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Doghouse Race Adds Excitement to Texas Adoption Event

Posted: Sept. 18, 2013, 4:30 p.m. EDT


By Clay Jackson

Jet Parker caught lightning in a bottle when she thought up the idea of racing corporate-sponsored doghouses to help needy cats and dogs.

"I spent many years in Hawaii and California and participated in charity bed races, and I thought, ‘Why not do something similar for dogs?’ ” said Parker, owner of Creature Causes, a Dallas event planner that represents animal welfare interests.

Parker called her idea Doghouse Derby and shopped it around to potential corporate sponsors until the PetSmart store in Lewisville, Texas, incorporated the races into its annual fall Adopt-A-Thon.

 PetSmart Doghouse
PetSmart’s Castle Hills store in Lewisville, Texas, entered this doghouse in Doghouse Derby.
PetSmart co-hosted the adoption weekend, which took place Sept. 13 to 15, with Lost Paws Rescue of Carrollton, Texas. The company helped cover the operational costs, such as tents, stage equipment, security and city permits.

"People have no idea how much it costs to put on these types of events, so if someone underwrites the operating expenses, then funds raised directly benefit the cause rather than pay for administrative costs,” Parker said.

In addition to a financial contribution, PetSmart paid for a custom doghouse and entered it in the Derby, joining eight other teams, such as Banfield Pet Hospital, Pepsico Animal Welfare Society, Home Depot and 24 Hour Fitness.

"The priority is to adopt out rescue animals, and my job with the derby is to attract potential adopters and attention to the cause to help achieve that goal,” Parker said.

Parker credited Yvette Garza, founder of Lost Paws, as being the event’s heroine.

"She has worked for 17-plus years to rescue animals, and it is her hard work and that of her foster families that enabled us to rescue the dogs and cats ... for the pet Adopt-A-Thon,” Parker said.

Adoptions skyrocketed from 30 last year to more than 60.

"The derby brought out families, sports fanatics and a variety of people who might not have otherwise come,” Garza said.

The cost of a custom-built doghouse ran about $500, with half going to materials and construction and the rest to Lost Paws Rescue. Some designs were over the top.

"The people who decorate the doghouses are my neighbors and … they painted and applied faux finishes and other treatments,” Parker said.

She forecast more competitors next year.

"I’ve already presold two and my goal is 20 teams,” Parker said.

The derby was held Sept. 14 as teams of four pushers and a rider holding a stuffed dog vied to cross the finish line first and advance to the next heat. The oval course, about the length of a football field, was marked off in PetSmart’s parking lot.

The 24 Hour Fitness team was the eventual winner, earning bragging rights, restaurant gift cards and goody bags for each team member.

Between heats, the doghouses were lined up and each was topped with a small donation box. Spectators voted with their wallets for their favorite doghouse, stuffed dog and team costume.

Parker’s aspirations for Doghouse Derby didn’t start and end in a PetSmart parking lot in suburban Dallas.

"My dream is to take this idea nationwide, finding more homes for dogs and cats in other states while also bringing awareness to the animal rescue cause,” she said. "You never can tell who will step up to the plate to make this dream possible.”

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