a way of showing everyone in attendance that any dog can be a star, despite their original circumstances. Robinson’s Rescue is dedicated to ending overpopulation and euthanasia of otherwise healthy and adoptable dogs and cats through preventative spay and neuter surgeries, and Best in Sheaux is the major fundraising vehicle for affecting that change. The life that Stella lived before finding her home with Amanda and Justin is indicative of the problem Robinson’s Rescue is fighting against: Rampant reproduction leads to massive numbers of homeless animals who either end up in shelters, where they are often euthanized, or struggle to survive on the streets, alone and unloved. Thankfully, Stella was lucky enough to find a loving home with caring people, but most animals aren’t so lucky, and the number of homeless animals far outstrips the number of homes available to take them in. Amanda wanted to sponsor Stella’s runway walk in order to help prevent any other animals from suffering the same life of hunger and deprivation on the street.
When Amanda and Justin walked into the Marlene Yu Museum last March, they were not expecting to turn their three-dog family into a four-dog family, but fate had other plans. As part of the Best in Sheaux celebration, every year a few dogs from local shelters are promenaded in front of the assembled audience, with the goal of finding these selected dogs a forever home. At Best in Sheaux 2019, the two lucky dogs were Leigha and Sebastien, and it was Sebastien who captured Amanda’s heart that night. The other dog, Leigha, was adopted by Lauren and Bob Ewing, longtime Robinson’s Rescue supporters who, amazingly, had adopted their other dog Periwinkle at a previous Best in Sheaux. To date, the Best in Sheaux Shelter Dog Showcase has a 100% success rate, which is a testament to the supporters of Robinson’s Rescue and their dedication to improving the lives of our local dogs and cats.
The Shelter Dog Showcase serves as punctuation for the main event of Best in Sheaux: the live runway dog show. Robinson’s Rescue solicits entries to the show, and any and all dogs are welcomed. In contrast to the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show, which was the original inspiration for Best in Sheaux, pedigree and purity of lineage are not requirements for contestants to shine. Of course, there are often purebred dogs in the show, but there are just as many, if not more, mixed breeds and adopted street dogs with inexplicable parentage in the running for Best in Sheaux. The only criterion for victory on the runway is the number of votes received, so winning is contingent on public support. Social media (and obsessive dog parents) are key in this aspect because the dog with the largest following or most aggressive promoters is always a frontrunner. This makes the contest all the more exciting, however, because votes can be cast during the show up until the last contestant walks, so it is literally any dog’s game.
In its current iteration, Best in Sheaux is a gala fundraiser to the gills. Shreveport’s Riverview Hall is transformed for one night into a celebration of all things canine, and the highlights of the event include a silent auction, a raffle, and an exquisite dinner catered by local favorite chef John Cariere of Fairfield Bed & Breakfast. Local businesses donate goods and services to be used in the auction and raffle, and some of the prizes can command remarkable prices, not only because they are exciting opportunities or beautiful items, but also because the people bidding know that every dollar they spend at Best in Sheaux goes back to Robinson’s Rescue, and that support is the crux of the event and of Robinson’s Rescue’s survival.
This year, for Best in Sheaux 2020, Amanda is entering again, this time with the very same Sebastien that stole her heart in the Shelter Dog Showcase. Just like Stella, Sebastien’s life was transformed from one of lonely, concrete boxes to one of feather pillows, quality food and genuine love. Walking in Best in Sheaux is about more for Amanda than showing off her (admittedly great) fashion sense and gorgeous dog, it’s about bringing attention to the work that Robinson’s Rescue does, which is very close to her heart. By preventing overpopulation, Robinson’s Rescue spares countless dogs and cats the life of hunger, sadness, danger, and fear that Stella lived before joining Amanda’s family.