Guest post by Caroline Zwillenberg
AUSTIN– Dogs of all ages and breeds frolicked together on the green grass under the sun at Zilker Metropolitan Park on Saturday during a “Dog Pawty” hosted by Houston startup company, BYOD.
“This is a laid-back dog meet up for belly scratches and puppy kisses,” the BYOD Facebook event advertised. “Come with or without your pups!”
Michelle Trejo, the Founder and CEO of BYOD, an acronym that stands for Bring Your Own Dog, hosts seasonal events with party themes in order to raise awareness of issues surrounding dogs and unite the dog-loving community. Approximately 200 people attended the event, the majority being dog owners.
Trejo said her inspiration in creating the company came from experiencing a lack of dog friendly places while studying for her master’s degree in Houston.
“My dog and I were asked to leave a previously pet friendly patio due to a change in management rules. I got in my car and went to about three other places, with no luck. When I got home I could not believe that in America’s fourth largest city it was so difficult to find a place where I could take my dog,” Trejo said. “That’s when I began a social media account documenting all the places that I took my dog.”
However, BYOD is about more than party themed events such as “Howl-o-ween” and “Ugly Christmas Sweater Pawty”, they aim to educate people in their communities about issues surrounding dogs such as breed discrimination and overpopulation.
“We emphasize all of our core values during our events,” Trejo said. “We also host educational events that are free and open to the public where we have a dog trainer speak and you can ask him whatever questions you might have.”
BYOD events have previously been hosted at bars and restaurants where members are only allowed a limited number of dogs per person. But since expanding to a pet-friendly city like Austin, there has been room for growth.
“Usually at these meet ups you can only bring one dog per person, so this was a good one for me,” said Liz Record, an attendee of the event. “I come to Zilker anyways but it’s nice to have more play pals. I have two Great Danes and a Labrador retriever. I love this pack, they make the best companions.”
BYOD attracts dogs of all breeds, where their owners are very dedicated to their pups. When asked how spoiled their dogs were, the most common answer was a 10 out of 10.
“Our older dog, Briggs, is a pet therapy dog at Dell Children’s Hospital. We generally go every Sunday and visit the kids,” said Christine Wren, an attendee. “Our younger one, Dak, is a recent rescue that we hope to turn into a pet therapy dog, but we will have to see. They have the whole back of the car. We call it ‘traveling first class’.”
Trejo said she had little to no experience running a business before launching Bring Your Own Dog. She said the experience was challenging at first, but after acquiring an increase in Instagram followers she said her outreach improved and she was able to see the positive outcomes of her work.
“During a really bad storm one of my follower’s dogs got loose,” Trejo said. “She asked me to post about her dog. Eventually someone found her dog down the street but from that I realized how powerful social media can be. Of course, there are still pros and cons, but this showed us that you can truly build a community and people will come together for all the right reasons. Little did I know that that would be possible by one post.”