Photo courtesy of Houston SPCA

He may not look it, at 51 pounds, but Erastus is just a pup. The seven-month-old lab mix is more than ready to give his all to a loving family, one that preferably has another mellow pup that can match his laidback energy.

You see, Erastus is deaf — but he doesn't let that stop him from living a full and happy life.

Thanks to the staff and volunteers at the Houston SPCA, already knows "sit" and is eager to learn more hand signals so he can communicate and be the best boy.

Erastus' adoption fee is only $55, and includes his microchip, neuter surgery, up-to-date vaccinations, a free sample bag of Hill’s Pet Nutrition, and a free post-exam from any VCA Animal Hospital.

You can meet Erastus and all his friends this weekend at the Houston SPCA, which is open every day from 11 am-6 pm.

Erastus is a seven-year-old lab mix.

Photo courtesy of Houston SPCA
Erastus is a seven-year-old lab mix.
Photo courtesy of BARC Houston

Massive 'Mega Adoption' downtown pet event matches Houstonians with 1,000 future furry family members

fur fam finder

While Houston and its local institutions continue to score continuous best-of lists, one issue remains a stain on the city’s reputation: the stray animal crisis.

Indeed, thousands of sick, injured, hungry, thirsty, and lonely animals of all ages roam our streets. Some survive alone, many end up in shelters and are ultimately euthanized. Fortunately, a major downtown pet event returns this weekend to help.

Houston’s second Mega Adoption Event makes a major comeback on Saturday, September 3 and Sunday, September 4 at the George R. Brown Convention Center (1001 Avenida De Las Americas). Organized by PetCo Love and BOBS from Skechers, the mass-adoption program will showcase more than 1,000 rescue pets of all shapes and sizes from across Houston.

Potential pet parents can look forward to a mere $35 adoption fee, which applies to all animals and includes spaying/neutering, microchipping, and age-appropriate pet vaccines.

Adopters need simply bring a carrier for a cat (cardboard carriers will be available for purchase), or a leash and collar for a dog (also available for purchase).

“Events like this are important in bringing awareness to the plight of thousands of homeless animals on Houston streets and in our shelters,” Tama Lundquist, co-founder/co-president of Houston PetSet, tells CultureMap. “The ‘Adopt Don’t Shop’ message could save thousands of lives of pets locally.”

To Lundquist’s point, getting adoptable animals from across the city under one roof pays off — for everyone involved. In 2019, the inaugural Mega Adoption Event in Houston placed 1,450 homeless pets with families in just two days, according to organizers, who hope to match or top that number this weekend.

And for the countless animals, the need is real. According to the 24Pet Shelter Watch Report, in-shelter euthanasia decreased from 2019 to 2021 (durign the pandemic) but increased in 2022. Why? As Rosie Nguyen of CultureMap news partner ABC13 reports, pet care costs have risen 14 percent, prompting many to send their animals back to shelters.

In a time of increasing national division and isolation, pets can bring people together, says a recent survey by the Human Animal Bond Research Institute (HABRI) and Petco Love. That research notes that more than 90 percent of pet parents believe pets are family, with 75 percent respondents noting that pets bring people together from all walks of life.

Meanwhile, those who can’t attend the weekend activity are still encouraged to support the participating nonprofits. Generous, animal-loving locals can direct their attention (and their funds) to: Montgomery County Animal Shelter, ARC PETS, BARC Animal Shelter & Adoptions, City of Baytown Animal Services, SPCA of Brazoria County, Dallas Animal Services, Fort Bend County Animal Services, Harris County Pets, Houston Humane Society, City of LaPorte Texas, Palm Valley Animal Society, Rosenberg Animal Control and Shelter, Friends of South Houston Animal Rescue, City of Sugar Land Animal Services, and others.

Weekend event visitors and adopters can expect a fun, feel-good vibe. “When you walk through the doors you feel the excitement and anticipation because, by the end of the day, the lives of so many pets and people are about to change and all for the better,” said Petco Love president, Susanne Kogut, in a statement. “And there’s also the joy felt by the dedicated shelter workers who work tirelessly to save these pets — these events are really about filling the Houston community with love — unconditional pet love.”


The second-annual Mega Adoption event runs from 10 am-5 pm Saturday, September 3 and Sunday, September 4 at the George R. Brown Convention Center (1001 Avenida De Las Americas). For more information, visit the official site. $35.

Sweet Dallas of BARC (ID number A1834267 — hint, hint) will be available for adoption this weekend.

Photo courtesy of BARC Houston
Sweet Dallas of BARC (ID number A1834267 — hint, hint) will be available for adoption this weekend.
Photo courtesy of Houston SPCA

Head to Houston SPCA to meet Forman, the little dog with a big personality

Adoptable Pet

Some folks are wary about adopting a rescue dog because their past is such a mystery. Do they have bad habits? Will they be a pain to train?

There's no such wondering with Forman, a little shepherd mix with a big personality.

The 32-pounder was rescued from a less-than-ideal living situation, but because he's lived in a home before he's already housebroken with good manners.

Looking for a snuggle buddy on the couch? Forman's your guy. Want a pup to run around with? He's ready and raring to go fast. Love giving belly rubs? Forman's always happy to receive them.

The five-year-old is smart, too, as he's already learned "sit" from the good people at the Houston SPCA. Better start deciding which trick you'll want to teach him next.

Forman's adoption fee is only $55, and includes his microchip, neuter surgery, up-to-date vaccinations, a free sample bag of Hill’s Pet Nutrition, and a free post-exam from any VCA Animal Hospital.

You can meet Forman and all his friends this weekend at Clear the Shelters, or stop by the Houston SPCA any day from 11 am-6 pm.

Ancient dinosaur tracks surface in North Texas park after drought

welcome to jurassic park

Ancient dinosaur tracks were uncovered in a famous Texas park: The tracks, dating back approximately 113 million years, were discovered in a dried-out riverbed at Dallas-Fort Worth-area Dinosaur Valley State Parkabout a four-hour drive from Houston — on August 18.

The tracks were revealed due to the drought. Under normal weather conditions, they would have remained hidden underwater, as they have for these many decades. But thanks to climate change, patches of the Paluxy River, which runs through the park, dried out completely. According to park officials, it brought the tracks to light.

Sadly for dino fans, it's fleeting: With the rains crossing Texas this week, the tracks are anticipated to soon (maybe already) be buried again.

"While these newer dinosaur tracks were visible for a brief amount of time, it brought about the wonder and excitement about finding new dinosaur tracks at the park," said a park spokesperson in a statement. "Dinosaur Valley State Park will continue to protect these 113-million year-old tracks not only for present, but future generations."

The tracks are believed to belong to the Acrocanthosaurus, a dinosaur that would stand about 15 feet tall and weigh nearly seven tons. The other species found at the park is the Sauroposeidon, a much larger dinosaur at 60 feet tall and weighing about 44 tons.

Park rangers at Dinosaur Valley State Park caution that the visibility of any dinosaur tracks depends on how much rain the area receives. If you go there, you may not see these tracks. You probably won't see these tracks.

The tracks have made international news, after a group called the Friends of Dinosaur Valley State Park posted photos showing a clean-up of the space. The discovery has been covered by CNN, the BBC, and major networks. Everyone loves dinosaurs.

Photo courtesy of Houston SPCA

Goodies + good boys and girls abound at Houston SPCA's Clear the Shelters event

Ready For Love

If you've been waiting for the right moment to adopt a furry friend, now is the time. On August 27, the Houston SPCA invites you to participate in its Clear the Shelters adoption event, happening at the Campus for All Animals from 11 am-6 pm.

Felines and canines of all sizes will be available at Houston SPCA, plus other animals you might be interested in such as birds and rabbits.

The day-long event offers extra incentives for adopters — in case those adorable faces aren't enough. Seniors aged 60 and over will receive discounts up to $50 off pet adoption fees,

In addition to adoptable pets, proper pet introductions, and time in the large dog play yards, the campus will host free activities and giveaways throughout the day.

Expect expert chats and live demonstrations about horses and wildlife every hour from noon to 3 pm.

Bring the kids for some fun, free goodies beginning at noon, until supplies last, including custom-made balloon art animals, face painting, fresh handspun cotton candy, and Kona Ice snow cones.

For the adults, Eureka Heights Brewery will be handing out samples of its brews.

During the Clear the Shelters adoption event, every canine and feline adopter will receive a free Hill’s Pet Nutrition gift bag as well as a hurricane preparedness kit (while supplies last, one per family/person).

You can browse the available pets before you go by checking online at houstonspca.org.

If you aren't able to make it to the Clear the Shelters event, don't sweat it. You can stop by the Houston SPCA, located near Memorial Park at 7007 Old Katy Rd., to adopt any time Monday-Sunday, 11 am-6 pm.

Meet your new best friend.

Photo courtesy of Houston SPCA
Meet your new best friend.
Photo courtesy of Houston SPCA

Loki the not-so-mischievous shepherd mix is ready to be your new best friend

Adoptable Pet

You know how they say it's hard to make friends as an adult? Not if you've got Loki by your side.

The four-year-old shepherd mix is as friendly with people as she is other dogs — with the proper introductions, of course.

Her current best friend is Tucker (who's also conveniently up for adoption with the Houston SPCA), with whom she spends hours zooming around the Big Dog yard.

If you've already got a fast furry friend at home, that would be a perfect match for the 48-pound Loki, who is not nearly as mischievous as her Marvel namesake.

Since she's a lady, she much prefers a good game of chase over wrestling or horseplay.

But when the time comes, Loki is more than ready to join you on the couch for a good snuggle sesh.

Loki's adoption fee is only $55, which covers her spay, microchipping, and vaccinations. Plus, you'll get a free bag of food from Hill's Science Diet and a free post-visit from any VCA Animal Hospital.

The Houston SPCA Adoption Center is open every day from 11 am-6 pm, including this weekend for Clear the Shelters.

You can search online or visit in person to meet Loki and all the other adoptable pets.

Loki loves both cuddles and zoomies.

Photo courtesy of Houston SPCA
Loki loves both cuddles and zoomies.
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CultureMap Emails are Awesome

Iconic Texas 'cowboy-style' BBQ joint's Katy outpost closure leads week's top stories

this week's hot headlines

Editor's note: It's time to recap the top stories on CultureMap from this past week.

1. Iconic Texas 'cowboy-style' barbecue joint's Katy location quietly closes. Sadly, the local outpost couldn't replicate the magic of the original in Llano.

2. Ken Hoffman urges Houston travelers to keep calm and enjoy the trip at the new-look Bush IAH. Our columnist explains why travelers might be in "for a big, pleasant surprise at Houston’s Bush-Intercontinental Airport."

3. Houston's most spectacular winter light shows and events dazzle for the holidays. We rounded up where to see dazzling lights with family, friends, and visitors.

4. Disgraced Theranos CEO and former Houstonian Elizabeth Holmes sentenced to 11 years for fraud. Additionally, Holmes faces a fine of $400 million.

5. Houston's NASA leaders 'giddy' after historic Artemis 1 moon flyby. The spacecraft cruised just 81 miles above the lunar surface.

Disney's Strange World is a visual stunner with too many story ideas

Movie Review

For a studio whose entire reason for being seems to rely on creating and sustaining familiar characters, Walt Disney Animation takes its fair share of risks. In the last 10 years, it has released nine films, seven of which were not based on pre-existing properties (the other two were sequels for two of those seven). That’s a lot of new stuff, most of which has succeeded mightily for the perennially-popular leaders in animation.

They’re at it again with Strange World, which takes place in an unknown country/world known as Avalonia, where Jaeger Clade (Dennis Quaid) is a famous explorer whose only desire is to find a way over, around, or through the imposing mountains surrounding the land. His son, Searcher (Jake Gyllenhaal), doesn’t share his enthusiasm, and an early discovery by Searcher of a unique energy source leads to a rift between father and son. Jaeger continues onwards, while Searcher returns home with a plant they call Pando that creates harmony throughout the land.

Years later, when the plant shows signs of failure, Searcher is recruited by Avalonia leader Callisto Mal (Lucy Liu) to help in an expedition to find the source of whatever is attacking Pando. What they and others – including Searcher’s wife Meridian (Gabrielle Union) and son Ethan (Jaboukie Young-White) – find in their travels certainly lives up to the title.

Co-directed by Don Hall and Qui Nguyen and written by Nguyen, the film is a visual stunner. The quality of animation in Disney movies rarely fails to impress, and Strange World is the latest and greatest example. Whether it’s the humans, the landscape, or the innumerable weird creatures that populate the film, there is almost nothing that doesn’t deserve to be stared at and admired.

It’s odd, then, that the story does not come close to matching the graphics. There are a variety of reasons for this failure. Nguyen is the sole credited writer, and he stuffs the film full of big and small ideas, probably too many for this type of project. Searcher’s family and the world of Avalonia and beyond are diverse in multiple ways, to the point that it feels like Nguyen was trying to include everything he could think of in case he never got another shot.

The bigger sin, though, is how quickly the film advances through its plot, often bringing up new things out of nowhere. While Searcher and his family make for an interesting group, the side characters never make an impact. There are also multiple instances where the story takes a turn that makes no sense, either in the world of the film or a storytelling manner.

This includes the final act of the film, which features a significant twist that is presented and accepted in a way that doesn’t fit with the rest of the film. It adds on yet another message in a movie that contains a lot of them, but in a way that even those inclined to believe in what it’s trying to say may wonder why that part is there at all.

The science fiction element of Strange World is a bonanza for the filmmakers and animators to go as wild as they wanted in the visual department. But all that splendor is in service of a story that just doesn’t measure up, making it one of Disney’s less successful offerings in recent years.


Strange World is now playing in theaters.

Photo courtesy of Disney

Searcher (Jake Gyllenhaal), Jaeger (Dennis Quaid), and Ethan Clade (Jaboukie Young-White) in Strange World

Affluent Houston suburb leads region for highest holiday spending budgets in U.S.

Santa Baby

As the most wonderful time of the year approaches, holiday shopping budgets are in the spotlight, and a study from WalletHub lists Sugar Land as one of the top cities where Santa doesn't need a whole lot of help.

According to the personal finance website, the average holiday budget in Sugar Land is $2,793 per person, the 15th highest in the nation. As CultureMap previously reported, Sugar Land residents here make an average of $123,261; the average home price is $337,600.

Fittingly, Fort Bend, home to Sugar Land, was recently named the second-richest county in Texas.

As for Greater Houston, Santa's bag could be a mixed bag, with three suburbs in the top 100, but the urban center falling far behind:

  • Sugar Land, No. 15, $2,793
  • Pearland, No. 36, $2,172
  • The Woodlands, No. 71, $1,733
  • Houston, No. 366, $890

Each year, WalletHub calculates the maximum holiday budget for over 550 U.S. cities "to help consumers avoid post-holiday regret," the website says. The study factors in income, age of the population, and other financial indicators such as debt-to-income ratio, monthly-income-to monthly-expenses ratio and savings-to-monthly-expenses ratio.

Despite nationwide focus on inflation strains, holiday spending is expected to be healthy, and higher than last year.

"The seeming social upheaval in recent times may lead households to spend more in an attempt to take some control of the environment which they can control," says Robert Wright, University of Illinois, Springfield professor emeritus who was among five experts consulted for advice about holiday shopping.

Elsewhere in Texas, 10 North Texas cities landed in this year's top 100 heftiest holiday budgets:

  • Flower Mound, No. 3, $3,531 (The only Texas city in the top 10)
  • Allen, No. 17 , $2,670
  • Frisco, No. 37, $2,150
  • McKinney, No. 45, $2,070
  • Plano, No. 50, $1,999
  • Carrollton, No. 55, $1,837
  • Richardson, No. 58, $1,823
  • North Richland Hills, No. 81, $1,658
  • Lewisville, No. 90, $1,630
  • Fort Worth, No. 366, $890
  • Dallas, No. 401, $845

Spending in the Austin area won't be ho-hum with the Capitol City's budget of $1,705 ranked at No. 78. Two Austin suburbs, Cedar Park (budget $2,855) and League City (budget $2,541) ranked 14 and 20, respectively.

Things don't look too jolly for San Antonio, ranked at No. 431 with an average budget of $803 or Pharr, which was the lowest ranked city in Texas.

At No. 553 with a budget of $487, the Rio Grande Valley city came in just a few spots ahead of last place Hartford, CT with a budget of only $211.