Posted on July 9, 2014
Who said underdogs don’t ever win? I started the Silver Hearts project because a very old dog brought the “discarded senior dog” problem to my attention. Yes, my Sunny girl made it impossible for me to turn my back on these beautiful old souls.
I decided to photograph as many elderly dogs as I could with the hope of showing that they still have a lot of love to give. I wanted to show the playful, silly, full of life, happy side of aging dogs…and I wanted to put together a book so everyone could see what I saw in Sunny and other dogs like her.
I did some research about how to get a book published. I was clueless. I had a friend put me in touch with someone willing to answer my questions. Basically he said you need an agent or publishing houses won’t even consider it. He then told me how hard it was to get an agent and while my book sounded like a nice idea, he didn’t think it would be an easy sell and would probably take years to make any headway. I really had no interest in pursuing an agent…sounded like a horrible way to spend my time and all I really wanted was a book to help people see the beauty in these dogs. So I decided to publish it myself.
Next up…research on self-publishing. I wanted a high quality book. I wanted it to be special and beautiful–not a cheap Snapfish-style version. I had designed wedding books before so I knew the quality I was after. Of course I knew it would be expensive. Turns out it was way too expensive for a quality book to print on demand. That’s when I found Kickstarter.
I spent a few months researching Kickstarter projects so I could make the fundraising as successful as possible. I hired Jeff Truillo and Mark McGuire, an awesome team, to make my video. I created my incentives and the project was ready to submit to Kickstarter. Guess what? They denied it! I was crushed. They said the focus was too much on animal rescue and not enough on the art part. So I rewrote my proposal. This time it got accepted.
It started with a bang. Every few minutes someone would donate. The best part was that most of the backers were complete strangers. It made me happy to know that so many supported senior animals. Before I knew it we were more than halfway to the goal. And then it started to slow down. I had one week left to raise the remainder of the funds. Sadly it wasn’t meant to be. And I didn’t get to keep any of the money raised.
Still I was incredibly proud that my little Kickstarter was bringing awareness to the old souls, even if I failed to raise the money for the book. The point, after all, was to raise awareness, and I had done that without publishing the book.
People started being inspired to adopt or foster seniors. A junior high student did a project for his school and wrote about old dogs and collected blankets to bring to the shelter. I still get emails from strangers telling me they stumbled on my Silver Hearts project and because of that started doing something to help seniors.
It was the most successful failure ever!!
And then, reporter Laura Coffey stumbled on Silver Hearts and thought it would make a worthy story for the TODAY Show’s website. She believed in the project so much that she became an integral part of what it would become…more on that in a second.
Because of the article Laura wrote for TODAY.com in July 2013, the Associated Press newswire decided to do a story on the Silver Hearts project. News outlets everywhere picked up that one! All over the USA, Germany, Brazil, Japan, and Canada…it was crazy. People from all over the world were contacting me asking how to help. People read about Sunny and decided to open their hearts to an elderly dogs. Every single day someone reached out to me letting me know that they were inspired…and so many animals reaped the benefits.
And then NBC Nightly News contacted me and wanted to do a story. Who knew my sweet Sunny girl would be the catalyst to such an amazing turn of events.
NBC came to my house and followed me around all day. They even came to the shelter with me. NBC News correspondent Jill Rappaport won a Genesis Award for the piece too. That was really cool!
And then Cheryl Pientka, a literary agent in New York saw the NBC News piece. She had just rescued a senior dog named Sasha from Hurricane Sandy and the project touched her. She called me and wanted to know if I’d like her to represent me. She felt that the book would be of interest to publishers. I couldn’t believe it. Never in my wildest dreams could I have imagined that everything would fall into place like this. Of course I told Cheryl yes.
She decided it would be a better sell if each dog’s story was included with the photos so we found a writer–you guessed it, Laura Coffey, the woman who believed in Silver Hearts from the beginning and wrote that very first article.
Cheryl started shopping the project around. She made a list of her top 15 publishing houses. If they all passed on it, she would go to her next 15, and then the next 15, until we got a deal or everyone passed. Well…many of her first choices wanted to publish it. The process was long. The editors each had to bring the idea to committees and meetings and everyone had to agree. During that process several of the publishers decided to pass. Even so, we were so excited to learn that three publishers wanted it, which meant that the project went to auction. (I am clueless about the publishing world, but Cheryl said that was super cool.)
And now I am excited to announce that editor, Jason Gardner of New World Library has acquired our book “My Old Dog: Rescued Pets with Remarkable Second Acts.” The book will be coming out in Fall 2015. It’s pretty amazing!
All because I adopted a 16-year-old dog. (Who is now 18 and still going strong!)