Strut Your Mutt empowers lifesaving across the country

When the first Strut Your Mutt stumbled out of the gate in 1995, it was hardly an auspicious beginning. Best Friends senior director of marketing, Julie Castle, who was then the volunteer organizer of the event, remembers it this way: "This first year was a disaster. It rained, then snowed, a donated sound system was destroyed when a happy-go-lucky golden retriever pulled it off the table, and every single miserable participant looked like they'd survived the siege of St. Petersburg. I was certain that was the end of the beginning for Strut Your Mutt." Fortunately, that was not the case. Julie persevered with Strut Your Mutt, and within a couple of years, her problem-child event blossomed into a major community activity in Salt Lake City and a primary fundraiser for Best Friends programs in Salt Lake.

Given her hard-earned affection for Strut Your Mutt, it wasn't a surprise when, 15 years later, Julie, then director of Community Programs and Services for Best Friends, tweaked the fundraising component of the walk to enable our partner organizations to put together dog walking teams of their own and leverage the marketing and organization that Best Friends creates for Strut Your Mutt to raise funds for their own programs.

This year, Strut Your Mutt walks will be taking place in nine cities, including Salt Lake, Los Angeles, New York, Jacksonville, Austin, St. Louis, Baltimore, Portland and Lafayette. Network partners in communities that aren't hosting an actual walk can also join in virtual events. They can pull together sponsors for a virtual Strut to raise funds for their local animal work. Participating organizations keep 100 percent of the funds they raise through pledges to their walkers, real or virtual. Last year, Strut Your Mutt raised $700,000, with $428,000 going directly to partner organizations. This year, with 173 Best Friends Network partner organizations doing the Strut, including 51 virtual events, our goal is to raise $1,000,000 for homeless pets!

To my knowledge, this is an entirely unique approach to the empowerment and funding of local organizations - in any charitable category - and we have those sturdy Salt Lakers who trudged through the rain and snow, like so many dedicated mail carriers, and their volunteer organizer/cheerleader to thank for the enduring success of Strut Your Mutt.

There's still time to sign up and pledge some financial support to your favorite organization. Enrollment ends soon. Visit, and get in on the action while you can.

Ready, set ... strut!

Francis Battista