Winning Photo Fetches Greenwich Pooch Fame and Fortune

A cross-country summer road trip ending in San Francisco with a spectacular view of the Golden Gate Bridge fetched a Greenwich couple – and their mixed breed dog – first place in the National AAA Pet-Book Photo Contest.

Ray and Elzbieta Sotelo of Greenwich and their dog, Tibbs, a mixed breed male, spent 16 days crossing the country in a Chrysler mini-van last summer when the couple stopped to take in a scenic view of the San Francisco Bay.

On that particular day, fog, a common weather phenomena in San Francisco, enveloped the bridge’s 746-foot tall Art Deco towers, sweeping main cables and signature orange color.

“We were waiting for the fog to lift so we could get a nice picture of the Golden Gate Bridge in the background,” Elzbieta said.

Several minutes later, as the fog lifted, Ray positioned Tibbs, an 8-year-old Hound-Boxer mix, on a grassy area with the bridge as a backdrop. Elzbieta used her phone to take the winning shot.

Tibbs, originally a rescued dog, has been with the Sotelos since September, 2010. He initially arrived for training – Ray is a certified dog trainer – and eventually became part of the Sotelo family and Greenwich his home. The couple usually takes Tibbs on vacation with them because he’s a well-mannered, well-trained pet, they said.

“Tibbs really enjoyed California,” Elzbieta added. “He especially loves going to the beach.”

Tibbs wears a life jacket, although he can dog paddle in shallow water. But on the dog days of summer she said that Tibbs likes running on the beach and into waves more than swimming in the ocean.

Elzbieta submitted the photo to the AAA/Best Western annual AAA Petbook photo contest. The photo was selected from among 500 entries nationwide. As a first-place winner, Tibbs’ photo will appear on the back cover of “Traveling With Your Pet: The AAA PetBook,” which lists more than 13,000 AAA-approved hotels and 800 top-rated campgrounds across the US and Canada that welcomes travelers with their pets.

The book provides detailed planning information on preparing your pet for travel, how to pack for your pet and selecting a carrier or crate and offers special advice on traveling by car or air, what to do in an emergency and travel between Canada and the United States.

The 18th edition of the book, with a suggested retail price of $18.95, will be available in AAA offices, bookstores and online booksellers in May, 2016. Visit AAA Traveling with Your Pet and link to “Photo Gallery” on the top menu bar to see other winners and runners-up in the contest.

The site also features rules for this year’s contest. Submission deadline is November 30, 2016.

In addition to having their pet’s picture grace the book’s cover, the Sotelos received a $300 prize; a $150 Best Western gift card; a $50 Petco gift card and five copies of the book.

AAA Northeast is a not-for-profit auto club with 61 offices in Rhode Island, Massachusetts, Connecticut, New Jersey and New York providing more than 5.2 million local AAA members with travel, insurance, finance, and auto-related services.


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