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Interview with Heather Crowe, creator of the Titties for Pitties 2024 Calendar!

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Dog Events & Activities By Megan Marrs 12 min read February 9, 2024

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1. What was the inspiration behind launching the TITTIES FOR PITTIES 2024 Calendar and how does it align with the HIT Living Foundation?

As most of the community knows, one of the most difficult breeds to adopt out in Southern California are Pitbulls (yes, even the puppies).

In the fall of 2022, we were struggling to adopt out a litter of nine beautiful Pit puppies. The team had reached the limits of what we could do to promote the puppies and I knew we needed an attention-grabbing campaign to give them the visibility they needed for adoption. Breast Cancer Awareness month was right around the corner and with a personal tie to breast cancer, I knew simultaneously I wanted to give back to a breast cancer organization near and dear to my heart.

That’s when the play on words “Titties for Pitties” came to mind and with encouragement from our community, a year later, the idea of a fundraising calendar was born. 

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2. How does the TITTIES FOR PITTIES Calendar work to raise awareness and funds simultaneously for underprivileged dogs and breast cancer?

When the photos were taken, our team members held adoptable pit bull puppies. This calendar campaign aims to raise awareness of underdog puppies, highlight the secondary message of promoting the AiRS Foundation, and share stories from some of our team members who have been personally affected by it or their families.

The AiRS Foundation offers educational resources and grant opportunities to women with mastectomies seeking reconstruction surgery. By promoting calendar sales online and through end-of-the-year events, we will donate 50% back to the AiRS Foundation and 50% back to HIT Living.

3. You have a unique combo of breast cancer awareness and animal rescue in your campaign. Can you explain how these two causes intersect in your work?

During the launch of our initial campaign, Breast Cancer Awareness month was approaching, and one of our team members, my mother Susie Crowe, had battled breast cancer herself, so it was with her blessing and encouragement that we launched it.

As well as highlighting the puppies, we thought it would be an excellent opportunity to raise money for a beautiful breast cancer organization such as the AiRS Foundation.

Her battle story inspired me to contribute to the Airs Foundation. In 2004, my mom was diagnosed with stage 3 breast cancer that nearly killed her. Her treatment included chemotherapy and radiation after she underwent an urgent double mastectomy. At the time, our family had only wished there was an organization like the AiRS Foundation for her to talk to and work with.

That’s one of the reasons my mom was so happy to be involved in this campaign: not only to help the puppies find forever homes but also to highlight the AiRS foundation that helps so many women in a position like Susie. 

4. Can you describe the process of creating the calendar? How were the models and pups chosen? Were there any unforgettable moments during the photoshoots?

When this idea first came to fruition, I approached our internal team to gauge interest in participating in this campaign.

It was only natural to shine a spotlight on the incredible women within our organization—those who tirelessly dedicate themselves to rescuing, rehabilitating, and rehoming our rescues—as the faces of our initiative, including my own mother, a breast cancer survivor herself.  

The overwhelming response from team members happy to participate left me deeply touched. Their enthusiasm was fueled not only by a passion for our cause but also by personal connections to loved ones who had directly faced the challenges of breast cancer.

In 2022, our “Titties for Pitties” campaign, which spotlighted our adoptable Pitbull pups while raising awareness for the AiRS Foundation, gained traction exclusively through social media. The adoption donations from the puppies were donated to the AiRS Foundation. The support from our followers inspired us to take the campaign further, with many urging us to create a fundraising calendar.

This year, we had more women from the team eager to help complete the calendar. Although we didn’t have adoptable Pitbull puppies within our own rescue, we turned the spotlight on Parade of Paws, another rescue organization. They, too, faced the challenge of finding forever homes for 18 Pitbull puppies. 

This calendar was envisioned not as a Sports Illustrated calendar, but rather as a celebration of body diversity and women’s empowerment, with a deeply personal touch. The team, inspired by the resilience of my mom as a breast cancer survivor, and their own personal stories, aimed to capture the essence of this campaign. With the playful puppies in the studio and the camaraderie of our team, one of the most moving moments of the shoot was my mom’s participation.

Morgan Demeter, the photographer of this campaign and a close friend, displayed an unparalleled level of professionalism. Morgan created an atmosphere that allowed each of us to feel comfortable and confident and directed us in striking the right poses that complimented all our varying figures while holding puppies. My mom, reflecting on her journey as a breast cancer survivor, shared that Morgan was only the third man to witness her topless since her double mastectomy. The first was her mastectomy surgeon, followed by her reconstruction surgeon, and then Morgan.

Despite the physical and emotional challenges my mom had faced, Morgan’s respectful and considerate demeanor left a memorable impact. On behalf of the team, I extend deep gratitude to Morgan for his patience and professionalism. Navigating the chaos of the puppies, photographing over thirteen women for the shoot, and maintaining a deep respect for the underlying sentiments of the shoot, particularly with Susie’s presence, meant the world. 

5. HIT living is a fully foster-based rescue. Could you explain the advantages of this foster-based model and how it works for your foundation?

Implementing a foster-based model has proven to be particularly effective for our rescue operations. This approach involves placing dogs in foster homes, where they undergo a minimum 7-day decompression period.

This strategy allows us to seamlessly transition rescue dogs from their previous environments, be it a shelter, a life of neglect or love, or a life lived outside. This decompression period also allows us to monitor for any dormant health conditions that may surface. 

With their fosters, the rescue dogs also start to reveal their true personalities which becomes instrumental for our adoption team, aiding them in matching each dog with their ideal forever home. The foster-based approach plays a crucial role in ensuring a smooth transition for our rescues from the foster home environment to their permanent homes. 

6. The foundation focuses on rehabilitation, how do you measure the success of your rehabilitation programs and what kind of impact have they had on the dogs you’ve Rescued?

Every dog that enters our care, whether transitioning from a family home or a life of neglect and pain, undergoes a necessary level of rehabilitation before our adoption team can help them find a forever home.

For our rescues in need of medical rehabilitation, we have partnerships with five distinguished veterinary offices in Los Angeles, including three specialist offices covering areas such as dermatology, ophthalmology, and orthopedics. We pride ourselves in ensuring that every dog, regardless of age or condition, receives the highest standard of care.

Dr. Sheila, from Malibu Coast Animal Hospital, captured the essence of our commitment with her commendation: “Thank you guys for taking such great care of Blossom! I love that you brought her to a specialist so that she would not have to have her leg amputated. That is the level of care that sets HIT Living apart from other rescues.”

Addressing the training and behavioral needs of our rescue dogs, we offer direct access to an in-house trainer Alex with The Grateful Dog. Alex guides our fosters through basic training or behavioral challenges they encounter.

With situations where the issues surpass the capabilities of fosters or in-house team members, we collaborate with two exceptional behaviorists—John Flores of HumbleK9 and Angela Aadan. These experts have board and train programs, and work to address behavioral trauma, ensuring our dogs are adoption-ready before finding their forever homes.

7. Why did you select the goal of $55,555 for your 5th anniversary, and how will these funds be used?

Rescues are closing their doors due to funding shortages, and the crisis is escalating. While city officials deliberate, we’re on the front lines, having rescued 5 moms in a single month.

As a foster-based rescue organization with a small but mighty team, we were stretched thin trying to find homes for 50 puppies in October, but remain committed to making a difference. Pregnant mothers, litters without a mother, and countless others are at risk of euthanasia in overwhelmed shelters. It’s a dire situation that demands immediate action.

Hitting our goal of $55,555 will not only help us recoup funds from this year’s exceeding medical and board and train budget, but it will also give us the opportunity to keep pulling the most vulnerable to euthanasia at Los Angeles and surrounding counties’ kill shelters. 

8. For those who want to support HIT Living Foundation beyond purchasing the calendar, what other opportunities are there for them to get involved?

The cornerstone of support for our organization lies in the act of donation.

The impact of inflation has been felt through nonprofits nationwide, and 2023 marked a disheartening contrast: a record-breaking year for Black Friday and Cyber Monday sales reported by CNN, juxtaposed with the lowest recorded donations on Giving Tuesday. This trend dealt a significant blow to our efforts.

For those unable to contribute financially, the next most impactful action is to share our dogs through social media. Increasing the visibility of these dogs increases their chances of receiving medical treatment, finding a fostering haven, or securing deserving forever homes. 

We are always seeking volunteers to join our team! Currently, we have a particular need in our Development Department and Foster Department. Those with backgrounds in partnerships, marketing, or social media, or with dog rescue experience, we strongly encourage you to apply! 

9. On a personal note, Heather, could you share a story of a rescue dog that significantly impacted you?

This is paws down the most difficult question I may ever have to answer.

When I start to tap into all of the dogs that left an imprint both mentally and on my heart, the list is endless. Reflecting on those who faced near-death medical crises or underwent intensive board and train programs for challenging behavior, the list seems endless and difficult to pinpoint.

However, if I were to highlight one particularly poignant dog, it would be about a Shih Tzu named Sunny, whom we rescued from Downey Shelter in 2019. Sunny was on the brink of euthanasia due to a severe double eye infection. Downey’s attempt to help by sewing his eyes shut only exacerbated the issue, leading to the necessity of a double enucleation.

Faced with such extreme medical needs, I initially felt overwhelmed, but my rescue partner reassured me that Sunny could lead a fulfilling life without eyes, and the rehabilitation process was manageable.

My boyfriend, Bryan, and I fostered Sunny after his enucleation, discovering he was also deaf. Sunny’s tendency to walk in circles and subsequent seizures raised concerns about a potential brain tumor. Despite the grim prognosis, the specialist advised us to provide Sunny with the best life possible. Over three months, with no adoption interest, Bryan, who had formed a deep bond with Sunny, couldn’t bear to part ways. We decided to adopt Sunny.

Over the five years we had Sunny, he became a teacher. Moving with us to the Bahamas, his adaptability, strength, and resilience served as a constant source of inspiration. Despite encountering numerous challenges, from seizures to other health issues, Sunny’s zest for life remained unwavering.

I often joked that he had nine lives, as each hurdle only strengthened his resolve, leaving us grateful every day for the joy he brought into our lives.

10. As a pittie owner myself, it’s heartbreaking to see so many shelters filled with predominately Pitbulls, who I consider to be very misunderstood. What do you think animal lovers can do to help pitties in particular to avoid being warehoused in shelters?

Pit bulls face a daunting challenge in the adoption world due to the negative stereotypes associated with the breed. This is incredibly unfortunate because they make wonderful companion dogs and loving family dogs.

Like any other highly intelligent large breed dogs, they need to be in the right hands of responsible ownership. 

Social media can serve as a powerful tool showcasing love for pit bulls. It provides a platform to highlight the loving, loyal, and compassionate side of these beautiful, often misunderstood, “velvet hippos.” If you’re able to get to a shelter or volunteer with a rescue, walking and spending time with pit bulls, and showing their wonderful qualities through social media and your advocacy for them, can do wonders for the breed. 

If you find you are unable to volunteer with a shelter or rescue, the next best thing would be to share uplifting stories and messages about pit bulls on social media. It not only helps break down misconceptions but also shows a deeper appreciation for their kind and loving nature.

Sharing support for these misunderstood beauties through positive messaging is crucial in reshaping public perceptions about the breed—they deserve, and need, more of this positive attention.

11. What’s next for HIT Living Foundation after the “TITTIES FOR PITTIES” Calendar fundraising initiative? Any upcoming projects you could share with us?

While I’m unable to share all the details at this moment, I’m thrilled to hint at the exciting developments of expansion on the horizon for HIT Living in 2024. We can’t wait to start addressing the overarching issues of dog homelessness along with rescuing at risk dogs.

12. How do you hope this campaign could change the perception of rescue dogs, particularly pit bulls, and help with their adoption rates?

The abundance of positive press, stories, and personal experiences centered around pit bulls never seems to be sufficient. We believe that creatively showcasing adoptable pit bulls, fostering engaging conversations, can only serve to amplify the positive nature of these remarkable dogs.

13. How has the response been so far for the “TITTIES FOR PITTIES” Calendar, and how do you plan to keep the momentum going throughout the year?

The title and content of this campaign are not your traditional ones. The title is a play on words and this campaign was meant to spark conversation, raise awareness and give our team an opportunity to fundraise for two causes near and dear to our hearts. It also is meant to celebrate body diversity. It has certainly sparked conversation and raised awareness exactly where we had hoped, simultaneously.  

Continued conversations, promoting our cause, and encouragement that the calendar will be a valuable addition to well-organized plans for 2024, will ensure we maintain strong momentum throughout the remainder of this year.

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