ST. CHARLES, IL — You may have already spotted Heaven around town. In the two years since the former stray came home with Jackie Rakers, of St. Charles, she’s been frequenting parks and dog-friendly businesses with Rakers, according to People.com.
On Wednesday, the pup, who Rakers described as “popular,” has been making headlines after being picked as the winner of People’s annual World’s Cutest Rescue Dog contest. Life hasn’t always been so glamorous for Heaven, though.
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Heaven plays with a toy in her backyard in St. Charles. Credit: Jackie Rakers
When Rakers first brought her home, Heaven struggled with “intense” anxiety.
Rakers, 30, helped her overcome her fears by taking her out and about a lot and getting the dog, who is part chow chow, Labrador, boxer and Pekingese, used to other people as well as new sights and sounds.
“Anytime a car came past and made noise, or a man walked past, she learned that if she made eye contact with me instead of reacting, she got a treat,” Rakers told People. “We worked through a lot of fears together.”
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Heaven at a Bark in the Park at a Schaumburg Boomers baseball game this past summer. Credit: Jackie Raker
On Wednesday, People.com announced Heaven was picked over 10,000 other rescue pups as the world’s cutest.
People readers narrowed the submissions, voting for their top-10 and then top-three favorites, and then a panel of judges picked Heaven as the winner, according to the Daily Herald. Heaven will get a year’s supply of dog food and a $1,000 donation to the animal rescue of her choice.
Heaven was initially rescued from the Kentucky River Regional Animal Shelter in Hazard, Kentucky, before going to the Plainfield- and Batavia-based Starfish Animal Rescue. Rakers saw Heaven’s picture while scrolling through her Facebook feed in 2019 and decided she needed to take the pup home, the Daily Herald is reporting.
Jackie Rakers took this picture of Heaven on her first day home with her in St. Charles. Credit: Jackie Rakers
Heaven, who appears to have an almost-constant smile on her face, is not just popular around town, she also has a strong social media following. Her Instagram page has more than 11,000 followers.
As part of her win, the $1,000 donation from the People contest will go to K9s For Veterans, a Plainfield non-profit, and Rakers plans to donate the year’s worth of dog food to Kentucky River Regional Animal Shelter, according to media reports.