2012 has been a wonderful year. It was our first year as Dogs Out Loud. With our impatience at doing even more, sooner rather than later, and with the number of years we’ve all worked in shelter and rescue, it’s easy to forget that this organization has only existed for just over 7 months. We’ve accomplished a lot in that short amount of time and have had the opportunity to learn from some of the best. As we move forward into the new year, we are committed to accomplishing even more on behalf of our four-legged partners in this endeavor.
We anticipate 2013 to be the year that we find a home.
Our dream facility sits on 10 to 20 acres of low or no restriction land within Travis County and will enable us to fulfill the mission this organization was founded to carry out; saving the lives of the final subset of vulnerable shelter dogs still dying here in Austin.
In this post, we’ll look at what we’ve started and where we’re going. We hope you’ll be part of helping us get there.
1. From Project Pups to the Risk List. One of the best things about this year has been our opportunity to take on several “project pups” in the form of four incredible dogs in need of some individualized support. Each of those four dogs is ready and available for adoption. Leroy and Cupcake are both about to take their Canine Good Citizen tests, Jennifer is thriving in the home of foster mom and DOL director, Dawn, and Kermit is in a foster to adopt arrangement which we hope will become his forever home. All four come with comprehensive post-adoption support scholarships through this organization and are an absolutely amazing group of dogs who will make fantastic best friends and companions for whoever is lucky enough to take them home.
Working with these dogs has given us a chance to fulfill our mission while getting this organization up and running and we are grateful to Austin Pets Alive! for entrusting us with their care. As we move forward, we will begin pulling dogs directly from the high risk list at Austin Animal Center. These will exclusively be the dogs that every other rescue partner, APA! included, has declined on. They are the medium to large breed dogs currently being killed at our city shelter for treatable behavior issues.
We spent time this year volunteering at AAC to meet these dogs and can tell you, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that good, savable, adoptable dogs are still dying at Austin’s no-kill shelter. A 90% save rate is huge. It’s an incredible accomplishment about which this city can and should feel proud. But beyond the numbers are the individual animals, and it’s their stories that demand we do even better. Austin is a city with the potential to be a leader for national change, continued progress, and inspiring innovation. Our goal should be saving every single savable animal, including the ones who just need some extra help. We as a community can do it and we cannot wait to expand our efforts to be part of the solution.
2. From Saturday Class to Sharing Resources. Inevitably, while volunteering at the shelter, we fell in love with dogs we met there. Frustrated that we couldn’t yet pull them ourselves and hoping to extend help to dogs beyond those we’d directly taken on as projects, we focused in on what we could do. Our small group class that started in DOL director Ariana’s backyard has grown to enable us to support not just our project pups but wonderful dogs like Latte, who narrowly managed to make it out of AAC, and Benny, an adorable Love-A-Bull adoptable who was once the longest stay dog at the shelter. We’ve also been able to support several shelter alumni we knew prior to adoption who are troubleshooting issues in their adoptive homes.
As we grow, we intend to expand our class offerings and add quarterly seminars especially for shelter/rescue dogs. At least initially, our program dogs will likely come exclusively from the at-risk behavioral pool at Austin Animal Center. But we’d like to support shelter and rescue volunteers, fosters, and adopters throughout the area who want to help high-need dogs by sharing information, providing training, and giving them a place to bring the dogs they care about to get them the intervention they need to thrive in homes. We also hope to provide enrichment with a purpose, getting dogs out and about and working while learning new skills.
3. From Group Hikes to Grounds. In addition to our Saturday classes, one of our favorite activities is taking our project pups, along with some of their fellow shelter adoptables, on group hikes! It’s an opportunity for training and socialization with a little less structure than a class has. The hikes have done wonders for our pups who tend to be a little tense around other dogs and are definitely something we’ll continue going forward.
One of the reasons for the large property we hope to attain is to create a community space for shelter/rescue volunteers and adopters of high-need dogs. Walking trails, agility courses, real life rooms, and additional training and enrichment facilities and resources would be open to our members as a safe, low-stress, well-equipped place to bring and work with either their adopted dog or a favorite shelter/rescue dog.
4. From Foster to a Centralized Alternative. The adoptable dogs we’re currently supporting span five different locations, not including the post-adoption support we’re providing for some special shelter alumni. Foster homes are an indispensable part of saving lives. We’ve written before on the shelter populations we think foster homes can be most effectively used to save. But, for our purposes, they’re inefficient.
Our facility will not be set-up as a high volume adoption program or traditional shelter, but specifically as a low-stress, home-like environment for dogs who need special support. Having those dogs in a central location will enable us to help more of them in a more consistent, streamlined way.
That is not to say we won’t move dogs to foster homes when they’re ready. But it is difficult to find fosters for dogs with significant behavior problems. It’s an issue shelters and rescues alike struggle with and one of the specific barriers to life-saving we intend to address. We will provide an alternative solution for dogs with behavior problems that cannot be addressed in, or are exacerbated by, the shelter environment while alleviating some of the pressure on our city’s foster system.
Additionally, for those shelter and rescue groups struggling with temporary space situations for dogs while a longer-term solution is sought, we will also offer specialty boarding. We’ve seen too many dogs lose their lives because time runs short before a solution can be found, as well as dogs for whom traditional boarding facilities are not an option due to breed discrimination, special behavior needs, or prohibitive cost for non-profit groups. Whether it’s a matter of 24 hours or several weeks, we want to help our fellow organizations save lives whenever we are able.
5. From Awesome Events to Even More Awesome Collaboration. We’ve already had the wonderful opportunity to collaborate this year with groups like Hard Luck Hounds, Austin Pets Alive!, Love-A-Bull, The Canine Center for Training and Behavior, and Steve DeBono Dog Training, as well as to attend super fun events like Love-A-Bull’s Texas Sized Pittie Pride Parade and Festival, and The Canine Center for Training and Behavior’s Schrodi Memorial Fund 5K. All of these opportunities have been a reminder of where we hope to go and what we hope to accomplish.
Dogs Out Loud has been founded to fill specifically identified gaps costing the lives of a particular subset of shelter dogs. Along with that comes the premise of collaboration and the idea that we all work together, each of us focused on using our strengths to save lives. Austin is a city full of incredible animal focused organizations, as well as individuals and businesses willing to dedicate time and effort to the cause. We are at our strongest when we all do what we do best and work together as a cohesive team to maximize life-saving. That is something we’d love to take our part in, and see our city do in earnest, in 2013.
This has also been a year of planning and paperwork as we’ve pushed through the lengthy process of making DOL a 501c3 non-profit organization. That may not always have been the fun part, but it’s helped us clarify and fully develop our vision. We have an excellent idea of not just the programs we want to implement in the short-term, but those we want to build capacity for in the long-term. We’re ready to move this venture forward and we’d love to have you join us.
Our next order of business, and probably the biggest item our to-do list will ever hold, is finding a home.
If you know of anyone with 10-20 acres in Travis County that is looking to donate it, or have experience obtaining such a donation and can assist, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
You can also make a financial donation to help us on our way.