MILFORD — Winston, a 2-year-old white French Bulldog deserves some bragging rights these days.

He was just voted one of the top 60 dogs out of at least 1,000 others in a national dog competition called “America's Favorite Pet,” according Milford resident Joseph Salzillo, Winston’s owner.

The public was allowed to vote on Facebook for Winston — one vote per person, per day. The voting was free.

Salzillo first learned of the competition, which also was free to enter, in early September, and entered Winston by submitting Winston’s photo.

“I had never done anything like this before,” said Salzillo, 35.

There also was a competition for cats being held at the same time, for “America’s Favorite Cat.”

In addition to the free voting, there was an option to pay to vote, and a portion of the proceeds went to paws.org, which helps dogs in need.

Helps to have ‘friends’

Salzillo asked everyone he knew to vote for Winston — and then some.

“Colleagues, family, dog breeders, friends, friends of friends, people on Facebook — as the weeks went by, I got more and more people to vote for him,” Salzillo said.

Winston sometimes got a few hundred votes a day, according to Salzillo.

Each week, there would be an elimination process, but Winston held his own and remained in the competition for five weeks.

All competitors were placed into smaller groups, of eight. There was a winner in each group, each week. As they advanced, they were placed in a new group.

“Winston kept winning. He made it to the quarter finals,” Salzillo said.

“I would get notifications on email that he made it to the next round,” he said.

The semi-finals ended Thursday night at 11 p.m.

“That evening, it was a very tight race,” Salzillo said.

“While Winston was in second place all week, he jumped up to first place for one hour,” he added. “Then, the other dog who had originally been in first must have gotten a surge of votes in and took first place.”

Salzillo was able to see who was voting for Winston on the dashboard of the America's Favorite Pet site.

“As you refresh your page, it will tell you if your dog has changed positions or not,” he said. “It was nerve wracking.”

Winston lost the semi-finals to Fuzzy Bear, a shelter dog from Los Angeles.

Throughout it all, while Salzillo said he was excited Winston was getting so many votes, he said that in these challenging times, he mainly felt good to “see people come together for a simple thing like voting for an animal.”

“You felt the love,” said Salzillo, who works as a physician assistant in Orange. He also owns pet fish that he keeps in an aquarium in his living room.

The final voting round of the competition will take place through Oct. 8. The winning dog will get to take home $5,000 and will be featured in Dogster Magazine.

Although Winston won’t have earned any money from his experience, he will, however, be receiving dog treats, according to Salzillo.

“Grateful and blessed”

Salzillo said he feels grateful and blessed that so many people voted for Winston.

“Something like this it makes you realize how people really care about me,” he said. “Even though they are voting for a dog, they are really voting for me.”

He added that Winston has given him a lot of joy in life, and has gotten him through some tough times.

“He’s always there for me. He got me through a dark area in my life,” Salzillo said. “He’s like my therapy.”

“He has been a rock for me,” Salzillo added.

Winston has a large following on both Facebook and Instagram, according to Salzillo. Fans can reach Winston on both by searching: “Winston Jack Frenchie.”

Had Winston won the competition, Salzillo said he would have donated the prize money to Born This Way Foundation, which helps young people who suffer from mental health issues.

Salzillo described Winston as a very mellow dog, “just like Winston Churchill,” he said with a chuckle .

“He’s a couch potato and likes to look out the window at squirrels all day long,” Salzillo added. “He’s a very well mannered dog. He’s very friendly, loves going up to random strangers, and likes to be a jokester.”

While Salzillo said he enjoyed the experience of the competition, he said he doesn’t think he would enter Winston in it again in the future.

“I already know is a winner,” Salzillo said. “No matter what, me and my dog are very loved. That, to me, is the biggest prize I could ever ask for.”

sfox@milfordmirror.com