more than 16 million people say they
are as attached to their pet as they are
to their best friend. More than 8 million
said the same about their pet and their
child, and more than 5 million said the
same about their pet and their spouse.
Not surprisingly, the pet industry
sees about $36 billion a year spent on
veterinary services, doggie day care,
grooming, food, treats and toys. But it’s
not the humans who do all of the giving. The National Institutes of Health
published a report showing the positive
effects pets have on a person’s physical, social and mental health. Taking a
pet for a walk gets the owner moving
and socializing. And pet ownership has
also been shown to lower the owner’s
blood pressure and stress levels.
Even more telling than the statistics
are the stories of the people who love
animals and work to provide them and
their owners with the best products
and care, often volunteering their time
and services. The following pages offer
tales of Costco members whose love
and compassion for animals shine
through in words and deeds.
—Stephanie E. Ponder
Johnson invested $700 in specialty cat shampoos and sold them
at the shows and in cat magazines,
segueing from her day job to filling
orders at home. Then she created a
unique catnip mouse to add to the product
line. “We completely stuff them with catnip
instead of using cotton fillers,” says Johnson,
“and make sure we have the freshest catnip.”
KAREN JOHNSON has a love of
cats and an entrepreneurial spirit.
She was destined to find a way to
combine the two.
In the 1980s, Johnson worked
as a property manager during the
week and showed Himalayan cats at
weekend cat shows. At shows, she
saw a lot of money being exchanged
for cat-oriented products.
They were a hit. “People dangled two
mice by the tails in one hand and a $5 bill in
the other, all day long,” Johnson remembers.
Johnson was chalking up $3,000 in
monthly sales with minimal overhead, no
employees and “not too much time involved”
while dealing with two kids and another on
the way. She quit her day job for full-time
mothering, and since then has raised four
children and managed to get her products in
pet stores across the country.
Not just another
Johnson Pet Products
San Jose, California
Today, Johnson is a
veritable pet-product magnate—an example of the
busy cottage industry that
has been created by pet
lovers for pet owners. Her
Web site has 48 pages and offers 251 products
for cats and their humans. Two shops do most
of the mouse sewing now, and salespeople
make the cold calls. Johnson calls it “a good
little business that started almost as a hobby
and now requires seven-day workweeks to
It may have started with cats, but it seems
it’s the mouse that roared.—Steve Fisher
in her successful company.
them. Horses were added to the mix in 2003;
so far, 60 have been placed in new homes and
another 40 are currently awaiting adoption.
Organizations such as Wasatch Humane
are an unfortunate byproduct of the growing
popularity of owning pets. Many people don’t
fully understand how much time and money
it takes to own an animal, or their circumstances change. So they put up their pets for
adoption or coldly abandon them.
Fortunately, people like Seppi step in. She
and other volunteers pick up abandoned or
unwanted horses, feed them and get medical
help, do basic training—and give the animals
a new chance in life. Other volunteers at
Wasatch Humane do the same with hundreds
of dogs and cats.
“I think everybody has a heart for something, whether it’s horses or other animals or
their environment or children’s issues or politics,” explains Seppi, who works as clinical
research manager at the University of Utah.
“If we all just do a little bit of what we’ve got
the heart for, a lot gets done. Horses are where
my heart is.”—Tim Talevich
Giving one paws
Paws With A Cause
THE TERM “assistance dog” usually
conjures up images of a dependable Seeing Eye dog ably guiding its sight-impaired owner along city streets.
Costco member Kathy Dwyer, a
regional volunteer for Paws With
A Cause®, a national organization that trains and places
assistance dogs, is passionate
about letting people know
that helping the blind is
just one of many types of
support these animals
Continued on next page
Kathy Dwyer and
some assistance-dog skills.