During the holidays last year, the Chuck Silcox Animal Care and Control Center (Fort Worth's animal shelter) had a problem. With more than 150 dogs to take care of and no food to feed them, the call went out to volunteers.
Sharon Pate and Brenda Silcox, the widow of former Councilman Chuck Silcox, the shelter's namesake, bought 600 pounds of dog food to tide the center over. Recognizing a need for a steadier source of aid, Pate turned to a not-so-obvious solution: wiener dog racing.
"I went down to Buda, Texas," Pate said. "That is the granddaddy of the wiener dog races. They've been doing it for 15 years. Buda's Lions Clubs had 700-plus full-blooded wiener dogs show up. When we were coming back, I told my friend that was with me, 'You know, we could do this in Fort Worth and raise money for the Fort Worth animal shelter.' I called Sandi Breaux in [Councilman] Zim Zimmerman's office and said, 'Sandi, I found our fundraiser.'"
With Brenda Silcox on board, they formed Cowtown Goes to the Dogs. The first large-scale race will be in October, but on St. Patrick's Day, we'll get a preview at one of Cowtown's most pet-friendly watering holes, Baker St. Pub & Grill.
Despite St. Paddy's being the busiest day of the year for Baker St., the restaurant is making room for the little dogs to hold an exhibition race. Registration (wannabe wiener dogs weighing less than 30 pounds are welcome) begins at 1 p.m.; the race starts at 3. There will also be a DJ, live music and a raffle. Merchandise for sale will include hats, T-shirts and koozies that read "My wiener is faster than your wiener." (The name brings out the inner 12-year-old in everyone.)
"I wanted to name it 'Cowtown Goes to the Wieners,'" Pate said. "But everyone said no."
Despite the playful name, the shelter's fundraiser highlights a larger problem: Tough economic times have put a strain on households across the country, and some pet owners are finding themselves unable to provide for their pets. Some have to make hard choices. "Do they just turn them loose to roam the street?" Breaux asked. "Or do they try to give that animal another chance and take them to the shelter? We as a city find ourselves with a lot of unwanted pets." Being a strictly no-kill shelter just isn't feasible in a city this size, Breaux said.
Often, funding for the shelter (which is part of the code-compliance budget) is used up long before the end of the city's budget cycle. When that happens, staff put out the call for help using social media. Food and vet supplies are always needed, and Purina donates damaged bags of food. PetSmart takes donations (Purina products only), and you can buy pet food in the store and ask that it be sent to the shelter.
The official fundraiser begins with a party and silent auction Oct. 4 at Baker St. Dog races will be Oct. 6-7, with a wiener-take-all prize of $600. A location hasn't been chosen for the main race. But for now, Baker St. is happy to combine St. Patrick's Day fun with an important cause.
"We want to be part of the community," said general manger Mark Hall. "That's what a pub is.... And obviously the animals are a big part of everybody's life."
Baker St. Pub is at 6333 Camp Bowie Blvd. in Fort Worth. For more information about the event, go to cowtowngoestothedogs.org.