Kathy and Spencer Strom just want their Nova Scotia Retriever, which has been seen all over Ojai, to be a rabbit.
Not just any bunny – in particular, the Ojai couple want 3.5-year-old Cali to be featured as a Cadbury bunny in an advert.
“She’s handling her possible claim to fame very gracefully,” Kathy Strom said. “She likes the attention. She’s a real person.”
Cali, short for California, is one of 10 animals vying for the Cadbury Bunny title. A llama, a hedgehog, a miniature horse and a bearded dragon are also in the running.
“It’s exciting and it made us smile. I never imagined it would go this far. We think she’s absolutely adorable,” Kathy Strom said.
In Cali’s video, she wears pink bunny ears in contrast to her tan colored fur. She picks up a bucket with her mouth containing a purple packet of Cadbury eggs. After dropping the bucket, she picks up more Cadbury eggs and drops them into the bucket. Cali then poses with the bucket in her mouth before putting it down and lying next to it.
Cali is part of a Cadbury bunnies competition which started on February 1. To win, judges will score each video submission based on relevance to the bunny theme, creativity, brand appeal, and audience appeal. The public can also vote. The highest score determines the winner.
Cali reached the final round. If she wins, she will receive a grand prize of $5,000 and the chance to be featured in a TV commercial.
The deadline for the contest is 11:59 p.m. Eastern Standard Time on Tuesday. As part of the competition, the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals will receive at least $5,000. For every 5,000 votes for nominees, The Hershey Company will donate an additional $5,000, up to $20,000, according to the rules.
Kathy Strom heard about the contest through social media. She entered the competition on a whim.
Long before doing Cali’s video, the dog was picking things up with her mouth. The couple began rewarding her for picking up items and bringing them back.
When Kathy Strom injured her hip about 4½ years ago and the surgery didn’t go “perfectly”, Cali was there to help. Once Kathy Strom tried to throw a paper cup but dropped it on the floor and Cali picked it up.
“She has residual effects from the surgery that have limited her mobility and prevent her from picking things up,” Spencer Strom said of his 41-year-old wife.
Later, Spencer Strom trained Cali to pick up glasses, wallets, cell phones, pens and pencils.
“She loves carrying stuff around, which is really handy,” Kathy Strom said.
Spencer Strom said he learned to train Cali from the book “Dobson 14-Day Method of Dog Training”.
“It’s a combination of hand commands, verbal commands and it worked really well,” Spencer Strom said.
Cali can walk for miles with a bucket in his mouth and has often carried him around downtown Ojai, about a mile from the Stroms’ home.
“Quite often when we go shopping and I take her to Lowe’s or some other retail location, she’s carrying a bucket. She’s used to carrying things in a bucket,” Spencer said. strom.
Spencer Strom described Cali as “very nice, very outgoing. She loves people and she’ll go up to anyone gladly.”
Cali has become a service dog, Spencer Strom said.
“One of the things we’ve done for that is make her a very well-behaved dog in a public environment,” he said.
She earned the American Kennel Club designation from Canine Good Citizen, Spencer Strom said.
Shane Strom, the couple’s son who lives in Birmingham, Alabama, said his parents always had dogs when he grew up with his sister Alyssa.
“They were fantastic early examples of unconditional love for us as young children,” he said.
The couple’s daughter, Alyssa Simmons, who now lives in Wakefield, Massachusetts, said her parents volunteered for the National Disaster Search Dog Foundation, and it helped them train Cali.
“My parents were dog lovers before they were kids,” Simmons said. “I love that this show recognizes how dedicated they are to the training and care of their puppies.”
Kathy Strom said her husband takes Cali for early evening walks in Ojai and Ventura to try to get votes for the pageant. They put flyers in local businesses around Ojai.
“We will continue what we are doing throughout the weekend and until the last minute. We vote for each other every day,” said Kathy Strom.
Spencer Strom added, “Most people have never seen a dog like her carrying a bucket around Lowe’s or the mall. It’s quite funny to see their reaction when she walks around.”
Videos and more information on all the potential rabbits are available at bunnytryouts.cadburyusa.com.