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Expanding Rescue’s Reach through Soccer

Writing for The Bark, I’m always hearing ideas for making the lives of dogs richer, safer and healthier. From ways to increase spay/neuter and more engaging toys to surprising activities and rescue initiatives. Not every idea takes off but it’s the energy and creativity I find so inspiring. I wish there was an equivalent in the dog world to venture capital competitions for tech startups—a gathering for dog-interested companies, foundations and individuals to learn about and support for-profit and not-for-profit pitches. Like Mark Lukas’s soccer dogs idea.

Lukas owns the Florida-based Soccer Collies, which features his two fired-up soccer-playing Border Collies, Ms. Z and Bek, who have performed at various events including L.A. Galaxy games, SoccerNation Expo, festivals, private parties and much more. The dogs shoot and score on their two-footed goaltenders. Participants love the soccer dogs and often say they want one of their own, which fits beautifully with Lukas’s larger vision.

He wants to introduce a simple soccer program into shelters across the country. Essentially, shelter staff would identify ball-motivated dogs and promote them for rescue on a soccer dog website. There might even be a video component. In the end, you draw soccer families into rescue and the dogs end up in active, playful families where they are likely to have plenty of exercise and stimulation. Lukas has been developing the idea with the Humane Society of Marion County, Fla.

I like that the idea could reach into an active, organized community that might otherwise be a little outside the everyday rescue conversation—expanding the pool of adopters.

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Lisa Wogan lives in Seattle and is the author of, most recently, Dog Park Wisdom.

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Images courtesy Mark Lukas.

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