We love, we love, we love our little calendar girl

Thursday , March 06, 2014 - 9:57 AM

Instead of a red-letter day, June 3 will go down this year as a pink flower day.

That’s the day Gracie will shine, with a pretty flower over her right ear, on the pages of the annual “The 365 Days of Puppies a Year” calendar.

Yes, our very own South Ogden cockapoo is a bit of a celebrity as Utah’s only featured pup in this popular wall calendar created by Workman Publishing Company of New York.

“We joke that she’s a calendar girl,” says Gracie’s “mom” Jen Votava, who was surprised to be notified last fall that one of the photos she had submitted of her two dogs had been chosen for the 2013 publication.

Each date or square on the calendar features a photo of a different puppy, with the miniature canines hailing from across the United States as well as Canada, Brazil, Australia, Japan and Lithuania.

When Votava, known for taking lots of photographs of Gracie and her sister, Daisy May, received one of the calendars as a gift last year, she naturally decided to see if her own dogs could win a spot.

“I sent in pictures at the beginning of the year (2012) and didn’t think too much of it,” says the kindergarten teacher at West Haven Elementary School. But now she’s buying copies of Gracie’s calendar as gifts and telling checkers at stores, “My dog’s in this calendar.”

“The lady that cuts my hair even said, ‘I’m going to have to go buy one,’ ” Votava says.

Who’s cutest?

Gracie, now 2 1/2, looks different from her puppy calendar picture, a pose taken on a pink-flowered blanket when she was just 6 weeks old.

“She had really cute caramel (coloring) around her eyes and ears ... and it faded out,” Votava says, petting the now almost totally white dog at her South Ogden home.

Daisy May, in contrast, has a black and white coat and was so named because Votava says she looks like a little cow.

Workman Publishing receives thousands of submissions annually for its pet wall and desk calendars, which include “365 Dogs,” “365 Cats,” “365 Kittens a Year,” “365 Puppies a Year,” “Bad Cat” and “Bad Dog.” Six other Utah pets, all from the Salt Lake City area, appear in some of these 2013 dog and cat calendars.

“Everyone who submits a photo of a pet thinks that theirs is the most beautiful or the cutest or the funniest, and we tend to agree!” says editor in chief Susan Bolotin in an email statement.

Bolotin says the company’s photo editor sorts through the submissions, looking for “beauty, wit, variety, and artful composition, as well as for pictures that simply have that ‘ahhh’ factor.”

“You just never know ... it’s just kind of fun to enter and see what happens,” Votava says.

Hamming it up

Gracie and Daisy May are no strangers to photo shoots; their pictures — in sparkly red doggie dresses — are featured on Votava’srecent Christmas cards. “Deck the dogs with bows and dresses,” the verse read.

The refrigerator at Votava’s South Ogden home also sports other photo cards of the dogs dressed up for Valentine’s Day or Halloween, with Gracie as a cheerleader and Daisy as a ladybug.

But Votava explains, “I’m not a crazy dog lady who dresses my dogs up all the time. I tease my brother that it’s just for special occasions.”

The cockapoo sisters were also winners of a photo contest held at an area Petco, where store visitors voted on their favorite picture. The prize was a photo session, and the resulting pictures, with Gracie and Daisy May posing beside a tin pail and rubber ducky, hang on the walls at Votava’s home.

Getting Gracie to sit still for a photograph can be a challenge, since she’s a high-spirited and active dog, Votava says. That winning calendar photo was snapped when the cockapoo puppy was about to fall asleep.

“She’s so feisty — it’s taken her a long time to calm down,” Votava says.

Games and snuggles

Some of Gracie’s favorite activities are playing with the hose, chasing her sister around in the snow and running after her ball.

“She likes to try to get the (TV) remote control ... so I kind of have to puppy-proof my house,” says Votava, who also works part time as a secretary and as a “critter sitter.”

But her bouncy dog has a soft side, too, Votava says, ever ready to cuddle on her lap and get a belly rub.

Votava says she enjoys all of the different breeds of dogs in the “365 Days of Puppies a Year” calendar. Some are dressed up, in hats, or reindeer antlers, or sweaters, and others appear as just plain, ordinary dogs.

The kindergarten teacher says she’s going to hang up one of the calendars in her room at school and another in her home office.

And as far as Votava can tell, Gracie isn’t letting this moment of fame go to her fuzzy white head.

“I think she’s keeping it all in stride,” her owner says.

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