It was a bittersweet Monday morning for Bill Williamson.
The owner of Budd the car-driving dog received $10,000 from Purina Mills, Inc., and a certificate for dog food at S and W Feed in recognition for Budd's eye-catching ability to drive a 1926 Model T pickup.
It was a posthumous honor for Budd.
The 7-year-old golden retriever was killed by a hit-and-run driver in August, soon after Williamson learned his four-legged buddy had won Purina's national People and Their Amazing Animals competition.
Despite the loss of its star talent, Purina made good on the award and presented Williamson with the prize at S and W Feed, where Budd had won the regional competition last June.
"It makes it feel bad when you lose something like that," Williamson said of Budd's death.
"But I'll be the only person in the world to collect an inheritance from their dog."
There was never a question whether to present the award said John Link, Purina's district manager.
"Emotionally, we're all deeply tied to some kind of animal," said Link, of the Purina staff. "The whole company really felt for Bill. It was a tremendous loss. Bill's a great person and Budd's a great dog."
Stan Kolbus, owner of S and W Feed where Bill and Budd were well known and where the check was presented, said Budd's death affected his staff, too.
"(The award was) a real good thing," Kolbus said. "I'm sad that Budd's gone but glad that Bill got the check."
Williamson said the $10,000 was already spent on a camper he and his wife Maxine had purchased.
Kolbus said the dog-food certificate would last until Williamson is ready to get another dog.
Williamson had owned Budd, officially named Budd Wizer, son of Dane, from the time the pooch was 7 weeks old.
A local celebrity, Budd was the official escort of Santa Claus during the annual Carson City Christmas-tree lighting and the Nevada Day Parade since he was a puppy.
Budd was the third dog that Williamson has trained to "drive." Williamson and his other pets appeared on the "Hee Haw" and "Real People" television shows, National Geographic and other programs and publications. The dogs sat in the driver's seat with their paws on the truck's steering wheel.
Williamson, 81, said he isn't quite ready to get another dog.
"I'm looking around. If I can find one, I'll get it," he said. "I know breeders around. I bred him several times. He had 64 pups.
"I'm not in a big hurry."
A memorial fund-raiser is in the planning to honor Budd. According to Link, Purina and S and W Feed are working with Williamson to develop some type of yearly event to raise funds for an animal rescue or animal protection group.
In the meantime, the People and Their Amazing Pets talent competition will continue. Kolbus said the regional competition is already scheduled for June 7, 2003 at S and W Feed.
That's just eight months to train Budd's successor.