It's introduction time! Both exciting and terrifying for an introvert masquerading as an extrovert. Okay here goes...
I'm Nikki Waterson, the Founder of Paws for Giving. What good is a blog if you don't know who the behind the scenes hooman is? I wanted to introduce myself for three reasons:
I've always had a strong connection with animals, even thinking back to my first pet - Snowy the budgie. I would create little obstacle courses for him and he would do them for bird seed treats. I used to sing to the lorikeets in the trees in our front yard, making up songs that I wished would call them to be my best friends, à la Snow White.
It's no surprise that years later when I was about eleven, I went on to spend hours on end playing with our family pup, Milly the black labrador; training her to run her own agility courses and to do toy hide and seek puzzles in our backyard.
In my late teens, as I spent more time out of the family home, I discovered that I actually had terrible dog allergies. Well, thankfully I don't have these so bad anymore, but this is only in large part due to not having a pet around.
So I take all the cuddles I can get from my fur-neice and fur-nephew, fur-neighbours… you get the idea!
Walking my last pup and my fur-niece on the top of my dugout (underground) home in Coober Pedy
A pivotal experience for me in my animal welfare journey was in 2015 when I lived in Coober Pedy, a town in the outback South Australia. Friends and I rescued a litter of 7 helpless two week old puppies whose mum was not well enough to feed them. I'll write a longer blog post about this soon, but for now, you'll be happy to know that all pups survived the ordeal and went to loving homes and mum received the care she needed for malnourishment.
My first tangible connections to animal rescues were formed through that experience, and that was also when I started to realise that my love of animals was something that had already been driving me into action. I had been coming across neglected, abused or homeless animals, and I didn't want to stand by, or do the bare minimum.
After spending 7 years living in rural and remote South Australian towns, I'm now based in Adelaide and of course I still love animals. For me, 2021 marks my year of finally being exactly where I want to be. I've found a place that feels like home, and I love it.
Me cuddling my fur-nephew back when he was a puppy
The thing I am most passionate about in life is making a difference - for hoomans and animals, and by extension the Earth. If I'm being honest, I'm really only just catching up on the Earth part of this, and I'm still learning how to be an Earth-Ally.
And obviously this need to make a difference is why I chose a business model that involves 50% of the profit from all Paws for Giving sales being given to Aussie animal rescues. But there is more to it than just my need to make a difference that drove me to choose this.
I really enjoy a good problem. Or a bad problem. If there is something that feels like a roadblock in life to someone in some way, I'm all about clearing the hell out of that roadblock.
And I spend a lot of time clearing roadblocks out of the way in my own life. Whether it's a tedious task that I feel I could cut a step out of to make more efficient, or a bigger problem that I puzzle over for months and eventually come to a workable solution, I always try to ask myself if I can help make things better.
Ever since really understanding what animal rescue workers go through in their day to day (and their night to night), I've actively sought out ways to support my local rescues. The commitment of rescue workers to their cause in the face of seemingly insurmountable barriers is something that got my attention from the start.
What are these seemingly insurmountable barriers you ask? Let's start with Aussie animal rescues, animal sanctuaries and animal shelters forming a huge part of Australia's animal welfare management backbone. Which would be fine, if these rescues received consistent (or any, for most of them) government funding for the hard work that they do.
This important , almost entirely volunteer, work is truly unmatched in any field I have ever worked with. Can you imagine working two full-time jobs with one being entirely volunteer?
And when I channel my dorky problem solving in the direction of the Australian animal welfare situation, frankly, I feel ill, and the puzzle of how to help animal rescues save lives when they are underfunded can feel truly unsolvable.
Behind this conundrum is one enormous, universal, Aussie animal rescue truth. Genuine animal rescues tend to never feel that they have done enough. There is always another vet bill to pay, or another piece of essential equipment that can be upgraded, and another animal that can be saved. All before ever paying a living wage to a rescue worker.
So I am sure you can see how me wanting to help animals and humans alike coupled with a desire to solve problems led to Paws for Giving. I thought for a long time about the conundrum.
And I thought about how there are so many rescue supporters who love the rescue that they follow on Facebook, but they find it hard to come up with any spare change when their budgets are already stretched.
It's not that these aren't generous people, but they have so many other expenses, that donating might not ever feel like something they can really do. They are often especially generous in other areas of life, giving to friends and family, so much so, they don't even get to spoil themselves once in a while.
So Paws for Giving was about providing a new stream of revenue to all the small and medium animal rescues out there, through a gift store that would stock something for everyone.
That way, rescues can save more lives, and supporters can make buying decisions that they feel proud of, and not have to compromise on what they would usually buy.
And I know that Paws for Giving isn't going to be able to fix animal rescue funding on it's own. But I like to think we are taking a step in the right direction by choosing to give away half of our profits. Right now we are just a drop in the ocean sure, but we are one that's going to ripple outwards and grow in impact.
And speaking of rippling out, I look to the leaders of the animal rescue, shelter and sanctuary support who are doing incredible things to help rescues every day. There are organisations that are working hard on important projects; like making the pound a safe place for your pets and all companion animals in your community
(Saving Pets) or reducing the number of adoptable dogs euthanised in Australia to zero (Savour Life).
Let alone all the Charities who directly support and provide supplies and funding relief to other animal rescue groups, like The Rescue Collective and the Animal Rescue Cooperative.
So in conclusion, Paws for Giving is about doing our best to fight for the underdog rescues.
I hope you feel like you know me better now, and you understand where I am coming from and why I created Paws for Giving. Say hello in the comments, and let me know if you enjoyed this insight into the behind the scenes hooman.
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