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How Motley Zoo has cultivated donor loyalty in all the “wrong” ways

 Tails from the Zoo - a Motley Zoo blog by Executive Director, jme  Comments Off on How Motley Zoo has cultivated donor loyalty in all the “wrong” ways
Mar 132018

Barry Manilow (R)- now a Rock Star, but we knew him back when!

Original content by jme Thomas, 3/13/2018

We at Motley Zoo believe that animals are worth more than the value at the bottom of a vet bill- and that it is our role to do everything we can to ensure that those animals have a second chance at life, regardless of the price tag. We believe animals make our live richer, despite the costs- and that we’re not just finding homes for animals, we’re creating life-long matches with family.

Because of this belief- and our willingness to share the transparent truth- we have cultivated a very strong and loyal following since our founding in 2009. A “crew” comprised of hundreds of direct volunteers and fosters; thousands in terms of adopters- and multiple thousands in terms of donors.

Donors who many times, have never met us or our animals- but who receive and believe in, our message and mission as wholeheartedly as we do.

We have been able to build this crew this because we are straight with our constituents. We share the trials and tribulations  we face, as well as the successes. We ask for what we need to do our job saving lives- which includes reminding (or rather trying to inspire) our crew to remember that without people to do the job, all the money in the world is ineffective. We need people to join us in any way they can- and not to underestimate the value of volunteer time.

From the beginning we did things in the way we believed we should do them- however discovered that this was also considered somewhat unconventional. In the end, what was initially gauged as quirkiness turned out to fall in line with many “best practices” and new innovations in nonprofit management- especially in regard to donor loyalty.

We found that our greatest successes were because we were often “unprofessional” in the traditional sense…and thankfully, we didn’t worry about tradition.

We found that the people who support us, wanted something new, fresh and unusual. It’s not just our rock and roll theme or the fun we have with it- it’s the way we talk to the people that support us; the culture we’ve helped create. It’s what we tolerate- and what we don’t- and how we make no apologies when it comes to either…because no matter what people may think or say from time to time, we never forget the animals need us to remain steadfast and determined…and that nothing- not even our donors potential judgments- are more important than that. We’re not afraid to do what we believe is right- even at risk of criticism…though we find we’re rarely criticized for this as a result; rather, people trust us more.

We are so grateful that we can just be ourselves, as brutally honest as we feel we should be- both as individuals and as an organization- and this is why we have been successful, not controversial. We don’t preach or sell what we do- yet our crew believes in us near implicitly, because we share that unabashedly with them. Our supporters are not just people who provide us funds, they are people who feel us- and as a result, give willingly and often.

We have created donor loyalty by doing everything backwards and without any evidence at the time that this was right- we just did what our hearts believed…and we’re glad we did.

Thank you to everyone who has been a part of Motley Zoo and our amazing success as an organization- but more so for each and every precious soul we believed was valuable and worth saving. You believed it too- and that is what has made Motley Zoo successful at rockin’ rescue…and for that, we salute you!

Related posts: What Donors Want From Nonprofits Before They Write Their Checks, as featured on

 Posted by at 8:08 pm
Jun 082016


Originally featured on 6/27/2016- original content, jme Thomas

As the Executive Director of Motley Zoo Animal Rescue, I see a lot of interesting things: I see the best of people and the worst. Another thing I see are fads and patterns when it comes to people’s desires- especially, in regards to people requesting service dogs. This is now as common now as every fifth application we review- which means many people need dogs with very specific personalities and traits. It is when they follow that up with “needing a puppy so we can be sure to get what we want”, that I begin to worry.

That thinking couldn’t be more inaccurate.

When people request a service dog, we know they typically don’t need a dog that will literally help get them around; to be their eyes or ears. What they are usually seeking however is an emotional support or therapy dog. What’s the difference? A lot!

A service dog is one which is trained specifically to detect medical conditions such as seizures, or perform tasks or duties for a physically disabled individual, such as a Seeing Eye dog for the blind. These dogs require more than 2 years of intense training and development.

Emotional support animals (EAS) however, are those whose job is to be themselves: a companion to those who are psychologically disabled from issues such as panic attacks, PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder) or other debilitating mental challenges- ones that truly affect quality of life and day to day function.

A therapy dog on the other hand is a dog that is trained to provide comfort and therapy for someone- other than their owners- such as those dogs who visit the elderly in nursing homes or children in hospitals that need cheering up. There are also strict requirements for dogs to be registered as such.

Most people believe “dogs with jobs” as I collectively refer to them, are selected as puppies- but really, that couldn’t be further from the truth. While service dogs are selected for certain qualities as puppies, it can safely be said less than 50% of the puppies that start out as candidates, actually ever become one. But why? Especially with all that training?

Sometimes dogs don’t pass muster because of a health condition that develops, such as hip dysplasia- but most often it has nothing to do with training and everything to do with development (that is why one should get the supplies to care about the pet using helpful review always). It’s simply their personality: they didn’t grow up to be the dog needed to do that very specific job. Much of the two years spent training a true service dog is actually for evaluating their personalities- not just teaching them what they need to learn.

Expectation and reality differing is pretty much “no duh”, when it comes to children. Somehow though this is baffling when applied to puppies.

Everyone knows parents work hard to mold their children the way they’d like, but how often is the outcome the same as the parents’ exact hopes or expectations? Perhaps it’s the football player dad who played catch every weekend with his son growing up, but when the son gets older, he prefers tennis…or *gasp*, maybe no sports at all! Or the piano aficionado’s child who grows up to be in a heavy metal band instead of joining the orchestra. Parents accept- and really, expect- their children will not be everything they hope or dream.

Very likely, neither will a puppy.

nikki therapizing

When seeking a dog to fill the “dogs with job” role, it’s a gamble when it comes to puppies. If you choose one, be sure you are prepared to accept responsibility for the dog, indefinitely, no matter how they may turn out. Your desire for a loving companion must take precedence over your desire for them to develop a specific way. Otherwise, it is terribly unrealistic and a heavy burden to put on your puppy who just wants to have fun and be themselves- as dogs should be allowed to do!

However, with adult dogs, “what you see is what you get”- especially dogs with proven experience, such as those in foster homes; those surrendered for the many reasons that have nothing to do with behavior issues. The shelter animals you see today, were most likely a family’s beloved pet the day before- as opposed to terrorizing the neighborhood as many envision. These are dogs that could make great dogs with jobs with very little extra effort- they are already what you’d need! Certainly more adult rescue dogs could fill the role of EAS dogs than couldn’t- and many can pass the requirements needed to become therapy dogs in the community too.

When selecting a dog to perform a job, look at who they are as individuals- not simply breed or age, which are really irrelevant. Frankly, like fine wine, many dogs get better with age! Even seniors can make great therapy dogs because they are not youthful spazzes, flopping on the leash, peeing on the floor and play mouthing everyone’s hands! You can better count on them for reliable, consistent and most importantly, calm behavior required of dogs with jobs.

For a great example of a rescue-turned-therapy dog, check out “Ottis to the Rescue” on Facebook. The page features the adventures of Ottis- long-time foster brother to hundreds of dogs and his “sister”, Nikki, a 15 year old, deaf and blind Pomeranian who is making the most of her golden years as a therapy dog in retirement homes. Nikki is a great example of a rescued dog that was selected as a therapy dog for her “perfect” intrinsic qualities already- not a puppy that was forced into a role he or she is not capable of living up to.

If you’re interested in some first-hand experience and advice, check out our interview with Brooke Mallory, Ottis and Nikki’s mom, here.

jme is a featured blogger for There you can find great information about reliable, loving pet care services as well as great insight and advice from experts, so you can better care for your furry friend!


 Posted by at 9:17 am

An Interview with Brooke Mallory and her Therapy Dogs, Ottis & Nikki

 Tails from the Zoo - a Motley Zoo blog by Executive Director, jme  Comments Off on An Interview with Brooke Mallory and her Therapy Dogs, Ottis & Nikki
Jun 082016

ottis and nikki

Brooke Mallory’s dogs, Ottis and Nikki, are “facility therapy dogs” and they are certified Canine Good Citizens.

Ottis has been foster brother to hundreds of dogs throughout his life. Nikki was adopted from Motley Zoo Animal Rescue as a hospice case- a long-term foster who is suffering from a variety of terminal issues. We are offering her “final refuge”; she will die in Brooke’s care. But before that, she has work to do with Ottis!

Jme: Why did you want to do (visiting) therapy work with your dogs?

Brooke:  My grandfather had Alzheimer’s and after my grandmother passed away, he was moved into an Alzheimer’s care facility. This was a really hard transition for him. He had just lost his wife, which he would go in and out of remembering, and he was cognizant enough at the time to realize he was losing his mind, and his independence. He was very angry and scared. The care facility had a dog and a cat that lived at there. Also, visitors were able to bring their dogs, so my aunt would bring her dogs with her when she visited. I witnessed firsthand the joy and comfort these animals brought my grandfather, who had always loved animals and owned dogs his whole life. It was maybe the only thing at the time that gave him comfort. From that moment, I had always wanted to be able to volunteer in this way with my dogs, but I didn’t know how to go about doing it, and life got busy. Years later, I learned of the Seattle Humane Society’s Visiting Pet Friends program program while I was a key note speaker at one of their town hall meetings. That same day, I emailed them their Visiting Pet Friends Director and got the ball rolling. I knew that not only was it something the residents would enjoy, but that I would really enjoy it, as would my dog Ottis.


Jme: How long did it take for you to become certified?

Brooke: The certification process greatly depends on what organization you are volunteering through. In order to not spin your wheels, it’s best to first find a quality organization in your area that offers a facility therapy dog program. From there you can determine the steps you need to take to qualify for their program. For the Seattle Humane Society’s Visiting Pet Friends program, they require that dogs have a Canine Good Citizen (CGC) certificate, which is obtained through the AKC. If you have a different type of pet, such as a cat or a lizard, you do not need to take that step as there is no such certification available. Once the CGC has been obtained, if applicable, they schedule and in-person meeting with their Visiting Pet Friends Director, during which the director will perform a behavioral evaluation with the pet, as well as talk the owner through the process and make sure they are prepared for the task at hand. In addition, they require proof of current vaccinations; an exam within 30 days that states the pet is in good health; a negative fecal within 30 days, and proof of homeowner’s or renter’s insurance.

For the Canine Good Citizen test, you and your dog need to have advanced training skills as a team. To pass the test, they require all items to be completed perfectly, and only allow for a re-do of one item at the end of the test, at the discretion of the AKC representative. This must be independent of behavior responses such as fear or anxiety- a dog would not be allowed to repeat for that; that would be a disqualification. If you and your dog are new to obedience training, the first step is to complete beginning and intermediate training classes with your dog. Once you have on-leash and off-leash control of your dog and you feel ready for the test, I highly recommend taking a CGC prep training class, with a trainer who specializes in CGC testing. That is the biggest advice I can give.

The class will help you practice all the test items, so that when it comes to the actual test, you aren’t so nervous. Because, no matter now well trained you and your dog are as a team, when you get nervous, you are going to make mistakes, and so will your dog. By practicing the actual test items in a prep class repeatedly until they are second nature, which will give you a huge advantage when your mind is buzzing with nerves. For the CGC prep class that I took with Ottis and then with Nikki, the CGC test was taken on the last day of class, so it was also super convenient too. The instructor had an AKC testing representative come to the class facility to conduct the test, which gave me and my dogs a home field advantage because we were already familiar with and comfortable in the space.


Jme: What is one of the requirements of the certification process that surprised you?

Brooke: One thing that I think a lot of people overlook when considering if they want to do this line of work, is that it’s important that your dog actually enjoys their time volunteering. Even if you have the best-behaved dog, that doesn’t mean he is necessarily a good candidate for this work. During the process of getting certified, it is as important to the organization that your dog is enjoying himself, as it is that your dog is safe to interact with the public. During testing, they are not only looking to ensure your dog can tolerate rough petting from strangers, as an example of one of the test items, they are also looking to ensure your dog enjoys  the rough pettingThere is a huge difference between tolerance and enjoyment. As much as a handler may be passionate about volunteering in this way, that doesn’t always translate to their pet. It’s truly teamwork that requires dedication from both sides of the leash.


Jme: How much time do you spend doing therapy work each month?

Brooke: I’ve been volunteering as a Visiting Pet Friends team with my dog Ottis for three years now. Nikki was just recently certified, so I’ve been volunteering with her for about four months. We typically volunteer once a month, although occasionally we volunteer twice per month. The visits typically last one hour. I would love to volunteer more, but I work multiple jobs. I think many people are concerned about the time commitment and that may deter them from volunteering, but even with my crazy schedule, I can always find 1hr per month to give my time, and the residents are always grateful. Most programs ask that you commit to a minimum of one visit her month, for a minimum of six months.


Jme: What is one suggestion you’d make to someone considering therapy dog work?

Brooke: My biggest tip is to take a CGC prep class, no matter how well-trained you and your dog are as a team, even just for the sake of helping you get over your nerves. This will also help you practice and learn all the specific rules for each test item, to the point that it becomes second nature to you, so that when you are nervous, you don’t make mistakes.

But I have another tip in terms of volunteering. It’s really important to keep in-tune with your dog while working. It is surprisingly exhausting for the animal. While it seems like easy work for the dog to give and receive love, it actually takes quite the toll on them. It seems almost as though they physically are taking the burdens from all the people they meet, on to their own shoulders while they work the room. As such, it’s important to always pay close attention to your pet, and as soon as they seem ready to be done, no matter if you have been there for a short time or not, that’s when you need to end the visit. While our visits typically last an hour, there have been times I’ve had to end the visit as soon as 20 minutes, and there have been times I’ve stayed as long as 90 minutes.

Both Nikki and Ottis are always very tired after their volunteer shifts, as if they had just gone on a 10-mile run. It truly is a tough job being cute! I see it firsthand! I will say that typically they build their stamina the more times they visit the same facility, because they start to learn the location and the people, so it’s less new over time, but ever visit is different, and every day is different, so their stamina can fluctuate from visit to visit.


Brooke fosters for Motley Zoo, works as a pet sitter and is an award winning photographer. You can see her work at Brooke Mallory Photography.

 Posted by at 8:52 am
Jul 292014


When it comes to taking an animal of any kind into our care, we have to hedge on the side of caution. This is true in most every facet, as we rarely have the benefit of knowing what their lives were like before they came to us.

We need to make sure an animal sees the vet for a medical check, we need to give the animal a behavior evaluation to gauge temperament and potential triggers, and we need to feed them the best possible food available in case of allergies or other unknown issues.

You may be surprised at just how many animals come into our care – even those who are surrendered by their owners – with terrible skin problems like hotspots, balding and yeast infections. What may surprise you even more is that many people don’t even register that the animal has the issue in the first place.

Lack of time or attention means it’s harder to notice that  when a pet has been licking its paws, has goopy eyes or even red, irritated skin. Therefore, the first time the issue ends up noticed is when the animal enters into our care.


Since we don’t typically know the cause of any one symptom, we start our detective work with the easiest – and overall least expensive — thing to control: Food.

Our first priority is to make sure an animal in our care is healthy, and a high-quality food can often make the difference between a healthy, happy dog and one who gnaws his paws raw. This is also true for our feline charges.

Any issue might end up more complex than expected, but sometimes all it takes to fix it is a different diet (this is especially true when owners who surrender their animals note what the pet was eating previously and it’s a low-quality food).

Many Americans are getting smarter about what they feed their pets, but some still prefer whatever is cheapest the grocery store (typically that is a product which includes allergy-causing ingredients such as ground yellow corn meat by-product/meal, corn gluten meal, various dyes and additives, by-products, rendered unspecific meats, etc).  

 What we know for sure is that  we see so many health and skin-related issues alleviated by high-quality food (rich in proteins, and low in grains and additives) what you feed your pet has to matter.

Not every dog has the same nutritional needs, but it’s up to us to figure out what those needs are. Sure, a dog could eat table scraps or kibble with corn as the first ingredient, but should they? Not if we can help it.


To find out what’s in your dog food, check out the following sites:

Dog Food Advisor

Take the True Blue Test from Blue Buffalo

Dog Food Analysis

What’s your favorite brand of dog food?

Rock on!

~The Motley Zoo Crew~

 Posted by at 6:00 am
Jul 242014

OttisCofee.Banner.SMALL.140711_Motley Zoo Filbert Cat Ottis Starbucks 07.21.14_3429

Are you ready to rock? Ottis to the Rescue is challenging all his fans to SAVE THE COFFEE TO SAVE A LIFE! Frappuccino Friday Fundraiser!

His challenge to YOU is to forgo your coffee this Friday (07.25.14) and instead, donate your coffee cash toward his Motley Zoo Animal Rescue Birthday fundraiser, in honor of his 10th birthday! 




R.S.V.P – S.H.A.R.E – L.I.K.E – D.O.N.A.T.E

Motley Zoo Animal Rescue is a 501(c)(3) non-profit, all-volunteer, no-kill animal rescue organization that relies on public donations from fans like YOU to do the work they do for the animals in our community. If you love Ottis’ facebook page… if you loved Edward Carter’s Stairway to Heaven, Mia Miyoshi, Shooter, Andy and all his other fosters and you love the work we do, please support us so that we can continue to save lives!

Facebook has changed the way our posts reach our fans so that fewer and fewer people can “see” us every day… That has made our fundraising efforts a harder and harder struggle.  A dollar or two  may not seem like a lot to you as an individual, but if a hundred or more people all do it?? Then we all really can really make a difference. So let’s rally!

~The Motley Zoo Crew~

 Posted by at 6:30 am
Jul 222014



Kyle and Klarisa VanWinkle with their pets

2. How long have you been a Motley Zoo volunteer and how did you get started?
Since around March [of 2014]. I work across the street and always drove by and wondered what it was about. At the time, my husband had mentioned working for a non-profit and then just like that fate stepped in and I was working with MZ [Motley Zoo] the next day.

3. What do you think makes Motley Zoo special?
The environment 🙂 I have never walked into a group of people that made you feel more empowered to do something great no matter where you start. From the beginning, Motley Zoo directors encouraged us to reach out, head projects and be a part of everything they do. There was never a moment of not feeling welcome and it became a place to go when you just needed to see a friendly face.

4. Tell us about your own pet(s):
I currently have two dogs. Leila is a small Nova Scotia mix that I found at a gas station in San Diego. When I found her, she was full of worms and covered in dirt and oil. That little girl has been with me through some of the roughest days of my life and I couldn’t be more happy I found her. Tobi is a Miniature Australian Shepherd and was my husband’s pick. From the beginning, Tobi was a lover who fell asleep on your shoulder every time you picked him up. He now takes up the majority of our bed each night, sleeping right in the middle of us — Haha!

5. What animal do you think you’re most like, and why?
Tough question! I think it would change with my mood. If I had to pick one though, it would be wolf. To be free, wild, strong and live in a pack/family your whole life.

6. Tell us a funny story about an experience you’ve had with an animal — either your own, or while fostering/volunteering:
Oh my gosh, the two [foster] cats I brought home, even when my husband said no. I thought it would be so easy to handle Nyx and Hemera, and boy was I wrong. Nyx for the life of her could not keep the majority of the litter in the cat box [when she first arrived]. My husband’s reaction to the bathroom floor could not have been more perfect. Made us think really long and hard if we wanted a cat!

7. What’s one thing you’ve learned – or that has surprised you – about your experience/animals/rescue since you started with Motley Zoo?
People are not always what you would expect and the majority of the world will show you kindness when you show it. I have learned to be more outgoing and reach out and talk to strangers, and how to handle situations that before would have broke me down to tears. There are a lot of things that I take with me everywhere now thanks to MZ.

8. What’s the one pet product you can’t live without?
Dogs, no doubt about it!

 Posted by at 6:45 am
Jul 172014

Motley Zoo’s Executive Director Jme Thomas, with George Takei and Kitten Takei.


We try to create a message of positive community involvement, which is just one reason we seek out celebs and rock stars to pose for photos with our adoptable animals.

We think it communicates a message of support and celebration, and it advocates the idea that even though rescue is hard work, it can really fun, too! Plus, who doesn’t like kittens and puppies? 😉

During this year’s Seattle Pride celebration on Sunday, June 29, we were fortunate enough to do just that! We made special arrangements for a meet-n-greet with the legendary actor and activist George Takei (pronounced Tah-kay), who was this year’s Pride Grand Marshall.

As an avid community activist, he and his husband Brad Altman were very generous with their time, and our little kitten Takei was a total charmer. It was a crazy scene, but they were definitely smitten with kitten Takei’s sweet demeanor.

Big thanks to Seattle Pride in helping us arrange this amazing opportunity, and extra thanks to George and Brad for helping us raise awareness and supporting Motley Zoo!


George Takei takes a moment with his kitten namesake.

Rock on!

~The Motley Zoo Crew~

 Posted by at 6:00 am
Jul 162014

Here at Motley Zoo our mission is to improve the lives of animals. This is a complex initiative that may sound deceptively simple. In reality, the work is often very challenging, but so rewarding.

Motley Zoo is an all-volunteer, foster-based no-kill official 501©3 nonprofit that focuses on elevating the status of rescue animals in society through rescue, rehabilitation and education. We also along focus on spay-and-neuter advocacy aimed toward ending pet overpopulation that results in millions of healthy pets being euthanized due to limited space, resources and funding.

We primarily  support our local community and area shelters, and encourage responsible pet ownership by coaching, teaching and mentoring volunteers and adopters. We believe all animal life has value, and we are advocates for those who do not have a voice.

After years of fostering for other organizations and seeing first-hand what worked and what they thought could be done better, co-founders Jme and Bryan Thomas, and Brooke Mallory joined forced in 2009 to create Motley Zoo to do just that. Stay tuned for our origin story!

The purpose of this blog is to share our experiences with others, and engage in a dialogue about many Motley Zoo, animal and rescue-related topics.

We’re pulling back the curtain on what goes on behind the scenes, answering your questions and posing our own. We’re a rag-tag team of individuals with various lifestyles, cultures, goals and experiences, but we share one common value: We believe we have the power to make a difference. And we do, every day.

As Ghandi said, “be the change you want to see.”

So come join us on our journey. After all, it takes all kinds.

Rock on!

~The Motley Zoo Crew~

 Posted by at 8:09 am
Oct 012013

We are utilizing a new blogging tool (NewsPad) and pulling back the curtain so you can see more about the magic that happens behind the scenes here.

This candid view at our process and structure are designed to help you walk a day in our shoes,  to better understand what rescue is all about- and hopefully how you too can get involved! Enjoy.

Read about “Motley_Zoo” on NewsPad

 Posted by at 9:16 pm