These dogs were reunified with their owners in Austin post-Hurricane Harvey and it’s the best

Sometimes, even a natural disaster can’t separate man’s best friend and his owner.

As Houston and the Texas coast continue to recover from the devastating impact of Hurricane Harvey, Austin-area animal shelters are also struggling to care for the hundreds of displaced animals they have taken in in recent weeks. But while this continues to be a time of uncertainty and transition for many pets, there have also been at least a couple happy endings.

Take, for example, Lion, who was living with his owner/dad Oliver Santos in Houston when Hurricane Harvey hit. After water flooded the first floor of the house, Oliver and his family evacuated from a second-floor window via kayak. Because there was no space on the kayak, the family was forced to leave Lion and his two four-legged siblings behind on the second-floor balcony. Oliver feared he would never see Lion again.

Eventually, Lion was found and brought to safety in Austin, living first in a temporary shelter at the Travis County Exposition Center and ultimately transferred, along with 170 other dogs, to the Austin Humane Society. Thanks to his microchip, the Austin Humane Society, working in partnership with the Austin Animal Center, was able track down the Santos family. On Labor Day weekend, they drove to Austin to get Lion.

Lion with Oliver 2
Lion reunites with his owner, Oliver, at the Austin Humane Society. credit: Austin Humane Society

“As soon as Lion saw them, he jumped his front paws onto Oliver’s lap and got the biggest grin,” said Ericka Miller, director of communications for the Austin Humane Society. “Then, he rolled over for tummy rubs. It was very clear he knew his family!”

Happy Lion
A happy Lion after being reunited with his Houston-based family at the Austin Humane Society. credit: Austin Humane Society

The reunification was a bright spot during a tough time for the Santos family, who is currently staying with friends because the hurricane destroyed their home. They have not yet located their two other dogs but remain hopeful because they are microchipped, too.

Lion with Family
Lion reunites with his family at the Austin Humane Society. credit: Austin Humane Society

Sophie, another displaced Houston pup who was also transferred to the Austin Humane Society from the Travis County Exposition Center, also recently experienced a happy reunification. Although she was not microchipped, the Austin Animal Center had the address where she was rescued in Houston and reached out to her owners, the Salazar family. The family, which had just found their other dog in Houston, drove to Austin to pick up Sophie as soon as they heard the news. Once again, their family is complete.

sophie reunion
Sophie reunites with her family at the Austin Humane Society. credit: Austin Humane Society

In the coming weeks, local shelters will continue to try to track down owners using information from microchips and even new facial recognition technology, Miller said. Here’s hoping we’ll be hearing many more reunification stories in the coming weeks.


Meet Chewie: The dog who’s the neighborhood garbage man

Chewbacca Villalpando has his head deep into a bag that once held mahi mahi. He found it empty on our neighbor’s lawn. Nicole Villalpando/For America-Statesman

April is Earth Month, and while I’m not sure that my 1-year-old German shepherd/retriever mix has any concept of the calendar, Chewie (short for Chewbacca) is a one-dog neighborhood cleanup crew.


Every morning and night on our walks, he’s looking for something tasty — someone else’s trash — that he can bring home for all of us to enjoy. Of course, the best part for him and for us to watch is the 20 seconds it takes for him to turn whatever he’s found into tiny pieces.

Most dog owners might think this is a disgusting habit. I say Chewie’s helping to clean up the neighborhood, and he’s speeding up the decomposition process.

Chewbacca Villalpando has torn this bag to shreds. Nicole Villalpando/American-Statesman

Just in the past month, Chewie has brought home for us to enjoy:

1 plastic wrapper that once contained mahi mahi

1 empty Styrofoam meat tray

1 dirty diaper

3 fast food bags

6 fast food napkins

7 plastic water bottles

1 plastic sinus rinse bottle

1 2 liter empty bottle of soda

3 old dog toys

In addition other people’s treasures, he’s also quite fond of the Villalpando recycling bin. We’ve quit buying him dog toys because the empty milk jug and paper towel rolls are so much more fun for him and don’t cost us anything.

Once he’s had his way with the recycleables, we just sweep up the mess and recycle the bits. It’s amazing how much more we can fit in the recycling bin once Chewie has compacted it.

Now if only we could train him to sweep up and put everything back in the recycling bin.

Austin has third-highest rate of pet ownership in U.S., survey says

Austin has the third-highest percentage of households with pets out of major United States metro areas, according to new data from the American Housing Survey.


According to the survey results, 48.4 percent of households have pets in the average American metro area. However, Tucson, Ariz. had the highest rate of pet ownership, with close to 60 percent of households with at least one pet. Oklahoma City was second, and Austin was third, with just over 50 percent of households containing pets. Other Texas cities on the list included San Antonio at No. 4 and Houston at No. 13.

Where are the Animal Companions?

SXSW is going to the dogs, and it is awesome

Celebrity pets are not new to South by Southwest and its side party scene, but we’ve noticed an uptick in the number of internet-famous dogs coming to Austin this year. Our own TV star, Kaxan, is part of the star power at a party Monday night at the Pet Rescue Lounge, which also will feature Moshow the cat rapper (with Ravioli) and a meet-and-greet with Manny the Frenchie.

Austin dog about town Kaxan is ready for SXSW. Photo by Edward Flores /Contributed

Kaxan, who is the official news dog at KXAN and works as therapy dog through Divine Canines, has the right outfit for every event, social or weather. He gave us a sneak peek at his SXSW week looks. See the full gallery.

You can still RSVP for tonight’s free Pet Rescue Lounge. Pets (on leash) are welcome, too (don’t forget poop bags). There will be puppies and kittens up for adoption through the Austin Human Society and Texas Humane Heroes, fortune-telling from Kuro the clairvoyant Pomeranian, some freestylin’ by Moshow and Ravioli, a doggy ball pit and more. The event is 21 and older and RSVP does not guarantee entry. Sponsors include Pet Cube, which on Monday announced an update to its app that allows Facebook Live; Whistle, which makes GPS trackers for dogs; Luup, a litter box tray system; and DogVacay, a site for finding a pet sitter.  The festivities start at 5 p.m. at Cedar Street Courtyard.

SEE: More dogs at SXSW; we have photos from the weekend’s pop-up dog park on Congress.


This Texas puppy is looking for its siblings on Facebook

Meet Frito.

Image via Corie Gemmiti and Texas Humane Heroes / Facebook
Image via Corie Gemmiti and Texas Humane Heroes / Facebook

As you can see from the photo, he’s just a cute little dog looking for his long-lost siblings, who were born in August 2015 and adopted from Texas Humane Heroes in Leander.

This is what they looked like as puppies. Let’s all say it together: Awwwww.

Photo via Texas Humane Heroes / Facebook
Domino, Snow, Raven, Cali, Buddy and Aspen, along with Frito. Photo via Texas Humane Heroes / Facebook

Frito’s owner, Corie Gemmiti, initially posted the photo on the Texas Humane Heroes Facebook page on Sunday, requesting a puppy play date at the shelter between Frito and his brothers and sisters when they’re all located. The owner of one of the puppies, Raven, posted within 10 minutes saying they adopted Frito’s sister the day after Frito was adopted.

On Thursday, Texas Humane Heroes said on Facebook that it has located four out of Frito’s six siblings and it’s planning on hosting a reunion on Feb. 18, hopefully with all seven puppies reunited. A local pet photographer will document the session, so mark your calendars for a really cute slideshow next month.

Internet star Loki the Corgi dies

Loki, internet-famous corgi, died Monday.

The cheerful Pembroke Welsh corgi garnered 687,000 followers on Instagram and 824,000 followers on Facebook. Fans commented comforting messages to Loki’s owners, including condolences and many heart emojis.

Loki’s kidneys were in serious condition, according to his Facebook page. His owners drove him down to Seattle for dialysis and further treatment.

Tuesday, 1:01 a.m. CT, his Facebook and Instagram page sent out a simple message: “Loki’s in a better place now. Away from sickness and away from pain. We’ll miss him forever.”

Corgi pages on Facebook paid tribute to the furry superstar.

Loki, you will be missed.

What can you do in an hour? Walk a dog with 1 Dog 1 Hour

Catelyn Silapachai and friend Melissa Massello DuBeau started 1 Dog 1 HourChelsea Laine Francis
Catelyn Silapachai and friend Melissa Massello DuBeau started 1 Dog 1 HourChelsea Laine Francis

1DOG1HOURhires-13Catelyn Silapachai, co-founder of Vintage jewelry and home decor site The Distillery, has started a new venture with friend Melissa Massello DuBeau. 1 Dog 1 Hour wants to help get more pets adopted from the Austin Animal Center.

Here’s how it works: Stop by the center, 7201 Levander Loop. Follow the signs with instructions on how to walk a dog. Any medium or large dog with a green dot on the kennel card can be walked. Once you walk your dog around the fenced-in shelter grounds or play with them in one of the fenced-in dog runs. You take a pick of your friend and post it to Instagram and tag 1 Dog 1 Hour’s Instagram @1Dog1Hour. Post some things you liked about the dog and log your walk on the board before you leave the shelter so other volunteers know who has been walked.

The hope is to expand the program to other shelters. Find out more at

Austin Animal Center to host ‘Pokémon Go’ party to get dogs adopted

Debbie Brownson lets her dog Roxy meet Chip from Pflugerville Pets Alive held by Cameron Brownson at Pet Pfest.  Photo by Nicole Barrios
Debbie Brownson lets her dog Roxy meet Chip from Pflugerville Pets Alive held by Cameron Brownson at Pet Pfest.
Photo by Nicole Barrios

From the City of Austin:

Austin Animal Center, 7201 Levander Loop wants you to play Pokémon Go to help get dogs adopted.

The city shelter will host the first ever, Pokémon Go themed Party called a ‘PokéParty’  from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. this Saturday, July 16.

Austin Animal Center is a hot spot for players. There is a ‘PokéGym’ on site as well as four ‘PokéStops’.  AAC will be putting out ‘Lure Modules’ throughout the day on Saturday to increase the amount of Pokémon, and hopefully increase customers to the Austin Animal Center.

“Luckily, our campus is already attracting players, but we want folks to come in and get to know our dogs too,” said Deputy Chief Animal Services Officer Lee Ann Shenefiel.  “If you’re able to snap a photo of a dog with a Pokémon in the background and share it on social media, you could be the reason that a dog gets a new home.”

The game Pokémon Go allows players to see Pokémon in the background of their camera. The AAC wants visitors to snap photos of dogs for adoption with the Pokémon characters and share on social media with the hashtag #AustinAnimalCenter in hopes they will get dogs adopted.

Volunteers will be walking dogs around the grounds and near the ‘PokéStops’ all day so there will be many opportunities to catch Pokémon with dogs. Volunteers know the dogs they will be walking and are able to tell people more about them.

If a ‘Pokémon Go’ player takes a photo of a dog and wants to adopt it, the adoption fee could be waived. Pokémon themed prizes and waived adoption fees will be given throughout the day to anyone participating in the game.

“Simply show our Adoption Counselor your photo of a Pokémon and a dog and you could win a prize or a free adoption.” Shenefiel said.
The Austin Animal Center, 7201 Levander Loop is open from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. daily. More information about Austin Animal Center can be found at; by calling 3-1-1; or by visiting the Center’s Facebook page at The City also maintains the Town Lake Animal Center, 1156 W. Cesar Chavez St., as an overflow animal adoption location. It is open daily from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Are you missing a pet pig? He might be in Round Rock

There’s some bacon that needs saving in Williamson County. KXAN reports that a mini potbelly pig was found in Round Rock on Wednesday, and police are looking for the owner.

In a post on its Facebook page, the Round Rock Police Department explained that animal control picked up the little porker at the Round Rock Dog Depot dog park at 8:30 a.m. The pig will stay at the animal shelter, and if no one claims him within three days, he will be put up for adoption.

Know who the pig belongs to? Contact the Williamson County Regional Animal Shelter at 512-943-3322.

Screengrab via Round Rock Police Department on Facebook
Screengrab via Round Rock Police Department on Facebook

Last year, a pig also got loose in Rollingwood, resulting in an adorable low-speed pursuit. That errant swine was successfully returned home.

What’s the secret life of your pets? We asked and got some answers

Over on our Raising Austin blog, we have a contest for a family four pack of tickets to “The Secret Life of Pets” movie. We asked people as they entered to tell us what they think their pets secretly do all day.

Here’s some of their answers:

Luna drinks espresso all day, according to owner Tes Sawyer.

I’m pretty sure my dog, Luna, drinks espresso, surfs the internet and does yoga while I’m away. — Tes Sawyer

While my parakeet, Ringo, died several years ago, I always imagined him dictating The Great American Novel while I was out of sight. He loved to recite his repertoire of words and phrases as long as he felt he wasn’t being observed; who knows what he got up to when he was home alone? — Melissa Aellos

“Blue-y” the fish probably would say “All drains lead to the ocean and has been planning his escape for sometime” Either way, he’s been great for our 8 and 1 year old. — Jesse Rivera

Our family thinks our 8 year old kitty takes joy rides in the pink toy convertible Barbie car we have.  Sometimes we find it out

Kika watches squirrels all day. Bibiana Beardsley
Kika watches squirrels all day. Bibiana Beardsley

in places we know we didn’t put it there.  The cat has to be having a blast in it when we leave. — Melissa Garcia

DH works from home so pups don’t get away with much. This is Kika. She keeps watch to make sure the squirrels don’t get in our yard! — Bibiana Beardsley

We think that our dog Harley gets on the couch after we leave and stays there and sleeps. — Kristen Mellring

Blanca as white as the snow would wait for us at door. I think she would look for food! — Mariela Trujillo

Our pet, Rusty is a smart, little, scruffy dog we adopted from the shelter. Sometimes he is too smart. Rusty sleeps most of the day on top of his house up until the moment he hears us opening the front door. He jumps down and runs to the tree to make it look like he is chasing squirrels and earning his keep. Then he comes to up to us to get ears scratched for being such a good guard dog. He is such a good little dog and makes us look forward to coming home everyday! — The Fuentes Family

Tinsley does hair according to owner
Tinsley does hair according to owner Taylor Skinner.

My family has a 1 year old diva puppy English Cream Golden Retriever (white golden) named Tinsley, and she is definitely the princess her name suggests! Tinsley most likely spends her days preening her feathering in the mirror to ensure she is the prettiest puppy in the neighborhood. She then practices her sashay to show off her tail feathers to the other dogs in the neighborhood. At some point, she goes and gets her mud facial in the backyard (this we know for a fact).

When she is not being a little pretentious diva, she tends to Milton, the white kitty who she thinks is her child. Not wanting to have an ugly misshapen child, Tinsley bathes and coifs Milton’s hair. She then carries him around the neighborhood showing off her pretty puppy (kitty) to the neighborhood dogs. The rest of the day she lays on the couch being a slug pup so as not to get too hot and ruin her fluffed feathers. — Taylor Skinner

Our family has a french bulldog and a shih tzu that live inside and roam our homes while we are away. Our shih tzu Sam, probably spend his entire day plotting how to escape the yard during his next potty break, as that seems to be his favorite pastime. Fire, our bulldog literally spends her days plotting her next meal and dreaming of the treats I will bring home from the store. Sam is for sure smarter and more crafty, but Fire loves her family with her big heart. — Mellissa Alvarado

My grandkids think our pets watch TV and sometimes mess with our DRV while we are out and that’s why some shows we have set up don’t tape correctly…lol They also think they take naps on their beds but hop up as soon as they hear us come in 🙂 — Laura Floyd

Our dog, Mali, is an 11 year-old black lab. Due to her thick black coat and brutal Texas heat, Mali is an “inside” dog. Since both of us work, Mali is home by herself all day. She is rather particular about her domain, dog pillows are simply not up to her high standards for comfort. So, despite her age, she spends most of her day in the comfort of our queen bed. I am sure that the first item on her agenda for the day is to search every nook of our bedroom for any food that may have been forgotten in a bag or in a pocket. If she is lucky and finds something edible, we will be blessed to come home to a ransacked bag and food wrapper on the floor (she likes to consume the food with the wrapper then spit the wrapper back up later, she is nice that way). The rest of her day consists of long naps, dreaming of catching cats and jumping on counters to claim any food items that were not properly put out of her reach. She occasionally hops down from the bed to stroll right past the nice fresh water we put in her bowl everyday to take a nice refreshing drink from the toilet. Her most exciting part of the day is certainly when she hears the garage door open for as soon as it does, we can hear her tail banging against the walls as she anticipates her next feeding (her excitement has little to do with actual human interaction). And that is what she likely does all day long.  — Kristin Seibel\

I think my dog sleeps all day and waits for his daddy to get home! — Jennifer Jones

As for my house: Mew, the chinchilla, is a secret agent, while her dog and cat friends sleep all day.  — Nicole

Ava Villalpando holds secret agent Mew. Nicole Villalpando


If you want to enter the contest for the 7 p.m. Tuesday screening at the Regal Metropolitan, send an email to nvillalpando@statesman by Friday morning with the subject line “The Secret Life of Pets.”

Tell us what your family thinks your pet does all day long and send me your name and phone number as well.

I’ll draw entries out of hat on Friday morning and let the winners know that day.