Fans of adopted shelter dogs like to let folks know where their beloved best friends came from. Of course, four-footed fashion statements also proclaim pound-pup pride, as Project Blue Collar proves. Marketing bright blue dog collars to promote dog rescue –- what an idea!
It’s the brainchild of two dedicated dog rescuers, Carole Feeny and Kristin Waters of Cincinnati, who teamed up after crossing paths at their CrossFit gym.
Early in 2012, Carole realized that the public’s perception of rescue dogs has been largely influenced by, she says, “the marketing strategies of well-funded national animal welfare groups. They engender our pity with tragic images of animals in need, and leave us thinking of them as damaged goods.” Instead, Carole wanted to show that dog adoption isn’t just the right, noble thing to do –- it’s cool, chic, and fun, too.
Inspired by the wristband cause-marketing craze, she had an aha! moment. Why not let rescue dogs market their own cause by wearing a bright-blue collar that proudly reads “Support the Underdog”? That’s how Project Blue Collar was born, with Carole the founder and president and Kristin the co-founder and chief relationship officer.
“Our movement is in its infancy and already we’ve ‘Blue Collared’ about 1,600 dogs from Hawaii to Alaska to Maine,” Kristin says.
For dogged rescuers, saving canine lives is personal, often motivated by one dog who touched us profoundly. Carole and Kristin are no exception: “I was going through a pretty tough breakup,” Carole recalls. “Not only did I need something to divert my attention, but my old gal, Roxie, a Boxer mix, rather missed having doggy friends around. I thought it’d be a good time to foster.
So she contacted the Stray Animal Adoption Program.
“They said they had a puppy with a broken jaw and he needed somewhere quiet to heal for a few weeks before becoming available for adoption,” Carole says. “They brought over the cutest 10-week-old chocolate Lab mix I’d ever seen. Well, Buster turned into a foster failure who taught me just how wonderful and rewarding fostering is.”
Since then, Buster has helped Carole successfully foster hundreds of dogs (Roxie passed away in December at age 14).
“Buster knows just how to care for fosters and teach them basic rules,” Carole says. “He’s never jealous, and really seems to understand his role as a foster brother. He’s been a true blessing.”
For Kristin, who moved to Cincinnati from California in 2006, volunteering at the local no-kill shelter Save the Animals Foundation was, she recalls, a way “to make new friends and plug into the community.” But there was a downside: “I was saddened to see that while some dogs got adopted quickly, others were passed over and heading for a life sentence at STAF.”
One in particular, Memphis, got little interest from adopters and became increasingly difficult for volunteers to handle. Volunteers began to lose hope for this tennis-ball-obsessed black Lab, considered the No. 1 biter at the shelter. But Kristin refused to give up on Memphis.
“I signed on to be his mentor. We spent the next 18 months — bite-free — as running/walking partners, spectators at my stepson’s soccer games, and snuggling buddies. I saw a completely different dog outside of the shelter, and wanted others to see his true colors.”
After Kristin shot catchy videos of Memphis, the dog went from invisible to in-demand -– and found his forever home nearly three years to the date after his arrival at the shelter. Good work! However, Kristin reminds us, “There are so many more Memphises waiting for their chance.”
Kristin, who admits to being “a repeated foster failure,” now has five dogs: Lucy, a 10-year-old Beagle mix; Maggie, a 7-year-old Lab mix; Noelle, a 4-year-old Shepherd/Lab mix; and 2-year-old Shih Tzu/Poodle mix siblings, Weechee and Fletcher.
“We also have two cats who are convinced they are dogs — can you blame them?” she asks.
Why is the M.O. of Project Blue Collar so timely right now?
“Dogs are out in public more now than they ever have been, and dog parks are now a large part of a dog owner’s social calendar,” Carole says. “Project Blue Collar gives rescue dog owners a chance to show their pride and share their stories, in person and on Facebook. It’s a way to connect and start a conversation. It’s a chance to educate and inspire others to make adoption their first option.”
Carole and Kristin proudly tell the tale of Ozzy, one of Carole’s former fosters. Accompanying Carole to CrossFit, the Golden Retriever-Cattle Dog mix locked eyes with a man named Tom, who requested that Carole bring the pup back the following week to meet his partner Megan.
“They’d been searching for a puppy and visiting breeders of Wheaten Terriers and Bernese Mountain Dogs, but didn’t seem to click with any of the pups,” she says. “But from the moment they met Ozzy, it was love at first sight.”
Carole chalks it up to that rescue-dog charisma.
“It’s as if these dogs carry on the legacy of kindness they’ve received on their journey to a forever home,” she concludes. “There’s something unique about rescue dogs that pulls us in, that elicits emotions hidden deep inside and makes us vulnerable to a whole new type of love.”
Ozzy, renamed T.C. (Thunder Chief), now walks around encouraging all who meet him to adopt — he simply “Blue Collars” them with that snazzy cause-marketing accessory he wears around his neck!
Check out Project Blue Collar.
Read about these other inspirational Dogster Heroes:
- Nowzad Dogs Saves the Strays of War-Torn Afghanistan
- Lorenzo Borghese is Prince Charming to Rescued Dogs
- An Extreme Mutt Makeover by CARA Welfare Philippines
- Meet Vivian, a Pit Bull Therapy Dog and Grief Counselor
Do you know of a rescue hero — dog, human, or group — we should profile on Dogster? Write us at email@example.com.