Though better known for their vacuums, Bissell, through the work of Cathy Bissell, has also become a shining example of animal advocacy. Cathy, a self described lifelong animal lover and the proud mother of three black labs, has helped found and run three different animal welfare programs for the company: the BISSELL Pet Foundation, in 2011, which gives grants to deserving animal welfare groups to fight the problem of animal homelessness; Partners for Pets, in 2010, a program designed to help raised funds for shelters and animal rescue organizations through Bissell; and LostPetUSA.net in 2008, a website designed to help pet parents reconnect with their lost pets.
Cathy Bissell’s biggest inspiration in her animal welfare work was her shelter adopted black lab, Bear. When Bissell met Bear, he had been in the shelter for three weeks and she could not wait to take the gentle dog, who she described as enduringly loyal and loving, home. Their love would last the rest of Bear’s lifetime and through his influence, Bissell has been able to help many more animals.
LostPetUSA.net is a free online and mobile service designed to help pet parents through the process of reuniting with their lost family member, not only through traditional flyering (though they do have templates to help with that) but through modern technology. On the site, those who are looking for their pets or have found the pets of others’ can plot the location on a map. This easily accessible information is vital to the happy reunion of pets and their families. Bissell stresses though that “it is so important to microchip! We are such strong believers that microchips save lives… a microchip is a simple way for shelter professionals to get pets back to their families. It is also just as important that their owners keep their contact information current in the microchip database. Of course, keeping a collar and ID tags on your cats and dogs is always recommended, but if these were to come off or get lost, a microchip is the only form of permanent identification that can get your pet home, safe and sound.”
The need for a website like LostPetUSA.net has been experienced by many animal lovers, including Janie Jenkins, LostPetUSA.net’s co-founder and Bissell’s sister. Years ago, Jenkins found a lost kitten a good home, only to discover that it already had a family that was missing it! To her, the message was clear, pet finders and pet families needed a place to get together. One testimonial of this is the experience of Gracie’s mom. When Gracie ran away, her parents did not know what to do and they spent a whole day looking everywhere for her. They didn’t know what to do so they went home and looked on the website, where they found a poster template, which they used to make the posters they put up all all around their neighborhood, and other tips for getting the word out. Within a harrowing 48 hours, Gracie was back home with her family.
This program is so important to Cathy because she, like most parents, would be overcome with grief if her three precious pups went missing. Her dogs, K.C., D.J., and Roxy, are all vital members of her family. When asked to describe them as movie stars she said “they all just adore it when you pay attention to them, so maybe they’re like any celebrity in that sense. D.J. is definitely the Carey Grant of the family, tall, dark and handsome. K.C. is very nurturing. She’s kind and sweet, like Audrey Hepburn in her later years. She looks like a young Audrey, though, absolutely beautiful. And our Roxy…Roxy just starred in a BISSELL commercial with me, so maybe she’s a celebrity in her own right. But really, she’s the modern, fun, beautiful, spontaneous girl, like Mila Kunis. She’s the kind of girl everyone wants to hang out with; she’s very popular.”
She also related how they came to have their names. “Roxy came to us from the shelter with her name, but one of my sons was responsible for D.J.’s name. He called his favorite radio station asking the D.J. what he should name his new puppy. The man on the radio said we should name our dog after him. Technically, I guess we named him after the man’s profession, but we all liked D.J. K.C.’s name stands for ‘Kinda Cute.’ An aunt of ours, who isn’t really a dog lover, looked at her and said, ‘Oh, she’s kind of cute.’ While we think she’s absolutely gorgeous, the initials just stuck, and she’s been K.C. ever since.”
It cannot be overstated how important pets are to their families and how devastating it would be if they went missing; however because of programs like LostPetUSA.net, there can be a happy ending.