Like athletes featured on Wheaties boxes, only the finest canine specimens are fit to hawk kibble.
Count Ruby, a Belgian Malinois from Sacramento, in the latter category.
Ruby's image, leaping across a stream in Mount Shasta, soon will grace the bags of premium dog food at a pet store near you.
The dog's owner, trainer Erin Kramer of Puppy Love Dogs, recently learned that Ruby beat out numerous competitors in a nationwide search for the face of California Natural pet food. The honor, along with a small stipend, followed a daylong photo shoot in which Ruby showed off her running, jumping and Frisbee chasing skills, said Kramer.
The photographer, a professional from southern California, wore a wetsuit, laying on his back in a creek, to capture the winning picture, Kramer said. The end result "is pretty spectacular," she admitted.
Kramer adopted Ruby as a puppy more than five years ago from a shelter in the Bay Area. Members of the Belgian Malinois breed, known for its athleticism and high energy, "really, really love to work," she said. "If you don't give them a job, they'll find one," including "tearing up drywall or taking apart a lawnmower."
But Ruby, being the companion of a trainer, "is a very good dog," Kramer said. She is an enthusiastic competitor in behavior trials, visits nursing homes and "loves to be the center of attention."
The California Natural gig is hardly her first brush with the spotlight. She has appeared in the television show "I Almost Got Away With It" and has been picked for a special Christmas program to be filmed in East Sacramento later this month.
The other finalist for the California Natural picture was a Rhodesian Ridgeback who "was super handsome, but just not that eager to work," Kramer said.
The bags featuring Ruby probably will start appearing on shelves in January, she said.
"I can't wait to see them in the store," said Kramer. "It's pretty exciting."