Big Sexy Struts His Stuff at Tally Top Pet Check Presentation

Annual competition benefits Be the Solution’s spay-and-neuter program
2023 Tally Top Pet Check Presentation
Photo courtesy of LIVE! in Tallahassee

When your nickname is “Big Sexy,” you have a lot to live up to, even more so when you have triumphed as the winner of the Tally Top Pet competition.

Gunner, aka “Big Sexy,” and his owner Ashley Hand were the honored guests at the 2023 Tally Top Pet check presentation ceremony, held at presenting sponsor North Florida Animal Hospital’s offices on May 12. A check for $15,934, made possible by donations made through the Tally Top Pet Contest voting process, was presented to Be the Solution.

Voting in the contest, conducted annually by Tallahassee Magazine, began in September. Dozens of pet owners entered photos of their furry and feathered friends in the competition.

For $1, readers cast their votes as the field of entrants was winnowed to the Sweet 16, Elite Eight, Final Fur and the winning pet. Proceeds recipient Be The Solution, a nonprofit started by Gerry Phipps, works to combat the unwanted pet problem in Tallahassee and the Big Bend area through a spay and neuter vouchers program.

Phipps started the Tally Top Pet competition in memory of a close friend and viewed the event as a means to both raise money and awareness for the importance of spaying and neutering animals.

North Florida Animal Hospital has supported Be The Solution for 12-plus years by honoring spay and neuter vouchers. As a community service, the clinic is committed to performing five procedures daily.

“Every year, I look forward to this event because it provides a fun way to get the message of Be The Solution out to the public, and it greatly helps our efforts to help pets, which is what the event is all about,” Phipps said. “It’s rewarding to read stories about the pets and meet the pets at the photo shoot. Many of them have faced tough times that turned into happy endings.”

Gunner enjoyed just such a turnaround.

Hand, a registered nurse, has always loved English bulldogs. In 2017, when her bulldog Tank passed away, she was devastated. A few days after Tank’s passing, Hand received a call from Georgia English Bulldog Rescue, where she is a member. The organization had a bulldog they believed was meant for her.

Clearly neglected and abused, the dog wore a collar with a tag that read “Gunner,” coincidentally the name of Hand’s beloved nephew. Hand cancelled plans to attend a Jon Pardi concert and drove three hours to pick Gunner up.

“Gunner saved me just as much as I saved him,” Hand said. “He’s been such a blessing in my life. He was abused, so it was a process of me gaining his trust and him knowing he can rely on me. It was so special to watch him blossom as he became comfortable and confident not only with me, but everyone he meets. He’s the sweetest soul.”

As an aging dog, Gunner is experiencing mobility issues. Hand used a gift certificate to Be The Solution’s The Fix Thrift Shop to buy a pet stroller. The certificate was part of the Tally Top Pet prize package.

“In that moment, it all came full circle,” Hand said. “We were able to support Be The Solution with the donations made for Gunner to win, and they were able to support Gunner by having the stroller in their shop.”

The Fix Thrift Shop was started as a means to raise money throughout the year for Be The Solution. The store accepts used clothing, books, decor, pet products and more that are sold with 100% of proceeds going to pay for spay and neuter procedures.

“It’s an honor to support Tally Top Pet, which supports Be The Solution, our longtime community service partner,” said Alice Malone, hospital manager at North Florida Animal Hospital. “Our staff is always excited to see just how much money was raised and to congratulate the winner.”

The 2024 Tally Top Pet contest will begin Friday, September 1. Stay tuned to all Tallahassee Magazine channels and visit to nominate your pet this fall.

Categories: 2023 Tally Top Pet Contestants, Pets