By Michael Jacobs
michaeljacobs@reporternewspapers.net

Crosby was a skittish mess when Adopt a Golden of Atlanta rescued him from an animal shelter in Augusta. At 34 pounds, the 3-year-old was missing a bunch of fur, didn’t understand toys and didn’t even know what treats were.

More than three years later, the golden retriever is one of 100 national finalists to be the first spokesdog for Milk-Bone dog biscuits and other treats. Two of those dogs live in Sandy Springs: Crosby and Lexy, a papillon owned by Trish Azlin.

Ami and Eric Sirlin adopted Crosby in 2005 after visiting him at the home of his Adopt a Golden foster family. “He was so loving,” Ami said. When she visited the foster family, who came from her hometown in Michigan, “Crosby was standing in the front yard, staring at me. ‘This is our dog,’ I just knew it.”

Now Crosby is a healthy, playful 54-pounder who always sleeps on pillows, goes to school at Fido Fido and thinks he’s a lap dog, never missing an opportunity to cuddle with his owners.

The Sirlins, who are both in the advertising business and moved to Sandy Springs from Buckhead four years ago, previously had another golden retriever from Adopt a Golden, and their connections to the rescue organization run even deeper. Ami handles Chrysler and Jeep for advertising agency BBDO’s Midtown office, and Chrysler and Jeep became sponsors of last month’s Goldenrama adoption and fundraising event for Adopt a Golden at the Concourse in Sandy Springs.

Crosby twice has appeared in the Adopt a Golden calendar, had some scenes as an extra in a neighbor’s reality show that never aired and once was in Cosmopolitan Home magazine as part of an effort to raise awareness of rescue organizations, but the Milk-Bone contest is his first bid to win fame and fortune.

The winning dog receives a $100,000 modeling contract to promote the company throughout 2009 as part of its centennial celebration. By making the top 100, Crosby has won his family a $300 digital camera.

People can vote for their favorite dogs at milkbone.com; you can see Crosby at milkbone.icmodus.com/?id=7109.

The photo shows Crosby with the newest member of the Sirlin family, Bennett, who is now 8½ months old and just starting to crawl. At the time of the photo, Bennett had just reached the sitting-up stage, and the picture captured Bennett and Crosby staring at each other just before the baby toppled over.

“Crosby from the very beginning has been so fantastic with him,” Ami said. “Even when I was pregnant, I swear he knew. He used to give me belly kisses.”

Her husband snapped the photo, and her sister-in-law urged them to enter it in the Milk-Bone contest.

While winning the contest would be great, Ami also sees it as a great opportunity to gain exposure for Adopt a Golden and other canine rescue organizations, which save unwanted dogs and find them homes.

She noted how the publicity around the Michael Vick case raised awareness and brought action against dogfighting. “Here’s another outlet for people to learn about rescues,” she said. “If we have the opportunity to open homes and help dogs who are abused, that’s a great opportunity.”

That exposure could lead to other families adding the four-legged “babies” as perfect for them as Crosby is for the Sirlins.

“He is absolutely just the most fantastic dog,” Ami said. “He just loves love.”