Young Change Makers: How Christian Marcello of Team Plover Is Helping To Make A Difference In Our World

An Interview With Sonia Molodecky

Sonia Molodecky
Authority Magazine


My vision for the future is a world where every pet has a loving home. There wouldn’t be any dogs on the streets struggling to survive extreme temperatures, fighting off starvation, or any of the other many dangers the streets expose them to. Our shelters would be few and far between and inside their walls would be cells that are largely empty. When they are occupied the stay is short. Only a day or two would pass before someone walks in and takes that animal into their family. In this world, people are happier as more people call a companion animal a member of their family. In doing so more people feel loved, fewer people feel alone, and more people have greater compassion for the various species we share this planet with.

As part of our series about young people who are making an important social impact, I had the pleasure of interviewing Christian Marcello.

Christian Marcello is the 25 year old founder of Team Plover. Him and his team are on a mission to end pet homelessness and they are tackling that problem in a unique way.

In 2018, Christian graduated from the University of Toronto with a degree in Chemical Engineering. Lacking passion for his area of study he decided that instead of jumping straight into a career in his field, he’d allow himself to follow his heart, something he admits he didn’t have the courage to do prior in life.

In the pursuit of his passions he joined various networks of volunteer rescue animal transporters. Borrowing his mothers minivan he would help to take pets from high-kill shelters in Montreal and bring them to animal rescues around Toronto, Canada, volunteering his time and gas.

Seeing first-hand how effective rescue transportation was at saving animals lives, he wanted to do more. So when he started Team Plover, a mission driven pet supply company, he built giving back in the form of rescue transportation, directly into their model. As part of their commitment to transparency, Team Plover provides each customer with a short video showing the exact dog that you helped rescue through your collar or leash purchase.

Team Plover has helped rescue hundreds of pets to date. Christian believes that with their three pronged social impact approach, involving rescue transportation, spay/neuter and education, that they can help bring about a world where literally every pet has a loving home, and can do so in his lifetime.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dig in, our readers would like to get to know you a bit. Can you tell us about how you grew up?

I was born and raised just outside of Toronto, Canada. I grew up with 2 sisters and to the surprise of most people who know me from Team Plover, I did not grow up with any pets as a young child. I wanted a dog more than anything growing up but our household was kept pet free. No dogs, no cats, not even a goldfish. That obviously all changed but later on in life. I’m sure I’ll tell you more about how that happened later in this interview.

I was fortunate to have some early experiences in elementary school that fostered a belief in me that everyday people can make a positive impact on our world, regardless of their age. In retrospect, I’m sure those early experiences helped give me the confidence to pursue Team Plover. The elementary school I had gone to happened to be the same elementary school that a grade 7 student named Craig Kielburger was enrolled in when he founded Free the Children (which later was renamed We Charity) a charity originally focused on freeing children from child labor and the exploitation/abuse that comes with the territory. My grade 7 teacher, Mr. Fedrigoni, was the same grade 7 teacher that taught Craig when he was 12 years old and founded Free the Children. So as you may imagine, myself and everyone else in my class were very aware of Craig’s story and we were inspired to believe that anyone can make a positive impact on our world, even a 12 year old kid. I think it’s fair to attribute the fact that I’ve never once felt that age was a factor in accomplishing anything, to being lucky enough to have gone to an elementary school that had such deep roots in that belief system.

Growing up I always had a competitive spirit to me so naturally I was drawn to sports. As a kid my dream job was to be a professional hockey player for the Toronto Maple Leafs. I recognize that as a Canadian boy from Toronto, it doesn’t get more cliché than that. But, I was never all that great at sports! Where I excelled happened to be in Math and Science. So by the time high school ended and it was time for me to decide what to do next, I chose to pursue chemical engineering in university simply because it felt like that was what I was supposed to do. However, I never really thought much about whether or not it was what I wanted to do. As you’ll find out, it wasn’t what I wanted to do at all. It was far from it.

Is there a particular book or organization that made a significant impact on you? Can you share a story or explain why it resonated with you so much?

Yes there absolutely is: “Start Something That Matters” by Blake Mycoskie the founder and former CEO of TOMS.

This was a book I read about social entrepreneurship after my 3rd year of university. It opened my eyes to the concept of social entrepreneurship — using business as a vehicle for doing good — a concept that I haven’t been able to get out of my mind since reading Blake’s book. This book planted an important seed in my mind which eventually blossomed into Team Plover.

Social Entrepreneurship was a way of doing business that just made so much sense to me from the moment I was introduced to it. I’ve spent a great deal of time thinking about it and the role it will play in helping to transition our world to a better place.

Historically, it has been argued that the reason businesses exist is for the sole purpose of creating shareholder value. In fact, Milton Friedman, the recipient of the 1976 Nobel Prize in economics wrote an article titled “A Friedman Doctrine — The Social Responsibility of a Business Is To Increase Profits,” where he argued a company has no social responsibility to the public or society; it’s only responsibility is to its shareholders. He argued that the executives of a business are the employees of the shareholder who have a responsibility to maximize profits for shareholders and that was their sole responsibility.

But with shareholder value being the sole factor that guided business decisions, it should come as no surprise that decisions had been made for many years that optimized for profitability at the expense of people, the planet and animals. When focus is solely on profitability, then deciding to get the cheapest labor is the “correct” decision even if that means the humans that do the labor, operate in deplorable working conditions for unfair wages. When focus is solely on profitability then procuring the cheapest materials of adequate quality is the “correct” focus, even if the ecosystems that these materials are taken from are disrupted and polluted. As a result of this narrow focus where decisions are considered solely against how effectively they add to a company’s bottom line, many businesses have worsened or even created social, environmental or cultural issues. Since many trillions of dollars flow through businesses around the world, businesses have created these problems at great scale. There is no doubt a magnitude of capital that large has a tremendous impact on our world.

But, business will never go away. So we need to come up with a better way of doing business. That’s what social entrepreneurship is all about. Imagine if the impact made by businesses became a positive one? Thinking about that question is what is so exciting about social entrepreneurship. We’ve seen the negative effects at great scale that have come from businesses focusing solely on profits and how deeply those effects have been rooted in our world. But what if the collective focus of businesses shifted from a sole focus on profits to a focus that included the impact business decisions have on people, the planet and animals? What if every business incorporated social impact into all their decision making? What if the businesses that got ahead were the ones that carried the world forward with them rather than pushed the world further behind? What if giving back was built directly into the DNA of every business model? Wouldn’t the world be a better place if that was the case? Wouldn’t that be a future worth being excited about?

Social entrepreneurship is exciting because it provides an alternative way of doing business that paints a much brighter future. When I read Blake Mycoskie’s book and discovered the world of social entrepreneurship I felt tremendously hopeful. I envision a day where every business is making a positive impact on our world and I look forward to living in that world.

You are currently leading an organization that is helping to make a positive social impact. Can you tell us a little about what you and your organization are trying to create in our world today?

Our goal at Team Plover is to help create a world where every pet has a loving home. That means no more healthy dogs on euthanasia lists in shelters, or dogs struggling to survive as strays on the streets. We are taking on a three pronged approach to achieving that goal. If we focus on the following three things, I believe that in my lifetime we can see a world where there are no homeless pets:

1 . Rescue transportation. Imagine a community overpopulated by pets. You’d see strays roaming the streets, and shelters that are filled to capacity. Now imagine a dog owner in this community no longer wants their pet and goes to surrender him to the local open admission shelter. The incoming pet arrives at the shelter, but the shelter is already full. However, an open admission shelter can’t just turn a pet away. They have to take him in. But they don’t have any space for him, so what happens? Well, the shelter makes space. One of the pets that is already in the shelter and hasn’t been adopted yet is euthanized to free up space for the incoming pet. That new dog will stay in the shelter until they are adopted, or until another dog is brought into the shelter and is given their spot.

Now, while this is happening, imagine in another community 1000 miles away there is a family looking to adopt a dog but struggling to find one because in their community the opposite problem exists. They have an undersupply of dogs and an oversupply of homes competing to adopt those few dogs.

In one community, dogs are being killed because there are not enough homes for them, and in the other community, homes are left petless simply because there are not enough dogs for them. What if you could take dogs from that first community where they are overpopulated and left homeless as a result, and bring them to the second community where there is a demand for them. If you did that, you’d be able to save those dogs and allow for them to quickly be adopted into loving homes. That is what rescue transportation is all about.

Pet overpopulation, the main culprit behind mass pet homelessness and shelter euthanasia, is a big problem, but it is not a problem everywhere. There are communities that have extreme overpopulation (and therefore overflowing shelters and many strays), however there are also communities where there is a greater demand for pets then there are pets available for adoption.

Rescue transportation is about literally taking pets from shelters in locations that are overrun by homeless animals and bringing them to locations where there is an oversupply of loving homes. That way these pets can be removed from dangerous situations and quickly end up adopted into loving homes. At Team Plover, rescue transportation is currently the main way we give back.

2. Spay and Neuter. If we are going to create a world where every pet has a loving home then we need to focus on both helping the pets that are currently homeless and preventing future pets from ever entering that situation in the first place. Rescue transportation helps dogs that are currently homeless and spay and neuter prevents future pets from ever becoming homeless.

Remember, the source of animal homelessness is pet overpopulation. There are too many pets and not enough homes for them. If companion animals are left to reproduce freely, there will undoubtedly be more pets then there are homes for those pets. I recognize that the following is a large oversimplification but regardless it’s worth considering to get a sense of what I mean:

The average American family will have 1.93 kids however, a typical dog will have a litter of 5–6 puppies. The rate at which our pets reproduce significantly outpaces the rate at which humans reproduce. Which means if pets are left to reproduce freely we will be creating new pets faster than we are creating new homes for those pets. Having more pets than homes means many pets will be born with a fate of being homeless. They’ll either spend their lives locked up in a shelter or will be left to struggle to survive on the streets. Spay and neuter controls pet populations in order to prevent the creation of unwanted pets. There is no sense in adding more pets to this world only to have them spend their lives locked in a cage or struggling on the streets.

3. Education. Animal homelessness is a large issue that varies by geography. If we consider just the USA as an example, 5.4 million companion animals entered US shelters in 2019. Of those, 625,000 were euthanized. That’s just the US. Across the world companion animals face an array of unique challenges tied to homelessness. It’s estimated that 750 million homeless dogs exist around the world. That’s a huge number. No single person, or organization can take that on alone. Which is why one of our goals is to educate and inspire the public to become a part of the solution. We believe that only after we all come together as a team, can we truly create a world where every pet has a loving home. We’ll be launching a new initiative on YouTube later this year to further this goal of educating and inspiring the public.

Can you tell us the backstory about what originally inspired you to feel passionate about this cause and to do something about it?

In 2012 I began my final year of high school, during which time the best thing that’s ever happened to me happened. My mother finally caved in and decided that we could get a dog. After 17 years, my life would no longer be pet free. She set the parameters, a medium sized dog with low energy, and we started our search for a new family member.

After a number of months of searching, we didn’t have any luck. Every dog we wanted was either already adopted and we were just a day too late or they didn’t fit my mothers criteria. Then, one day, I was browsing the website of a local shelter and I saw a photo of Rocky. Rocky was a big 1 year old Labrador Retriever German Shepherd mix described as extremely high energy. In his description it literally said that “Rocky will make a great running partner.” Rocky was the furthest thing from the medium sized low energy dog my mom wanted us to get. I knew that. But there was something about him that I couldn’t let go of. Now, I’ve never been one to shy away from an argument so I immediately went to show my mom Rocky’s listing. I tried brushing over the fact that he was in every way the opposite of what she said she wanted and as you might imagine she responded by telling me I was insane (rightfully so), but somehow I managed to convince her to go to the shelter and “just take a look at him.”

Well, we got to the shelter and instantly fell in love with a large high energy dog named Rocky who would forever change my life. We adopted Rocky that day. Rocky and I became the best of friends. Out of my family of 5 people he was most drawn to me and I was most drawn to him. We’d spend hours going on adventures, and playing together every day, to the point where it wasn’t uncommon to find a game of tug of war that ended with myself and Rocky sleeping side by side with a tug toy still in my hand and still in his mouth. Rocky and I have been an inseparable duo. He still sleeps in my bed every night, with his 90 lbs body taking up more than his fair share of space and I wouldn’t have it any other way. He’s currently 9 years old and still has more energy than the low energy dog my mother originally described.

As time went on and I became closer and closer to Rocky I began to wonder more and more about what it must’ve been like for Rocky in the shelter, as well as other dogs in shelters around the world. I kept picturing the stressful shelter environment that we picked Rocky out of. Every dog was constantly cry-barking. You could literally hear their stress. They were all kept in cages virtually 24/7. They’d eat in that cage, sleep in that cage, often they’d even go to the washroom in that same concrete cage. Over time, that curiosity led me to seeking out more and more information about the homeless pet crisis. I ended up learning about all sorts of horrors that homeless companion animals face across the world. I remember being in complete disbelief when I learned about the euthanasia crisis, something that was described to me at the time as a global genocide of pets. That curiosity quickly developed into a burning desire to do something about it. In my final year of high school, shortly after adopting Rocky, I took my first step and began volunteering at a local shelter. A year later, we adopted our second dog Holly. She’s a sweet dog who was a former stray but is now living the life every dog deserves to live.

At that time I had just started university. As I became a full time Chemical Engineering student at the University of Toronto, I said goodbye to much of my free time. At that point, my life had mostly become about school and spending time with my own dogs. I made the mistake of letting my passions and other interests slip away. Approaching my final year of school, I recognized that I wasn’t excited about what the future had in store for me. In fact, I was quite miserable. I didn’t want to spend the rest of my life working as an engineer. On top of that, I was facing a number of personal challenges that added to my bleak outlook on the future. I recognized that something needed to change in my life. So, at the start of my final year of university, I decided that I wouldn’t jump straight into a career in engineering once school ended. Instead I’d take some time, and for the first time in my life, I’d pursue my passions and follow my heart.

In the summer after graduation, I joined a number of networks of volunteer rescue animal transporters. Borrowing my mothers minivan I helped to drive pets from high-kill shelters in Montreal and bring them to rescues around Toronto, Canada, volunteering my time and gas in these relay rescue chains.

Going into it, I thought that it’d be absolutely amazing if I could help save 10 pets. That was the initial goal. But then something happened. Behind the wheel of my mother’s van, I saw first hand how powerful rescue transportation was. Take Moose as an example. Moose was a Husky who was scheduled to be euthanized in the shelter on a Monday. But instead, he was with me in my mother’s van, on our leg of his ride to freedom, on the Tuesday. In just 24 hours his fate was forever changed!

I felt right then and there that 10 pets wouldn’t be the end of it for me. How could it? I knew that at the time over 1 million companion animals were being euthanized in North American shelters every year.

So I didn’t stop.

But, the challenge was that volunteering as a rescue animal transporter is quite the expensive way to volunteer. It just wasn’t sustainable. Wanting to do more and being passionate about social entrepreneurship, I ended up founding Team Plover, and built giving back through rescue transportation into everything that we do.

While it was a scary decision to make, it was one of the best decisions I’ve made in my life. We’ve been able to help save hundreds of pets so far and we are just getting started.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began leading your company or organization?

Currently, at Team Plover we have a team of transport partners who we work with to provide freedom rides for dogs in need. However, in the beginning I was the one behind the wheel. The moments that have stuck with me the most are those times when I was personally driving a dog on part or all of their ride to freedom.

One of my favorite stories was a long haul transport I did from Toronto to Montreal and back for a sweet senior dog named Misty. Misty was an old soul who had cancer and was stuck in a shelter in Montreal. There was an Ontario based rescue with a foster home who was willing to take Misty in so the plan was to pick her up in Montreal and bring her to the foster home in Ontario so that she could live out the rest of her life in a loving home as opposed to in a concrete cell.

I remember waking up on a Friday morning in September and packing enough food in a cooler to last me two days, along with all the supplies I’d need for my furry passenger. I then got in my mothers van and drove for about 6 hours from Toronto to Montreal.

That night I stayed in the cheapest AirBnB I could find. It was $23 for the night in a city where AirBnBs are typically much more. I remember that place so vividly. It was a tiny basement apartment of a townhouse. The room had literally nothing in it besides a cot and a microwave sitting on top of a chair. Yes, the microwave was on a chair. There wasn’t even a table for it.

As soon as I arrived, I threw my stuff down, grabbed the peanut butter sandwich I packed for dinner, and ate it on a walk around a park that was close by. I wanted to limit my time inside because the smell of that place was concerning to say the least. I went to bed early, to the sound of the family living above my basement AirBnB arguing.

In the morning I woke up earlier than I needed to because I couldn’t wait to leave, I got in my van and I picked up Misty. From the moment I met Misty I knew she had been loved dearly. If my memory serves me, I believe I was told that she had ended up in the shelter because her elderly owner passed away and there was no one to take care of her. But I checked my records recently and couldn’t find anything about how she ended up in the shelter. All I know for certain is that she was old, she was battling cancer and she had been living out her remaining days locked in a shelter.

Misty was probably one of the most affectionate dogs I’ve ever helped bring on a freedom ride. At every pitstop she’d try to jump on top of me and give me kisses. I had only met her moments ago. She had no problems loving or trusting others. I have to imagine that at some point in her life she was loved dearly.

We drove all the way back to the Toronto area, and I passed her off to an individual who took her on her final leg to her foster home. She connected just as quickly with her new foster mom as she did with me.

In two days, Misty went from being a sad dog who was going to spend her final days, in a concrete cell, to being a lucky dog surrounded by people who loved her and could spoil her for whatever amount of time she had left.

Team Plover has been a bootstrapped organization from day 1. Our resources are always limited but we always do more than we think we can. I look back on that 2 day trip so fondly. In part because we changed an amazing dog’s life, and in part because of how awesome it felt having virtually nothing but a dream and still being able to pull off something amazing. That weekend will always be remembered as one of the best weekends of my life.

Can you tell us a story about a particular individual who was impacted or helped by your cause?

In December of 2019, Oreo was living out his days in a high-kill shelter in California. At that point in time it seemed as if Oreo spending the holidays alone in his concrete cell was one of the better possible outcomes…with the worst being euthanasia.

Fortunately, Oreo’s fate took an unexpected turn, as a dog rescue in Oregon found out about Oreo and was willing to take him into their care and help him start a new life. The only problem was that Oreo was in a shelter in central California and the rescue was located all the way in northern Oregon. For a small rescue with limited resources, a rescue mission that big can be tough to pull off. That was where Team Plover came in. On December 21st, just in time for the holidays, we got Oreo a one-way trip from Modesto, California to the Oregon/Washington border where he was accepted into the loving care of one of the rescue’s foster homes. Not long after that trip, Oreo was adopted into a loving furever home and is now living the life every dog deserves to live.

Oreo’s story is one of my favorite stories for two reasons. For starters, the timing of it made it extra special. It felt like a Christmas miracle. With 4 days until Christmas, Oreos fate was completely changed. The second reason is because Oreo was adopted into a family with younger kids. The photo I saw of the son with Oreo reminded me a lot of myself and Rocky. It’s awesome thinking about how the impact of saving a dog goes far beyond the dog and into the lives of everyone who is touched by that dog. That kid got a best friend. There isn’t a better gift than that.

How do you define “Making A Difference”? Can you explain what you mean or give an example?

Making a difference is about making a positive contribution. I believe that it’s important that we strive to make a difference in both the big ways and the small ways. Small daily efforts should not be discounted in our minds as they are tremendously important in making our world a better place. These small efforts don’t even have to leave a lasting impression for them to be important. They can be completely temporary. A kind gesture that puts a smile on someone’s face makes a difference for that person in that moment. Since life isn’t really much more than a collection of moments, I feel that any contribution we can make to improve one of those moments for someone is a worthwhile effort.

For Team Plover, while we shoot for the moon and work towards creating a world where every pet has a loving home, I hope that we continue to also focus on the simpler things. Whether that be showing extra compassion to someone we meet who has recently lost their dog, or providing advice to others trying to start their own organization that is focused on making a difference.

Many young people would not know what steps to take to start to create the change they want to see. But you did. What are some of the steps you took to get your project started? Can you share the top 5 things you need to know to become a changemaker? Please tell us a story or example for each.

Well, the truth is, I didn’t know what steps to take to start creating change. I learned along the way and continue to do so. I think it’s important that I clarify that because I don’t want anyone to feel as if the reason they shouldn’t start working on creating a better world is because they feel they aren’t ready or because they don’t yet know where to start. In my opinion, you’re better off starting somewhere then not starting at all, even if that first somewhere is the “wrong” starting point.

When I had the idea for Team Plover, I decided that my starting point would be to test in the real world whether or not the idea for Team Plover had the potential to be a viable solution. I wasn’t sure if I could get other people to care about dog collars that bring dogs on their freedom rides. So I decided to test it out and see what happens. I rented a table at a local farmers market, put two pieces of fabric on that table, stood in front of it and stopped people as they walked by to tell them about my idea. I said that I was selling dog collars and for every collar sold, I’d bring a dog in need on a leg of their freedom ride and provide them with a short video showing them the dog they helped with their purchase. If they were interested they could pre-order a dog collar and within 3 weeks I’d make them one using the materials shown on my table and I’d ship it to them.

I ended up walking away with a handful of pre-orders, a bunch of great feedback and some proof that this solution had some potential. But on that day, I didn’t know how to make a dog collar. I just knew that I believed in what I was trying to do and that 3 weeks would be more than enough time to figure out the rest. And it was. I didn’t focus on all the things I didn’t know. I just focused on what I did know, that rescue transportation saves lives. I took action and trusted that I’d be able to figure out the rest along the way. I’d encourage others not to fixate on where the perfect starting point is. I think you’d be far better off just starting and adapting along the way.

Through taking action, I’ve learned a number of lessons. In my opinion these are the top 5 things you need to know to become an effective changemaker:

1) Being a changemaker is going to be very difficult. You need to understand this in order to manage your expectations and stay in the game for the long run. If you are working on a problem that you feel passionately about, the reason you feel so passionate is probably because that problem is so blatantly unjust. But if it’s so clear to you and likely many others that this problem should not exist in our world, then why does it still exist? Why hasn’t someone done something about it already? It’s because the problem is hard to change. Almost by definition, being a changemaker means working on hard problems. You’ll need to be patient, and understand that things won’t change overnight. You’ll get frustrated, discouraged and at times you may even feel like giving up. But if you appreciate the difficulty of being a changemaker going into things, you’ll be better positioned to ride out the tough times. When times get tough, instead of thinking “maybe this won’t work, I should give up” you’ll be more inclined to recognize that struggling is just part of the process.

2) You can’t do it alone. The odds are that the problem you are trying to solve is big and complex. In our case, it is estimated that there are 750 million homeless dogs across the world. I believe we can get to a point where there are no homeless dogs and that we can do that in my lifetime. But I know that it will take many individuals, and organizations to make that happen. It’ll take a team effort. I have such a strong belief in teamwork being a crucial part of making meaningful change that I literally put the word “Team” in our name: Team Plover. We will need to educate and inspire others to get involved in order to create a world where there are no homeless pets.

3) You’ll need a crystal clear vision of the future you want to create. You don’t need to know exactly how you’re going to create that future but you’ll need to know what that future looks like. Your vision for the future will be your north star that will guide you through every decision that you make. It will also be what you use to inspire others to get involved and help you to create that better world. Remember that you won’t be able to do this alone. The clearer your vision for the future, the easier it will be for you to inspire others to join your movement and help create that better world.

4) Even if you are trying to make a positive change there will be criticism. Right and wrong can often seem black or white. But a lot of the time it’s grey. For complex problems, people have different opinions on what is right and what is wrong. You’ll need to appreciate that you can only please some of the people, some of the time. The key to making progress is focusing on doing what you believe is right and not being afraid to change your mind when presented with new evidence.

In the space Team Plover operates in, the concept of spaying and neutering has been somewhat polarizing at times. I see spay and neuter as an overwhelmingly positive thing, as it can prevent pet overpopulation which is the root cause of pet homelessness. However, not everyone believes that spay and neuter is good for pets. Regardless, for spay and neuter awareness month we launched the Team Plover “Only Balls.” A pair of 2 tennis balls for which 100% of profits go towards spay and neuter initiatives…why? Because we believe that the “Only Balls” your pet needs are the ones they fetch. Although most people loved it, some people were not fans of this launch. Those people are nuts if you ask me. Ball jokes aside, we doubled down on our values and as a result not only do we believe in what we are doing, now more than ever, so do many others who share our values.

5) There is nothing more rewarding than working on making a difference. It is important to know this as a changemaker as it will be one of the guiding principles that can help you to stay motivated when you hit rough patches. I genuinely feel that there is not a better way for me to spend the limited time I have in life, than on working to help create a world where every pet has a loving home. So when times get tough, I just need to remind myself of that fact to know I’m in the right place, working on the right thing, and I continue moving forward.

What are the values that drive your work?

There are a number of values that drive my work. I’d say it all starts with the desire to do meaningful work. I recognize that my time is limited, as is everyone’s. Therefore I feel it is important that I really think about how I spend that time. If we break a typical life down into various segments where a person might spend their time, the largest segment of a persons waking hours is typically the time they spend at their jobs. Throughout an average lifetime, most people spend more time at work than they will as a student in school, or as a retiree, or on vacation etc. With that said, I feel that if I want a good life, I should really consider how I spend the largest segment (time spent at work) of my limited waking hours. I feel it is tremendously important that we create goals for ourselves to do work that we find meaningful. I recognize that isn’t always possible or easy but I think it’s a goal worth striving for. I feel extremely lucky to be able to do work that I feel is meaningful. That desire to do meaningful work continues to drive me.

The work that I find meaningful ties into the other values that drive me. Those values are making a difference, continuously improving and being happy. At Team Plover I get to work on making a difference in the lives of pets, which provides me a great deal of happiness, something I struggled to find prior in life. While doing so I continue to challenge myself and grow, fulfilling my needs for continuous improvement.

Many people struggle to find what their purpose is and how to stay true to what they believe in. What are some tools or daily practices that have helped you to stay grounded and centred in who you are, your purpose, and focused on achieving your vision?

For me it’s quite simple. I spend time with my dogs. In doing so, naturally I end up contrasting their lives with the lives of the dogs we are constantly trying to help. As a result, I have a great appreciation for how lucky I am to have them, however it also makes me think a lot about the many Rocky’s and Holly’s who haven’t made it out of the shelter, or off the streets. Those dogs deserve great lives. We want to help them achieve that as fast as we can because we know that every day we’re late to achieving our goal is another day of suffering. Spending time with my dogs every day, and knowing about how many other dogs like them are out there still struggling is all I need to stay motivated. At times of course I do get discouraged however it doesn’t take much to remember why I started and to continue pushing forward.

In my work, I aim to challenge us all right now to take back our human story and co-create a vision for a world that works for all. I believe youth should have agency over their own future. Can you please share your vision for a world you want to see? I’d love to have you describe what it looks like and feels like. As you know, the more we can imagine it, the better we can manifest it!

My vision for the future is a world where every pet has a loving home. There wouldn’t be any dogs on the streets struggling to survive extreme temperatures, fighting off starvation, or any of the other many dangers the streets expose them to. Our shelters would be few and far between and inside their walls would be cells that are largely empty. When they are occupied the stay is short. Only a day or two would pass before someone walks in and takes that animal into their family. In this world, people are happier as more people call a companion animal a member of their family. In doing so more people feel loved, fewer people feel alone, and more people have greater compassion for the various species we share this planet with.

We are powerful co-creators and our minds and intentions create our reality. If you had limitless resources at your disposal, what specific steps would take to bring your vision to fruition?

First, I’d ramp up our efforts on education. I mentioned previously that education was one of our three areas of focus. That’s because for a problem as big as global companion animal homelessness, we’ll need to get as many people involved as possible in order to make a lasting change. I believe we can do that through educating and inspiring others. I’d create a mini documentary series featuring the stories of homeless dogs that have been rescued from various geographies where unique injustices are faced. From shelter euthanasia, to the dog meat trade, to the galgos massacres, to the culling of stray dogs and much more. I’d tell the world the stories of the dogs who have survived these hardships, highlighting the injustices they faced, showing their incredible resilience, showing the people dedicating their lives to helping these animals and telling the public how they can get involved. Regardless of the resources we are hypothetically speaking of, this is something I plan on doing. If anyone out there is hearing this and would like to help me make this a reality then please get in contact with me or connect me to someone you know who can help.

Next I’d continue doing rescue transportation and spay and neuter but at a greater scale. We’d travel to areas across the globe with mass pet overpopulation. We’d set these locations up as departure zones for transport and put in place no cost spay and neuter clinics. We’d transport dogs out of these areas and into locations where there is a surplus of homes and we’d spay/neuter the feral communities until populations reach a level that can be sustained by the people in the community. At that point the transports would stop and the spay/neuter clinics would remain. The public would need to be continuously educated on the importance of spay/neuter so that we don’t fall backwards over generations.

I see a world driven by the power of love, not fear. Where human beings treat each other with humanity. Where compassion, kindness and generosity of spirit are characteristics we teach in schools and strive to embody in all we do. What changes would you like to see in the educational system? Can you explain or give an example?

While I’m sure there are many improvements that could be made to our education systems, the change that is most pressing in my mind is about using our education systems to destigmatize mental health. I think the sooner we do this the better.

I know that comes from left field given most of our discussion but if I could only make one change, it’d probably be that. I’ve had my own challenges with my mental health. However, I was incredibly lucky that I had people close to me who had faced similar battles with their own mental health and could help guide me through to the other side. At the time I felt an incredible amount of shame and embarrassment for feeling the way I felt and for needing help. I’d say with a great deal of confidence that had I not had these individuals who pushed me in the right direction, I’d have never gotten help and who knows what might have happened. Which is why I can’t help but think about the many other people who face these battles but do so alone, feeling hopeless.

We teach about physical health but at least in my experience we don’t teach at all about mental health. I think we could use our education system to debunk myths, smash stigma and make it easier on these students to get help should they ever need it.

If you could tell other young people one thing about why they should consider making a positive impact on our environment or society, like you, what would you tell them?

We often think about making a positive impact as a selfless act. It’s about serving others. While that is true, focusing on making a positive impact in many ways is quite selfish, and that’s not a bad thing. What I mean is that it feels incredible to wake up every day and feel like you are contributing towards making the world a better place. By focusing on making a positive impact you help yourself just as much as you help others.

I think everyone in life wants to be happy. Yet, so many people struggle to achieve happiness. I believe that is in part because we chase the wrong things. I’ve struggled a great deal to find happiness in the past. But through my life, I’ve seen that the path to happiness is living a purposeful life. One where you spend your time contributing to something you believe in, something that makes our world better.

Is there a person in the world with whom you would like to have a private breakfast or lunch, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them. :-)

Absolutely. I’d love the chance to speak with Blake Mycoskie. Throughout this interview, I’ve mentioned the role his book “Start Something That Matters” and his founding of TOMS, played in my life. A meeting with him would be such an amazing opportunity. As someone who is growing my own social enterprise, who better to learn from than Blake? I know a meeting with him would provide tremendous value that would help me to help Team Plover create a world where every pet has a loving home.

A discussion with Blake would be the gift that keeps on giving as he’s done so much in his life. His breadth of knowledge goes far beyond social entrepreneurship. Like me, he’s had his own battles with finding happiness and has become quite passionate about mental health. He’s recently founded a new business called Madefor focused on helping individuals to become better versions of themselves. As someone who is passionate about self improvement and human potential, I’d love to learn the things he’s learned through founding Madefor and witnessing people make large improvements in their lives. Overall I know I’d have a lot to learn from him across many domains. So he’s easily my top choice for the person I’d like to meet.

How can our readers further follow your work online?

You can check us out online at If you want to keep up with our journey I’d recommend signing up to our mailing list in the footer of our website. You’ll hear some awesome rescue stories, be the first to know when new products launch and get other cool perks.

Besides that I’d encourage you to like us on Facebook and follow us on Instagram @teamplover.

Last but not least, we have some exciting things planned for our youtube channel later this year so make sure to subscribe to our channel to be the first to know when that launches: YouTube.

This was very meaningful, thank you so much. We wish you only continued success on your great work!

About the interviewer: Sonia is a Canadian-Ukrainian lawyer, entrepreneur and heart-centered warrior who’s spent more than 15 years working in human rights, international law, business, economic development, community empowerment and her own personal journey into herself. Sonia has spent the past 7 years living and working with indigenous nations around the world, as a facilitator, partner, shaman apprentice and friend, gaining a deep understanding of both ancient systems and modern ways, and our interconnection with all life. She is a certified kundalini yoga practitioner, energy healing facilitator, avid adventurer and explorer of the natural world. Sonia speaks world-wide on topics related to meaningful collaboration, life economies, the power of partnerships and the benefits of informed, empowered and engaged communities. “It is time for us to take back our human story and co-create a new vision for a world that is in harmony with ourselves, each other, the Earth and all beings,” says Molodecky. Her book, A New Human Story: A Co-Creator’s Guide to Living our True Potential. launches December 2020. You can learn more about Sonia, her book and her podcast at and follow her at or



Sonia Molodecky
Authority Magazine

Author of A New Human Story, Co-founder of the Global Indigenous Development Trust