St. Charles Dog Wins “World’s Cutest Rescue Dog Contest”

Move over Donnie Wahlberg and Jenny McCarthy. Another resident of St. Charles – a four-legged – is in the spotlight of People magazine.

On Wednesday, a mixed breed dog from St. Charles named Heaven was named the 2021 winner of the “World’s Cutest Rescue Dog Competition”.

Heaven topped over 10,000 dog submissions with numerous online votes to become both a Top 10 and then a Top 3. A panel of judges ultimately chose Heaven as the winner.

“She’s having a great day,” Heaven owner Jackie Rakers said as she responded to numerous media interviews.

Heaven wins a year of Pedigree brand dog food, as well as a $ 1,000 donation to the chosen Rakers charity. Rakers revealed that the recipient would be the Plainfield Veterans Nonprofit K9s, which trains service dogs for veterans.

Rakers will also donate dog food to the Kentucky River Regional Animal Shelter. Heaven was first rescued from this shelter in Hazard, Ky., Before becoming a foster dog by Starfish Animal Rescue, based in Plainfield and Batavia in 2019.

“I was scrolling through Facebook and saw his picture, and I felt like I couldn’t shake,” Rakers said. “I’m supposed to have this dog. She’s got to come home with me.”

When Heaven was first taken in by Starfish Animal Rescue in Batavia, she had to be sterilized and undergo eye surgery. Jackie Rakers accepted paradise as a foster dog before adopting it outright.
– Courtesy of Starfish Animal Rescue

Heaven has arrived in disrepair, according to Starfish President Margie Swift. Heaven needed eye surgery and was extremely afraid of men and loud noises.

The Rakers favored Heaven and gradually gained its confidence. The Rakers took Heaven to dog friendly places and rewarded her with treats for not curling up in scary things.

“Heaven learned very quickly that my mom was supportive of me,” said Rakers, who also created a Heaven Instagram account (@heaven_is_a_dog) that garnered nearly 11,000 followers on Wednesday.

“The dog has been with her everywhere,” Swift said of Heaven’s social media posts in stadiums, stores and more. “She’s a pretty popular bitch.”



Heaven, pictured visiting the Scarecrow Festival in St. Charles last weekend, is the 2021 People magazine winner "Contest of the cutest rescue dog in the world." Heaven is owned by Jackie Rakers of St. Charles and has its own Instagram account.

Heaven, pictured visiting the Scarecrow Festival in St. Charles last weekend, is the 2021 winner of People magazine’s “World’s Cutest Rescue Dog Contest”. Heaven is owned by Jackie Rakers of St. Charles and has its own Instagram account.
– Courtesy of Jackie Rakers

Heaven is called a “foster family failure” because she briefly had another owner, but Rakers said she was inconsistent because she was still chasing that family’s cats.

Rakers are pleased that the victory of the Heaven’s competition helps promote an “adopt, don’t buy” message, prioritizing adoption from shelters over buying from animal breeders.

“And if you can’t adopt, consider volunteering, whether it’s fostering or just volunteering your time at a shelter,” Rakers said. “There is so much you can do to help dogs join their families forever.”

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