The Pet Parenting World Needs Good Leaders and Followers

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I was fourteen with locks down to my shoulders and less drive than Bart Simpson when my “step-up” dad asked me, “Do you want to be a follower or a leader?”

Back then, I had no answer to what I perceived to be a binary question with only one acceptable answer: you want to be a leader because leaders are respected and sought after for their advice and guidance. Followers just trail the pack, devoid of their own thoughts.

It didn’t occur to me back then that it is impossible to be a leader without followers. Nor did I understand that good leaders took root from being good followers. Not indiscriminate followers of those who roar and dazzle, but those thoughtful people holding values grounded in wisdom, strength and compassion. Only from following such leaders can one recognize emerging needs in our ever-changing world and craft their own message, product or service to fill that need.

To be a good leader, I’ve learned, one also has to respect the very followers they seek to attract. Most reasonable, self-respecting people won’t sit for one who believes they’re conferring “the truth” upon them from on high.

Today, Rescue Legacy marks its 250th blog by recognizing the good works of those it follows as well as the good works of its followers. Here are but a few:

The pets-as-family movement would not exist today were it not for the efforts of Animal Rescue New Orleans (ARNO). Born from the horrors of Hurricane Katrina, ARNO was a coalition of hundreds of volunteers seeking to pluck animals from fetid flood waters and reunite them with their families. The late Charlotte Bass Lilly and company unmasked tales of rescue teams refusing to allow pets into boats or airlift gurneys along with their human families and of local law enforcement rounding up lost and injured pets for mass executions.

Out of this pet holocaust rose the landmark, bi-partisan legislation: Public Law 109-308. Passed by congress in 2006 and signed into law by then President George W. Bush, the Pets Evacuation and Transportation Standards Act (PETS) authorizes FEMA to provide rescue, care, shelter, and essential needs for individuals with household pets and service animals, and to the household pets and animals themselves following a major disaster or emergency.

Hacking through a wilderness of misinformation about pet nutrition, Dr. Karen Becker and Rodney Habib are pioneers in the new age of pet wellness.

Becker, the most followed veterinarian in the world, takes an unconventional, integrative approach to pet health, vitality and longevity. She sees the art of veterinary medicine as not only recognizing the myriad of insults that create disease, but developing a cache of non-toxic interventions to unlock a pet’s innate potential for healing and recovery.

Vlogger and animal activist, Rodney Habib, is the founder of Planet Paws, a treasure trove of DIY pet health suggestions and pet food recipes and the most liked and visited pet health page on Facebook. Together, Habib and Becker produced the groundbreaking Dog Cancer Series.

Many of Rescue Legacy’s followers are profound influencers in their own right. Dear friend and dog lover, Livia Trevino, has shown me that its possible to pursue one’s artistic passion and pay the bills. After each day of service to our nations veterans, my comrade and speech pathology colleague, Jana Lovell, carves out an ever-deeper foothold into the pet rescue world. Joy Gaston, Rescue Legacy’s Director of Development, saw the potential for this blog to expand its reach and made invaluable contributions toward that end.

Years ago, I watched a documentary about a flock of geese flying south for the winter. The flock stayed in formation and reached its destination only because its members took turns at the helm. After leading for a while, the “head” goose dropped back to trail the pack and the next in line surged forward. In this way, all kept pace and none tired out.

So, the answer to my dear-departed “step-up” dad’s question is: “Yes!”