Social Justice: Charlie Dog and Friends

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I came across Charlie Dog and Friends while checking out Shop With Meaning’s Pinterest Board, and it ticked quite a few meaningful boxes for me:

  • They are adorable.
  • They tell the stories of real life shelter dogs.
  • Every toy sold raising funds for rescues and no kill shelters.

The Humane Society pegs the number of owned dogs in the US at over 80 million, and over 93 million cats; the rate of pet ownership in the US has tripled since the 70’s.  Americans love their pets, but not all animals in the US are loved; between 3 – 4 million are euthanized at shelters each year.  And although rescue work has become more and more visible, only about 30% of US pets come from shelters.

Personally I have never owned a pet that was not a rescue; I have a gorgeous German Shepherd and a comedic English Bull Terrier, both adopted young from breed specific rescues. The point I hope to make is that desiring a certain pure bred is not antithetical to rescuing your new pet.

And now I’ll get off of my soapbox and focus on how Charlie Dog and Friends is helping save animals.

Charlie Dog and Friends is a Young Company

Charlie Dog and Friends is a really new company, founded in August of 2012 by 3 friends in ‘down state’ New York, describe reason they founded the plush toy company as:

not because we love stuffed animals, but because we wanted to do something to help America’s homeless pets.

It is easy to fall in love with the adorable stuffed animals, but Charlie Dog & Friends’ goal is not simply ‘cute,’ it is:

to change how we see the American pet, the homeless shelter dog or cat, the way we go about bringing our new family member home.

How the Products Tell the Stories

At ArCompany we talk a lot about content, and more pointedly, about telling a brand’s stories. It is not ok to simply make product and market it; if you want to use the tremendous power of social media to build brand awareness and Arcompany social justiceadvance your company’s goals, you must tell stories that your customers care about and that make them connect with your brand.

The beauty of Charlie Dog and Friends is that every product IS a story – the story of the real shelter dog that the product was based on.  Here’s the story of Murphy:

Murphy is Amanda Clase’s dreamy, solid, almost pure-white pit bull mix. Adopted at 9 weeks old, Murphy quickly demonstrated the sweet temperament of a therapy dog, and now pursues a career of comforting the patients of Martha Jefferson Hospital in Virginia.

The company has 2 Made in the USA products, smaller Pocket Pitties, and Adopt bracelets  where a purchase immediately triggers a 2 dollar donation to a shelter.

Advocacy for Rescue

Charlie Dog and Friends is a for profit company, but its goal of bolstering the coffers of struggling rescues and advocating for rescue is clearly intertwined with its reason d’etre.  The What’s Happening blog tells the individual stories of animals up for rescue.

The company also has a Wholesale wing so that shelters and rescue champion businesses can sell the product in their own outlets or online.

If you’ve personally rescued your pet, you can get in on the movement by sending in your stories.

Social Media Telling Real Stories

A good percentage of the companies we highlight in this series fall down on the social media end of their marketing; Charlie Dog and Friendsoften lack of manpower and technical knowledge is a factor. Charlie Dog and Friends turns that on its head with their spectacular Facebook Page, and its following of over 18K proves the point. Instead of flogging their product, the Charlie Dog page is filled with heartwarming stories of real rescues, and animals who need to find their forever home. Their followers get heavily involved, posting their own love stories of best friend pets.

Not surprisingly, the company’s much less visual Twitter profile is not nearly as active; Pinterest is a much better platform and I expect to see their 670+ pins soar as brand awareness grows. Someone at Charlie Dog and Friends is social media savvy, because they even have a presence on Google+ where they’ve built a decent following. I’d probably move them from a brand page to a community if I were running their social show, but overall, I’m impressed.

Watch it Grow

As I’ve said repeatedly about this series: I feel blessed to be able to write it. Each Sunday I get to turn all of my attention away from the negative and focus on people making efforts to change things. Charlie Dog and Friends touches a very special spot in my heart because pet rescue is something I care deeply about.

Because of my passion, I have a lot of friends in the rescue movement. I watch my friend Lisa at Moonracer Rescue struggle to try to take them all in, and spend so much of her own money taking care of an extraordinary number of animals.   Bull Terrier Rescue of South Florida holds a special place in my heart for bringing me my crazy Gina.

I hope, and expect, that Charlie Dog and Friends continues to grow rapidly and make progress in their mission. If you care about rescue, keep them in mind when you are looking for a gift. One thing I’ve learned writing this column is that every gesture counts.

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