Capt. Joseph Brown, Company B, 701st Military Police Battalion, and his wife, Ana Maria Herrera, were presented a $250 gift card from the Army & Air Force Exchange Service June 24 at the Post Exchange for earning a runner-up placement in the “Patriot Pet Just Say Treat” photo contest.
“(They) presented such a joyful picture with their pooch,” said Beth Pritchard, Fort Leonard Wood Exchange general manager. “They created a wonderful image that was tailor-made to celebrate the Fourth of July.”
Shoppers entered the contest by submitting patriotic-themed photos of their four-legged friends. Brown and Herrera’s furry companion, a 6-year-old West Highland White Terrier named Westley, was one of eight runners-up. About 800 total entries were submitted worldwide and winners were selected by 20 judges.
The couple said Westley, their first dog, came into their lives through a fortunate chance encounter in Germany.
“We got him in Hohenfels … from another family that (had a) permanent change of station,” Brown said.
And since then, he added, Westley has grown warmer and friendlier with each passing day.
“He changed a lot,” Brown said. “Over the course of three years, he became very calm and playful.”
It’s because of this bond that AAFES hosts competitions like this one, said AAFES Representative Loyd Brumfield.
“Pets are part of the family, providing support and camaraderie during stressful times,” he said. “This contest celebrates the bond military families have with their pets and gives them a fun way to show them off.”
While it may be difficult to get pets to cooperate for photo opportunities, Brown and Herrera said this is second-nature to Westley. In fact, they even have an entire Instagram page dedicated to him, where he sports the handle, “westiepatriot.”
“He’s used to using clothing and harnesses,” Brown said. “We’ve participated in other photoshoots before. So, we’re used to dressing him up and taking photos of him almost on a daily basis.”
Brown and Herrera reinvested their winnings from the contest directly back into Westley, they said.
“We’ve split it between ourselves,” Brown said. “I spent my portion on photography gear. My wife hasn’t spent her part yet, and she’s going to buy treats and food for the dog. We enjoy him a lot.”