A MELBOURNE dog walking group is launching on the Surf Coast next month, giving collie and sheltie owners the opportunity to meet with new people and socialise their pet/s.
Dubbed the “Colliewobbles”, the breed specific group was created in 2014 by Philip Cassap and his wife Debbie after they adopted a collie from a breeder who was found guilty of over 80 animal cruelty charges.
In a bid to get their collie Sasha to mix with other dogs, the couple shared a request on Facebook
to gauge whether other collie owners would be interested in meeting up for a walk at Nortons Park in Wantirna South.
Five years on, the group now has over 400 members who travel to Nortons Park from the Surf Coast, Echuca, Shepparton, Sale and greater Melbourne on the first Saturday of every month.
“The big surprise is the impact it has had on people’s lives, especially our retired members. They have formed new friendships sharing a common interest,” founding member Mr Cassap said.
“The group started by meeting on the first Saturday of every month in the same place at the same time. We have never missed a walk in 65 months – rain, hail or shine.
“We have social walks in different locations every other week.”
The furry friends the group celebrates are rescues, assisted re-homes, former show dogs or collies purchased from breeders as family pets.
Ocean Grove mum and Surf Coast committee member Tracey Tabakovic joined the group after she saw a post on Facebook alerting her that a relative of one of her collies might be part of the walking movement.
“I joined, but it took me some time to go on my first walk,” she said.
“I just thought it was the best thing ever. It was incredible to show up at the park and there were so many people and so many collie dogs. To see how the dogs played and interacted with one another, it was just amazing.”
Ms Tabakovi has three male collies in different colours, Alvin, Theodore and Dave.
“It’s given me a nice social outlet and something to look forward to. I’ve met some very nice people through participating in the walks,” she said.
“People like myself travel two and half hours to get to the walk.”
The group’s popularity has seen Mr Cassap develop three regional sister groups so other collie and sheltie owners can join in on the social movement.
In March, Colliewobbles launched in Shepparton and was opened by the city’s mayor, Kim O’Keefe.
The group will be introduced to the Surf Coast on June 23 before making its mark on Gippsland in July.
“We (Colliewobbles) promote the benefits of dog ownership and how to care for your dogs,” Mr Cassap said.
“We have families with young children to retired seniors joining in.”
For more information, visit colliewobbles.net.au.