Married. Female. Two kids and two dogs. Lives in a suburb of Kansas City. Writer for a Kansas City magazine.
Read into that all you want – that sums me up.
I probably sound boring. Or exciting. However that sounds, you have an image of me in your head but there’s no way of knowing who I am based off that description.
If a camera followed me around, you would find out more about me. I am quiet, sometimes even awkwardly quiet. I don’t like attention on me. You’ll notice I probably have my phone in my hands too much. I’m just reading. Thinking. Trying to find something to make me laugh. I write a lot. I am constantly wondering if I am good at that.
Zoom out and you’ll see my kids are school aged. Scott and I are in what some call the “honeymoon of parenting years.”
Our kids are independent enough to make their own small meals. But they are still young enough to catch the microwave on fire then hightail it down the street screaming, “THE HOUSE IS BURNING DOWN! WE’RE ALL GOING TO DIE!”
My kids are, for the most part, easy. Our life – it’s getting easier.
And when life gets easy, Scott and I immediately purchase a puppy.
Social media said so.
That’s Stella – female, black, labrador retriever, loves ice cubes.
But those cameras are still rolling. Meet Stella – clothing is her preferred chew toy. She is a simple dog. She is simple in that she doesn’t care for nice things. In fact, brand new hard wood floors is her favorite place to squat and pee. But Stella is a good running partner. She fits in well with an active family. She also loves to cuddle, despite her ever-growing body. Stella just needs time to grow up and she will be the perfect lab for our family.
Now, that is painting a real picture of a puppy. But with words not a camera.
My friends in New York City speak for the rescue dogs. Pup Pals mission is to increase the rate of foster and rescue dog adoptions. They do this by making a high-quality video production, highlighting the dog’s personality. They rate the dog’s personality in categories such as housing, social skills and grooming.
Fosters and shelters have found that these individual dog videos produced by Pup Pals get dogs placed in forever homes faster. When one dog finds a forever home, that opens space for another dog to get adopted. Quick turn-arounds are a good thing.
Ladies and gentleman – Justin Liebergen and Samantha Northart, creators of Pup Pals.
Me: Justin. Samantha. Let me get this straight – your mission is get dogs rescued faster by making short videos of the dog, highlighting their personality instead of listing the traditional stats. Your videos includes positive and negatives aspects of the dog so the potential family is not surprised by their addition.
So you are basically the ESPN highlight reel for dogs. Have you considered sponsoring the Puppy Bowl?
Samantha: Anytime we can combine puppies and football, I’m on board. But it’s not the puppies who need our help the most. It’s the dogs living in foster and shelter homes.
Me: How did you come up with this idea?
Samantha: I’ve been working in foster and rescue for over a decade and felt there was a need to showcase some really great pups that were just getting looked over. I fell victim of taking home a pup who wasn’t right for me. But I didn’t want to bother the foster family and not give the pup a home. I realized there must be lots of people who probably don’t even reach out to adopt because they feel they might do the same. I felt there was a better way for people to see the true personalities of the dog than just a couple photos and generic bio.
Me: You guys are based in New York City. What other cities have you helped? And will you be coming to Kansas City? Dogs love Oklahoma Joe’s BBQ. They have strong noses. I just know these things.
Justin: You mean Joe’s KC BBQ? Yeah, I know we still call it Oklahoma Joe’s. It looks like we’ll be in Kansas City in October. So far, we’ve worked in NYC, Cincinnati, Indianapolis and Los Angeles.
Me: So here’s my favorite part about Pup Pals – honesty in the ranking system. So the dog up for grabs doesn’t like cats. That’s cool. You make sure your viewers know that.
I know the rescues know the personalities of the dogs. But how much time do you spend with the dogs when you’re filming? Do you make your own assessment about the dog’s personality or do your rely on the rescues description?
Samantha: Thanks. It’s important to us that we are honest about the dogs. We want the fur-ever family to be a true fur-ever family. You don’t get that by pretending challenges don’t exist. It’s just finding the right fit.
Justin: Typically, we spend about an hour with each dog. We usually rely on the foster families and rescue workers who specifically work with that dog to help with information. And since dogs don’t lie, we’ll know pretty quickly if something they say isn’t up to snuff – or sniff – so far everyone we have worked with has been wonderful in helping us highlight these pups.
Me: Have you ever been bitten while filming?
Justin: By the dogs or the people?
Me: Have you been peed on?
Justin: Again, we’re talking about the dogs, right?
Me: Went home with chewed on camera equipment?
Justin: Actually, no to all. But I certainly bring a few sets of wipes for all the noses that hit the lens.
Me: Stop it. That’s adorable! Wipes! But seriously, you can tell me. We are in an honest space here. Our puppy, Stella, bites, pees and chews all the time. Would you like a puppy named, Stella?
Justin: Yes, please! My top dog, Cosmo, would love a Bonnie to his Clyde.
Me: AH! Halloween costumes! This is my whole world right now. I love Halloween. Ok, just kidding. I’ll take back Stella now. I need her for Halloween.
Justin: Hey, wait!
Me: Let’s talk cats. Will you be extending Pup Pals to cats too?
Justin: We would love for this to expand to cats as well as all sorts of pets. For right now, we are dog fans so we thought we would start in our wheelhouse.
Me: I think the biggest fear in adding a dog to a family is you don’t know what you’ll get.
Hold on a sec. The dishwasher? Really?
Ok. If everyone could pick a dog based on their personality, I think we would all be dog owners. Look! Stella wants to be Bonnie for Halloween too! Yay! Justin, go get Clyde.
Now, our other dog Belle – the Yorkie Poo, we did rescue.
My only requirement of Belle, when we got her 6 years ago, was she sleep through the night because I had a newborn (named Kate) on her way. And Belle did sleep through the night. She’s the perfect lap dog. She’s not yippy but she’s protective of her family. She ran up to a coyote about a month ago when it came into her yard. The coyote picked her up and ran. She would have died that night but Scott saved her.
Justin: That sounds like a great dog!
Me: She really is. And I think you both are the “Scott” in Belle’s story. And the coyote represents the needle. Sing it, Sarah McLachlan.
Samantha: We will talk about that, actually. There are a lot of stats and figures about rescues and shelters that are depressing. Instead, we are trying to be hopeful in our approach. We focus on dogs who are in safe situations – either a foster or a no-kill shelter/rescue. When you see a video, it will be about if that dog is perfect for you. Not just “do you need to get it safety.” Our job is to help the shelters by highlighting the over-looked dogs. Once a dog finds a home, it opens up space to save more dogs.
Me: I love that. The dogs think you’re heroes too. But they can’t talk.
Me: Hey, you brought CLYDE!
Justin: It’s Cosmo.
Me: Catch ’em if you can!
Ok, so what we’re here for – money. My kids think it grows on trees. And dogs like to pee on that tree. Please explain to the readers what all these generous contributions go towards.
Justin: The donations go towards travel, shooting and post production. Each time we visit a new city, we also start to put together a local team. We work in multiple cities simultaneously. Our goal is to meet with rescues, film and highlight ten dogs per week. The long term goal is to have a team in every major metro, highlighting ten dogs a week in each city.
Samantha: We don’t ask for any money from the fosters and rescues because part of our goal is to increase their revenue. We do this by decreasing the amount of time and money each dog spends while in rescue.
Me: So for now, we are “relying on the kindness of strangers.”
This may sound terrible – but usually when I say that someone else agrees with me – but with a donation to Pup Pals, we get thank you gifts. I get to help a dog find a home AND I get a Starbucks gift card! It’s like you know how much I love a good pumpkin spice latte.
Samantha: Me too, girl! Which is why the “latte challenge” is so near and dear to my heart. We are hoping folks will take it with us. It’s the $65 Latte Perk level. That’s the cost of one latte per month for a year. So just think, “skip a latte, save a life.” But let’s be real, I’m still gonna get my latte.
Me: I want to thank both of you for chatting with me. It’s refreshing to watch good happen in the world. A dog is an eternal optimist. They shouldn’t be defined as just as male, neutered, hound/lab mix, loves Bonnie.
At a point, they aren’t a dog anymore. They’re just a family member that can’t talk.
Justin and Samantha: Thanks for having us!
If you would like more information on Pup Pals, please visit the Pup Pals page. RIGHT HERE. There’s a dog out there that needs your help. If anything, just watch some cute dogs all day.