Teke Wiggin, Correspondent
STAMFORD -- Paul Newman, playing himself onscreen, had clearly misbehaved: A pizza box and lone high heel lay strewn on the floor of the room as he snoozed on its couch and hugged a bottle of wine between his hindquarters. The time was 6:00 p.m. -- or was it 6:00 a.m?
No matter -- the basset hound, named for his blonde fur coat and blue eyes, knew what to do when he heard the foreboding knock at the door: He sprang from the couch, quickly disposed of the evidence, and situated himself right where his master had left him, on the floor.
Paul Newman's performance won him and his master, Karen Wells, Best Pawformance at the 2nd Annual Pet Tail Video Awards, a fundraising event for Connecticut pet rescue agency Outreach To Pets In Need and the Stamford Animal Care and Control Center.
Wells, who also won Best Pawformance last year, said Paul's model behavior has always made her a little suspicious: "What if he had a secret life when he did whatever he wanted?" She asked, grinning at a table inside the Gen Re Auditorium of the University of Connecticut's Stamford campus ---where the films were screened.
Appearing in "Secret Life of a Good Dog," Paul Newman was one of many pet performers whose on-screen antics were viewed at the ceremony held Friday night. Guests included Mayor Michael Pavia, who announced fresh plans to build a new animal shelter at the event.
Pavia was cornered by fans who were thrilled by his support for their cause. Saying he participated in animal rescue efforts when he was younger, Pavia told The Advocate that he still has the "same type of passion and commitment" to animal rights.
"I think I'm now in a position to help improve our not-so-fortunate animal friends," he said.
Asked if he had a pet of his own Pavia grimaced. He did, but did he have to share its name?
"My wife named her `Baby Cat,' so don't hold it against me," he said.
Baby Cat's hapless peers may have new help headed their way, according to an announcement Pavia made at the ceremony. Pavia said he has initiated plans to create a new animal shelter.
"I have set aside $75,000 in capital allocation to the study of design and development of a new animal center," he said, labeling the current shelter and beneficiary of the night, the Stamford Animal Care and Control Center, "a discarded stepchild of the city of Stamford."
The fundraiser featured screenings of 15 films, each nominated for one of five categories, as well as a 16th Best-in-Show film. In addition to the Best Pawformance award, which Paul Newman and Wells took home, the categories were Best Musical Tail, Best Rescue Tail, Best Real Life Tail, and Best Belly-Rubbin' Comedy.
For the awards, attendees purchased $60 tickets to get in the door. But donation opportunities abounded after they entered. Silent auction tables lined the foyer walls, featuring everything from autographed Yankees memorabilia to regal-looking dog portraits to hotel getaway deals.
Participants in Outreach To Pets In Need's foster program walked around four dogs in need of permanent owners amid the 200-plus crowd.
In addition to film screenings, the ceremony also recognized three volunteers as outstanding contributors to the organization. Laura O'Brien, Renee Dunaway, and Martina Steed, who volunteered their time fundraising, cleaning shelters, walking pets, and housing pets, among other things, received the awards.
The organization enjoys the support of about 130 volunteers, many of whom act as stewards of homeless pets until they find permanent homes.