Get to know our founding member, Emily Grossheider in this week's feature interview!
Chief Innovation Officer
Dogs Playing for Life
Tell us about you and your history in animal welfare.
I grew up in the land of Maddie in the East San Francisco Bay Area where I lived until I moved to Santa Barbara, California in 2007 to attend school at UCSB. In what I thought were my final months in paradise, I decided to volunteer at the local non-profit shelter, Dog Adoption and Welfare Group, where I fell in love with the dogs and people! When I scored a chance to stay in Santa Barbara to go to law school, I jumped at the chance to work part-time on the weekends as an Adoption Counselor.
This time, I fell in love with the work (and ditched the legal books after not too long)! Shortly thereafter, the Board of Directors took a leap of faith and hired me, with no real experience or education, to be the Executive Director. I wrote (and earned!) my first grant, managed my first team, and even did my first transport!
I later became the Executive Director at the Santa Ynez Valley Humane Society, where we redid all our "firsts" this time with a little experience under my belt! When I had the opportunity to bring our team to see Dogs Playing for Life visit a local shelter, I jumped at the opportunity. To say I was inspired is an understatement-I started following DPFL around the State of California to make sure each team member had a chance to see the magic for themselves. After a few visits, I offered to help DPFL with some grant writing, and the rest is history!
In 2015, I enthusiastically joined the DPFL team as Director of Development, and in 2017 I was promoted to Chief Innovation Officer-I do a little bit of everything. Since being a part of the team, I have had the privilege of working with and visiting shelters all across the country. I love bouncing around innovative solutions to the problems shelters are facing and using playgroups and enrichment programming to improve the quality of life for shelter animals-and the people that care for them!
What are you most proud of in your career?
There are SO many things I've been proud to be a part of. Being a part of the DPFL team, it is the most meaningful to watch shelters who are able to take what our team has taught and run with it-I love nothing more than seeing social media posts of playgroup after playgroup of happy, tired, satiated dogs-and then watch them get swooped up by lucky families!
I will always be proud of awards won and certifications earned, but nothing compares to experiencing how our team has inspired others to do better by the dogs in their care!
Name something related to shelters and animal welfare that you are super passionate about and want others to learn about?
PLAYGROUPS! I am clearly biased, but I have never seen a single program have such a dynamic impact on the animals, people, and culture within an organization. You have to see to believe-and my favorite change is actually in the people.
Many staff and volunteers start nervous and unsure-and over just a few days blossom to be confident and empowered to make changes to improve the lives of the dogs they care so much about. The dogs are magic for each other and for people!
Tell us something about yourself people might be surprised to learn
I bartend! Every once in a while you can find me at a beachfront Santa Barbara hotel serving drinks at events for fun and some extra cash to spend on my dog :-).
I love experimenting to create new craft cocktails and share them with friends. My most recent concoction includes tequila, ginger simple syrup, guava juice and fresh lime.
Who is your “animal welfare crush”?
It is not an exaggeration to say that Aimee Sadler was my longtime "animal welfare crush." When I became friends with her son, Kodi, I still got giggly when she came up in conversation. Next thing I knew, she was family!
I know that answer is cheating-so I'll say that if I have always wanted to meet Jane Goodall. Her ability to observe behavior and empathize with a different species-while creating widespread respect and cooperation to act is unparalleled!
Visit DogsPlayingForLife.com and see the attachment to this post to learn more about the services offered for shelters.
Thanks for the interview, Emily!
Be sure to follow @emilydpfl on the forum and ask any questions or comments you have for her below.