Here at Natura, dogs are part of the family. We do what we do to improve the lives of dogs, dog people, and people in the pet industry. We wanted to take the time to shout out Kristen here in Accounting for going above and beyond not only when it comes to keeping the lights on around here, but she—along with her wife, Rachel—is also a rockstar to the pups in her life. They’re dedicated pet owners with two dogs and two cats in their household.
Kristen would have pursued a veterinary career, she says, but she doesn’t do well with blood, so she finds other ways to show her love for dogs. She pet/house sits, works for a local boarding and daycare facility, and generally falls head over heels with just about every dog she meets. She has also worked with several neighbors and acquaintances to get Natura installed in their yards and she even installed Natura in her own yard to give her dogs a better play area.
Rachel was always drawn to dogs as well. According to Kristen, whenever they would go to a friend’s house Rachel would spend all her time with the dog, offering to take them for a walk or help with training—but she was unsure of exactly how she wanted to use her talents to help dogs.
Rachel and Kristen first heard about Stray Paws Rescue when they saw a tragic news story featuring the facility. In 2022, St. Louis, Missouri saw heavy flooding due to a “hundred-year” rain event that swept through the area. Unfortunately, Stray Paws Rescue was hit particularly badly by the flood, leading to ten dogs’ deaths. Rachel was so affected by the story that Kristen took notice. Kristen finally convinced Rachel that helping animals was really what she wanted to do, it seemed, and what better way than pitching in to help the shelter whose story had so affected her?
Stray Paws Rescue is a St. Louis-area nonprofit that strives to protect and improve the lives of rescued animals and finally place them in loving permanent homes. The nonprofit works with vets in the area to provide medical care for abandoned or stray animals. They work tirelessly to save animals from euthanasia, be it through the rescue itself or one of the many associated foster homes. Rachel started volunteering and eventually found herself in a full-time role at the rescue.
For Rachel, it was like a match made in heaven. It’s about the dogs’ stories, she says. For example, both Rachel and Kristen became attached to a sweet pit mix named “Juice” who had been tied up and neglected before he came in. He had a large gash on his neck when he showed up, but once he healed up and got settled he served as a kind of big brother during his time at Stray Paws Rescue. He would get along with just about any dog, so much so that the workers and volunteers would bring in Juice to spend time with new dogs to gauge their friendliness. Now, he finally found his forever home and the pet parents send Rachel and Kristen photos of him happily running through their rural homestead. The change he made from a scared, injured dog to a confident leader was inspiring.
That’s one of the bittersweet things about the work: you hear these dogs’ stories, and you see them every day, you tend to get attached. That’s how Rachel and Kristen “failed” as foster parents for Stray Paws Rescue. They fostered a pit mix named “Blu” and they just couldn’t let him go once he worked his way into their hearts. If only all our failures had such positive outcomes! It’s a classic story and it demonstrates one of the reasons fostering can be so enlightening; everybody is better in a supportive home environment.
Blu was shy as can be in the shelter, but once they got him home, he opened up and his personality shined through—he wasn’t shy one bit! That’s not to throw stones at shelters; if a shelter is doing good work it tends to be a chaotic environment with many dogs, one that might make it difficult to get a read on a dog’s true personality.
Kristen recommends fostering for this very reason. Dogs are simply more likely to find forever homes if they’re in a loving, supportive environment that shows them at their best. You can even foster to adopt if you’re worried about falling for the dog you’re fostering. Remember, every dog fostered is another open spot at Stray Paws Rescue.
With Rachel working like a dynamo for these dogs, Kristen wanted to use her resources to help, too. When Kristen began here, Natura was just getting off the ground, but she saw an opportunity in the hybrid turf. Kristen reached out to dog-owning friends and Stray Paws Rescue to fix their outdoor ground cover situations. She helped replace the gravel ground at the facility with Natura to make the yard more beautiful and functional for the dogs.
It just so happened that Blu’s mom, Banana Split, was the first to set her paws on the newly laid Natura, and she gave a glowing review in the form of running at Mach speed before rolling over on her back to wiggle back and forth. (We have it on good authority that Natura is a great back scratcher!) She’d never done anything like that on gravel. Kristen thought, “What dog would?”
Kristen found that the turf appeared to be safer than gravel, as well. She noticed that dogs with paw injuries or joint conditions would limp more as they walked along gravel or other hard, rough surfaces, and the recurring problem of gravel getting caught between dogs’ paw pads disappeared immediately. She was satisfied that something as simple as a change in outdoor ground cover can noticeably improve dogs’ lives.
Now, a year after the flooding that took the lives of people and dogs alike, Stray Paws Rescue celebrates a year of progress by throwing an event, making sure to invite the firefighters who risked their lives to help the facility when they needed it the most. It goes to show, whoever you are, there’s something you can do to change dogs’ lives for the better. Consider fostering a dog, donating to a local shelter, or finding some small way to make life easier and more comfortable for the dogs in your life. Who knows, maybe you’ll “fail” yourself into finding a new family member like Rachel and Kristen did.
If you’re looking to make the dogs in your life healthier and happier, Natura is a great way to do it. Learn more here.