Dylan Royce, a Radnor Township police officer, was working a late shift one night when someone brought in a dog that had nowhere else to go. Her family couldn’t keep her. At that hour, placement options were few. So Royce, a dog lover, decided he’d look out for the super-loving brindle pup named Gidget until he figured something out.
Two years later, Royce and Gidget are now Mr. and Ms. October in the latest edition of a pets-and-pinup calendar: Gidget standing on two legs and Royce squatting without a shirt.
The calendar, Hunks for Hounds (and Cats!) 2023, raises funds and awareness for some of the city’s neediest animals. This year, the money will go to help the city’s approximately 400,000 community cats — homeless felines and kittens that live outdoors. Philadoptables also gives support to other animal groups through its various fund-raisers.
With Hunks for Hounds, it’s raining men, more cats and dogs.
“This is our ninth year doing the calendar. All the services are donated,” said Michelle Helms, Philadoptables president. “All we do is buy lunch on Saturday and Sunday for the volunteers and the photographer. It’s beautiful.”
Apparently calendar consumers think so, too. Philadoptables has filled orders from as far away as the United Kingdom.
The men aren’t professional models, just local guys willing to partially disrobe for a good cause. Some get nominated by a friend or family member. Others volunteer themselves.
Personal trainers are represented, as one might expect. This year, Helms said, there’s also a scientist, a city employee, and members of law enforcement, among other professionals.
Looks count when Philadoptables picks its calendar guys, but so do their stories.
To keep things real, the animals photographed with the men are all rescues — either their own pets or on loan from local groups. One of the dogs, Sisco, a gray-and-white shih tzu, is up for adoption through City of Elderly Love, a rescue for senior pets.
Alison Dunlap, the Cherry Hill photographer who donates her services, said the animals are a big icebreaker.
“I think what makes them most comfortable is having the animal there,” Dunlap said. “It’s such a fun distraction. The dog will just start kissing them and then they crack up.”
One thing the men have in common is they’re all animal lovers.
Matt Cowper, a vice president with the Beasley Media Group, shares the November page with a blue- and brown-eyed rescue pup named Robyn. He grew up with three dogs, and if his 6-year-old has anything to say about it, another one is soon on the way.
The radio executive is vice president of the Darren Daulton Foundation. So when colleagues involved with Philadoptables told him about the calendar, he decided to volunteer.
“It’s for an amazing charity,” Cowper said. “We’re helping pets get adopted. We’re building awareness.”
Blaise Lacca, a Philadelphia police officer and the calendar’s Mr. January, put his dog Ruby through his job, too.
Several months ago, a puppy was shot in Philly. “She was actually in the news,” Lacca said.
When he learned the pup was being taken care of by a rescue he’d volunteered with, he asked to meet her.
“We just clicked,” he said.
He and Ruby volunteered for the calendar, despite the comments it earned him from other members of the Rolling Badges, a motorcycle club of law enforcement officers, firefighters, and former members of the military.
“My motorcycle club teased the hell out of me,” Lacca said. “They said they’re going to print it and make my picture into place mats.”
Gustavo Ugarte, a pet fashion designer from Northeast Philly, has had nothing but positive feedback from his friends and gym buddies. It’s also drawn new visitors to his Wow Wow Ugarte Collection Facebook page.
This is Ugarte’s second time in the calendar.
“I almost had a heart attack when I opened the calendar and I saw I made the cover. Oh my God!”
He shares the honor with two very cute kittens.
Tim Zeltner, a personal trainer with Prime Intensity Training in Conshohocken, was encouraged to do the calendar by a friend. This past spring, his beloved dog Scout, whom he adopted 14 years before, died.
“I thought this was a good way to honor his memory,” Zeltner said.
Any awkwardness he felt was dispelled by a litter of husky puppies.
“I highly recommend it,” Zeltner said. “I’ve never done anything like that before in my life. It takes a lot of courage, whether you’re physically fit or not, to put yourself out there.”
Quite a few of his female friends have bought the calendars, he added, “whether it was just for me, the dogs, or both.”
Hunks for Hounds calendars retail for $20 with free shipping through philadoptables.org.