Getting to Know You: Emily Dyson, Founder of Waldo’s Rescue Pen

Rescuing animals has been a lifelong passion of Emily Dyson, brought about by an event during her formative years which influenced her greatly.

At seven years old, a bird flew into one of the windows of her childhood home, injuring its wing. Upon finding the stricken creature, Emily did everything she could to nurse it back to health until she was able to take the bird, accompanied by her parents, to a local veterinarian for medical treatment. After this incident, Emily Dyson began to surround herself with animals of all sorts, taking a keen interest in their welfare.

Later in life, after earning a degree from California State University at Long Beach, Emily was accepted by the Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising in Los Angeles, graduating in 2010. From there, she made the move to New York City, the undisputed capital of American fashion, to begin her career. Here, Emily aimed to prove herself in the heart of her chosen industry. She worked in financial analysis and inventory planning with multiple internationally recognized design companies, including Calvin Klein, Ralph Lauren, Ted Baker, and GAP Inc. until 2020.

While in the midst of a planned move to Tokyo to study Japanese fashion and further her career, the COVID-19 pandemic took the world by storm, all but dashing her plans. Always one to see the glass as half full, Emily Dyson viewed this unfortunate global development as an opportunity to pursue her other great passion in life: animal rescue. Armed with her background in financial planning, Emily summoned all of her research skills and business acumen in order to found Waldo’s Rescue Pen, a nonprofit organization that coordinates with shelters from the Southern States and Puerto Rico, matching dogs with foster homes and adopters in New York, as well as other parts of the Northeast. Since its creation, Waldo’s Rescue Pen has saved more than 1400 dogs from poor conditions and potential euthanization, successfully finding adoptive homes for over 1250 of them so far.

These days, whenever Emily Dyson isn’t rescuing dogs, she likes to spend time with her boyfriend and their own beloved dog, Georgia. She also enjoys reading, traveling, and visiting with friends.

What do you currently do at your company? 

I am the founder and president of Waldo’s Rescue Pen, a nonprofit organization whose mission is to rescue at-risk dogs and match them with foster homes and permanent adopters. I spend my days organizing and working alongside our wonderful and capable volunteer staff communicating and coordinating with dog shelters in the South. I also work with our volunteers to find foster homes for the dogs. A big part of that is preparing the fosters to take the dogs by making them aware of all of the dogs’ individual needs. Whether it be informing them of any necessary visits to a vet, making them aware of any medications or special food they require, we make sure our fosters have all the information they need to care for the dogs properly. I foster dogs in my own home, as well.

What was the inspiration behind your business? 

I’ve always volunteered at animal rescue organizations, and I’ve always wanted to save more dogs. One day, I realized that with my background and training, creating my own nonprofit was the most logical way to do that. There is no shortage of dogs to rescue, especially in areas where strays are everywhere. Bringing more awareness to rescuing and adopting is my ultimate goal.

What keys to being productive can you share? 

For my part, I think being effective and productive comes from my innate desire to save these animals. I love what I do every day. Practically speaking, arranging places for the dogs to go is a massive part of our operation. My volunteers are exceptional. We transport dogs up from Puerto Rico and the South about once every two weeks, and it’s great to see how many people give their time and effort to do that, and also to see how many people donate their homes to make sure these animals are no longer at risk. I guess, in my eyes, being productive is a team effort, and one that requires constant planning.

Tell us one long-term goal in your career. 

My long-term goal is to eventually own a large facility or center dedicated solely to caring for rescued dogs. I would also love to expand Waldo’s Rescue Pen further into the East Coast, and also into the West Coast, especially California, where the euthanasia rate is very high in animal shelters. I would also like to earn my dog training certification and my license in the behavioral study of dogs. I am currently a student at Karen Pryor Academy, and am completing the Dog Trainer Foundation Immersion course, and will continue onto the Dog Trainer Professional course upon completion to receive my certification as a Karen Pryor Academy Certified Training Partner.

How do you measure success? 

I measure success in many ways, but first and foremost by the adoption of our dogs to permanent homes. Watching the incredible bond between adopter and dog take place is just heartwarming. We keep in touch with our adopters. Often, after their adopted dog gets acclimated to their new home, the adopter will want to foster other dogs, and obviously we encourage that. We have many repeat adopters and fosters. It is such an incredible cycle of events to see and such a great community of people.

What’s the most valuable lesson you’ve learned through the course of your career?

This most significant lesson I’ve learned is discovering the ‘why’ behind Waldo’s Rescue Pen. After a good deal of soul-searching, I realized that I do this every day because I love dogs and want to give them a better chance than they had where they started from in life. The other lesson I’ve learned is how important it is to stay true to your inspiration—your ‘why’—and not pay attention to those who would  say you can’t succeed or even try to bring you down.

What advice would you give to others aspiring to be a foster? 

Patience is of enormous value when becoming a foster, as these dogs have never had a proper home and have lived their entire lives in shelters. You have to bathe them, love them, and be calm and patient with them. That patience and love you show them will be rewarded in the end when you see them with their permanent adoptive family. Your love teaches them to love in return.

What are some of your favorite things to do outside of work?

It’s always great to see my own dog, Georgia, when I’m not working. It’s also a treat to travel back to California to see my family and old friends when I can.

How do you maintain a solid work-life balance? 

Maintaining a work-life balance is difficult for me. However, it is a work in progress. Witnessing the dedication of my volunteers and senior fosters helps me a lot. We’ve been setting up a foster partnership where a seasoned foster gets paired with a new foster for mentorship. This will allow the older foster to handle more things and support the newer foster instead of them having to come to me for everything. Part of the idea behind this program is to free up time for me, which ought to help with my work-life balance.

What is one piece of technology that helps you the most in your daily routine? 

The piece of technology that helps me the most each day is definitely my phone. We put all of our fosters in a workspace app, like Slack, so they can communicate with one another and bounce ideas back and forth. It’s an invaluable resource, but one we wouldn’t be able to use were it not for our phones.

Who has been a role model to you and why? 

My grandmother. She was always the happiest when she was helping others. She was so patient, and just remembering that about her keeps everything I do each day in perspective.

What is one piece of advice that you have never forgotten? 

The spokesperson from Simple Green said it best: “Everything is going to be alright in the end. You might have failures, but everything will be okay.” He’s from my hometown in Orange County, so it must be true.

What does success look like to you? 

To me, success looks like having more supporters, volunteers, and advocates for rescuing, so we can continue to save more dogs and rehabilitate them so they can be adopted.

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