STEPHEN HEMELT — Is your pet the cutest around? Let’s find out.

Published 12:34 am Saturday, January 8, 2022

Before I was even out of high school, my mother, stepdad and I visited an animal shelter outside New Orleans looking for a new addition to our family.

The lucky honor would come down to me as to which puppy we picked.

There was a small black mutt with a couple of white paws who just screamed out for rescue, so she was my first and only choice.

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One of the location’s maintenance men commented on the puppy, saying she looked sassy.

We all agreed, and just like that, our new dog was named Sassy.

Sassy was with us for a long time as I grew into high school, college and newspaper jobs in Texas and Louisiana.

She might have started as my dog, but in the end, she and my mom were pretty inseparable.

Although she has passed on from us now, any thoughts of Sassy and the more than decade of great times together still make me smile.

Those experiences are what make family pets so great. Just about all of us can share similar stories of personal moments cherished with our own furbabies.

Nederland native, Mid County resident and Beaumont business owner Debbie Sanders is no different.

She grew up with pet cats and today owns and operates a pet boutique, Pippa’s Closet (4008 Dowlen Road in Beaumont) that covers all your needs: food, clothing, collars, leashes, treats, strollers, carriers and more.

In-person and online shopping is available at

Whether taking care of her Coton de Tulear Pippa or Standard Poodle Captain, she makes it her mission to take care of all the pets who have become family members inside Southeast Texas households.

Her vantage point as a business owner provides a special view of these unique bonds that create smiles for friends and strangers.

And now she and Pippa’s Closet are teaming up with The Port Arthur News and to bring these moments to our readers.

All this month, Pippa’s Closet is sponsoring our Cutest Pet Photo Contest, and the winner receives a $50 gift card to Pippa’s pet oasis, as well as a gift basket.

Who gets to be the judge? Well, that’s you and there are no requirements to participate.

Just head over to and click on “contest” at the top of the home page. After that, you can either submit an entry of your own or scroll down or vote on the many entries that have already been added.

That’s it.

There are no restrictions of where you live or what kind of cute pet you enter. You are welcome to either vote, enter the contest or both.

Entries are accepted through 12 a.m. Jan. 16, and voting concludes at 12 a.m. Jan. 28.

The winner will be notified Feb. 4.
Whether it’s a cat, a dog, or even a cow — there’s no restriction on what type of pet you can submit. And individuals can vote once each day.

“Leading up to the holidays, it’s always about kids, so let’s change it to furbabies,” said Candace Hemelt, marketing representative for Port Arthur Newsmedia. “Now the focus can be on our furbabies.”

And that, Candace said, is why it’s important to share the page through social media. Those who vote do not have to be in Jefferson County or even Texas, so contestants can share their animal out for all their friends and family to support.

More photo contests are planned throughout 2022 to help brighten the community.

So a big THANK YOU goes out to Pippa’s Closet for sponsoring our first contest of the year and good luck to all our great pets and mixed families that help make hundreds of houses the happy homes we all enjoy.

Stephen Hemelt is the president of Port Arthur Newsmedia, which publishes and The Port Arthur News. He can be reached at or 409-721-2445.