a walk in the park
According to Mindy Kaling, unstoppable comedy writer and truth teller, “A best friend isn’t a person. ... It’s a tier.” This is good news at the dog park, where man’s best friend sprints away into the paws of another and the humans are left to make their own connections.
Last October, four dog-loving organizations that recognized the power of dog park friendship — the San Antonio Parks Foundation, Texas Public Radio, Tito’s Handmade Vodka, and Hops & Hounds — came together to host the mother of all dog mixers, the Official Fest of Tails Yappy Hour.
There, they raised enough money to give the uptown McAllister Park a makeover, and have recently finished repairs on the dog water fountains damaged in last year’s freeze.
Next, they’re putting in agility courses, which they hope to have installed on March 19, and will host a howling good event ahead of that installation, on March 12.
Each of the four organizers came to the project from their own previous efforts, all focused on connecting people with dogs with each other:
- Texas Public Radio’s Yappy Hour: To put a positive spin on quarantine time spent on the computer — with a dog’s head on person’s thigh, usually — Texas Public Radio started a weekly virtual “Yappy Hour.” It was a great success that allowed humans to celebrate their pets while socializing with other dog-loving humans. The event is an in-person gathering now and has included cocktails from Tito’s, a dog kissing booth, and a dog psychic, among many other fun twists.
- San Antonio Parks Foundation’s Fest of Tails: This canine carnival recently saw its 14th year of programming, with kites, live music, a parade, a costume contest, and pet and tree adoptions. SAPF events reach over 300,000 people each year, and after returning to in-person programming in 2021, the organization executed its full-year events calendar in just the last six months. Now, in mid-February, SAPF is about $20,000 away from its fundraising goal for a dog park project at Maverick Park.
- Tito’s Handmade Vodka’s Vodka for Dog People: The Tito’s distillery is a large and welcoming place where strays have shown up for years. Tito’s started taking them in, bringing them back to health, and sending them home with the people who just couldn’t get enough of them. The Vodka for Dog People program offers sponsorships, consults with other employees for more pet-friendly workplaces, and raises money for dog-centric nonprofits through merchandise sales.
- Hops & Hounds’ everyday business model: Lots of outdoor eateries are dog-friendly, but this one takes it to the next level. Dogs are allowed in the food-and-drink area, but they have even more space in the adjacent dog park, with agility obstacles and different play areas for dogs with different needs, like seniors or smalls. Of course, Hops & Hounds hosts lots of events like markets, socials, and fundraisers.
The next Fest of Tails event is coming up on March 12, a week before the projected agility course installation at McAllister. San Antonio Pets Alive! will join to discuss its foster program with interested attendees.
Texas Public Radio, the San Antonio Parks Foundation, and Tito’s Handmade Vodka plan to continue their partnership to provide updates to other local dog parks.