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Gayest Dog of Pittsburgh Pageant Raises Funds for Rescue

Pride Month has gone to the dogs. And the city of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, is celebrating the LGBTQIA community, as well as its canine companions, in a unique way. On Saturday, around 75 people flocked to Upper Lawrenceville to witness the participants of Pittsburgh’s Gayest Dog Pageant.

Pittsburgh’s Gayest Dog Pageant returns for another year

According to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Alistair McQueen is the event’s co-chair and a pageant judge. He’s also the brains behind the pageant. He proposed the concept while brainstorming Pride events for the Lawrenceville community.

“I know, let’s have a gay dog pageant!” McQueen said.

Last year went well, so the pageant returned for a 2023 installment. This year’s co-chairs included Sara Ponsoll, owner of vintage shop Boheme, and Masha Vereshchenko, owner of statement jewelry store Electric Cat. Heart of Glass Animal Rescue received proceeds from the event.

Six contestants entered, but the field narrowed after one pup was unable to attend. Another was deemed ineligible because he is a goat. (However, his pet parent stated the animal “identified as a dog.”)

Drag queen Akasha was the event’s MC (or “head bitch in charge” per the event’s dog-friendly theme). Akasha had just one request during the proceedings: “No peeing, please.”

Meet the contestants

At the start of the pageant, pet parents and their pups cat-walked a carpet of fake grass. Then, they paused in front of the judges’ table, where pet parents gave a speech about why their dog is gay. They also had to explain how their dog represented other gay dogs. Finally, the audience cheered each dog.

“It’s all about the prance,” McQueen said. He joined fellow judges Colleen Tussle and state Rep. Sara Innamorato in sizing up the canine contestants.

One of the competitors was Pugsley, a 9½-year-old Pug mix decked out in a sequined rainbow dress.

“Just like your best gay friend, Pugsley can turn any day into a celebration!” dog parent AJ Barker of Lawrenceville said.

A 3½-year-old Pit Bull mix named Poppy walked the runway in a Pride T-shirt with owner Marlee Bratsch of Lawrenceville. Poppy promptly plopped on the ground and demonstrated her best “wiggle,” making the crowd go wild.

Then there was Bruno, a 4-year-old Hound mix. He wore a pink cowboy hat. His pet parent Jen Doree of Lawrenceville told the judges that the pup was “very submissive” and friendly.

An 8-year-old retired service dog from Liberty was also in the mix. The mixed-breed pup, named Bailey, is transgender according to pet parent Lou Wilkes. “She’s a girl but pees like a boy,” Wilkes explained.

Finally, judges met Petra, a 12-year-old Chihuahua mix from Beaver County. This “last-minute” contestant rocked a rainbow vest. Her pet parent, Vivi Judgt, wheeled the dog in. Judgt’s partner, Nev Reich, observed from the sidelines.

Everyone’s a winner

The competition was fierce, but judges deemed Pugsley the “Gayest Dog of Pittsburgh.” The pup received a crown, rainbow sash, and doggie treat bag. Judges named Bruno the first runner-up, in the event that Pugsley becomes “unable to fulfill his duties.” The second runner-up was Bailey. Both runners-up received treat bags.

The event raised almost $800 for The Heart of Glass Animal Rescue. Founded in April 2022 by executive director Nicola Hill-Soloman, the non-profit provides shelter for homeless and marginalized animals. Many of the pups in the organization’s care have physical, mental, or behavioral challenges. On any given day, the rescue, which describes itself as “misfits saving misfits,” has 10 to 20 dogs and an equal number of cats in foster homes or its shelter.

Overall, the event was a smashing success.

“We just wanted this to be a fun day to celebrate our differences and inclusivity, and to help some animals who are less fortunate,” McQueen said.

Mission accomplished! Hopefully, this cool and creative event will return next year.

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