Triangle Dog of the Year Calendar Contest

Photo contest benefits Charley’s K9 Rescue

The 2025 Triangle Dog of the Year Calendar Contest benefits Charley's K9 Rescue.
The 2025 Triangle Dog of the Year Calendar Contest benefits Charley's K9 Rescue.

The 2025 Triangle Dog Of The Year Calendar Contest is underway does your pup have what it takes to be a star?

Raleigh-based pet and rescue photography company Five Freedoms Photography is partnering with Charley’s K9 Rescue as this year’s fundraising recipient. The Butner-based nonprofit aims to help overlooked bully breeds in high-kill shelters in North Carolina.

Best of luck to all the local pups!

“The work that Charley’s K9 Rescue does has a special place in my heart. Bully breeds sit in our shelters twice as long as other breeds due to many factors including breed restriction legislation,” said Joanne Wetzel, the founder of Five Freedoms Photography. “I chose them as the recipient for the contest this year because bully breeds are incredible, dynamic, and loving dogs. They deserve as much of a chance as any other dog, but often don’t get that chance. Charley’s K9 Rescue is working to change that.”

Entries cost $5, and votes cost $1. Five Freedoms Photography hopes to raise $20,000 for Charley’s K9 Rescue from votes, entries, and calendar sales. The 13 dogs with the most votes will earn a spot in the calendar, with the top dog being showcased on the cover.

Winners will have their pet professionally photographed by Five Freedoms Photography in Raleigh and receive a high-resolution digital file of the calendar photo. The pup with the most votes each week will receive a mini prize.

Visit for more information or to enter the contest. The submission period runs through March 12 at 8 p.m.

We caught up with Joanne for tips to get the best pet photos, the history of the contest, and more.

What tips do you have for taking the best calendar-quality photos of your dog?

There are so many great tips for taking calendar-quality photos of your dog, but I’ll round up my favorites here.

  • First, clean your lens! Our cell phones lenses get dirty pretty easily and can cause a hazy appearance over photos. Cleaning the lens will help with focus and create a clearer, nicer picture.
  • Second, find open shade. Open shade — anywhere there is consistent shade — is a very flattering type of light for pets. It creates even light across them, beautiful catchlights in their eyes, and gets rid of harsh shadows. Open shade can be off the side of a building, underneath a swath of trees, or even towards the end of the day when the sun is close to the horizon. You can also find open shade everywhere on a lightly overcast or cloudy day!
  • Third, get low! Sit, squat, lay down — anything to get on your pup’s level. By changing your perspective, you make your pup the star of the show and show them from an angle of how they perceive the world.
  • Fourth, use burst mode. Taking a series of photos in succession will help you capture a variety of expressions, so you don’t miss out on those silly faces, in-between moments, and perfect portraits before your subject starts to move again. And trust me, they will!
  • Fifth, leverage high-quality treats to get them to pay attention! This is my most common quandary for pet parents and fosters alike. If you want your pup to pay attention to the camera, bust out those coveted high-quality treats, like cheese, liver, chicken, etc. —something that your pup doesn’t get all the time. Simply reward them after every click of the shutter and you’ll be well on your way to training your pup to be excited to look at the camera!

How many calendar fundraisers have you done? Who have past recipients been, and how much impact have they made?

Good lighting and a clean lens are essentials for getting the best pet photos.

The 2025 Triangle Dog Of The Year Calendar Contest marks my second annual calendar contest! Last year, our rescue recipient was the incredible Perfectly Imperfect Pups. They are a Wake County-based rescue that focus on pulling dogs with special needs or ones that have severe medical needs that are hardest to place. They believe that every dog deserves a place to belong.

From the first contest and calendar sales last year combined, we were able to raise just about $16K for Perfectly Imperfect Pups (also known as PIPs).

The impact that those funds have made meant that PIPs was able to continue to pull high-risk dogs in their most meager quarter of the year where donations and financial support are lowest. Because of the additional funding and support, at the time Wake County Animal Center was at full capacity, they were able to take on half a dozen dogs and place them into foster homes who otherwise may not have been able to be pulled into rescue due to lack of funding and fosters. Additionally, they were able to support other medical needs dogs with various things, such as medication, veterinary care, surgery, etc.

The contest also raised awareness for the work that PIPs does with numerous participants and contestants going on to become volunteers, fosters, or adopters.

Is Pet Photographer the best job ever, or can it leave you feeling like you’re herding cats?

Enter, vote, or purchase a calendar to help overlooked bully breeds.

I always say that any day that I get to meet and photograph a gorgeous dog is a good day! While Pet Photography does have its challenges, it’s incredibly rewarding, too. I enjoy figuring out a pup’s unique motivation and leveraging that to capture them as their happiest, most relaxed selves. While sometimes it can look chaotic to the client, especially if we are working with multiple dogs, my clients are always blown away at the final images we are able to capture with a few tricks, a stunning natural location, great light, and of course, a very fast shutter speed.

Tell us about your pets! 

I have two energetic rescue pups. One is a three-year-old American Pit Bull Terrier named Tully. She is the snuggliest, most loving pup you’ll ever meet. We adopted her at a year old from the Wake County Animal Center. We don’t know her history, but my pretty girl has pushed me to become a better dog trainer. Tully has extreme dog reactivity and big feelings about loud noises, trucks, motorcycles, etc. When she’s not showcasing her big feelings, Tully adores meeting anyone and everyone she comes across, learning a new trick or two, and going for a swim at the lake.

Our other pup, Gumbo, is a PIPs Alum, and is almost two years old. He is Tully’s shadow even though he weighs in at almost 100 pounds. A Rottweiler and Perra De Presa Canario mix, he’s equal parts dopey and serious. He came into the rescue as a very sick puppy. Over many months, my husband and I nursed him back to health. During that time, Tully and Gumbo became inseparable. We knew that if he didn’t find his forever home, that he may have already found it! He’s also a big snuggly boy who loves food, sun bathing, going for long walks, and driving his “big” sister crazy wanting to play and wrestle all of the time. Gumbo will be two in just a few weeks!

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