Cutest Dog: Derm's Chihuahua wins $1 million for Denver pet shelters

February 4, 2010

Denver - Dr. Papidies interacts daily with patients and staff at Dermatology Associates of Colorado, Englewood, Colo., wearing his white lab coat - and a chewed stethoscope.

Denver

- Dr. Papidies interacts daily with patients and staff at Dermatology Associates of Colorado, Englewood, Colo., wearing his white lab coat - and a chewed stethoscope.

The 3-year-old Chihuahua is not only the favorite pooch of patients of Leslie Capin, M.D. - he’s also the darling of the public and the media. Dr. Papidies recently won the $1 million prize in the national Cutest Dog Competition, sponsored by All American Pet Brands.

Leslie Capin, M.D., holds Cutest Dog winner Dr. Papidies. (Photo: Leslie Capin, M.D.)

“The money is paid out as an annuity, at between $33,000 and $40,000 a year for 30 years,” Dr. Capin says. “I set up a trust fund so that if anything happened to me … my estate will make sure that the money goes to these two dog shelters for the next 30 years.”

A dog’s tale

Dr. Capin met Dr. Papidies unexpectedly, three years ago on Christmas. The general dermatologist had hosted a holiday party, inviting about 50 dermatologists from around Colorado.

“Someone brought him to me as a hostess gift,” Dr. Capin says. “I had just lost my black lab. We were sad, so she thought that since I traveled a lot to medical meetings, wouldn’t it be fun to have a little dog that I could take with me.”

The gift-giver thought she was doing the right thing by purchasing the Chihuahua from a mall pet store, but it turned out that Dr. Papidies was a sickly puppy mill dog. By the next morning, the puppy was lethargic, dehydrated and could not lift his head, according to the dermatologist.

“He weighed about 2.5 pounds. So, I took him to the pet ER, and they started him on IV antibiotics. It took a couple of weeks for them to diagnose that he had Addison’s disease … a disease of the adrenal glands,” she says.

The tiny dog’s first 18 months of life was touch-and-go, with numerous hospital visits, daily steroids (which are now injected monthly) and close monitoring. Dr. Capin says she has spent thousands of dollars nursing Dr. Papidies to health. The dog has rallied in response, remaining relatively healthy in the past year and a half.

Dr. Papidies (a name that means nothing, according to Dr. Capin) has become a member of the family for Dr. Capin and her husband, Natalio Banchero, M.D.

The dog goes to work and to meetings with Dr. Capin. (He will accompany her to the American Academy of Dermatology annual meeting in March.) He roams the 10,000-square-foot main office of the dermatology practice and medspa during lunch, and before and after hours.

“When we have patients, he only comes out when he is going to say ‘Hello’ to a patient,” Dr. Capin says. “He gets more Christmas gifts than I do. He is on our Web site. I have blogs about him on the Web.”

It’s a dog’s world

Dr. Capin heard about the Cutest Dog Competition and that owners could enter their dogs by submitting pictures online. Her office administrator submitted a photo of Dr. Papidies wearing red goggles and a red T-shirt and photo of the dog wearing the white lab coat, bearing his name, and a stethoscope.

“It was a 12-week competition and (an online) vote by the public,” Dr. Capin says. “Every week, across the country, a dog would win, and the winning dogs would get $500.

“The 12 semifinalists were sent to a panel of judges. The judges picked four finalists,” she says. “Of the four finalists, the No. 1 dog would get $1 million and the other three would get $5,000 each.”

Dr. Capin checked her computer for the winning announcement at 2:20 a.m. on the day after Thanksgiving, and read: “Congratulations, Dr. Papidies, you’ve won $1 million.”

Dermatologist of her word

Dr. Capin had pledged on the application that she would split the winnings between two Denver area animal shelters.

“I will be honest, I never thought I would win, and probably would have kept some of the money (had I known),” she says.

But she kept her word. And in late December 2009, All American Pet Brands’ owners flew to Colorado to present the first checks to the Denver Dumb Friends League and the MaxFund, the only no-kill shelter in Colorado.

Neither shelter had received a donation of this magnitude before, according to Dr. Capin.

“Basically, the way Papidies and I looked at it when I talked with him is that he got a second chance in life,” she says. “He came from a puppy mill. He should have died.

“We had no children. He is our son. And now he is giving all these animals another chance to live in shelters, to find new homes, and he just hopes they are as lucky as he is.” DT