You’d be hard-pressed to find a dog lover in Austin who doesn’t think this city is a prime place for canine companionship. There are plenty of trails, hikes, restaurants, shops, and even offices that allow pets (on and off leash). But even in a place where dogs come as a close second behind humans, there is still a growing number of dogs who need a home. Not to mention a number of humans who would love to own a dog, but are restricted from it because of financial or time constraints. This was a problem realized by Catelyn Silapachai and partner Melissa Massello DuBeau, two avid dog lovers (greyhounds in particular), who became eager to find a solution. After many hours spent at dog shelters brainstorming, the 1Dog1Hour nonprofit organization was born.
At 1Dog1Hour, the mission is simple: devote one hour of your time to walk one dog. If you have more time to walk more dogs, then do so, but there is no commitment, no pressure, and no schedule you have to follow.
“We realize life can be crazy busy with work, school, gym, dates, all of the above,” Silapachai said. “Our hope is for people to realize that it just takes one hour in a week, in a month, to change a dog’s life positively.” Plus, there are plenty of calories to burn and memories to be made by walking a dog as your workout or on a date. But you always have the option to hang out with a dog solo if you’re looking for one-on-one quiet time. We found it to be incredibly soothing, and our new canine friends Donner and Blitzen seemed to have a good time, too.
“I’ve heard that any human interaction a shelter dog experiences greatly increases his or her chances of being adopted,” DuBeau said. “Every little bit contributes to finding these dogs a good home.” They believe in the old saying, “A tired dog is a good dog,” so by giving little bit of your time, you could make a big change to an otherwise helpless pet’s life. All it takes is one lunch break, one workout session, just one hour of your time to head over to your closest shelter and volunteer.
So you pick out an hour, drive to the nearest kennel, then what? Almost all of the shelters in Austin—the biggest no-kill city—have a warm and welcoming ambiance the moment you walk in. The volunteers appreciate help in any form, and are quick to provide guidance in walking the animals. At 1Dog1Hour’s main shelter, Austin Animal Center, the dogs are split into a colored sticker system, green for an easy walk with a medium or large breed without volunteer training, yellow for a more rambunctious walk, and red for staff-only. If you are interested in the ability to walk all dogs, AAC provides educational training and courses to prepare you. Once you've got your walking buddy on a leash and ready to go, lead them around the interior shelter grounds for a long quality walk. There are also fenced-in dog runs for off-leash playtime (fetch is a favorite!) and agility equipment if you want to teach your new friend some basic tricks. The volunteers know where treats are kept, just be sure to ask for assistance first. 1Dog1Hour’s biggest goal is to encourage more people to spend time at shelters, but if you’re interested in participating in their events and community, you can take a snapshot with the dog you chose and post it to social media, along with tidbits about the dog you believe people should know. Log your dog’s name and time spent with them on the board before you leave the shelter to help future volunteers, then call it a day until next time.
Don’t be quick to hesitate if you think you won’t be able to resist the dogs’ charms. “A lot of people tell us they don’t volunteer simply because they’re afraid they’ll come home with a dog each time,” DuBeau said. “At the end of the day, we just want you to come spend time with the dogs, and if you take them home, great! If not, you still improved their day.”
To get involved with 1Dog1Hour outside of Austin, just give your local shelter a call and ask if you can stop by to help exercise the dogs. Many have similar volunteer programs already in place, and 1Dog1Hour is eager to hear about each of them. “If we get just one more person to come in and walk a dog, our hearts are happy,” Silapachai said.
For more information follow: @1Dog1Hour (or #1Dog1Hour), Catelyn Silapachai @TheDistilleryMarket, and Melissa Massello DuBeau @MelissaMassello, or visit the Austin Animal Center at 7201 Levander Loop any day from 11a.m. until 7 p.m.