One of the objectives I had when starting this blog was to feature people who are doing good things and doing so in creative or unusual ways that could inspire the rest of us to figure out how to fit more good into our daily lives. A great example of this is Kyla Duffy of Up for Pups, Happy Tails Books, and the show Don’t Kill Bill. Kyla has found ways to help animals using her art as an aerialist and through other means which we don’t always see: she has created a publishing company and excels at public education. I love her entrepreneurial spirit and multitasking ability which no doubt helps introduce many to the animal welfare movement or helps them identify ways to live their best life.
I met Kyla last year at the Best Friends Animal Society No More Homeless Pets Conference. Aside from my excitement to see a fellow Coloradoan, I was instantly struck by her energy and her ability to use her strengths towards the greater good. She shares her life with her husband, Tux and Chewie (adopted cats), Bill (an adopted Boston Terrier), and they usually have one foster dog in the home. She was kind enough to tell me about herself and her work. Hopefully, we will all find ways to use our gift or interests for the greater good like Kyla!
What inspired you to become involved in animal welfare? Do you rescue, foster, transport?
My passion for animal welfare is fairly recent, as I had no idea about the suffering going on in the dog breeding (and cat breeding) industry. Three years ago I was simply a person who wanted a dog. I went online and found Petfinder.com, a website listing adoptable dogs from rescues and shelters all over the country. I knew I wanted a Boston Terrier – I think I had seen one on TV and just thought that if I had one in my home, I’d never stop laughing. I found MidAmerica Boston Terrier Rescue and contacted them about a dog. My husband didn’t really want us to have a dog, so I talked with them about fostering. The volunteer’s exact words were, “Honey, if your husband doesn’t want a dog, he definitely doesn’t want to foster. You never know what you’re gonna get.” Two weeks later we had our first foster dog.
The foster dogs I’ve met have been truly amazing and have changed our lives. One in particular, Bill, had a lasting impact on us. He was our second foster, and our only “foster failure” in 42 foster dogs-to-date (an endearing term for when a foster family keeps their foster dog). He was almost a true failure on our part, as after having him for only an hour, he escaped our yard and got lost in the woods for three weeks! This was after he had spent his first two years in a chicken-wire cage as a puppy mill breeding dog, which left him severely psychologically damaged (PTSD at its finest).
Bill was found by some kind-hearted people who happened to be walking where he was splayed out eating a carcass. He had lost seven pounds (a feat for a 20-pound dog) and had a gash so deep in his arm that we could see the muscle. Needless to say, during the arduous rehabilitation process, which truly took years, we decided to keep him. Three years later, he’s still quirky, but at least he gets in and out of the car by himself and can hike off leash. We love him.
Since Bill, many dogs have come and gone through our home on their way to their forever homes. We also fly for Pilots and Paws on occasion, a non-profit air transport service for rescued pets. My husband Dylan is a pilot and that’s his contribution to the cause. We really enjoy flying them around Colorado and Wyoming.
Q: What inspired you to start your company Happy Tails Books?
I kept thinking, how can I do more to help people understand how great rescued dogs really are and how life-changing volunteering with rescue can be for both dogs and humans. One day I woke up with the idea for Happy Tails Books. I thought I could publish books full of stories from foster and forever parents, highlighting life with rescued dogs. Then I thought to separate books by breed because it would give would-be dog owners a window into life with the breed, and hey, we all have our favorites. I started with Boston Terriers because that’s what I was most familiar with. I had no idea how to edit or publish a book, but I just went for it. Luckily a friend introduced me to Lowrey Mumford, a former journalist and avid dog lover, and she’s been editing the Lost Souls: FOUND! series with me ever since. Since June 2009, we’ve published books on 14 breeds, a book on all dogs (mixed-breed and purebred), a book on cats, an audio book, and several other titles. We recently branched out into t-shirts (my favorite is our series that has great dog photos and says, “Adopted. Who’s next?”) and note cards. All of our products are available at http://happytailsbooks.com , and our books are also available on Amazon.com (paperback/kindle) and BN.com (Nook).
Happy Tails Books is unique in that we truly are a community effort. We rely on the great stories people have to share to make our books happen. Each book has about 50 stories in it, so that’s a lot of animal-lovers we’ve connected with! We donate no less than 25% of net profits back to rescues, although our donations tend to total much more. Our products serve to educate people about rescue and breed characteristics, but above all, the books are fun to read, the shirts are fun to wear, and the stationery is fun to write on. After all, dogs are fun, and to me, the challenge of rehabilitation rescued dogs is especially fun. Since we started, we’ve raise $17,000+ for animal rescue organizations, which is pretty darn good considering how small we are!
What is the goal of Up for Pups?
Up For Pups is a 501(c)3 non-profit organization dedicated to improving the lives of mistreated domestic animals through creative public education initiatives. We are currently focused on the Don’t Kill Bill Experience and the Road to Rescue Best Practices Manual.
About Don’t Kill Bill:
Don’t Kill Bill is a unique stage show produced by author/aerialist Kyla Duffy to inspire rescue volunteering and raise awareness about adoption. This emotional journey through the lives of 11 adopted dogs and Bill, a puppy mill survivor turned mountain goat (he loves to hike and rock climb), brings animal rescue to the forefront of people’s thoughts and conversations.
The show helps rescue organizations in several ways. First Up For Pups uses this show to reach out to people about volunteer opportunities. Second, each show has a raffle, whereas each attendee gets a free raffle ticket and at intermission they can also buy more tickets from rescues. The rescues keep that money, and at the end of the night, the winner gets to choose his or her favorite rescue to get the grand prize ($100+).
The next Don’t Kill Bill show will be at the Lakewood Cultural Center on March 10th, 2012.
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