Man’s best friend to take Austin by storm in charity dog walk event Saturday

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The 15th annual Mighty Texas Dog Walk is Saturday, March 23. Dogs and their owners will walk 1 mile around Lady Bird Lake to benefit Texas Hearing and Service Dogs, and perhaps break the Guinness World Record for Largest Dog Walk. Photo Courtesy of Texas Hearing and Service Dogs.

Willa Young

Cat people of Austin beware. Thousands of canines will take the city by storm this weekend. The 15th annual Mighty Texas Dog Walk is Saturday, March 23. A canine herd thousands strong and their human counterparts will march one mile around Lady Bird Lake to benefit Texas Hearing and Service Dogs and perhaps break the Guinness World Record for largest group dog walk.

After the chaotic stroll of constant barking and many used doggy waste bags, the attendees will be able to join multiple events at Auditorium Shores that aim to break dog-themed world records. These attempts include: most dogs doing doggie yoga, most dogs wearing the same bandana, most dogs eating the same treat, biggest fur ball and most dogs wagging their tails. The event will also have activities for the dogs and owners between record attempts.

“Well, good luck to them,” undeclared freshman Paul Dragna said. “Placing hundreds of dogs in one confined area and expecting them to cooperate in these record attempts seems pretty ambitious.”

Texas Hearing and Service Dogs is a nonprofit organization that trains service dogs to assist people with disabilities. This year marks the organization’s 25th anniversary. Texas Hearing and Service Dogs adopts all of its dogs from animal shelters and rescue groups. 

Hearing dogs are trained to alert their owners by touch and lead them to everyday sounds, including a knock on the door, a smoke alarm or a telephone ringing. Service dogs assist individuals with physical disabilities by opening doors, fetching wheelchairs, retrieving dropped items, operating light switches, moving paralyzed limbs and getting help. 

“Our very first goal is to create a trusting relationship with our dogs,” said Al Kordowski, Texas Hearing and Service Dogs director of training.

Kordowski said the creation of the bond helps to develop each future service dog into a loyal and loving friend for its human counterpart and ensures a compatibility between both the canine and the human.

Spanish sophomore Alexandra Mendez is taking her dog, Mac, to the Mighty Texas Dog Walk to support Texas Hearing and Service Dogs.

“I figured it would be a great way to get out with Mac and show my appreciation for the service dogs of our community,” Mendez said, “I really don’t think service dogs get the credit they deserve for all their hard work and loyalty.”

Texas Hearing and Service Dogs invests $17,500 in training each dog team. Each Mighty Texas Dog Walk participant is asked to give a $30 donation to join the activities and help fund this training program. Texas Hearing and Service Dogs plans to increase the speed of training and prepare more service and hearing dogs than ever before in the coming year. So far it has trained more than 700 dogs in its 25-year history.

“We’ve been developing our bonding and relationship periods,” Kordowski said. “Our training staff has learned so much, and we’re really excited for them to share that information with the dogs.”

Throughout the last few months, Kordowski has visited many animal shelters in Texas. He has looked at 3,670 dogs, pulled 68 for further evaluation and adopted 12 into the 2013 Texas Hearing and Service Dogs training program.

It is unclear if this cause will garner the ambitious success it is hoping for, but man’s best friend is poised to increase awareness of the need for service dogs. The current record for the largest dog walk is 22,742 dogs. If the Mighty Texas Dog Walk can attract a number that large, well, the Austin fire hydrants are in for a difficult day.

 

BOB: What- The Mighty Texas Dog Walk
When- Saturday, March 23. Dog Walk starts at 10 a.m. and all events open at 9 a.m.
Where- Auditorium Shores
$35 at-the-door, $30 with online registering