SIOUX CITY | A curious Scottish terrier, 15-week-old Finnegan gazed at the Christmas decorations and got showered with attention Saturday as the guest of honor at the 79th annual Little Yellow Dog auction.
After all, more than 200 people made the trip to the Ho-Chunk Centre downtown to mingle, spread holiday cheer and meet the pure-bred puppy with a wiry black coat.
Finnegan ended up going home with Brad Smith, president of South Sioux City-based contractor D.A. Davis Co., after a winning bid of $15,000.
Bidding started at $1,000 and went on for an hour. When it was over, Smith said Finnegan will be his family's first pet -- and will keep the name bestowed on him when he became the 2014 Little Yellow Dog.
Each year since 1936, the Ancient and Effervescent Order of the Little Yellow Dog, a local civic group that welcomed its first women members this year, has auctioned a puppy to raise money for the Journal's Mr. Goodfellow Charities. The organization provides books and toys to area children in need. This year's effort had garnered $129,000 by the time Saturday's festivities concluded.
The totaled climbed as guests dropped cash and checks into a cowboy hat passed by 5-year-old Matthew Jarstad, of Sioux City, and businesses made additional donations.
This year's goal is $135,000.
Smith said he and his family had been introduced to Finnegan the week before during a Little Yellow Dog event.
“We met him last Saturday at the breakfast and kind of fell in love with him,” Smith said.
He said the auction was an opportunity to support Sioux City and the rest of Siouxland.
“We think this is a wonderful cause,” he added. “All of the money stays here in Sioux City, and that’s why we do this."
For Doug Batcheller, auction day marks the start of holiday celebration time. Batcheller, his wife, Kathy, and brother, Jim, donated Finnegan after finding him several weeks in advance in the St. Louis area. The Sioux City residents started their search for the 2014 Little Yellow Dog -- obviously, the puppy can have a coat of any color -- in August with specific characteristics in mind. The animal had to be pure-bred and child-friendly.
“It took a while to find the right dog and the right match,” Batcheller said, adding that the auction is more about giving back to the community than about buying a dog.
“People are always proud of their communities. You never know who’s going to buy the dog, and that’s the magic of it,” Batcheller said. “I never get into the Christmas spirit until this day comes.”
Indeed, there was Christmas spirit galore in the Ho-Chunk Centre atrium on Saturday. The All-America Concert Band performed “Frosty the Snowman” as Finnegan made the rounds of visitors. A profusion of red and white poinsettias decked the stage where auctioneer Bruce Brock called out for bids.
A special guest with a nose for a good time, last year's Little Yellow Dog, a liver-and-white springer spaniel named Snickers, attended with his owners, Eric and Patty Lohry, and lapped up his share of petting and attention.
Like Finnegan, Snickers commanded a winning bid of $15,000.
“It’s a great cause, and next year will be the 80th year for the event,” said Sioux City Councilwoman Rhonda Capron. “It’s been wonderful for a long time.”