Like A Puppy On A String

Ms. Riddle is platinum blond, with a warm smile and a honeyed southern accent. As a former Miss Texas Teen and a finalist for Miss Texas USA, she was the only Miss Dog Mom contestant to have prior pageant experience. (She also was a Rockette for five years.) And so she became the de facto pageant mom to the 12 women who ultimately signed on last August, many of whom had never been in a public performance, let alone a full-blown beauty pageant involving quick changes and animal wrangling.

In the two cramped dressing rooms, an hour before the pageant was set to begin, the scene vacillated between a petting zoo and a Sephora counter. In the corner of a fluorescent space that functioned as the green room sat a pallet of donated wee-wee pads, which the four-legged contestants were encouraged to use.

Last summer, when rehearsals were first coming together in backyards, most of the women viewed the pageant as a lark, Ms. Riddle said. But as the show drew closer, the organizers pushed them to feel increasingly competitive. “They made us film a promotional video,” Ms. Riddle said. “They wanted us to act like Real Housewives rather than fun-loving women doing this for charity.”

“I mean, of course we all want to win,” Ms. Ber, the stage manager, said as she brushed her longhaired Chihuahua Bentley. “This is my inner drama kid stepping out.”

She did note that unlike some of the other dogs, her Bentley had professional theatrical experience. “He was just in ‘The Wizard of Oz’ at the Axelrod Performing Arts Center in New Jersey,” she said, cooing into Bentley’s face. “Did you do ‘run, Toto, run’ for Mommy? Yes, you did!”

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