Top Dog Tips
Texarkana Top Dog
Chrystal Sloan from Texarkana, AR was the organizer of her city’s participation and success in Bark For Your Park 2012. Here are her tips for success in winning the contest:
What were the first steps you took?
I set up at meeting with our City Manager, Harold Boldt.
How did you find land?
Our City Manger had an ideal place in mind. One of our parks had a lot of unused area. It was shaded and a bike/walking trail runs along it.
How did you get civic leader support?
I sent personal emails to ask for their support. This included our local State Representative Steve Harrelson and State Senator Prissy Hickerson.
How did you gain media attention?
My friends helped in the beginning. One friend, Brandy Chewning, was a reporter for our local paper. My friends Debbie Brower and Jaclyn Bates own a local magazine. They donated ad space during the contest and also were a huge help in reaching thousands of people via their Facebook page daily.
Two of my friends, Mimi McDanial and Kendra Raines, are DJs for our local radio stations and they were all over it every day asking their listeners to vote. All of these ladies help in dog rescue in some form or fashion. Phone calls were made to our local television stations and after we started gaining ground, they did several segments regarding the contest. Even a local sign company, Hightech Signs put an ad on their electronic sign to encourage people to vote.
How did you organize the community to vote?
I started a Facebook page called "Bark for Your Park Texarkana" so there was a centralized place to share information.
What was your most successful grass roots effort?
The beauty of this contest was that everyone was included and they found their own niche. No one needed anyone's permission to find their own way to help our community win. It is unbelievable how many people will step up when they know they are needed. So, the whole process was a grass roots effort.
What was your most creative?
One of the most well-known dog rescuers, Jeff Tarpley, offered to kiss a pig if Texarkana moved into first place. Another rescuer had a pig named Pork Chop that she offered up for Jeff Tarpley to kiss. It was a lot nastier than I ever imaged. Pigs slobber A LOT, but Jeff made good on his promise. The picture made the front page of the paper.
What advice would you have for this year’s contestants?
Read the rules on the PetSafe site. Write down what you need to do and start getting busy now checking them off. Prepare a compelling plea of why your city would benefit from a dog park and email it to every single person you know. Personal emails are the best. No one likes spam. Know that there will be naysayers. Consider their criticisms, and find a solution if possible.
Keep pushing forward. Negativity can be very frustrating and can make you want to give up at times, so make sure to have someone to vent to who will keep you motivated and make your laugh. Ask for donations or do fundraisers to pay for flyers, t-shirts, business cards or space at festivals. You have to reach way past your circle of friends, so figure out how to do that. Setting up a Facebook page helps keep everything organized, updates fans on progress and reminds people to vote. Make sure the community is involved. There are people out there who are never asked to contribute their talents and may be shy about doing so. Let them know they are needed. It takes all kinds of people to make the world go around and also to win the PetSafe Bark for Your Park contest.
What was your most successful effort?
For me, it was putting responsible pet ownership in the limelight. Our shelter kill rate varies from 30 to over 100 animals a week. I sounded like Bob Barker urging people to "spay and neuter your pets and adopt - don't shop" every chance I had.
The owner of a local fencing company pitched in when he found out we were going to use a portion of our winnings to build a separate dog park for our animal shelter with money left over - if we won. He and his wife are huge dog lovers and he donated the fencing and the labor, and it is now up and running. It is called the Betty Feir and Michael Richardson Adoption Park. I see people using it all of the time. It is a great way for potential adopters to get to know a dog and for volunteers to let the shelter dogs exercise.
Were you surprised you won?
Yes, the blackout period caused a severe case of withdrawl. In a way, it was nice just to know we had done everything we could.
What is the progress on your park since winning in August?
We have met with artists and school teachers to find ways we could partner with them to make our agility equipment functional pieces of art. I've learned a lot about moving dirt and never imaged before how much work goes into the groundwork. Prisoners from our local jail helped remove diseased and/or dead trees. Gumball trees were also taken out because they are a nuisance. Our hope is to have the grand opening before August.
What has it meant for your community?
Texarkana is a twin city, and our community gets a bad rap for not playing well together. In reality, it is mostly politics because the residents on both sides of the line seem to care about each other no matter what side of the state line anyone lives on.
Our Texas side neighbors were so gracious to help for the common good of Texarkana, USA. We tried to win the year before and the votes were being split, so we didn't make it into the finals. Last year was a banner year for us because it gave everyone a chance to show that we can work together and great things can happen when we do.
If my community doesn’t win the grand prize, what advice would you continuing to pursue a dog park?
We didn't win the first time we tried. In a way, it was a blessing because we had a year to prepare and learn how to fix some of the problems we had run into.
If my community does win the grand prize, what advice would you have for completing our dog park?
Remember the community won the dog park, so give individuals, groups, or clubs an opportunity to put their fingerprint on it in some way. It will reduce the cost, but most importantly, they will be proud of itand will have a sense of ownership of it. When people are proud of something, they tend to take care of it.