Barks, Beers and Volunteers: Divine Canines’ divine cause kicks off this weekend

Volunteers and their dogs

AUSTIN (KXAN) — Collen Harvey’s humble beginning as a volunteer and board chair for Divine Canines is one any dog lover can relate to.

“I always tell people that if I wasn’t able to be home, if I was at the hospital or if I was somewhere where I couldn’t have my animals with me, I would want someone to just pack the bed with puppies. I would want them to bring them all in and it would make me feel better,” Harvey says.

That thought led to her need for service.

“If I want that for myself then I need to be ready to provide that for others,” she says.

And who better to work with than someone she’s already close to?

“I get to work with my best friend,” she says.

Each service dog is the volunteer’s pet.

“They’re pets first and then they’re volunteers second,” Harvey adds.

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Harvey and Lila have been at it for 5 years now. To get to this point, Lila graduated in 2014 and received her K-9 Good Citizen Certificate. That lead to their Divine Canine’s training. Once completed, volunteers start visiting sites that suit their pets.

“We go to the St. David’s Rehab Hospital, Austin State Hospital… places where she can go to wiggle around, play with people and just make them smile,” Harvey says.

Where humans can be critical, dogs lend their charm.

“The dogs just tend to make connections where people can’t.”

Harvey describes the difference: “The dogs don’t ask questions, they don’t judge, they give freely without any thought that they’re going to get something in return besides a few pets or told that they’re cute.”

Karaline Bunch, volunteer and Chair Elect of the Board for Divine Canines has a similar story, but her dog Lance is new to his service.

“He just started in October so just a few months,” Bunch says. “He’s a newbie.”

“It’s my favorite thing, if I could just volunteer all the time,” she adds.

But, training volunteers costs money. That’s where breweries step in. One of the 22 breweries participating in Barks for Beers, which is kicking off this weekend, is Oddwood Ales.

It’s a year of firsts for them. They celebrated their one year anniversary in March and this is their first time being a hosting brewery for Barks for Beers. Proceeds from the event, where people can gather stamps on their Pawsports as they travel to participating breweries, go toward helping Divine Canines provide its free therapy.

Co-founder Taylor Zeibarth wouldn’t end April any other way. “It’s a great way for people to try different beers and donate to a good cause,” Zeibarth says. “We’re all dog owners here. Literally, everybody that works here is a dog owner. … It’s a great way to kinda give back to our four-legged friends.”

Harvey admits they wouldn’t be able to do what they do or function without the funds from Barks for Beers. It’s how they mostly fund their operating costs, including training volunteers.

With donations and money from the event in the past, they’ve been able to increase training classes from 5 to 6. Each is a 5-week process.

Visit Divine Canine’s website to donate and learn how to volunteer. Barks for Beers runs from April 26-May 31.

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