The Underdog Club

UnderDogClub.jpg
The Underdog Club
A group of everyday heroes gives hard-to-place shelter dogs—the “old, ugly, and unpopular”—a marketing makeover and a shot at a forever home

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The Underdog Club recently came to our attention and we quite simply fell in love with this band of creative individuals and their mandate of marketing the “ugly, old, and unpopular” dogs out there in need of homes.

The club, begun in April, 2007, bills itself as the first-ever dog marketing agency, an apt description if ever there was one. A non-profit, volunteer-run organization, it helps “client” rescue organizations and shelters in Montreal, Quebec, promote their hardest-to-place dogs—in short, “the old, the ugly and the unpopular,” as the club calls them, though Kristin McNeill, the club’s Director, is quick to assure us, “We lovingly, and with humour and compassion, place dogs into these categories!”

Currently comprised of a small and dedicated group of about a dozen people who use their specific skills to get these underdogs some notoriety and keep the organization running, it is a lean team of dedicated dog lovers using their disparate talents to help the most unfortunate dogs out there get a second chance. They’re a bit like Cinderella’s fairy godmother, really. By day, they are writers, editors, photographers, graphic designers, artistic directors, accountants, web masters, fundraisers, and translators. By night? An inspiration.

Employing newspaper columns, the web, events, and a hefty dose of copy writing and design savvy, they get the word out; to date, they have helped over 250 hard-to-place dogs find forever homes. This is a feat in and of itself, of course, but takes only adoptions into account; there’s also the club’s contribution to education, rescue dog visibility, and fundraising for operations and behaviour modification. Pretty darn cool if you ask us.

We asked McNeill a few questions about the Underdog Club.

What inspired the creation of the Underdog Club?
A compassionate and supercreative woman named Fern Breslaw started the club. She was working in one of Canada’s top ad agencies and knew that so much of our ability to love something is about how it’s packaged and presented. Her idea was simply to package and present “undesirable” homeless dogs in a way that made them look special. It was really an exercise in applying to these sad cases the same marketing that works for any product.

How do you choose the dogs you feature?
While certainly not a science, we remain committed to sticking to those dogs whose appeal is more hidden. We promote those who fall into the old category, those in their last years of life. We once featured a dog who only had a few weeks to live. Someone read his story and gave him a loving place in which to lie by the fire and live out his final days.

We also concentrate on the unpopular, those dogs who suffer from stigma associated with a specific breed, like the Pit Bulls, Bull Terriers, Rotties. We believe there is almost always a good dog underneath the behaviour (and yes, we feature the biters!) and we’re into promoting the idea that people can work to correct the dog’s behaviour versus euthanizing. We also see many sad cases of dogs with disease or physical deformities. And last, the “ugly.” A take-off on the Clint Eastwood film [The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly], this is a category in which we use much leeway, because we don’t really believe any dog is ugly! We’ve helped promote hugely obese dogs. We’ve featured dogs with crooked legs, hump backs, dogs with allergies that leave their skin red and raw…

Why should someone adopt a dog? And why should they specifically consider an ugly, unpopular, or old dog?
We fully believe there is an abandoned dog who will fit nicely into any home. Walk into any big shelter or peruse any good rescue website, and you can pretty much find the dog you are looking for—there are that many abandoned or puppy millcreated dogs out there. Have allergies? Don’t like big dogs? Love black, short-haired dogs? Looking for a canine companion that fits in a purse? You can find them all in a shelter or rescue. Why consider an old, ugly or unpopular dog? So that they can have a shot at a better life. Look, we’re all going to be old one day, some of us may be ugly, and we’ve all been unpopular at one time or another, but that doesn’t make us any less worthy of love. Well, these dogs are like us: heck, we can’t all be fancy purebreds or fuzzy little puppies. These dogs are often forgotten or ignored in rescues and shelters with little hope. We think that just ain’t right!

>> Check out the Underdog Club at underdogclub.org.

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Dog of the Week!

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