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HomeVoorhees NewsSully the star: Local pooch wins national contest

Sully the star: Local pooch wins national contest

Pitbull mix featured on cover of Pet Valu calendar gives ‘paw’tograph signing at Voorhees location

Susan Bormida shows off the ‘paw’tograph she received from Sully at Pet Valu in Voorhees. Sully, owned by Washington Township native Nina Armenia and husband Ken Cowdright, won a national contest to be featured on the cover of the 2019 Pet Valu calendar. (Kristen Dowd/The Sun)

A treat for a “paw”tograph.

This exchange worked well for Sully, a happy-go-lucky pitbull mix who was the star on Saturday, Nov. 3, at Pet Valu in Voorhees. The Blackwood pooch recently won a national contest to be featured on the cover of the 2019 Pet Valu calendar, and at his “paw”tograph signing, Sully patiently waited for his treats as he doled out paw print signatures.

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“We were over-the-moon excited,” owner Nina Armenia said about Sully’s big win. “We couldn’t say anything until Pet Valu made their announcement. Once they did, we were just shouting it from the rooftops!”

Armenia, a Washington Township native, and husband Ken Cowdright, were thrilled with Sully’s recent stardom, a happy development for a dog who didn’t have the easiest start.

A good Samaritan, Lachia Damis, bought a sick Sully off of a Philadelphia street when he was a tiny pup. Once Damis got Sully to Good Karma Dog Rescue, the puppy healed and blossomed. After winning a contest, the now 2-year-old pitbull mix is the cover star of the 2019 Pet Valu calendar. (Left and center photos courtesy Good Karma Dog Rescue, right photo Kristen Dowd/The Sun)

Two years ago, a tiny 5-week-old Sully was being proffered on the streets of Philadelphia, a man carrying the puppy by the scruff of his neck looking to pass him off to anyone interested. Sully was blind, his tiny legs covered in burn marks. A good Samaritan, Lachia Damis, paid the man for the puppy and, anxious to set Sully on a path to a better life, posted a video to social media saying the pooch needed a rescue. Someone tagged Barb Blackman, vice president of Good Karma Dog Rescue, on the post, and she immediately reached out to Damis.

“I feel like dogs like that, people don’t want them. That’s why that guy was trying to get rid of him on the street,” Blackman said.

Damis surrendered Sully to Good Karma, which is based in River Vale, where president Lisa Adamek lives, and Voorhees, where Blackman lives, and the rescue got to work. It took an investment — of time, money, good nutrition and lots of love — to heal Sully from his painful start in life. Over the coming week, however, the little puppy regained his sight. The burn marks faded from both visibility and memory. And Sully’s funny, loving puppy personality started to shine.

With assistance from Pet Valu employee Cass Sicolo, Sully’s owners Nina Armenia and Ken Cowdright help the pooch with his ‘paw’tographs at Pet Valu in Voorhees. Sully is featured on the 2019 Pet Valu calendar cover. (Kristen Dowd/The Sun)

Good Karma detailed Sully’s journey online, where he garnered quite a following.

That’s where Armenia and Cowdright found him.

“There was just something about Sully that pulled at our heartstrings,” Armenia said. “We knew we wanted to adopt him.”

The couple took him home at 8 weeks old as a foster-to-adopt arrangement, making the adoption official a little more than a month later when Sully was neutered at 12 weeks old. Bringing Sully into the family — which included another adopted pit mix, Layla, and adopted cat, Courageous — came at a fortuitous time, since Armenia and Cowdright just lost their adopted basset hound, Max, at 13 years old.

“Sully filled that hole we all felt when Max left,” Armenia said. “It was just perfect.”

The national calendar contest came about via social media, when Armenia saw an advertisement on Facebook. With Sully’s fanbase (he has a following from his early days with Good Karma, as well as on his Instagram @sullythesurvivor), Armenia thought he might have a shot to win.

Nina Armenia and Ken Cowdright are all smiles at Pet Valu Voorhees with their dog, Sully, who recently won a national contest to be featured on the front of the 2019 Pet Valu calendar. (Kristen Dowd/The Sun)

After entering Sully’s photo enjoying life on an Ocean City beach, the dog’s fanbase came through by voting him into the final round and, ultimately, earning Sully enough votes for the coveted cover spot.

Pet Valu asked Armenia and Cowdright if they would like to host a “paw”tograph event at a local Pet Valu location, to which the couple quickly agreed. They chose Pet Valu in Voorhees because it’s their favorite location.

“We always shop at Pet Valu. All the stores are really great,” Armenia said, “but this store is really sweet to him.”

While Pet Valu Manager Kristin Finnigan couldn’t be at Saturday’s “paw”tograph signing, she was still eager to share her happiness over Sully’s newfound fame.

“I love that it was a rescued pitbull that made the cover,” Finnegan said. “They’re a very misunderstood breed.”

The employees at the “paw”tograph signing were excited to shine a light on Sully, who they said has been shopping at the store since he was a puppy.

“None of our Voorhees customers have ever been in the calendar before, so we were so excited,” employee Rachel Foster said. “I think it’s amazing he’s a rescue and he made it to the top.”

Armenia said the couple was excited for this opportunity to also highlight what local rescues are all about. In addition to Sully’s connection with Good Karma Dog Rescue, Armenia and Cowdright are both senior volunteers with Voorhees-based Lilo’s Promise Animal Rescue.

A pitbull winning the contest meant a lot to Armenia and Cowdright, too.

“I love the fact that he’s a rescue dog and a pitbull,” Cowdright said. “He’s so loving and happy. He’s such a good breed ambassador.”

Blackman agreed with this sentiment.

“I think Pet Valu did such a service to the rescue pitbull community by putting him on the cover of their calendar,” Blackman said. “The fact that Sully is a pitbull makes him that much better because he gives a great name to pitbulls, but he’s just a great dog in general. He’s absolutely one for the books.”

To get a calendar, visit Pet Valu at 700 Haddonfield-Berlin Road, Voorhees. The store can be reached by calling (856) 783–1331.

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