June 23 is National Take Your Dog to Work Day. At HPB Corporate, Office Manager Kathleen Higgins brings her dog, Vader, to work every day! Let’s jump into this edition of Meet the Bibliomaniac and learn more about Kathleen and Vader’s efforts to rescue dogs in need.
Name: Kathleen Higgins
Job Title: Corporate Office Manager
Store Location: Corporate
When did you join the team?
March 1990. I was hired to be HPB co-founder Ken Gjemre’s assistant. Our mutual passion for protecting the environment made it a good fit.
What is your favorite part about working at HPB?
Working with like-minded people. Life is too short to put your values and beliefs on hold in pursuit of a paycheck.
As an Administrative Services Supervisor, what’s an average day like for you?
There is no “average” day. The nature of the job is putting out fires or solving the crisis du jour. Keeping up with the nearly 150 people here in corporate, meetings, and being available to the stores is a full agenda. One of the advantages (disadvantages?) of being here as long as I have is the amount of knowledge about HPB that you accumulate and how often people depend on it. Working with various vendors and comparative pricing are regular activities. Of course Vader, my dog that I bring to work every day, needs to be walked at least once a day and we have a steady stream of visitors that stop by to get their “dog fix.”
What’s the most interesting experience you’ve had since working here?
Calling the Texas Governor’s Office when Ann Richards was in office and getting through to talk to her! She and Ken Gjemre were friends long before she got into politics.
Back in the 1990s, HPB worked with The Windstar Foundation to create a Youth Award for young people that had demonstrated leadership skills in protecting our environment. Attending The Choice For The Future Symposium in Colorado to present the scholarship was inspiring. Walking through the Denver airport on the way back to Dallas, Ed Bagley, Jr. stopped me to give me a hug and say he loved Half Price Books! (He’d been at the Symposium.)
When did you first start bringing your dog to work?
Way back when Pat Anderson, HPB co-founder, told me since everyone else could bring their children to work, she didn’t see any reason I couldn’t bring mine – they just happened to have four legs! I would sometimes find bags of dog food by my car when I got off work (Pat Anderson being the Dog Food Fairy).
The first Vader made several appearances in the corporate office, as did various rescues that needed a place to hang out between transports.
Telly was the first dog to regularly come to work with me. When I first got him as a rescue, he was only 4 weeks old and needed a lot of care, so I brought him to work every day in a little cat carrier – he was that tiny! That was in February 2002, and he came to work with me almost every day until he passed away in December 2014. He was so devoted to me, if I left him home he would wait outside watching the driveway all day, regardless of the weather. And that is why – during his entire life – I rarely went anywhere without him.
How did you first get involved in animal rescue and specifically with German Shepherds?
I was always one of those kids who would bring home strays and I never outgrew that! It seems like they were usually shepherd mixes.
Probably my first “official” rescues were two dogs that belonged to an HPB employee who passed away suddenly. There was no family to take them, so I took them home (shepherd mix and a terrier mix) and there they stayed the remainder of their lives.
About the same time, I was given my first solid black German Shepherd pup by a breeder who intended to put him down because he wasn’t “aggressive” enough to sell as a guard dog. Granted, he was a bit of a wimp – but at 120 lbs. at his prime – it didn’t really matter! That got me to thinking about good dogs that were being discarded for stupid reasons. There is always a greater need for large breed rescues as the big dogs are the first to be put down. German Shepherds aren’t meant for everyone. The intelligence and loyalty of the German Shepherd makes for a wonderful companion as long as you understand the breed. So I stayed with what I know. I started Good Shepherd Rescue in 1999 and have rehomed nearly 2000 dogs. We have an extensive foster network now, but I usually have 20 dogs at my “rescue ranch” at any given time – many of them are sanctuary dogs that will live out their lives with me. I have a soft spot for the seniors and the rejects.
Tell us more about Vader. How did you both come together?
We actually rescued Vader twice! He was originally purchased as a puppy from a breeder by a family as a companion for their 4 children. Well, they were living in a travel trailer with no yard, so when Vader got to be 5 months old – he was too big! We found Vader a wonderful home with another family with kids. They loved him so much, they got a second shepherd! When the little boy kept getting sick and going to the hospital, it turned out he was highly allergic to dogs. So Vader came back to us – just a couple of weeks after my Telly passed away. For a 10 month old pup, Vader was well socialized and very calm and low key – the perfect candidate for the office! It was a bit of a change for everyone at the office as Telly was what we affectionately call a “pocket shepherd” weighing only 45 lbs. Vader is a little more substantial at 122 lbs.! But Vader is far more social than Telly was and Vader has a rather large fan club among our employees and our vendors. Some of our department heads use Vader for screening job applicants – how they react to Vader and he reacts to them can tell them a lot about a candidate.
What is your all-time favorite book, movie or album?
Black Beauty by Anna Sewell – without a doubt. I have read it probably 100 times. The compassion and empathy for animals presented on those pages was way ahead of its time and set me on the path I am still following. Horses were my first love and it was the death of my Appaloosa stallion Nish-Ka-Toon that pushed me into dog rescue – l could not face losing another horse as I had known Nish since before he was born and had him more than half my life when he died at the age of 25. I also had his older brother who lived to be 36. Both are buried in my pasture.
Favorite movie would be Dances with Wolves – being Native American, I appreciated the more honest portrayal of the treatment of indigenous people as well the negative impact of “civilization” on the environment
What are you reading right now?
All The Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr.
What other things do you do in your free time?
With a full time “real” job as well as the full-time job of running a rescue and caring for so many animals, there isn’t much “free time” left. I don’t get to read as much as I would like. I’m trying to learn more about photography – beyond taking pictures of the dogs! Hoping at some point things will cease being so hectic and I can get back in touch with my creative side!
Anything else to add?
I have always considered myself fortunate to work for a company that values its employees to the extent the HPB does. It is rare that a company encourages and supports the endeavors of their employees outside the work place, but I guess that is what makes us a “family.” We’ve come a long way from the 32 stores and 16 corporate employees from when I started and to where we are today. It’s been quite a ride!
Editor’s Note: Our policy on four-legged friends is handled on a store-by-store basis: some stores welcome dogs, and others know that their customers prefer to shop without barks and tail wags. For those that do welcome pups, they request you bring leashes and respect other customers by not disrupting their shopping experience. Should you ever have any questions, please contact your local Half Price Books.