Local dog wins national contest

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Each of the 11 Love Tails finalist entries was touching.

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Derek Underwood and Brooks visit with Russell Callaway.  TODD BENNETT/STAFF
TODD BENNETT/STAFF
Derek Underwood and Brooks visit with Russell Callaway.

There was Roxie, the cocker spaniel in College Point, N.Y., who inspired a child with Down syndrome to begin to speak. There was Tate, the black cat from Bowling Green, Ky., who has been young Chandler’s sidekick since the day he was born. And there was Bailey, a black Labrador retriever who helps wheelchair-bound Liz in Milwaukee with everyday tasks.

But it was Augusta’s Brooks who won the hearts of Iams’ Facebook friends. They voted for her story to be the grand prize winner of the Iams Love Tails contest.

Brooks, a 2-year-old golden retriever, is a trained therapy dog who visits local assisted living homes with owner Derek Underwood at least once a week.

From Feb. 14 to March 3, more than 500 pet owners submitted their stories for the contest. Of those, 10 were chosen by Iams as finalists. One was a wild card spot, which was won by Brooks in a popular vote.

Each of the 11 stories were presented in videos and posted on Iams’ Facebook page, where fans were asked to vote for their favorite, which would become the winner.

On July 2, with 2,158 likes, Underwood and Brooks were declared the winners in a video posted on the Facebook page.

“It was a really, really good feeling,” Underwood said. “I feel like we were the underdogs.”

Brooks became the family pet as a puppy after the Underwood family acquired her from a breeder in New York.

Underwood said Brooks welcomed everyone who visited the home, and guests seemed to really enjoy her.

“My mother decided to get her certified (as a therapy dog) so we could volunteer with her,” he said.

Underwood, an Eagle Scout, said he has always been involved in volunteerism. With Brooks, he visits area assisted living homes at least once a week to bring a little joy to residents.

“It’s always a really positive experience whenever you’re visiting. You see the way they light up,” he said.

When he saw the call for entries for the Love Tails contest, he couldn’t find a reason not to enter, he said.

Underwood, a local filmmaker, teamed up with Hodges Usry, another local filmmaker, to create the video entry.

They wanted to show genuine reactions of people who encounter Brooks for the first time.

Underwood contacted Morning­side Assisted Living of Evans, which Brooks had never visited before, and requested permission to bring Brooks to visit residents and to film her at work.

“Everything you see is people reacting to Brooks for the first time,” he said.

While the national ad campaign for Iams, which will feature Underwood and Brooks, is being developed, Underwood is working on other filmmaking projects, including a commercial to pitch to a national laundry detergent company and directing an independent feature film at Loyola Marymount University.


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