"We always dress him up for Halloween," Howe said. "I think he likes the attention."
Howe, a Cape Girardeau native who now lives in Lawrenceburg, Ind., has come to the attention of Hallmark shoppers who have seen Rudy on a birthday card at the store.
"I've had total strangers contact me because they've bought the card," Howe said. Her name and picture are on the back of the card.
When Hallmark sent an advertisement asking patrons to submit a picture of their pet for the store's card contest, Howe knew Rudy would be perfect. She took Rudy to his changing area — the living room chair. Howe motioned for Rudy to jump in his chair, and he patiently waited while she put a sunshine headband on him and snapped a picture. Howe sent her card to Hallmark with the title, "Good Morning Sunshine."
English bulldogs have a scrunched-up face,with a short nose and lots of sagging skin. Hallmark liked it.
After years of playing dress-up, Rudy's ship has finally come in. Hallmark made him a finalist in March. The company sent him $250 and a box of Rudy's birthday cards. Rudy is one of 67 finalists, out of a pool of more than 7,000 submissions. He has the chance to win the final prize of $1,000. There are 67 finalists to fill the 67 spaces Hallmark has in its stores to sell the cards.
The attention brought on from being dressed up has never bothered Rudy, Howe said. Rudy has been dressed up as a pig, a pirate and a graduate in a cap and gown.
Howe brought Rudy to Cape Girardeau for her mother's birthday party the weekend of July 12. Dora Ashley, Howe's mother and subsequently Rudy's "grandmother," lives at Chateau Girardeau. Ashley said she's shown Rudy's Hallmark picture to many of the residents. During his visit, residents got to see Rudy dressed up in a Hawaiian-style shirt.
"They all thought Rudy was very funny," Ashley said.
Howe has gotten many responses about Rudy.
"Hallmark must be on to something because everybody likes these cards," Howe said. "Everybody loves a cute animal."
Howe said she isn't worried about winning. Entering the contest and seeing the different pet cards has given her all the enjoyment she's needed, she said.
"These cards remind me of their wholesomeness and their niceness," Howe said about dogs. "They are always happy to see you. They're never complicated."