Dog Words

0244: Fit for a Pit with Heather McClain-Howell

November 24, 2021 Season 2 Episode 44
Dog Words
0244: Fit for a Pit with Heather McClain-Howell
Show Notes Transcript

Heather McClain-Howell, founder and CEO of Fit for a Pit, talks about their product line for pits and dogs of similar shape as well as their fun items for people who love pitties. More importantly, we have a thoughtful discussion on how helping dogs impacts our community.

Fit for a Pit online:
Fit4APit.com
Instagram
Facebook
YouTube

Friends of Fit for a Pit:
Ryan Duggan is an illustrator, designer, and printer in Chicago.
The Street Dog Coalition provides free medical care and related services to pets of people experiencing, or at risk of, homelessness. Using a ‘One Health’ approach to street medicine, SDC cares for the lives on both ends of the leash.

KC Pet Project’s Keep ‘Em Together, KC is a program that focuses on building community partnerships and expanding services to help address the systemic roots of resource inequity in Kansas City. The goal is to help pet owners resolve the problems they are experiencing so they can keep their pet.

From the Dog Words archives:
0231: Dr. Kelly Diehl from the Morris Animal Foundation
0232: Pinups for Pitbulls with Deirdre Darling

Celebrate 5 years of Rosie Fund by supporting our campaign to sponsor 50 dogs. You can donate at RosieFund.org or through our Facebook page. You can contribute by making a purchase from the store on our website or buying a t-shirt at Bonfire.com. Also check out our page on BarkYours, the online mall with gifts for people who love their dogs.

Music for this episode is provided by alternative string duo, The Wires. Visit them at TheWires.info. Learn fiddle and cello-fiddle online — even if you've never played before — from Laurel Morgan Parks and Sascha Groshang at FiddleLife.com. Join The Wires as they explore new music on their show Sound Currents.

The transcript for this episode is available on the Dog Words Buzzsprout page: Buzzsprout.com/840565.

HEATHER  0:02 
I don't know if it's just because I'm so in it, but it just seems like there's so many people who are funny and loving and just want to help each other and it's a great gang of people and there are some really, really good, big-hearted people out there.

PHIL   0:19 
I'm Phil Hatterman and this is Dog Words presented by Rosie Fund.

Today, Heather McClain-Howell, founder and CEO of Fit for a Pit, talks about their product line for pets and dogs of similar shape, as well as their fun items for people who love pitties. More importantly, we have a thoughtful discussion on how helping dogs impacts our community as a whole.

If you're new to Dog Words, in each episode, we explore the world of dog care and companionship. "We save each other," is the motto of Rosie Fund, which simply means the more we do for dogs, the more they do for us. And they already do a lot.

If you love dogs, you'll love Dog Words. We welcome your comments, questions, and suggestions. Go to the podcast page at RosieFund.org to share your thoughts. Please download, follow, rate, and most importantly, share Dog Words.

Celebrate five years of Rosie Fund by supporting our campaign to sponsor 50 dogs. You can donate on our website or Facebook page. You can also contribute by making a purchase from the store on our website, buying a t-shirt at Bonfire.com, or buying our notecards and shirts on BarkYours.com. Links are in the description. Your donations and purchases help fund the Rosie Life Starter Kits that make sure these senior and harder-to-adopt dogs have some of the items they'll need in their forever home.

Please follow Rosie Fund on social media. Subscribe to the free Rosie Fund YouTube channel that offers great videos of Rosie, Peaches, and shelter dogs, including some exclusive content like the wonderful KC Pet Project dog featured in our latest post.

Next time on Dog Words we take peaches to Kansas City's Crossroads District to visit Erin Dean and Kelsie Boren at CITYDOGs KC, a delightful multipurpose destination for dog lovers. Even if you aren't local, you'll want to listen and find a spot like this near you, or maybe take steps towards making this happen in your town.

The mission of Rosie Fund is to provide humans with the resources and education they need to give senior and harder-to-adopt dogs a better life. We thank you for joining our mission.

Today's guest on Dog Words is a founder of Fit for a Pit Heather McClain-Howell. Welcome to the show, Heather.

HEATHER  2:28 
Thank you. Thank you so much for having me here.

PHIL   2:30 
I settled with just founder because before we started recording, I always make sure I get all the pertinent details on my guests. What's their title? How do they want to be referenced? And you had such a laundry list of titles that we've decided I'm just going to go with the most relevant one, the one that kicked all this off, that you're the founder of Fit for a Pit and now by default you are the CEO and the president, probably in charge of shipping and receiving.

HEATHER  3:03 
Yep, exactly.

PHIL   3:04 
You're everything that comes with being a entrepreneur and small business owner. Tell us what your small business is.

HEATHER  3:14 
Well, I sell things that work well for pitbull type dogs. So they really any medium to XL size dog. But I started the business because I had amassed all this knowledge of what works for dogs that have short coats, that get cold easily, dogs that have sensitive skins, since a lot of them seem to have sensitivities. and what they're not gonna chew into 10 million pieces in five minutes, and what makes them happy. So I carry supplements and toys and treats and clothes that have been tested on pitbull type dogs and work really well and as I said really any medium to large size short-haired dog.

PHIL   3:57 
So that makes it Fit for a Pit. So your aptly-named business and the website is Fit4APit.com. That will be linked in the description for this episode. And I have a pit who has a very thin coat. Peaches has almost no hair on her belly. And we live in Kansas City, Missouri and it can get pretty cold out here, and nasty snowstorms, and she still needs to take her walk. Finding the right coat, the sizing for dog apparel is not consistent. And I know people complain all the time that I know I hear a woman say that you know a size four now is not what a size four was six years ago or a size 10 is now what used to be I don't know which direction it's shifting or just from manufacturer to manufacturer, that one's eight is not another eight.

HEATHER  4:30 
Right.

PHIL   4:39 
That doesn't even begin to get into dog sizing. Because someone's idea of a large dog is not someone else's idea of a large dog. And not just talking to another dog owner. But looking at labels on dog clothing. You'll hold up one large next to another large, and they don't even look like they're for the same dog.

HEATHER  5:16 
Right. Yeah, it's crazy. There's no consistency to it. And even within brands, you can find from style to style, the sizing will vary. And, you know, they have these vague measurements, it'll be like, or it'll just say dogs up to 60 pounds for one of the sizes like, "What does that mean?"

PHIL   5:33 
My 60 pound bulldog compared to a 60 pound retriever or hunting dog.

HEATHER  5:41 
Right.

PHIL   5:41 
Sleek and thin instead of short and squatty.

HEATHER  5:44 
Yeah.

PHIL   5:45 
The weight is not a helpful measurement.

HEATHER  5:48 
No, no. And nor is just spine length. That doesn't work either because it's that ribcage girth that really gets us every time with the pitties, you know, they're so compact. And some of them can be so small, but then they'll have this huge ribcage measurement. And then people think because the ribcage is big, then that means their neck is big, too. But for the most part, they have sort of slender necks in comparison to their other proportions. So you know, when you get something that's cut big enough for the ribcage, then it's too big in the neck. And then you get this sort of straightjacket effect is what I call it. You know, where they sit down and it goes down over their shoulders and then they can't move around.

PHIL   6:26 
Yeah, and if the dog doesn't like wearing it, if it becomes a punishment, then that defeats the whole purpose of the protection it gives them against the elements.

HEATHER  6:34 
Exactly. Yeah, exactly. So it's difficult. It's definitely difficult to find the right things. That was one of the reasons why I started the business was because I had helped to sort of take the guesswork out of that because I spent, I don't even, I mean an embarrassing amount of money and throw away clothes. You know, I would get it. I would try it on. It would fit terribly. It would slide off. It would start coming apart. Would stretch out and it would be long and then you know go over our dog Olive's butt and get in the way.

PHIL   7:04 
And even the vendor that has a customer service focused return policy, that's still wasted time. You wait for it to be shipped. You try it on. It doesn't work. You debate, "Do I want to return this or not." You return it then you have to wait and hope the next one fits. And if you're ordering it just before winter or something or in the middle of winter, you're missing the time where you're actually getting value for that item, combined with the time that you're wasting returning something. So it's nice to have a vendor who understands the plight of the pitbull owner and similar shaped dogs. Looking at your website, there's a nice selection, of course, of sort of a parka, a camo puffer, a sailor sweater, turtleneck sweater. Just different styles that are just adorable for dogs like Peaches that don't have the code for the climate they're in.

HEATHER  8:00 
Yeah, actually, I'm manufacturing hoodies and t-shirts now, too. They have been designed specifically for broad chested, stocky, kind of short spine length dogs.

PHIL   8:12 
Yeah, if someone's on your website, they will see a dog in the apparel instead of just the...

HEATHER  8:19 
Yeah.

PHIL   8:20 
...what you sometimes get is the sweater just laid out.

HEATHER  8:23 
Right.

PHIL   8:23 
One thing I really like is the tundra fleece.

Isn't that great?

Yeah, we have a similar coat for Peaches. We had one for our previous dog. Rosie had a much thicker coat, but it was still short, just to have that little extra layer. The way the fleece is fit gives you a little bit of flexibility about how you put it on them. It gives them that shoulder room so they have that freedom of movement.

HEATHER  8:53 
Right.

PHIL   8:53 
But then their chest, their back is covered so that it keeps the major organs warm. Any human out there has experienced shoveling snow off their driveway or working out in cold weather. My arms, my legs, I like that freedom of movement. They're staying warm. But if I can just keep my core warm, protected, that's all I need. And this fleece is perfect for that. Just that little bit of extra to keep the core warm and go out enjoy a crisp, cool fall day.

HEATHER  9:27 
Yeah, exactly. And for your senior dogs and dogs that have limited mobility, that's really really easy to put on them and take off so they don't have to step into anything. Same thing with the jackets, the puffer jackets and the parkas. I'm always looking for things that are easy for the seniors because I have a soft spot for the seniors and I have one. I had two until August when we lost our senior male but you know it's hard for them when you have to raise their legs up and shove them into leg holes and it's just much easier to put it over their head and then just be able to kind of wrap the pieces around them.

PHIL   10:05 
Well, before we move on from the tundra fleece, another feature I like on it is the zippered back.

HEATHER  10:12 
Are you working for RC Pets?

PHIL   10:15 
Well, it has a double zipper, which gives you the flexibility of, you can clip the leash to their collar, or if they're wearing a harness, you can put a harness over the fleece or if the harness is under the fleece, that loop rarely lines up with the precut hole in the back of the clothing. This double zipper allows you to move that hole from the mid spine all the way up to the neck.

HEATHER  10:34 
Yeah.

PHIL   10:35 
So wherever you want to loop it in, that also makes it easier to get on and off.

HEATHER  10:50 
Yeah.

PHIL   10:50 
But also easier to harness them. So if you've had trouble with combining a harness with a jacket, a fleece, get the tundra fleece.

HEATHER  10:58 
Yeah, it's great. I'm almost out of them , though. Hurry.

PHIL   11:04 
A downside of being a small business owner like yourself, especially when it comes to something like selling apparel is you don't have the same breadth of selections as Walmart.

HEATHER  11:16 
Right.

PHIL   11:17 
The upside is, you know your product. You can vouch for everything you sell. You've touched everything. You're not going to call Walmart or call up Amazon and say, "I have a question about sizing." Or send an email. And you can contact a vendor on Amazon. But when you're wading through dozens and dozens, it's not the personal contact that you get with something like Fit 4 a Pit. If I'm buying something for my dog, I want to make sure I get it right.

HEATHER  11:52 
Right. And I'm here to answer questions. You know, that's the thing. I mean, customers can text me. I've got a Google Voice. They can text me and I you know, I say I'm available during regular business hours, but I don't really know what regular business hours are anymore.

PHIL   12:09 
Yeah, what are regular business hours and what's your time zone?

HEATHER  12:12 
Yeah, I'm Eastern, and supposedly, you know, nine to five. But you know, if I'm sitting on the sofa watching something on Netflix, and somebody texts me at 10:30, I'm probably gonna answer them. So...

PHIL   12:22 
Go ahead and get this over with.

HEATHER  12:23 
I do all the time.

PHIL   12:24 
Because again, you are the director of customer service.

HEATHER  12:27 
Exactly.

PHIL   12:28 
That's one of your other titles. Talking a lot about gear for dogs. But you mentioned you also have food and other accessories. Talk a little bit about the food that you sell at Fit for a Pit.

HEATHER  12:40 
Well, I sell raw food. So that is not available for shipping. That's just for local customers because it's frozen. So, but during the lockdown last year, I decided to start offering basically what we feed our dogs, which is commercially prepared frozen raw mixes from Primal and Tucker's and Nature's Logic. So we did some dog food delivery locally during COVID lockdown, and just to try to get us through. We went from having many orders every day to no orders.

PHIL   13:14 
Yeah, you have to find a way to adjust to this ever changing environment.

HEATHER  13:19 
Exactly. And I actually, I finally launched the apparel line last year. We had been trying to do it for like six years. And we finally got it together and got all the samples tested and tweaked the pattern a couple of times and went into production just in time for the COVID lockdown.

PHIL   13:38 
Yeah, we're ready to launch our business.

HEATHER  13:40 
Yeah.

PHIL   13:42 
I don't know that everyone appreciates what it takes to create an online business. That they're aware of, "Okay, I have to get a URL." And depending on how much they know about the web, "Oh, I have to pay for hosting and set up some sort of online vendor." There's even more to the back end in figuring out, "Well, how am I going to process orders physically?" Because it's not just enough to have a website that people can click on, "Yeah, I want to buy this parka." Someone has to stock that parka and you have to decide, "Am I going to stock that? Or am I going to have it drop shipped? How am I going to do it? What's a sensible business model for me?" And that it took us six years to get all that figured out to do it right. Most people give up if they have an idea that doesn't pan out in two or three months.

HEATHER  14:33 
Well, I actually started out drop shipping most of the products that we carry when I launched the website in 2013. You know, it was maybe, I don't know 50 or 60 different things. And I had found things that the manufacturer would actually send directly to the customer. So I only had to stock what we would buy regularly for our own dogs because we needed it anyway and I figured if it doesn't sell we're gonna use it so it's not a big deal. So I was drop shipping I would say 90% of what was on the website initially. And that worked really well for the first couple of years because I didn't have to have a lot of space to run the business. I had a little hall closet that everything fit in. And, you know, it's, it worked pretty well. It was a little wonky with some of them. Because, you know, I would sometimes not have communication. I wouldn't know if the thing had actually been shipped. And then, you know, I would be panicking, like, "Where is it?" And then finally, the customer would say, "I got it!" So as soon as I was able to have enough space to start stocking things and had a little bit of money to buy stock, I slowly started bringing things in and stocking them to the point where I mean, I'm really only drop shipping one or two things right now. And it's just larger products that are really expensive to ship. So it just doesn't make sense for me to pay to have them shipped here and eating up all this space.

PHIL   15:51 
Yeah , ship it twice.

HEATHER  15:51 
Yeah, but everything else is stocked now,

PHIL   15:55 
You also have products for people. But before we move on to that I do want to touch on two items that you have for dogs. One is the sunscreen. Most sunscreens for humans have a chemical that is bad for dogs. So if your dog has, as Peaches does, a bare nose and thin hair on her ears, or also like Peaches, if they've been shaved for a surgery, so now they have that bare skin, it's important to put sunscreen on that. But don't just grab whatever, you know, Banana Boat or Hawaiian Tropic that you're using. It needs to be pet sunscreen.

HEATHER  16:41 
Right.

PHIL   16:42 
And you can get that from Fit 4 a Pit.

HEATHER  16:44 
Yep. And it's really important, especially if we've got white dogs are especially susceptible to sunburns. And like you said dogs with thin coats, dogs who have had surgery, you really have to cover them up. That's why I started putting clothes on our dog Olive so many years ago is because she would get sunburned so easily. And I don't even think there was a pet sunscreen that existed at that point. If there was, it wasn't available in my local stores. So we would just put clothes on her to keep her from burning because she's totally bare on our underside. She just has a naked belly.

PHIL   17:19 
Yeah, when we first got Peaches and we were looking for sunscreen, it was hard to find something for a dog.

HEATHER  17:25 
Yeah, Epi-Pet's a really good one. And, you know, even baby sunscreen for humans is not safe for dogs because dogs lick each other. So if you have more than one dog in the house, and even your own dog, the tongue can go up over their head.

PHIL   17:39 
Yeah. And the nose, you know, the bridge of the nose is one of the most exposed places on Peaches. That's where it's thin. That's where she needs it. And yeah, her tongue's gonna be all over that.

HEATHER  17:50 
Yeah, and it's toxic. The stuff that's for babies even because, you know, babies can't lick their own faces. So you don't have to worry about that. But you got to worry about it with dogs so they can get sick from it. And you're right, there are chemicals. I can't remember what they're called, but they stimulate like hormone production, some of those sunscreen chemicals that are in the human sunscreens. Which is kind of creepy. Anyway.

PHIL   18:13 
Yeah. But if you just buy the dog sunscreen then you don't have to worry about it. You don't even need to know what those chemicals are.

HEATHER  18:18 
Nope.

PHIL   18:18 
Just get the dog sunscreen. And we talked about how it's valuable for surgery, if there's yeah exposed skin, as are the sweaters because we also did that with Peaches. We would put some sunscreen on and then we would put a little sweater on to keep the sun off of that, a light t-shirt actually that my wife made for Peaches. Next time we will buy a nice t-shirt from Fit for a Pit. But also after surgery, often a dog will need to wear what some people will call a party hat, the cone. Those plastic cones, that would absolutely drive me nuts to have that echoing on my head all the time every time it touches something. So the fabric cones, which you have the Zen Cone flexible collar. Those aren't as loud as the cheap plastic ones that are just banging on everything. And because they're flexible, if you've seen a dog like try to go through a doorway and just the edge of the cone catches and just snaps their whole head or they're trying to get a drink of water because they don't have any give to those plastic.

HEATHER  19:23 
It's so sad.

PHIL   19:26 
But what we used with Rosie and more recently with Peaches is the inflatable collar.

I love those.

Because the cone, even the flexible ones, are going to gather sound and funnel it into their head. It's not going to be as loud with a flexi cone as it is with a plastic one. So the flexi cones are great, but if the inflatable collar will work for your dog, I highly endorse those.

HEATHER  19:52 
Yeah, they're fantastic. They're not great for paw injuries. That's the only thing like lower limb.

PHIL   19:56 
Yeah, there's gonna be times when you need the cone shape so get the flexible one.

HEATHER  20:00 
But you can double up. Like we've used many times before, because we always have somebody or other in a cone for something or other. We've used both of them together. And that adds extra protection. But I mean, I can't remember the last time we put a plastic Elizabethan cone on a dog. We just don't have to do it.

PHIL   20:15 
And what's a shame is what you pay for the plastic cone? When you go to the vet, and they just put that on your bill? You're paying the same as you would to get a nice cone.

HEATHER  20:28 
Right. Right.

PHIL   20:30 
And if you tell the vet, and what we've done with Peaches is we just bring it with her when we drop her off for surgery. And they're like, "Great! That will not be on your bill." And they put it on her and...

HEATHER  20:40 
It's a lot less stressful for the dog to wear the softer cones. And when they're less stressed, their bodies can heal faster. When their cortisol is spiking the whole time, you know, that's gonna impede their healing process. So we like to keep stress levels low.

PHIL   20:56 
And if you're naive enough to think, "Well, I don't want to invest in a cone for one surgery." You should have the same mindset my parents did when they bought crutches for my brother. Because growing up my brother, to a greater extent than I, needed crutches more than once. They're gonna pay for themselves within two or three injuries. Same way with a cone. You're gonna need it again.

HEATHER  21:21 
Yeah.

PHIL   21:21 
And they don't take up a lot of space. The flexible one folds flat. The inflatable one, of course, deflates. So they don't take up a bunch of room. And then you have it when you need it. Because oftentimes those surgeries are surprises. And over not just your dog's lifetime, but your lifetime, multiple dogs, it will more than pay for itself.

HEATHER  21:43 
Absolutely. I mean, we have a Zen Cone, and a Zen Coller, that are circa 2012, or 13. And they're still going strong.

PHIL   21:54 
Yeah, they're durable. They're built to be used by a dog. It's not like a mylar balloon that you're putting around their neck. This is gonna last. The people products. Here's where I think it gets really fun. So the dog ones are, I think, very practical. They're necessities. If your dog needs a coat, it needs to coat. It needs a cone, it needs a cone. If it needs sunscreen, it needs sunscreen. Obviously, they need snacks and food. The people stuff, this is fun things just to show off your pride in having a dog or to give to a friend. And I'm gonna to sound like an old fart here, but I'm tired of seeing the stickers on the back of the SUV that let me know how many stick children you have. So here's something that allows you to let people know, "I've got a pit. I love a pit." Tell us about your people products.

HEATHER  22:44 
Well, I've had a lot of people over the years ask me when I was going to have a t-shirt with the logo on it because they think the logo dog is so cute.

PHIL   22:51 
It's fun.

HEATHER  22:53 
Yeah, and so I finally decided with Printify, which is so great because it allows me to be able to do these things printed on demand. So I don't have to stock.

PHIL   23:01 
Again, no inventory. You don't have that overhead.

HEATHER  23:03 
Yes, it's great. Printify's fantastic. So I'm using them for the printing. And I don't sell a ton of them. But for the people that do want them, they're there. I was asked about that for seven or eight years. And finally I said, "Okay, time to do it."

PHIL   23:17 
But it's not just t-shirts. You have lots of fun stuff.

HEATHER  23:20 
I've got mugs and stickers and tote bags. And everybody I know has gotten those for holiday gifts and birthday gifts and...

PHIL   23:31 
And I said these are fun. And they are. And you can be proud of your dog and you've got such a cool logo.

HEATHER  23:39 
Thanks!

PHIL   23:39 
But they're also practical because you have the window decal. Which people don't always realize how important this is. The pet's inside with little boxes for you to check dogs, cats, birds, others that you put on your house window or apartment, I guess you could put it on your apartment door, to let first responders know there's pets inside.

HEATHER  23:40 
Right.

PHIL   23:41 
Because they need to know that to save the pet but also to not be surprised by a pet.

HEATHER  24:11 
Right

PHIL   24:12 
That if they're going in to fight a fire or respond to a break-in or something to know there may be a pet in here, which is different from perhaps a burglar, and that they're ready for that and that protects your pet.

HEATHER  24:26 
Right. And also putting a pit bull type dog on the decal I felt was a way to just say like, "These are my family members and they're inside and don't be afraid. It's just a dog that may look like this."

PHIL   24:40 
Who is probably going to lick you.

HEATHER  24:43 
Right. Exactly.

PHIL   24:43 
So be ready for that. So yeah, you got your t-shirts, your stickers that you can put on your laptop for when you go to the coffee shop and you flip open your laptop and on the cover is Fit for a Pit. Let people know, "Hey, pits are not stigmatized like they used to be." But there's still some pushback from people who think they're vicious, dangerous creatures. But your logo really embodies a fun looking friendly dog. And to reinforce that with your sticker, your mug, your tote bag, your t-shirt. Buy it for yourself. It's a great gift and it's holiday shopping season.

HEATHER  25:24 
Thank you. Yeah. And then the artwork was done by Ryan Duggan, who is a really, really talented artist out of Chicago. He does a lot of music illustrations for posters and he does all sorts of graphic design but he has a calendar with pictures of dogs and does all kinds of fun Chicago landmarks and stuff but he did our logo and he's done the, all the dog artwork for us.

PHIL   25:52 
With a quick search I found RyanDuggan.com. Duggan with two G's.

HEATHER  25:59 
Thank you! I couldn't remember.

PHIL   26:01 
So yeah, so I will link Ryan Duggan in the description. You can check out his cool graphic design and do some shopping there as well. Check out Fit 4 a Pit to start your holiday shopping or just buy a little something for yourself. And any time of the year is a good time to buy for your dog. Get them the sunscreen they need during the summer, the coats they need during the winter and fall, and protect them because that's your responsibility. And you can do that at Fit for a Pit. Heather, so glad that you could join us and let our listeners know that there's a store out there for dog lovers, but especially pit lovers. It's been product tested. That you can vouch for everything you sell. Any parting thoughts for our listeners?

HEATHER  26:56 
Well, I am available to help with fit. Anytime somebody is uncertain what size they should get for their dog, there is actually a measuring guide on the website. It's Fit4Apit.com/fit-your-pit.

PHIL   27:13 
And if you just go to Fit for a Pit there's the link down the left side. Just click on "How to fit your pit."

HEATHER  27:19 
Exactly. There's even a printable measuring tape on there. And then if they click the sizing info tab on the products, all the measurements are listed for each of the sizes. And I do donate to Pinups for Pitbulls and I donate to the Street Dog Coalition. And I'm going to start donating money to the Morris Animal Foundation for hemangiosarcoma research because we lose so many of these dogs to hemangiosarcoma and mast cell tumors. So a portion of my profits always go to these pitbull-friendly advocacy organizations and animal welfare organizations. So you're giving back by purchasing from Fit for a Pit. And I gotta tell you, before I go, I just love what you do.

PHIL   28:02 
Thank you.

HEATHER  28:02 
I really do. I love your organization. Just it's been fun reading all about what you're doing. And I just love it. This is fantastic.

PHIL   28:13 
It was started by a very sad, traumatic moment for my wife I are losing Rosie. But in the midst of that the generosity and heart of an anonymous donor.

HEATHER  28:28 
It's amazing.

PHIL   28:30 
And what we don't say in the story on the website, where we share that we went into pay and someone had already covered it that the receptionist at the Blue Pearl Animal Hospital said, "Rosie had lots of friends. It's been taken care of." So it wasn't part of some fund that Blue Pearl had to help needy people.

HEATHER  28:51 
Right.

PHIL   28:51 
It was genuinely somebody who loved our dog.

HEATHER  28:55 
That's just amazing.

PHIL   28:56 
And she'd been in the shelter for eight months. So we assume it was staff or volunteers or somebody who heard about it and wanted to step up for Rosie, not so much for us, which just inspired us. It's like, "Well, we didn't need this."

HEATHER  29:13 
Yeah.

PHIL   29:13 
But there are people who do. So what can we do to pay it forward for those out there who needed this more than we did?

HEATHER  29:21 
Right. That's just great. It really is.

PHIL   29:24 
So it's little things that people, you know, the person who paid for it, the 3 or $4,000 they paid for our hospital bill has turned into so much more for so many more dogs.

HEATHER  29:35 
I love it. I started in advocacy and rescue and sheltering in 2008. And being in this for so long, the consistent thing has been like people just amaze me. They really do. I don't look at what I've seen and say, "Oh, there's so many deadbeat owners and dog abusers and they're terrible and they don't deserve dogs." I just see so much goodness all the time. And the more you're involved, the more places you live and get involved locally, you see it in person. You see it online. Yeah, there's bullying and there's hate everywhere. You can't get away from that. But the people in the dog community, and specifically for some reason that pitbull community seems, I don't know if it's just because I'm so in it. But it just seems like there's so many people who are funny and loving, and just want to help each other. And it's a great gang of people. And there are some really, really good, big hearted people out there.

PHIL   30:33 
Well, I think it's a response to being marginalized.

HEATHER  30:38 
Yeah.

PHIL   30:38 
That you can either withdraw or you can push back.

HEATHER  30:42 
Right.

PHIL   30:42 
And so it's pushing back against a stereotype that is based on misinformation and exceptions to the rule and clickbait and sensationalized journalism that doesn't accurately represent that population.

HEATHER  31:03 
Right.

PHIL   31:03 
And so, people want to step up and say, "Hey, that's not who we are. That's not who our dogs are. And if you don't recognize that, it's your loss."

HEATHER  31:14 
Right.

PHIL   31:15 
Because you're missing out on great dogs who are going to make your life better if you give 'em a chance.

HEATHER  31:24 
Yeah. And if anybody has ever felt marginalized themselves or bullied or misunderstood, we all have that, you know, that's another thing we all have in common is like, we've all felt that. We know what it feels like. So we really just feel stronger for the dogs and want to help them even more.

PHIL   31:43 
And when you create a community around that, it's empowering, it's energizing, and affirming. And so it's just natural that whoever started the pushback, however many years ago against the pit bull stigma...

HEATHER  31:59 
Yeah, who was that?

PHIL   31:59 
Yeah, we need to track them down. But it snowballs into this community of dog lovers.

HEATHER  32:08 
Yeah.

PHIL   32:09 
And, again, it makes us better people, because it gets you involved in your community. It gets you doing something for others, both dogs and people. You talked about Street Dog Coalition. They're not just helping those dogs. It's helping those people. It's keeping them with their dog.

HEATHER  32:27 
Yeah.

PHIL   32:27 
And that's better for the dog that's better for them. It's not that they're just helping dogs, they're making their community better.

HEATHER  32:35 
I don't think he can help dogs without helping people. You have to be willing to help people. And organizations like Street Dog Coalition that are not judging. They're just saying, "How can we help you keep your dog?" You know, for some of these people, it's like their dog is the only thing they have, right? So...

PHIL   32:54 
It's come up many times on the show where we've talked about groups that do spay and neuter for homeless people's pets, and supply dog food to homeless and disabled vets. In response to those who would say, "Well, if they can't take care of their dog, maybe they shouldn't have a dog."

HEATHER  33:17 
Right.

PHIL   33:18 
In some cases, especially with perhaps a homeless vet, that dog is what's keeping them sane and alive.

HEATHER  33:25 
Exactly.

PHIL   33:26 
It's the least we can do.

HEATHER  33:27 
Yeah. I mean who are they to say that...

PHIL   33:29 
So they've been failed by some other organization. Some institution has failed them for that veteran to end up where they are now. And if we could do more, we should. But if we can at least help them stay with their dog?

HEATHER  33:42 
Absolutely. I couldn't agree more. And it's like, who are we to say who should and shouldn't have an animal. If a person wants to love an animal, and care for an animal, and they fall on hard times, and they can't do it as well as they would like, what ends up happening? They take it to the shelter, right? Because they've run out of resources. They think someone else can take care of this for me. Well, we need to be helping people keep their pets so they don't come in the shelter in the first place. We need to be teaching them how to properly care for them, how to train them with kindness, and without force so they can live long, happy lives with the people who love them instead of bouncing around because somebody felt ashamed that they couldn't afford a vet bill. You know?

PHIL   34:26 
Whether it's owner surrender or a stray that's the result of someone thinking, "This dog would be better off on their own. Maybe it can find its own food and find its own home because I can't take care of it." To have those pets taking up space in a shelter when the person they love more than anything in the world would rather have them.

HEATHER  34:47 
Right.

PHIL   34:48 
If they only knew what resources were available to them.

HEATHER  34:51 
Right.

PHIL   34:52 
So whatever we can do to make that happen. So Street Dog Coalition. In Kansas City KC Pet Project has the Keep 'Em Together campaign...

HEATHER  35:00 
I love that.

PHIL   35:01 
...that helps with either short term care till someone can get back on their feet or to pay that vet bill so that the dog can be treated now instead of progressively getting worse and having a bigger vet bill or never getting treated. Those are so important again for not just the dog, but for the community.

HEATHER  35:19 
I agree.

PHIL   35:20 
It never ceases to amaze me the heart that dog lovers have. And I say all the time on the show dogs make us better people. And this is just another example because it seems like everybody who's selling something for your dog or about dogs is giving back. So thank you so much for giving back and making that part of your business model. We had Deirdre Darling on from Pinups for Pitbulls, I'll link to that interview in the description, which also does so much to help dogs in general, but especially stigmatized animals like pitbulls. So, thank you again, so much Heather for helping to change that and best of luck with your business venture.

HEATHER  36:03 
Thank you so much.

PHIL   36:08 
I'm Phil Hatterman and you've been listening to Dog Words presented by Rosie Fund.

Thank you to Fit for a Pit's Heather McClain-Howell for joining us today. A link to Fit4APit.com is in the description along with links to other websites and the Dog Words episodes we mentioned today.

Next time on Dog Words, Peaches checks out CITYDOGs KC. Spoiler alert, she loved it.

A big thank you to alternative string duo The Wires featuring cellist Sascha Groshang and violinist Laurel Morgan Parks for playing the wonderful music you've heard on today's and previous episodes of Dog Words. Supporting The Wires supports our mission. Now you can join Laurel and Sascha as they explore new music and delve into the inspiration behind each work as hosts of SoundCurrents on 91.9 Classical KC. Click on the Sound Currents link in the description for more information. Learn more about The Wires, including their concert schedule at TheWires.info and download their music on iTunes. Check out FiddleLife.com and learn to play fiddle and cello-fiddle online from Laurel and Sasha, even if you've never played before.

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DISCLAIMER: This document is a transcription obtained through a third party. There is no claim to accuracy on the content provided in this document and divergence from the audio file is to be expected. Some content may be omitted, particularly when there is crosstalk.

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