For one special night each spring, dogs own the catwalk.
On May 2, Central Arkansas Rescue Effort for Animals (CARE) will hold one of its most popular events, Paws on the Runway, an adventure in canine couture and four-legged fashion.
Dressy dogs share the runway with human models in a fashion show that supports CARE’s mission to rescue, foster, spay and neuter and find homes for neglected dogs and cats. It’s not Milan or New York Fashion Week, but Paws on the Runway couldn’t be more important to the work of CARE, its staff and hundreds of volunteers.
“I think it’s hard not to attract lots of folks when you’ve got good food, drinks, fashion and people with a shared love of animals, as well as an opportunity to shop the auctions and see the sweet, adoptable dogs,” event chair Betsy Singleton Snyder says. “It’s a fun way to showcase CARE and its mission.”
Founded and operated by four volunteers in 1998, the nonprofit has grown to a full-time staff of three plus numerous volunteers donating thousands of hours to CARE’s efforts.
The organization also partners with the Arkansas Department of Corrections’ Paws in Prison program, while its Paws in the Clinic initiative provides low-cost microchip clinics, dog washes and sterilization surgery, as well as free food for dogs and cats belonging to low-income families.
As of January 2018, CARE had rescued more than 4,000 animals and spayed and neutered nearly 12,000 pets.
“CARE saves animals, primarily rescuing cats and dogs who are at risk to euthanasia at kill shelters in central Arkansas,” Snyder says. “Each pet is assigned a volunteer caseworker, who helps with applications for pet adoption and helps decide on the pet’s placement in a forever home.”
Snyder is pastor of preaching and missions at Pulaski Heights United Methodist Church. She is a published author, columnist and blogger and an avid volunteer who has lent her services to a number of organizations including the Little Rock Zoo Foundation and Women’s Advisory Council.
Her husband former congressman Vic Snyder and four sons are pet owners, and she became interested in CARE through church members who were involved. Snyder began supporting the organization by purchasing holiday pictures in 2008, the year her triplets were born, and enjoys browsing the adoptable dogs online, which recently led to her sister and brother-in-law adopting a Chihuahua/terrier mix named Bob, who will take to the runway with Snyder in May.
One of her church's ministries involves providing training classes for therapy dogs. The companionship they provide can help children struggling with reading skills, cheer people in rehab and aid and comfort those struggling with anxiety or stricken with dementia.
“I believe God has given us animals as companions, as well as helpers,” Snyder says. “Most of us have domesticated animals that we shelter and feed. Ethically, this relationship requires us to be caregivers. When someone fails to provide for a pet, other people who are able can step in with forms of assistance and support. Likewise, in my tradition, Christians are called to care for those in need.”
As Paws on the Runway chair, Snyder is charged with finding sponsors and auction items. She notes that CARE would not be possible without community support and volunteers, which makes events like Paws on the Runway matter.
“CARE is important because it not only offers needed and low-cost services for animals and owners,” she says, “but also provides a foster network that allows pets time to adjust beyond shelter life.”
Snyder's favorite Paws on the Runway moment to date is when she and her oldest son Penn walked a dog together in 2011. Of course, that led to the expected emotional entanglements, but that’s what the event is all about.
“He really wanted to bring that dog home. I always want to take a dog home,” Snyder said. “For me, that’s the hardest part, and yet that’s why we need community participation — to spread the love and homes around. I have learned that I can be a matchmaker and put people and pets together.”
Central Arkansas Rescue Effort for Animals
May 2, 6 p.m.
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