Laser cat contest
Prize: Free laser pet photo shoot
Sponsor: The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals
Guidelines: Explain why your pet deserves a laser portrait
Submissions due: Wednesday, Nov. 26
There’s a national competition for a lucky pet owner to have a photo shoot with their cat or dog … and lasers.
The idea was inspired by Schenectady High School senior Draven Rodriguez and his cat, Mr. Bigglesworth, whose creative yearbook photo — with lasers — garnered national attention two months ago.
The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals decided to launch the competition after spotting Rodriguez’s claim to fame. After all, who wouldn’t want a photo with their cat or dog and lasers?
“Once it went crazy viral, we saw a piece on today.com, and he actually mentioned us in the article,” said Alison Jimenez, director of communications for the ASPCA. “He said it would be amazing if the ASPCA could use the idea to fundraise, and we thought, ‘Oh my gosh, yes please!’ ”
The ASPCA said it has already received more than 2,000 entries. Submissions are due Nov. 26, and a winner will be chosen sometime next month.
“People have to tell us why they deserve a laser portrait with their pet,” Jimenez said. “There are going to be a panel of experts judging the submissions, and our photographer will drive out or fly out to the winner and get their very own laser pet photo shoot at their home.”
Representatives from the ASPCA, a nonprofit headquartered in New York City, visited Schenectady High School on Tuesday to recognize Rodriguez’s efforts to raise awareness about animal rescue and adoption. The school, in turn, held a Rescue Pet Awareness Day, which featured officials from the ASPCA and the local Animal Protective Foundation answering questions about adoption during lunch periods in the cafeteria.
“For us, we’re a national organization, so we very often go into different communities and help with funding, resources and disaster response,” Jimenez said. “But for Rodriguez to take such a funny and silly concept and use it to do something good just blew us away. If anyone sees this and goes to their local shelter to adopt, that’s a success. That’s the whole point of this.”
Rodriguez was not allowed to use the photo with Mr. Bigglesworth as his yearbook photo, but he did reach a compromise with the school. Instead, he and Mr. Bigglesworth posed with principal Diane Wilkinson and her dog Vivian on a laser print background.
Rodriguez said he didn’t intend to use the photo to garner his 15 minutes of fame. He just wanted his yearbook photo to be different. Now, the idea has the potential to help other rescued animals, like Mr. Bigglesworth.
“Once the photo started getting big, I knew I wanted to do something positive with it,” Rodriguez said. “My cat is a rescue, and he has some complications in his health. I think it is important to encourage other people to take animals in.”
Mr. Bigglesworth walked into Rodriguez’s life — literally.
About two years ago, a car hit Rodriguez’s previous cat after it escaped from the house and walked into the street. Later that day, a stray cat wandered into the basement of Rodriguez’s home. That cat was Mr. Bigglesworth.
“When we took him in, he was off the streets and just showed up in our basement,” Rodriguez said. “He is almost a carbon copy of my other cat, except he has white feet and my other cat had black feet.”
The coincidence was “really strange,” he admitted.
Rodriguez said he is looking to volunteer at local animal shelters and help spread the word about the importance of pet adoption. The ASPCA is only the first step, he said.
Rodriguez also has other interests, aside from cats and lasers. He plans to enroll at Hudson Valley Community College and later transfer to Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute to study cybersecurity.
City schools Superintendent Larry Spring said he has a photo of Rodriguez and Mr. Bigglesworth, complete with a laser backdrop, hanging on the wall of a meeting room at the high school.
“Initially what I thought was, ‘Uh oh, we’re going to have a real difficult time with this situation of a challenge to what is traditionally done with senior photos,’ ” Spring said. “I was thinking about all of the negative ways that could possibly play out. I think this is a very creative solution.”
Spring said he is glad the situation worked out for the best, but he doesn’t anticipate another unique yearbook request coming up again in the near future.
“This maintains the notion of student individuality, and these things really can’t be done without having fun — that’s why we have yearbooks,” he said. “To do that with a student is just perfect. It would be really hard to top this, and I don’t think anyone could. It’s a pretty special thing.”
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