They say every dog has its day. "Sarah" Ungerer's been blessed with several, starting with the day five years ago when the German short-haired pointer mix was adopted from the Westport Humane Society by Rich Ungerer and his wife Ruth Kalla Ungerer, of Westport.

Another came last October when Sarah was named Westport's Top Dog for 2011 from a field of five finalists in a photo and essay contest sponsored by Westport Animal Shelter Advocates, a non-profit organization dedicated to the care and shelter of abandoned or lost animals in Fairfield County.

Sarah enjoyed a third big day on Friday as First Selectman Gordon Joseloff formally welcomed Sarah to her rightful place in Westport's canine history as the town's second Top Dog. Her photo joined that of the first ever title holder, Otis Hammer, Westport's Top Dog 2010.

Otis' framed photo was moved down the hall a bit to allow Sarah the place of honor on a wall just across the hall from the Town Clerk's office.

"It's terrific. It gives her a chance to speak, bark on behalf of other animals. We want to give people the message that shelter dogs are the best. They have lots of personality," Ruth Kalla Ungerer said. "She's the most loving animal, and she helps me in the garden. She chases away the ground hog," she said.

"The love you get from these dogs that you rescue is amazing," said Jane Mauborgne of Westport, who attended the brief ceremony. Mauborgne has a rescued dog named Sprout. "He is the light of my life," said Mauborgne, who is collecting stories from owners of rescued pets throughout Fairfield County to include in a book she is writing called Rescue Dogs of Fairfield County. Proceeds of book sales will benefit WASA, she said.

The photo of Sarah was taken by Helen Klisser During after Sarah received her blue ribbon at WASA's Top Dog Show held at Compo Beach in October. WASA started the Top Dog competition in 2009 and the most recent show attracted hundreds of people and dozens of pet owners and their pooches.

"Westport is a town that loves its dogs," said Julie Loparo, president of WASA.

The funding that was raised at the October event, about $10,000 and about $6,000 the previous year, helps support the local shelter.

"We just completed a $30,000 project at the Westport Animal Control, the outdoor runs and play area so the dogs can enjoy some sunshine and fresh air during their stay," said Loparo. In the coming year WASA hopes to fund the addition of a fire alarm system at Westport Animal Control, upgrade the town-installed guillotine doors on the kennels and assist with neutering/spaying surgeries and other veterinary care when necessary.

"It's great that WASA has stepped up. Because of economic conditions the town has not been able to dedicate the money to the shelter. These are dedicated people," Joseloff said, praising WASA for coming up with an interesting and fun attraction, and one that supports the efforts of the local animal shelter.

Joseloff said the Top Dog ceremony was a nice distraction from his usual routine, and he enjoyed interacting with the friendly dog. Joseloff lost his dog last September and said he is without a canine pet for the first time in 20 years.

As Top Dog, Sarah's face also adorns the cover of the 2011 WASA calendar, which is available for a $20 donation to the organization, which also supplies food to animal owners who are adversely affected by the recession.

For more information about WASA, or to purchase a calendar visit www.westportwasa.org or e-mail wasa1@optonline.net.