Story by Kacie Frederick. Photos by Jan Osborn.
Dallas Doing Good has the privilege of partnering with Communities Foundation of Texas’ (CFT) North Texas Giving Day. Since 2009, NTx Giving Day has mobilized thousands of nonprofits that help the greater Texas community. The event has become the largest community giving day in the nation, which has been bolstered by the amazing donors. This year’s NTx Giving Day will be held on September 22, 2022. Early giving kicked off on September 1. As we look forward to the big day, Dallas Doing Good is highlighting five dedicated donors who have contributed to NTx Giving Day over the years.
Taylor Stensrud advocates for NTxGD through the Dallas-based nonprofit, Dogs Matter. Dogs Matter is a free dog fostering service to aid pet owners who are seeking to enter substance abuse treatment. Stensrud is a recovered alcoholic who found Dogs Matter when he needed it most. After falling in love with Dogs Matter’s mission, Stensrud split his time initially between his digital marketing company and volunteering for Dogs Matter. Now, Stensrud is responsible for the nonprofit’s marketing, fostering operations, and working with their recovery clients and treatment centers.
Stensrud grew up in the Park Cities area of Dallas. After gaining acceptance to The University of Texas at Austin early into his senior year at Highland Park High School, Stensrud began what turned into decades of alcohol abuse. Not feeling he had a real purpose in life and following this dangerous path, Stensrud encountered legal and health troubles. In 2015 after a health scare, Stensrud tried to get sober. A year and a half into sobriety with no solid recovery plan, he quickly relapsed. In early 2018, with the help and encouragement from his family, Stensrud finally committed to entering inpatient treatment. However, he had two dogs and really no place for them to go while he was away for an extended period. Stensrud desperately did not want to lose them. That’s when he learned about Dogs Matter.
“I just fell in love with Dogs Matter,” said Stensrud. “No one realizes the importance of this organization until they need it for themselves or a loved one. No one thinks of the need we serve. When we tell people what we do, they’re blown away that a program like this exists. He added, “Dogs Matter is so unique because you’re not only helping prevent a dog at risk of being surrendered to a shelter, but you’re also helping a fellow human being keep maybe the one thing left in their life – their beloved dog.”
Dogs Matter does not currently have a facility for its clients’ dogs, but rather the nonprofit relies on volunteers to foster the dogs while their owners are at treatment. Their foster volunteers come from all walks of life. They are also fortunate to have quite a few individuals who are in recovery themselves, oftentimes past clients, that want to foster as a way of giving back to the community. The most significant component of Dogs Matter is their aftercare program. The aftercare program is available to their clients for up to one year after successfully completing treatment to help pay for pet food, supplies, vet care, and provides ongoing substance abuse counseling and recovery coaching. Since most of Dogs Matter’s clients are starting over in their lives, Dogs Matter also ensures they are set for success by helping with rent and pet deposits.
“When I needed help with my two dogs, I couldn’t believe something like [Dogs Matter] was available,” said Stensrud. “Dogs Matter found the perfect foster family for my dogs and relieved me of the added stress and anxiety over their care when I needed to focus on myself and my recovery. One of my dogs, Belle, has been my loyal companion throughout my recovery journey.” Stensrud was successfully reunited with Belle in the summer of 2018 and has been living a healthy, sober life ever since.
Already in 2022, Dogs Matter has served over 140 clients and their dogs, which is more than in the entirety of 2021. Dogs Matter recently gained national attention from an appearance on The Kelly Clarkson Show, so requests continue to come in from all over the country. Dogs Matter works with several partner organizations and rescues in other states and tries to accommodate as many requests as possible, even if it is just giving a referral or providing resources to help others. While the organization has eyes on expanding their model program nationally, focusing on more areas in Texas like Austin and Houston are the focus right now.
Moreover, as Dogs Matter’s services are entirely free (client/family and treatment center donations are encouraged), they still have expenses to pay so fundraising is critical. And NTxGD is their biggest fundraiser of the year. This year, their goal of $30,000 is to help offset their largest ongoing expense: vet care for each animal which includes a wellness exam, spay or neutering, and preventative medical care. NTxGD aids numerous organizations similar to Dogs Matter which do not have the funds to put on large, annual fundraisers.
“NTxGD helps smaller nonprofits raise awareness and serves as a platform to share their missions that speak to people,” said Stensrud. “It’s crucial to help our local communities. Specifically for [Dogs Matter], the opioid crisis is still out of control right now, so there is an even greater demand for our services in North Texas. Stensrud added, “We never want to see anyone struggling with substance abuse not go to treatment because they don’t have anyone to care for their dog.”
One of Stensrud’s favorite aspects of Dogs Matter are the reunion videos they post on the organization’s Instagram and Facebook pages. “Seeing the dogs who have been with a foster family for months reunite with their owners is just pure joy and a huge motivation in someone’s early recovery,” said Stensrud. To watch their Instagram videos, please visit: https://www.instagram.com/dogsmatter.
North Texas Giving Day is an 18-hour online giving event designed by the Communities Foundation of Texas. North Texas Giving Day was inspired to empower every person to give back to their community by supporting local nonprofits. To donate to a local nonprofit that fuels your passion, please visit: https://www.northtexasgivingday.org/search?orgScope=on.