Greater Good

Hooray for the Underdog

Interview by Jennifer Acosta Scott

Sometimes, when you just canât find the right words, itâs best to let a dog say it for you. Thatâs actually the concept for Hooray for the Underdog, a pet-centric line of stationery, greeting cards and gifts that was established several years ago by two Dallas photographers. One look at the cards, and itâs easy to see why theyâre a notch above your typical âcute petâ card. Photos, feature subjects bathed in light, using elegant color schemes and clever concepts, while the messages convey subtle statements, often with a wry sense of humor.

Take their âGeorge & Gracieâ holiday greeting card, for exampleâits black and white photo features two Jack Russell terriers in felt hats, being cuddled by Santaâs white-gloved hand. The front simply reads âcomfort & joy.â

Turn the card over, though, and youâll discover the true meaning behind Hooray for the Underdog. The back features the terriersâ names, along with a quick rundown of their background. âTwo more Jack Russell terriers that were saved from certain demise.â Like so many of the card lineâs other featured subjects, George and Gracie were rescue animals when their photographs were takenâdogs without a family, unexpectedly catapulted to greeting-card fame on their way to a forever home.

And how is it that two homeless dogs found their way into a photography studio and, eventually, into a national line of greeting cards? The story begins in 1999, when the husband-and-wife photography team of Janet Healey and Joe Grisham (known collectively as HealeyGrisham) took professional pictures of animals from a local rescue group at their downtown Dallas studio. The groups then posted the pictures on their websites to increase the chances of the animals being adopted. âWe know the best way for animals to get a home is a beautiful photograph,â says Lori McPherson, who serves as spokesperson for Hooray for the Underdog. âThey have a nice image to put on Petfinder and Facebook. Itâs just a way to give back and help these animals find a home.â

Eventually, the photo shoots morphed into First Thursday, a monthly event where DFW area animal rescue groups bring their adoptable animals into the Healey Grisham studio for photos. Anywhere from 15 to 24 animals are photographed, and some are selected to appear on their greeting cards. When that happens, Healey and Grisham make a donation to the rescue organization in question as a âthank you.â Other times, pet owners contact the company offering their pet as a possible model.

âItâs pretty open,â McPherson says. âPeople sometimes email us on Facebook and ask if they can have their animals photographed.â (In fact, thatâs exactly how McPherson came to work for the card company. An active volunteer with a rescue organization, she sent a note to Healey and Grisham praising their work. They photographed her Shih-Tzu mix, Presley, and this summer, McPherson came on board as their âcommunications guru.â)

Sometimes, McPherson says, potential pet owners will call asking how to adopt a dog featured on a card, but due to production time, the animal has usually been homed long before the card comes out. âA lot of times, they already have moms,â McPherson says. âFor example, we found a dog we love that we wanted to do a promo with. She was homeless at the time. By the time we photographed her for the promo, she already had a home. The images of the animals we photograph go up immediately on the rescuesâ websites the next week, so theyâre adopted quickly.â

Hooray for the Underdog began in 2006, and in 2009, it went bigâit became part of Sunrise Greetings, a division of Hallmark Cards, Inc. However, the aim of the card line is animal welfare and hasnât changed. Healey and Grisham are active in the DFW animal rescue community, and their First Thursday events have benefited many rescue organizations, including the National Brussels Griffon Rescue, Metroplex Mutts and Kritters Looking For Homes. In 2008, they also spearheaded the SPCA of Texasâ âFind Your Best Friendâ campaign, which involved placing banners on DART buses urging them to adopt from the SPCA. The project was underwritten entirely by private donations. In the DFW area, Hooray for the Underdog cards can be found at Hobby Lobby and Barnes & Noble. Theyâre also available at www.hoorayfortheunderdog.com. On this website customers can also purchase additional products, including journals, notepads, collars and handmade pewter pet tags. In the future, Healey and Grisham plan to expand their line of pet-related products to include more offerings. âWe want to be a one-stop shop if youâre a dog lover,â McPherson says.

The couple has also collaborated with Dallas author Gayle Pruitt to create photographs for The Dog-Gone Good Cookbook: 100 Easy, Healthy Recipes for Dogs and Humans. Featuring meals edible by both dogs and their owners, the cookbook will be published by St. Martinâs Griffin in February. Healey and Grishamâs multifaceted commitment to animals is part of what fuels McPhersonâs commitment to Hooray for the Underdog as well. âI have a true love for this line and the work theyâre doing,â McPherson says.

Animal Welfare Statistics

  • 5 to 7 million companion animals enter animal shelters every year, and 3 to 4 million of them are euthanized.
  • 25 percent of dogs who enter animal shelters are purebred.
  • Only 10 percent of the animals received by local shelters have been spayed or neutered.
  • There are approximately 70 million stray cats in the United States.
  • The average cost of basic food, supplies, medical care and training for a dog or cat is $600 to $900 annually.

DFW Animal Rescue Groups | Want to help animals in the Metroplex? Listed here are just a few of the groups looking for volunteers, donations, and adopters:

  • City Pet Rescue: www.citypetrescue.com
  • Animal Rescue Klub: www.animalrescueklub.org
  • Kool Kats and Kanines:www.petfinder.com/shelters/koolkatskanines.html
  • Little Orphan Angels: www.littleorphanangels.org
  • Metroplex Mutts: www.metroplexmutts.org
  • Kritters Looking for Homes: www.kritterslookingforhomes.org

Facts From The Founders | âWeâre Janet & Joe. Weâve been making pictures together since 1992. I (Janet) was working as a stylist and Joe as a photographer when we decided we wanted to do something for our community. Our âgreatâ idea was to use our talents in advertising to make a difference in the way people looked at throw away dogs. I got on the phone and called all the local animal shelters and rescue organizations to see if we could help find homes for their dogs by taking photos of them. Just about everybody thought I was trying to sell them something. But one small group listened to our idea. They showed up at the studio that week with 11 Jack Russell Terriers (one of the most highly abandoned breeds in this country) in crates, on leash, off leash and with some being carried like babies. They completely took over the place. Not one dog stayed on set or cooperated in any way. But by the end of the day we were hooked. Exhausted, elated and in love with every one of them, this was the start of our rooting for the underdog, our greeting card line, and our pro bono work that is still going strong today. In fact, we have reserved the first Thursday of every month to shoot any and all âdogs needing homesâ to be posted on various rescue organizationâs websites, Petfinder.com and Facebook. Most every day you can find us working in our 100-year old, red-brick building in downtown Dallas, with our two dogs, a Jack Russell named Bibi (sheâs around 16 and came from that very first rescue group we helped) and Murphy, a terrier mix, who likes to get everybody out of bed really early in the morning. If youâre ever in the neighborhood, we would love for you to stop by. All good dogs are welcome!â