May. 17, 2014 @ 08:09 PM

There was a new sheriff in town Saturday, and she walked on four legs.

The “sheriff” was actually Piglet, a 5-year-old rat terrier owned by Durham County’s real sheriff — Mike Andrews.

And just like Andrews’ victory as the election polls this month, Piglet was a winner at the Durham County Animal Protection Society’s annual Walk for the Animals. Piglet, dressed as a cowboy with miniature gun holsters and a hat with sheriff’s badge, took first place in the best-dressed contest on Duke University’s East Campus.

Andrews and his wife, Pam, are strong supporters of the county’s animal shelter, donating monthly.

“I love animals — dogs especially — and it’s very important to protect them,” Pam Andrews said. “Dogs are definitely our best friends. They love you no matter what.”

Piglet was among an estimated 500 dogs and an equal number of owners who participated in a walk around Duke University’s East Campus to raise money for the Durham shelter.

This year’s goal was $75,000, which was met earlier than expected thanks to a gift of $25,000 from Matt Reynolds, an adjunct professor in electrical engineering at Duke.

“I’m happy to support the shelter so we can increase the number of adoptions, as well as spaying and neutering,” Reynolds said. “Many dogs here today have signs saying they were adopted from the APS. That’s the most heart-warming thing — to see very happy families with dogs they’ve adopted from the shelter.”

The Durham shelter takes in about 7,000 homeless and lost animals a year, relying on donations to give them high-quality care.

Among those at the walk was T.J. Smith of Durham, who brought Casey, his 4-year-old yellow Lab. Casey stood out from the crowd because of his astonishing ability to sneeze on command.

“Sneeze, Casey!” he commanded as Smith munched on lemon sponge cake. When Casey obeyed, Smith tossed him a morsel.

Pam Hall of Durham brought Penne, a black, flat-coat retriever she adopted from North Paw Animal Hospital on Guess Road.

“Penne had a brother named Orzo,” Hall said. “They were on a pasta kick.”

Shafonda Davis, executive director of APS of Durham, nearly wept when she reflected on the community’s generosity in supporting the shelter.

“I just saw the check from Dr. Reynolds today, and I’m so happy,” she said. Because of his gift, she said, the $75,000 goal will easily be met.

Davis tipped her hat to others in the community, including children who have raised funds for months, setting up lemonade stands and in some cases giving birthday money.

“That’s why this is so touching, because people who don’t have a lot still give,” she said. “It shows how Durham is a tight-knit, loving community.”