A dog with an uncanny ability to connect with humans -- particularly those in need of the uncomplicated compassion of a canine "best friend" -- has been selected as Westport's Top Dog for 2015.

Sadie, a Mini Golden-Doodle and therapy dog, was awarded the title Friday in the annual contest sponsored by Westport Animal Shelter Advocates.

The Town Hall ceremony featured five finalists selected from among about 25 entries. The field was winnowed by judges earlier in the week, who reviewed essays from each pet owner detailing their dog's winning character and attributes.

"We all know that all of our dogs are top dogs," said First Selectman Jim Marpe, who was among the five judges. Marpe brought his own dog, Madison -- a 9-year-old Burmese Mountain Dog -- to the event. "Madison is not necessarily the Top Dog, but certainly the first dog," he said, noting that she occasionally accompanies him to his Town Hall office.

Sadie was honored for her therapy work with young and old, which recently was demonstrated by the compassion she showed for a man whose wife had just died.

At the funeral for her uncle Richard's wife, explained Sadie's owner, Beverly Bailey of Westport, the dog -- who accompanied Bailey to the service -- connected with the grieving widower. "Sadie, just on her own, went up to him and she put her head on his lap and just wouldn't leave," she said, spending the entire event with her uncle even through she had never met the man. "At the end of the day, he said, `She's my little angel.' "

"She's been a terrific, sweet, sweet dog, and she's been our angel too," Bailey said.

Julie Loparo, the WASA president, called the contest "a chance for Westport residents to celebrate those wonderful creatures that we share the planet with."

"People love their dogs," she said. "The essays were amazing. It was really a hard job for the judges this year."

Other dogs in the contest also had powerful stories, such as Poni, a Shetland sheepdog who suffers from epilepsy. "I'm going to try and get through this without crying," said his owner Alexandra Wolf, who recounted the dog's struggles with the disease and the spirit he has shown.

"He is the most resilient creature -- humans and animals-- that I have ever seen," she said.

Lola, an 8-year-old rescued black Lab, has forged a connection with owner Anna Diorio, age 9, as they were both adopted by their family at about the same time. "In 2006 Lola was adopted from the Westport Humane Society and I was adopted from China," Anna said, noting that they enjoy snuggling together "and we are best friends."

Tyr, a German shepherd mix, had been living on the streets of New York City with a homeless woman before being brought to Connecticut by the Mezzullo family. "The woman who had him wanted to go into a shelter and she couldn't, so that's why we ended up taking him," said Linda Mezzullo.

Second-place winner was Roxie, a Labrador-Pit Bull mix saved from a shelter in the South. "She was on her way to being executed," said owner Steve Lewine, "so she was given a second chance."