Episode 50 – Carole Feeny

Carole Feeny who Co-Founded Project Blue Collar talks with us today about the global movement that celebrates rescue dogs. Project Blue Collar started back in 2012 as a way to identify rescue dogs and to hear their story. Carole shares with us the inspiration behind the movement and what they are looking forward to next.

Welcome to the Professionals and Animal Rescue podcast, where a goal is to introduce you two amazing people helping animals and share how you can get involved with animal rescue. This podcast is probably sponsored by do bert dot com. Do Bert is a free website designed to connect volunteers with rescues and shelters and the only site that automates rescue relay transport. Now on with our show. Carol Feeny, one of the co founders of Project Blue Collar, joins us today to talk about the global movement that celebrates rescue dogs. Project Blue Collar was launched in 2012 is a way to identify a rescue dog, hear their story and show rescue pride. Their goal is to have more people adopt and not shop when adding a pet to their family while being an ambassador and demonstrating that rescue dogs are wonderful dogs. Before starting Project Blue Collar, her career path was in business development, and she spent the majority of her career with American Express. She’s also studied conservation around the world and, in her spare time travels to Africa as a volunteer. Oreste Carol has been a lifelong animal lover who also serves as a foster mom for a stray animal adoption program. And she’s fostered hundreds of dogs and found them the perfect home. She’s passionate about the education of rescue animals and making sure they have a voice. Hey, Carol, Thanks for coming on the program today. Thank you. Thanks for having me. Let’s forget this. Yeah, me too. So tell us a little bit about you. Give us your background and kind of how you got into animal rescue. Probably. I’d have to say I was born into it. I just was born as an animal rescuer. Have been rescuing animals since my earliest memories. You know, not that my parents enjoyed that part of it, but I was that kid who brought everything home. But it was really You know, when social media started and you realized that, um, you weren’t alone because I had never met anyone else like me until, like, all of a sudden, you’re finding all these other animal rescuers, and it’s like, Oh, my God, there’s a lot of us out here. Yeah, and it was so cool to see how it literally how, like Facebook alone’s revolutionized animal rescue. Um, and then I started getting involved, you know, more solidified bases on, got involved with the rescue and started fostering. And I’ve been fostering now for nine years, and I’ve had over 400 dogs and cats. Yeah, that is awesome. How many of those ended up being foster failures? Actually, only three. Okay. Oh, I know this because I capped myself a tw three. Um, yeah. No, I honestly wanted to foster. Fail on it would say on just about every one of them. It’s interesting, cause, you know, people are more This is going to get into project blue collar, too. But people are, you know, have this perception that animal that rescue animals have behavioral problems and they’re not healthy. And of all of my fosters, I think I’ve probably only had maybe. And I would say I couldn’t even count on one hand those that have had some serious behavioral issues. I mean, there, how did you said over 400? Yeah. I mean, it’s so rare. They’re really great. Yeah. I think people have that perception. Often times when the animals Aaron a stressful environment, like the shelter. They’re acting in one way. But once you get them into ah, foster situation like what with you. They’re true. Personality comes out, 0 100%. That’s such a stressful environment for them and they’re not going to show Well, so now you’ve been doing Foster for how many years now? Nine. Okay, and then what kind of cause you to morph that foster into what you’re doing now? So it’s interesting. I always was shocked. Two things really stuck out with me, as always, shocked when people at people’s reactions when did meet a dog out in public and, ah, they’d learn it was a rescue dog and their reaction was like, Oh, wow, really, that’s a rescue, I think. Why are they shocked? And then it, you know, big Aha! Moment One time hit me when I realized it’s all these Sarah McLachlan commercials, and they leave people thinking that these animals were damaged. They’re damaged. And ah, secondly, I was always super impressed whenever I would stop and talk to someone about their dog 100% of the time. If the dog was a rescue, the people could not wait to tell the story. Yep, they’re so proud. And I thought, God, it’s so beautiful, you know, and I wanted a way for people to be able to number one, recognize a rescue dog out in public one that they may not be interacting with, that they can see that it’s well behaved and they see. And I wanted the world to be able to see that rescue dogs are great. And two, I wanted a way for people to be able to share their story and let people know that they have a rescue dog because they’re proud of it and they should be proud of it. And that’s when I came up with Project Blue Collar, and it’s just a way to identify rescue dogs out in public. So tell us a little bit more. I mean, obviously project blue color dot com. It’s the site, but I mean, what a great what a great back story to that. But tell us, what is blue collar do? What is project blue collar? Do? What’s your mission? What’s your goal? Yeah, so, like when I started it, it was funny because I had the idea and I thought, God, I’ve got they’ve got to be able to be recognized on Republican, and it hit me one day like it’s back when we were all wearing our, you know, wrist bands, you know, live strong and all the rubber wrist bands. And they all had a color that identified the mean the, you know, whatever the cause Waas and I thought, Why don’t I just do that for rescue dogs? Why don’t they have their own band? And so I thought, This is so easy. I can This is something I can do. I have ideas all the time. And this was one that I thought I could do. This one, this is easy. And I started actually taking all different colors and putting them on all different dog coats to see which color I thought was like the most complimentary to every different color coat. And it ended up being blue, and, um and then I thought, OK, now how do I have this? May just wanted a rubber just like our rubber wrist bands, but as a collar for a dog. And, um, you know, then I just started down that process, so that was our first product was just on. And then the tagline is support the underdog s. Oh, yeah. So it started as this rubber blue collar with no utility except as I identifier for rescue dogs. And that’s how we started nine years ago. And then people just started wanting not nine years ago. I’m sorry six years ago, but people started wanting actual functional collars, and so the brand just developed eventually. And now we have collars and leashes and training college Martin Gales and the whole line and a great. But yeah, it started with the rubber collar, just like our risk fans. That is amazing. What? What a simple concept and and now how well has that taken off him? You must see these things all over the place. Now it it we do, and it’s so much fun to see it like some of our biggest clients, cause we also sell wholesale thio, make rescue groups and and retailers and ah, some of our biggest clients are in Hawaii, Hawaii Island, Humane Society, Kwai Humi Society or some of our biggest customers. So, yeah, they’re all over the place. It’s fun. Yeah, that’s a really great story and something that, like you said, can have such an impact. I know one of things I’ve noticed, as I always say animal rescue is two degrees of separation and everybody you talked to either is rescued an animal or they know somebody who has or does animal rescue. Finally, I know we’re finally not hidden somewhere. We’re finally out in public. Yeah. So what by rescuers, anyway? Now? Yeah, exactly. And and we’re definitely having an impact. So So what’s your goal now with project blue collar? As as this continues to grow and people are are buying and displaying this. I mean, what what do you want to see happen? I want to see happen that people choose rescue over purchasing. Like I want everyone to adopt a dog. You want that to be there first thought when they think of adding an animal to their family, I want their first thought to be Go get a red like rescues have they’re so much more to them. I’m going to start crying a tear up when I talk about it. But there’s so much behind them. There’s such a story, you know, they just think what we like to say. We’ve always said this, but, um, I feel like from the moment that ah, they end up in a shelter wherever they end up, someone sees them. Someone starts to network thumb starts to share their posts than a rescue seat says I’ll step up and then a rescue, you know, sponsors. And then a transporter comes and says, Well, transport, they end up in a foster care. I mean, it’s unbelievable. The amount of heart prints, right? The number of people that get involved unbelievable, that are bundled up in that animal. So when you adopt, you’re getting all of that. Yeah, that’s powerful. Yeah, and you need to realize that you know what you’re getting when you rescue an animal. It is it’s a bundle of positive energy. Yeah, it has been touched by hundreds, if not thousands of people along the way. And it’s, you know, I just think that’s so much more valuable than going toe a breeder or a pet store or a puppy mill or, you know, do something positive. And, um so, yeah, I just want I want everyone to think about adoption person. So the whole goal with Project Blue collar is to raise the value of rescue dogs in the public, and I want to stay project. Look at our our collars. We have to, you know, they say either I am a rescue on them, very bold and proud, or they say, support the underdog. And I just want to see those on every rescue dog, at least in North America, if not the world. Yeah, No, I think that that is a great objective and a great mission. And like you said it, it’s a conversation starter because these animals have been through so much and they’ve had so many carrying people that have helped them along the way. And these stories or what really perpetuates the need to have more people get involved in rescue. Absolutely. And we share stories every single day on our website were we’re so content rich. So we’re much more than a brand because we’re just We’re very content rich and we share stories every single day rescue stories, and we very much focused on the positive. While we have to sometimes talk about where they came from, our focus is on where they are today. So tell me a little bit more now about cause you guys also pay it forward back to animal rescues. Tell me a little bit about that program we do. So we’re by one. Give one. So for every cholera unleash sold, the same is donated to a rescue group or shelter. We choose different groups to work with. We choose one every two weeks that we work with, and then they receive all the give back there, the recipients for from our online sales. And if, ah, host, if a retailer sells our product, the retailer chooses the rescue group. That’s the recipient. That’s really cool. So now what? Very locally based. Yeah. So now what does an organization have to do to get involved and take part in that program? Literally Just reach out to us, just reach out to us, and then it from we, you know, do our due diligence and bet you and then, um, we will give you your two week time frame and we just ask that you we send you some in advance so you can send us some pictures and, um, we just, ah, do a blogger post about the rescue group and share that information with our followers. And then during that two week period, we ask that you promote the two week time frame and we do the same and let our followers know all about each rescue group and what they’re doing and all the great things they’re doing. It’s fun. Yeah, that’s a great program. And what a great way to give back and to pay it forward and to get more of these groups involved. Because they’re the ones on the front line doing the hard work. Absolutely. Now I know you talked about you’ve always had a passion for animals, but has that always been your professional careers? Well, I’ve always been in business development rolls. I most of my career was with American Express, and now I’m with, actually with Delta Private Jets. I’d love to find a way to make it my full time professional career. Yeah. So now your background with American Express to that kind of help you to be able to do project blue collar. Was there anything that lead towards that? I have to say, as a company, they were fabulous to work for they, even though they’re like a Fortune 200 they had a very, very entrepreneurial attitude. And so that did. That did help. Yes, they were always super supportive of my love for animals. I remember at one point I had, like, six weeks vacation, but certainly you don’t take all those six weeks and one lumps some, um, At one point, I had found a program to go study in Africa and live in the bush for a month, and and they completely supported me to do that because they knew it was my dream. So yeah, it was fun. That’s really interesting. It’s always It’s always fascinating, kind of how people’s background brings them into rescue and how they can apply and utilize the skills that they, you know, learn to the corporate world and apply it towards animal welfare. Right, right. So tell me a little bit more about this looking backwards, moving forward campaign. And then I saw a little bit about it on the website, but I wanted to learn a little bit more so that campaign, when when of group finds themselves and you know, we hate to see these rescue groups that work so hard and they barely make ends meet, and then they take on a case that can literally just tail spin them into debts, you know, um, because they’ll they’ll step up for something that turns out into being a huge financial burden on them. So when when we find a group that has a situation like that, we will actually take one of our items typically and, uh, and say, you know, for the next whatever many, you will give it a time frame, we’ll sell this item in 100% of the proceeds will go to this specific cause. Horrible. Do things like that just to try. And it’s very in the moment, type of a program and in very specific to, ah, certain situation. So no, that’s nice that you’re able to support those organizations. Like you said, Sometimes there’s a particular situation that they just need a little extra help. Oh, my gosh, they get you know, they’ll just get a case. That’s just a complete financial burden. And it can just it can just sink a rescue group. You know, we like working with very small grass roots groups to it. Doesn’t they need the help? And when they do just as much great work. So, yeah, absolutely. So what’s next now for a project blue collar? I mean, is there anything that you’ve got planned in the future and where you want to take things right now we’re running a contest, actually. Think today is the last day we’re running a contest. Um, but we were so inspired by the E. No, I’m sure you saw the hound dog that, um, the princess adopted this Kentucky and were actually based in Kentucky. Okay. And so we were just so inspired by his rags to riches story, you know, that was, like, so adorable. Um, that we’re doing, like, a contest right now for, like, a before and after a true rags to riches underdog to hero story contest right now. So we’re going to continue doing things like that. That’s just, um, so much fun. And then we just love to eventually expand our brand into, um you different designs. And so, for sure. So this must be a lot of work. I mean, it sounds like you’ve got a full time job. What is the typical work week look like for you? It is hard. You know, when there’s two of us. That’s the extent of our staff. Um, so yeah, I know. You just do it on your whenever you get free time, which is mornings and evenings, Right. As I was gonna tell people I work a day job so that I can afford to work my nights and weekends job. Exactly. Exactly. Yeah. What I think is really cool, though, about what you guys were doing is like you said, you’re creating of movement. And I love the love, The tagline. Support the underdog because it just does cause people to pause and stop and consider that this dog does have a story. And there’s there’s a reason why so many of us are passionate about getting involved in helping animals. And it’s because we know that they have a story and we know that they’re going to go on to change lives. Yeah, that’s exactly right. The power of storytelling. Absolutely well, Carol, thank you so much for coming on today and sharing all this with us. Is there anything else you wanted to mention before we wrap things up? No, I just I love what you’re doing. And thank you for sharing all of these podcasts with the world and helping people get more involved in rescue. You know, I would like to say, um, like if people are considering getting involved there so many ways to get involved. So many you’re following your podcast is just, ah one avenue to learn how to do that. Well, thanks, Cho. Yeah, definitely agree that we need more people on rescue. There’s so many ways, and I think that’s kind of our goal is to try and show them there’s so many things that you can do and and get involved in volunteering with rescues, with shelters, with transport, with fostering. I mean, somebody like you is just amazing. That’s fostered over 400 dogs. So, uh, dogs and cats, I think you said so. Thank you for all of that. And thank you so much for coming on the program today. We appreciate it. Thank you. Thanks for tuning into today’s podcast if you’re not already a member, joined the Air P A. To take advantage of all the resources we have to offer. And don’t forget to sign up with do bert dot com. It’s free and helps automate the most difficult tasks in animal rescue

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