A love letter to Strut Your Mutt

Julie Castle bundled up in warm clothing at the finish line of the first-ever Strut Your Mutt event
By Julie Castle

Twenty-eight years ago, as a 20-something-year-old volunteer for Best Friends Animal Society, I was allowed to run with the idea of putting on a dog walk fundraiser for the organization in Salt Lake City. The deal was that I had to pull together the corporate sponsorship to cover the cost of putting on the event. “It will be a huge success!” I told myself. I know now that's the kind of unfettered optimism that only comes with being young.

You guessed it. The event was a resounding disaster. Everything that could have gone wrong went wrong. It rained, then snowed. The most golden retriever-esque golden retriever shorted out the on-loan, very expensive sound system after pulling it off a table into a puddle. Drenched participants looked as if they’d survived the siege of Leningrad. I was certain that was both the beginning and the end of Strut Your Mutt.

Yes, that first Strut Your Mutt was a mess, but there was something special about it. The participants and volunteers wanted a redo, so we took a chance and kept it going.

It turned out to be a great call. Strut Your Mutt became a national virtual event, but it also became a signature community event for tens of thousands of participants, both human and dog, in 16 different cities since its inception.

In the 28 years since its fledgling beginning, millions of dollars have been raised for the animals and our partner organizations. What started as a volunteer-run dog walk raising money solely for Best Friends in Salt Lake City transformed into a national fundraiser for the no-kill movement and hundreds of Best Friends Network Partner organizations.

But now it is time to say goodbye. Everything has its season, time ticks on, things evolve, and technology advances. So, after listening to partner and participant feedback, we decided that it’s time Strut Your Mutt returns to its roots with just a single event this year in Salt Lake City on October 21.

Strut Your Mutt holds a very special place in my heart. Beyond the remarkable journey this event has had, the memories that have been made, and the lives that have been saved, creating this event was my launchpad into animal welfare. I’m immensely proud of its impact. But part of starting something is knowing when to end it, and while the Strut Your Mutt event is no longer nationwide, Best Friends’ commitment to saving lives and supporting our more than 4,400 network partners across the country is stronger than ever.

- Julie

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Julie Castle


Best Friends Animal Society