In our continuation of Be Rescued stories, Stephanie and Marbles’ story reminded us that there are things in life worth fighting for – even if it means losing your job.
Second Prize Winner – Stephanie Gondek and Marbles
Marbles story is a bit of a long one, but she originally came into the shelter I was working at, as a skinny stray about 7 months old. A family had found her running down a country road, and because she didn't get along with their dog, they brought her in. She absolutely adored the kids and was nothing but sweet with the people she saw. However, she was very scared in her kennel and began barking at people when they walked by, and hid in the corner of her cage as well.
Once her 48-hour quarantine period was up, I was the only one who would take her out to walk or play. She absolutely LOVED meeting new people, loved to play, and just wanted affection and treats. When she went through her behavior assessment, she did great on everything except for the food. She was also very protective of her kennel, which are two very typical traits of stray dogs who had been out on their own for a while.
At the time, the executive director and shelter manager were working on tightening up their euthanasia policies by limiting the dogs that would be able to go to rescue groups and choosing euthanasia over helping the dogs overcome their issues. They had decided that she qualified for euthanasia because of her food possession and her kennel behavior. I told them that I would take her and sign off on any liability. It was agreed that I would be able to take her home, but the day I was to take her, they sat me down for a meeting at the end of the day and said I couldn't. I made every case I could for her, even the fact that it was obvious breed discrimination because they had adopted out labs and golden retrievers with questionable histories, but were going to euthanize a scared, skinny pit bull puppy with no bite history.
The meeting lasted for about 3 hours with me trying to fight for Marbles, and overall, fight for all the animals who were going to be entering the shelter and having to deal with stricter policies. During the meeting, I decided to give my two weeks notice because I couldn't work with an organization that took advantage of euthanasia instead of working with the animals. Instead, I was told to gather my belongings and leave the shelter that night. I wasn't allowed back, even to be with Marbles when they scheduled to euthanize her that upcoming Monday. Saying goodbye to her that night was the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do - thinking I was never going to see that sweet pup again.
As soon as I left the shelter that evening, I called my parents to give them the news, and then called my good friend at the Buddy Up Animal Society to let her know what had happened. Between my friends who volunteered their time to the shelter who had all met Marbles, and my friends at BUAS, somehow they got the shelter to agree to sign Marbles over to Buddy Up. My Buddy Up friend, Mandy, delivered Marbles to me at 10 p.m. on that Sunday night. I fostered her for a year, spending much of my free time working on her training and socialization skills around other dogs. In the end, I knew I could never say goodbye to her again, so I signed the adoption papers to make it official.
I love Marbles to pieces and she has definitely completed my pack at home. She wants nothing but to be with someone, even if it's just sitting around watching a movie. I knew I was right about this pup, that's why I fought as hard as I could to save her. Everyone who meets her can't believe how close she came to losing her life because she is such a friendly, loving dog. She has taught me a lot about dogs and myself in her training/socialization process. I’ve learned about what’s important and how to stand up for what you believe in. Yes, I lost my job fighting for this sweet little dog, but in the end, she saved me from a place that didn't have the same beliefs I had about animal rescue. I thank Marbles each day for opening up new opportunities and giving me a chance to educate others about this wonderful breed.
We were overwhelmed by the responses to our Be Rescued Campaign in May. From New York to Nevada, your stories were heartfelt, inspiring, and reminded us of how pets can truly change lives for the better – which is something we have always believed in and advocated for here at Up Country.
For the next two weeks, we will be sharing these stories with you, along with pictures of the furry faces that have made a difference in their owner’s lives each and every day. We encourage you to keep sharing your stories, as well as to provide shout-outs to the shelters that also make a difference.
Thanks again to all who entered and to all the selfless individuals who advocate on behalf of animals. Without you, he campaign to Be Rescued would never have been possible!
Grand Prize Winner – Kate Frederick and Leah
I always tell everyone that Leah is the rescue pup who rescued me. In the fall of 2011, while suffering from depression and chronic back pain, my husband and I adopted Leah from Homeward Bound Dog Rescue. I fell in love.
At the time, I was miserable with my current employment, which I had spent 6 years working towards, earning both undergraduate and graduate degrees. I was emotionally eating and drinking, which caused me to gain more weight than I'd ever gained in my life, as I'd always been an athlete. I was also dealing with back pain, caused by an injury, but only made worse by my depression and subsequent inactivity. I decided that a major life change was needed, so I racked my brain for what I was passionate about and where I found true contentment.
My epiphany was the simple act of walking Leah: nature, exercise, fresh air, the joy on Leah's face, and her wagging tail. The catharsis resulting from walking my rescue dog inspired me to become active again, get back in shape, lose 25 pounds, and start my own dog walking business, Dog Walks of Canaan. None of this would have happened without Leah.
I can honestly say that she rescued me from my depression and enabled me to fight for my happiness again. She is truly the rescue pup who rescued me - she saved my life and I will forever be grateful!
Who on earth would buy beautiful dog collars? Too fancy. Not necessary. But back in 1984, Alice Nichols thought otherwise. She was a teacher and administrator at a private elementary school in Rhode Island, and had been wanting to start a business. After looking into different industries, she was drawn to the potential of the pet industry – growing by 17% a year, despite lacking innovation or style.
Alice’s own newly adopted German Shepard was wearing a plain collar. The options at that time were leather or nylon, and Alice knew she could do better. She’d spent her junior year in high school as an exchange student, living with the family of an industrial designer in Sweden. The way the Swedish approach the most utilitarian objects – transforming them with color, pattern and texture – was not lost on Alice.
There were very few women in the field back then. The ad agency she hired to name her company was so sure that her venture would fail, they recommended “a generic, non-doggy name” so that Alice could use it for other products! But that was not to be. The collars and leads sold. Designer Donna Bodell came on board. The brand developed. And the company that nobody thought could…did.
“I’m so proud of our accomplishments,” says Alice, “especially the Henley clip.” She’s referring to Up Country’s patented pet tag holder, an easy-change system for switching tags. Alice developed it with an industrial design professor from the Rhode Island School of Design and it has helped to define Up Country as an innovation leader.
Alice has an undergraduate degree in European History/Economics from Wheaton College in Norton, MA, and a Masters degree from Brown University in modern British and American history. With a husband, two sons, three grandchildren, a few stray cats and an adorable new puppy, Alice’s life is hectic, but happy – and so are thousands of pet owners who never again have to settle for ordinary.
Do you have a comment or question for Alice? Don’t hesitate! Click here to join the discussion.
Lesley Bowers was doing just fine. A great job in radio sales, a nice salary, bonuses – and a part-time faculty position at Howard University, teaching ownership and finance. Little did she know that an assignment she gave to her students would change her life.
The task was to write a business plan, and Lesley’s was for an imaginary pet boutique. Just then, as if by design, an acquaintance asked her the game-changing question. His retail space had become available and he wondered if Lesley wanted it. And so, almost overnight, P.U.P.S. (Pawsitively Unique Pet Shop) of Lewes opened in a tiny-but-charming retail space in Lewes, Delaware.
Today, seven years later, Lesley’s store fills a 1,000 sq. ft. space, on the Lewes version of Main Street. Her entrepreneurial success story has been told to a worldwide audience in the pages of Money magazine. Her “pet events” like the annual BarkFest and her regular Yappy Hours give the shop’s marketing a creative spin. And Up Country is so pleased that our collars, leads and accessories have been woven into Lesley’s success.
Lesley still teaches part-time at Howard University, in the School of Communication. The school’s strong emphasis on business is a great fit. The upperclassmen she teaches are learning first hand from the definitive entrepreneur, who encourages them to “follow your passion.”
And so the woman who once went to work every day in buttoned-down business attire now spends her days caring for customers who are decidedly more furry. Has she ever regretted her decision to leave the corporate world behind? We suspect you already know the answer, but we’ll let Lesley say it in her own words: “I’m the luckiest person in the world, because of my customers. I’ve never once had a nasty experience. Animal people are the nicest people on earth.”
Of course Lesley carries Up Country’s line. If you have a comment, a question on this, or any post, we are waiting to hear from you!
Looking back, it’s clear that Donna Bodell was in the right place at the right time. When she said hello to Alice Nichols 18 years ago – introduced by a mutual friend – she had no idea she would one day be Director of Design and Marketing at Up Country.
Donna has always loved art. She drew in grammar and middle school, and when she got to high school, her life’s direction would become clear. Guided by wonderful teachers, she was exposed to other mediums like batik, pastels, oils and even an etching press – and after graduation, she was accepted to one of the best art schools in the country.
At the Rhode Island School of Design, she was “a normal artsy kid,” surrounded by hundreds of eccentric, colorful students. All her hard work earned her a degree in Illustration and a wide-open future. “RISD teaches their students to be problem solvers,” says Donna. “And to this day, I’m thankful for that.”
Donna’s first job was at Boston’s Museum of Fine Arts, where some of the world’s most magnificent art stocked her toolbox. She designed posters, note cards and other paper goods for the museum gift shop. Before long, Donna fell in love, got married, settled in rural Rhode Island, began a family and met Alice Nichols.
Alice had a fast growing company that made dog collars. Almost immediately, the entrepreneur and the artist joined talents. Fast forward to 2012, and Donna still loves coming to work every day. She’s still living in beautiful rural Rhode Island, with her husband and three girls – one of which is a 10-year-old black lab named BeeBee who joined the family as a puppy.
Do you have a comment for Donna? A story? Thoughts to share? Don’t make us beg! Click here.