Emily Dyson

Founder of Waldo's Rescue Pen

From an early age, Emily Dyson nurtured a passion for animal rescue. At the age of 7, a bird flew into her window and injured its wing. Emily found it, and stricken with sympathy for the creature’s welfare, demanded that her parents take it to a local veterinarian to receive medical attention. From that point on, she surrounded herself with animals both large and small.

After high school, Emily went to California State University at Long Beach, and then the Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising in Los Angeles. After graduating in 2010, she moved to New York City where she worked in financial analysis and inventory planning with companies such as Calvin Klein, Ralph Lauren, American Express, Ted Baker, and GAP Inc. until 2020. While in the midst of a planned move to Tokyo, Japan for work, she became involved with animal rescue and grew enamored with the cause. In time, she began a small nonprofit called Waldo’s Rescue Pen where she would coordinate with animal shelters in the Southern States and Puerto Rico, bringing animals up north to prepare them for adoption.

After being affected by the implications of the COVID-19 pandemic on the global economy, Emily left the fashion industry and focused on Waldo’s Rescue full time in January 2021. One thing she’s incredibly proud of is rescuing more than 1400 dogs. Of that 1400, 1260 have been adopted and many more are on the way to adoption. As Founder and President of Waldo’s Rescue, Emily has teamed with volunteers and animal shelters across the country to facilitate a network with the same shared goals: working for the benefit of the animals, connecting them with foster owners, veterinarians, and care as needed.

While she hails from California and misses her home state’s beautiful beaches and plentiful sunshine, Emily Dyson loves the work she is doing in New York. In her free time, as limited as it is, she enjoys spending time with her partner, visiting with friends, reading, trying new restaurants, and traveling home on occasion.

Where did the idea for Waldo’s Rescue Pen come from?

Waldo’s Rescue Pen was named after my late aunt’s dogs. One was named Waldo, the other was named Penelope. So, her love for dogs inspired me to name the venture after both dogs; Waldo, obviously, and ‘Pen’ being short for Penelope.

What does your typical day look like and how do you make it productive?

My day starts by taking dogs to the bathroom, cleaning up after them, feeding them, and then referring to a list of other preparatory tasks that I started the night before. I keep myself focused on one to two tasks at a time to make sure that everything that needs to be taken care of is completed that day. Also, I find it important to have a small sense of achievement each day in this industry. Setting daily short-term goals gives me that. There is a lot of heartache involved in my work, so making it a point to focus on the positive is important.

How do you bring ideas to life?

I bring ideas to life by talking with my volunteers and other animal rescuers a lot. Collaboration is so important in animal rescue. I encourage everyone to remember we are a new organization, and because of that, we have the flexibility to improve ourselves as we go along. Having an open line of communication between myself and my volunteers is vital to ensure that everything runs smoothly. It also demonstrates my trust in what they’re doing. The volunteer who runs our social media accounts knows how to empower people who want to help, which is a tremendous help. People want to help animals, and there is definitely something everyone can do to help. For instance, you can adopt an animal, but if you aren’t able to adopt, you can foster. If you aren’t able to foster, you can volunteer your time. And if you’re unable to volunteer, you can donate!

What’s one trend that excites you?

New York is finally becoming more aware about animal rescues. In fact, I’ve noticed that there seems to be fewer commercial pet stores around the city, which is a wonderful development. Now, when people want to adopt a pet, they are more likely to seek out rescue networks and shelters, and consequently learn more about the issues surrounding rescue animals and what can be done to help them.

What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?

Being open-minded to new ideas and being adaptable.

What advice would you give your younger self?

I would tell my younger self that no matter what life may throw at you personally or professionally, though at times it may be difficult, it will ultimately be okay, and all your hard work and effort will be worth it. Also, I would tell her that one of the most important lessons I’ve learned in life is, while you can’t control how others react to a situation, you can control how you react. Finally, I would relate the following to my younger self: Some years from now, you will work in the fashion industry, and you will think it’s brutal. But when you learn what stray animals endure, you will realize that they have a far worse life than anything you could ever imagine. You will want to help in a meaningful way, and it will require a lot of hard work and dedication, but it will be worthwhile.

Tell us something that’s true that almost nobody agrees with you on.

Admittedly, I have a preference for big dogs over small ones, which is ironic because I have two small dogs of my own. I’m only five feet tall, and people assume that I can’t handle big dogs because of my size. It helps that the two foster dogs I have right now are eighty pounds each.

As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?

Fostering a dog, for one. Everyone should have a dog or some kind of animal in their life, I think. Aside from that, I would recommend that everyone make a long-term plan for their lives and try to achieve their goals in small steps over time. By focusing on a few tasks at a time, you can get things done much easier than trying, and failing, to get eight to ten tasks done all at once. Doing that, you won’t get discouraged. It is a much more manageable strategy in the long run. It will keep you pushing forward regardless of what may surface.

What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business?

Taking advantage of social media has helped us significantly. We have almost twelve thousand followers on Instagram. This makes it easier to reach out and take chances on possible pet fosterers. It also makes it possible for us to remain connected with our pet fosterers and adopters. We’re able to tag and be tagged freely, which makes everything feel more genuine. Because of our social media presence, we’ve gotten a lot of feedback to help better coordinate our efforts with current and potential fosterers.

What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?

One major challenge I’ve had is finding an accountant that understands nonprofits. When we first started out, we soon realized that we needed two accountants. One that handled filing as a nonprofit, as well as a second to review the filing. It was a hard, but vital, lesson to learn.

What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?

It would be amazing if someone could come up with a way to help to organize veterinarian schools and interns to connect with nonprofits in order to make low cost spay and neutering more readily available.

What is the best $100 you recently spent? What and why?

Leather leashes. And also a walk-thru baby gate to block my kitchen from my counter surfing foster dogs!

What is one piece of software or a web service that helps you be productive?

I use Google Sheets with trackers all the time. Being able to constantly update the sheets I create with new information helps me and the volunteers stay organized and effective.

What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?

I would recommend The Culture Clash by Jean Donaldson. It’s all about understanding dogs, and it goes into great depth about the misconceptions we have about their barking and growling. Of course, dogs can’t talk. Using a soft or low growl is the only way for them to say they want some space. It’s not really aggressive, but we don’t see it that way. If you were to tell a human friend that you were busy, they would not think you were being aggressive. That’s just what dogs are doing with a soft growl.

What is your favorite quote?

“If it’s not okay, it’s not the end.” — John Lennon

Key Learnings:

  • Always remember the original reason why you pursued any venture.
  • There is always room for improvement.
  • You can never go wrong with planning ahead.