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From Puppy Mill To Pageant Prize-winner

Max-A-Million, a rescued Pomeranian, was crowned king in West Orange at the Barking Beauty Pageant

Max-A-Million grew up in squalor, malnourished and shoved inside a metal rabbit cage with dozens of other dogs at a Tennessee puppy mill. 

The rescued Pomeranian's tale took a Cinderella turn on Sunday when he sashayed away with the crown at the second annual Barking Beauty Pageant in West Orange. The canine wowed the judges with his rendition of paw-print painting and his chic black outfits. The pup also ultimately won over the audience of more than 50 people, who selected him as the winner via applause. 

His owner, Ashley Spranza, of Brooklyn, was shocked that her five year-old dog won, especially since it was his first competition. Spranza said her pooch, which she adoped in July from an animal rescue group, is still a little skittish but he is adjusting to his new post-puppy mill life.

"He's perfect to me. He's beautiful," she said while talking to an audience member after the win while cuddling Max-A-Million in her arms.

Max-A-Million was one of eight pooches who competed for best in show inside The Loft at. 

The pets paraded around the hotel room in active wear, glamourous outfits and showcased their special skills, be it using a wet nose to roll around a tennis ball or playing a roll-out plastic piano.

Dozens of dogs also watched the show from the sidelines. Many of them were dressed up for the occasion as well, donning bejeweled collars, pink ballerina ballgowns and bright bows. 

Helping out neglected, rescued dogs was an ongoing theme during the pageant. 

The pageant helped raise more than $500 to help the Mount Pleasant Animal Shelter in East Hanover, said Leigh Goldenberg, the pageant's producer. The Morris County shelter takes care of about 30 dogs and 70 cats every day and the group handled 700 adoptions last year, representative Jennifer Gregory said.

Felicia Miracolo, the owner of last year's king, chihuahua Tommi T., spoke out in favor of adopting older dogs from animal shelters. 

Miracolo said she adopted her pet at 7 years old in 2005 after he was rescued from a kill-shelter and evicted from a vet's office.

Miracolo said Tommi T. was initialy difficult with having the reputation of being a barking, biting dog. 

But the Manhattan resident said her "old dog" was able to learn new tricks, and he's subsequently become a therapy dog and reading assistance dog as well as a show dog. 

"You adopt an older dog, you save a life," Miracolo said. "And I'm so proud of him." 

Amy Lavine, the owner of Barking Beauty runner-up Chloe Madison, another rescued Pomeranian, said it was fun being around other canine enthusiats. She was also glad that the event will help other shelter dogs. 

Lynn Oliver, of West Orange, said it was great watching other contestants.

Oliver, who entered her Italian greyhound, Dawn, 7, into the competiiton, also said she was in awe of some of the gorgeous outfits she saw on the other canines. 

"Next time, I'll be better prepared," Oliver said. 

To learn more about the Barking Beauty pageants in New Jersey, New York and Philadelphia, visit http://thebarkingbeauty.com/

To learn more about the Mt. Pleasant Animal Shelter, visit http://www.njshelter.org

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