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Austi​n FC's 'mascots' find forever homes with Austin Pets Alive! program

Austin FC's mascot program got 15 shelter dogs adopted throughout its first season. (Austin FC)

Austin FC may not have 15 wins on the pitch, but the club's mascots won over thousands of fans as 15 rescue pups were adopted during the team's first season as part of the Austin Pets Alive! Honorary Mascot program.

Featured at each home game at Q2 Stadium, these Verde-clad rescue dogs welcomed supporters with winning smiles as they searched for their forever homes. The program found 15 great matches and even had Austin FC goalkeeper Will Pulisic foster 4-year-old Black Rose for a few months this summer.

Pulisic and his girlfriend, Mia de Leon, took care of Black Rose after she had spent two months with APA even though there wasn't much information on her previous life.

Pulisic and de Leon almost adopted her but found a forever home for her instead. (Austin FC)

"Nobody was really looking to adopt her I guess because nobody really knew what she was like," Pulisic said. "So we kind of took a chance and it worked out amazing. She was so sweet and awesome to have around. And eventually were able to find her permanent home."

People may not have been interested in her before, but with attention from Pulisic and Austin FC, she got dozens of inquiries before getting adoped two months later. Then came the hard part—Pulisic said the couple nearly adopted her, but being just a year out of college, decided against it and had a bittersweet goodbye.

She was she was the right dog for us," Pulisic said. "We got really attached, but... we're not quite ready for quite ready for that. We still talk about her a lot, but we know he did the right thing for her which ultimately makes us happy."

While Pulisic found out about Austin Pets Alive! through Austin FC, for Jessica Gay, it was the other way around.

Gay , a graduate student at the University of Texas, was temporarily fostering pit bull Missy when she learned that the popular pup was getting dozens of inquiries after her week as an Austin FC mascot.

She got her application in for Missy, who already had her own Instagram account, just in the nick of time and has since learned more about the mascot program and Austin FC's partnerships with local companies in the process.

"I hadn't known much about them until Missy became their temporary mascot, and I just think it's so awesome," Gay said. " I've heard a lot from other people saying that they do a great job partnering with local community organization in their partnership with Pets Alive. I think it really does make a huge difference in their ability to adopt dogs out."

Gay, Pulisic and other adoptee families toured Q2 Stadium to celebrate their pets in a press conference on Oct. 29. Like Gay, Amy Matlock hadn't heard of the Austin FC initiative until after she had met her 4-year-old pit bull Woody at Austin Pets Alive!, but after having a "love at first sight" encounter in the shelter and later seeing him greet fans in a Verde bandanna with the team, she couldn't believe her luck.

"It was an instant connection," Matlock said. "I know it seems weird, but the first time he came in and jumped up on me', I was like, I love him.' It's so weird."

Pets have become a bright spot in the pandemic for many as they live and work at home, and both Matlock and Gay say their pups have instantly improved their lives.

"My quality of life has improved so much since the moment I got her," Gay said. "The structure and schedule that she provides to my everyday life is so good for me...she's so excited to see other people so then I get to socialize with other people."


‘Like speed dating of cats’ at Purr-fecto Cat Lounge
Purr-fecto Cat Lounge

Lina Martinez with her newly adopted cat, Emmanuel, who she renamed Sullivan.

Timmy and Tommy are ready to play.

As the 2-month-old white-and-tabby brothers swat feather wands, chase toys and generally hold court inside Purr-fecto Cat Lounge, a half-dozen potential adoptive parents look on lovingly, trying to get their attention.

“This is kind of like the speed dating of cats,” said Lupita Foster, owner of Purr-fecto Cat Lounge. “I intentionally didn’t put in any tables. That’s why we call it a lounge instead of a cat café because we have these lounge areas where you can sit and relax and cuddle.”

Foster, who has owned a cleaning company, Enviromaids, for 18 years, was inspired to open Purr-fecto Cat Lounge after adopting her own cat, Romeo, from a local shelter.

“When you want to adopt a cat, you have to spend a lot of time with them to get their personality,” Foster said. “I wanted to do something to help the community and something that makes me feel good, that warms my heart. A business with a purpose. This was a perfect idea.”

Actually, a purr-fect idea.

Inspired in part by a cat lounge she visited in Los Angeles, Foster began laying the groundwork for the business in late 2021 and officially opened the doors of Purr-fecto Cat Lounge, located at 2300 S. Lamar Blvd., in July 2022. Since then, she’s worked with rescue organizations such as Fuzzy Texan Animal Rescue and Sunshine Fund Cat Rescue to facilitate nearly 100 cat adoptions.

At any given time, there are 10-15 cats living in the space, which features an ideal blend of calm, cool corners and adorably Instagrammable backdrops with phrases such as “I want to spend all my 9 lives with you.”

Lina Martinez, 32, learned about Purr-fecto Cat Lounge from a friend’s Instagram post and made an appointment to visit two days later.

“My first impression was, ‘AWW!’” Martinez said. “The kittens were to die for. I felt happy and at peace – just what I needed.”

Visitors to the cat lounge pay $15 for a 30-minute CATXperience session or $30 for a 70-minute session that is spent getting to know the personalities of each cat. Foster said the first thing she typically sees from visitors to the lounge is a smile.

“Everybody that enters the door is smiling,” she said. “And we’ve seen people who have cried because they can’t have kids and they decide to go and adopt a cat instead.”

Foster said she loves bringing in cats who might not have a chance to be adopted at traditional shelters. She told the story of one cat named Izzy, who was partially blind, who was adopted by a family that had a deaf cat at home.

“Izzy was not going to get adopted anywhere else, but she’s extremely beautiful,” she said. “If she was in a cage in a rescue and you tell people she’s blind, she was probably going to be overlooked. But visiting our space, she doesn’t seem like she’s blind. She knows her way around. She moves around perfectly.”

Although Martinez, who had been casually looking for a pet to adopt since moving to Austin nearly four years ago, was interested in a cat named Ruby that she had seen on Purr-fecto’s social media, at the lounge she instead found herself drawn to 5-month-old mixed breed Tuxedo cat.

“I thought he was a star,” she said. “He worked the room and introduced himself to everyone. When I laid down to pet Ruby, he ran from the other side of the room and cuddled with me. It was game over. He got me.”

And she, of course, got him, complete with a commemorative photo that read “My Furrever Family” the day she took him home. Although his original name was Emmanuel, she renamed him Sullivan after her favorite DJ.

“Purr-fecto is special because of the amount of effort and love they put into taking care of the cats,” Martinez said, “and finding them good homes and making possible adopters feel at home.”

Foster, who spent a recent Thursday hosting a group of teenagers in foster care at the lounge, several of whom expressed interest in working there, said the best part about her new endeavor is that her heart is always full.

“I just feel complete,” she said. “I always felt as an entrepreneur that I was missing something. I knew I accomplished a lot, but in my heart I was missing a little connection with the community. Now I’m creating connections between humans and pets and that’s amazing. I’m creating family bonds. It’s just about love, you know. And we need that.”

Austin's 7 Best Indian Restaurants

We all have those cravings for an amazing butter chicken or some authentic dosas with coconut chutney, but when I was thinking about where I wanted to go to satisfy my taste buds I realized that my list of great Indian food around Austin was surprisingly short. After doing some research and asking around, here is your list of the best Indian restaurants around town.

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