Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Reflections on the 15th Annual Strut Your Mutt

The very first Strut Your Mutt was 15 years ago. I remember the day well, even though at that time No More Homeless Pets in Utah didn't even exist and I had no idea what Strut Your Mutt was.

On that day 15 years ago, I was traveling down 700 East, transporting cats to an adoption event for CAWS, a small non-profit rescue group founded by myself and Susan Allred. The day was dreary to say the least; a downpour of rain battered my car as I drove past Trolley Square and noticed a big "Best Friends Animal Sanctuary Strut Your Mutt" banner. I knew of Best Friends, and had volunteered with them on a couple of occasions back in those days. I remember feeling deeply sorry for them. "What a bummer," I thought, imagining that the event was rained out.

These days I know a lot of people who participated in that first annual Strut Your Mutt. Gregory Castle, a founder of Best Friends Animal Society and President of No More Homeless Pets in Utah was there. Julie Castle was there, as well. In fact, Julie created Strut Your Mutt in Utah and was a major force in growing the event from a few hundred to a few thousand participants. She helped start No More Homeless Pets in Utah and made the event a major brand for the organization.

The 15th annual Strut Your Mutt had a couple of things in common with that very first walk: The weather was horrible and Julie Castle was foremost in the minds of event organizers. Julie currently works for Best Friends Animal Society as the director of community programs and services. Though Julie is usually at the event, this year her absence was notable-- she is battling stage 3 breast cancer and could not attend the event. The event committee strutted in her honor, though. Castle's Canine Cohorts we called ourselves and we proudly wore pink for Julie. Despite Julie's battle, she is still actively advocating on behalf of animals and isn't letting cancer deter her from her determination to end the killing of cats and dogs across the nation. We know Julie will strut next year, and for many years to come!

In this year of reflection, I would like to also honor the following individuals, who have meant so much to us here at No More Homeless Pets in Utah in our 10th anniversary year and beyond:

Jared Matkin: Also recently diagnosed with cancer. Jared is an amazing volunteer for both No More Homeless Pets in Utah and Salt Lake County Pit Crew and we wish him the best during his recovery.

Forrest Hillie: Devoted adoptions volunteer who lost his mother Anita Lee Benson way too early.

Julie Memmott: Amazing contributor to our mission since the beginning, who also lost her dear mother, Margaret Johnson, this year.

Johannes Steinvoort: A supporter we never met in person, he was a devoted animal lover throughout his life, and cared for feral cats. He left us a generous bequest that we are so grateful for.

Susan Coulter: Susan was in the midst of helping to raise funds for this year's Strut when she died unexpectedly. We feel so blessed to have know Susan, who so poignantly shared with us what her little rescue dog Gizmo meant to her. Here is an excerpt from Susan's Firstgiving fundraising page:

"Strut Your Mutt 2010 on 22 May will be the 3rd time Gizmo and I have participated in this Walk. It is our way of saying 'Thank you!' to No More Homeless Pets in Utah/The Utah Coalition for Animals--Gizmo was in one of their shelters. Gizmo was an abused dog. With a lot of love, patience, and hard work, he overcame his background to become the cheerful, loving dog he is now. The Veterinarian estimated that he was 2 years old when I got him; he's now a healthy, happy, energetic 6-year old. We are a terrific team. I was looking for a companion, but Gizmo showed me that he can warn me before I have a Grand Mal seizure. He also guards me during and after a seizure, while I'm unconscious. Now Gizmo is my Service Dog, and rides on my lap wherever I/we go. (I am in a specialized power wheelchair.) We are also trained as an Animal-Assisted Therapy Team."

These are just a handful of the dedicated individuals that put so much of themselves into the cause of saving homeless cats and dogs. I offer my sincere gratitude to every one of you who are working towards a time of no more homeless pets in Utah--and across the country.

Holly Sizemore
Executive Director

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