In Conversation with Scott Poore

Scott Poore and Leo. Photos by Cameron Gee.

Scott Poore is a social-media savior for the hardest of the hard-luck cases at Kansas City area animal shelters. He has a massive following on Instagram (@mission_driven_goods) and two Facebook accounts (Scott Poore, Mission Driven Goods), where he tells the stories of cats and dogs who have never known love but deserve to.

He posts videos that garner thousands of views, and more importantly, forever homes for creatures like Moonstone, a blind cat found nearly frozen to death, and Madison, a St. Bernard mix who was the only animal left out of nearly 150 after a weekend adoption event.

Despite his athletic good looks and engaging personality, Poore says he has no wife and no social life because of his devotion to animal rescue. It’s a calling, not a career.

Poore had a career, a successful one, in medical sales. Then one day he had a soul crisis, realizing he didn’t recognize or like the person he had become. He quit his job at lunchtime and never went back.

Animal shelters, where he began volunteering one day a month 20 years ago, had always been his happy place where he found peace. So, he decided to begin volunteering every day at shelters until he got things sorted out, to clear his head. What became clear, though, was that this was the work he was meant to do. Every day.

To finance his nonstop rescue work, Poore created Mission Driven Goods, an online store selling pet-themed apparel and coffee mugs. Asked what percentage of his week he spends on the store compared to in shelters, he jokes, “around zero.”

Indeed, Mission Driven may be the only clothing website that averages more posts of dogs and cats than clothing. And yet the clothes have become a hometown hit with customers who feel good knowing the money they spend finances tools for rescuers who cut chains off dogs and clean beds and toys for the animals.

Poore’s rescue work has moved from under the radar to high-profile. Hallmark made a video about him, and the Kansas City Chiefs partnered with him on a big fundraiser. Over the last three years, Poore has leveraged such partnerships to raise more than $250,000 for area shelters.

In a lunchtime telephone call with IN Kansas City, Poore reflected on his abrupt exit from corporate life, his fears and hopes for area shelters and how his own rescued dog, Leo, helps him rehabilitate animals with behavioral problems.

Do you remember the exact moment the realization hit that you needed to leave your corporate job?
I remember it very vividly. I was sitting there in the office trying to look into the future and asking myself, “Is the future Scott going to be someone the old Scott would be proud to know?” And the answer was clearly no. I had a subtle breakdown of sorts, I got emotional, I was in tears. I went into a room and called my boss into that room and said I couldn’t do it anymore. They were shocked and I stressed that it was so much bigger than the job specifically.

“It’s not you, it’s me.”
Right! I told them I just needed to make some lifestyle changes. I left at that moment and never went back.

How did you feel driving home?
Like the biggest weight that had ever been on me in my life had been lifted. It was the best feeling.

What was the next day like?
The next day was exciting. I mean, I should say the next day was a little bit of nerves because I’m a very organized person and I always know what I’m doing the next hour, the next day. But still, I didn’t have stress, I didn’t have anxiety, and that was a really nice feeling.

Was there ever a day when you woke up and thought, “Oh no, what have I done?”
No. The only subtle anxiety that came with it was, “OK, now you’re unemployed.” So I went into a mode where I thought I better update my profile on LinkedIn, and I better send out resumes. I did that for three or four days. Then I caught myself and said, “What are you doing, buddy?” I was finally in a position where I could breathe, and it dawned on me I needed to not jump back into the same kind of stress.

You started volunteering every day at animal shelters to give yourself space to figure stuff out. What was the first day like?
That was a powerful day. I was just walking around introducing myself, and I noticed some signs on some kennels that read, “Staff only can interact with this animal.” And these animals looked drastically different than the ones the everyday volunteers were working with. That was the moment everything changed for me in the shelter. I realized that I was going to work with the animals nobody wants and turn them into animals everybody wants.

How were those animals different?
They were either very old senior animals, neglected and/or abused animals, or animals that had behavior issues. What I mean by that, through neglect or abuse they were aggressive, but it was all fear-based. But the average person that walked into the shelter was not going to want to meet those animals.

Do you remember the first “staff only” animal that captured your heart?
I don’t remember the dog’s name, but I absolutely remember the first dog. It had come from a home with a lot of abuse, abuse to humans in the home and to the dog. It was a large-breed dog sitting in the back of the kennel and just shaking, even though it had been there for weeks. I worked with the staff and gained permission to just sit on the floor with the animal. I didn’t even touch the dog for the first month or two. It was all about gaining trust and not trying to force myself into this animal’s world.

For two months, I would go into the kennel and read my emails and do social media. I just literally sat there, and the dog wouldn’t even sit next to me. After about a month, the dog walked over and sat down next to me.

What did that feel like?
It felt similar to the weight that was lifted off when I left my career. It took so much courage for that dog to do that. I don’t think the dog ever had a human in its life that it could trust. More time went by before I ever touched the dog.

“After a couple more weeks of me sitting with the dog, the dog put his head on my leg, and I very gently began petting his back. I felt like that was the day we became friends. That was a big day for me.”

That must have been hard, not reaching down to pet the dog when it came over.
It was, but I knew I didn’t want to take any steps backward. After a couple more weeks of me sitting with the dog, the dog put his head on my leg, and I very gently began petting his back. I felt like that was the day we became friends. That was a big day for me.

Did that dog find a forever home?
Yes. That dog made me realize I needed to do videos of dogs to show people their good qualities that you don’t see when you walk up to their kennel—because they are so scared, they are going to growl or bark at you. So, your first impression is: That’s not a friendly dog. But when I gained the trust of dogs like that, I could show videos of me laying side by side with them and laying my head on them, and I could talk about how the dogs are damaged because of how they were treated, but they are not broken.

Do you ever get to see animals you have bonded with after they are adopted?
Yes, sometimes. It’s a weird thing in animal rescue. When you don’t see a dog again, that is usually fantastic news because it means they are in a loving home. You fall in love with these animals and you help rehabilitate them and then you don’t see them ever again. But sometimes people have reached out and said, “Scott, you played such a role in this dog’s life, and I want you to see how it is thriving.” I always say yes, of course. I don’t put pressure on people to do that, but oh my gosh, that’s the best.

How do you help potential owners overcome their fear of aggressive animals?
I compare it to children. We have children with behavioral challenges, but we never give up on them. We adapt and we learn how to overcome those challenges. I really challenge people to take a chance on an animal that’s not perfect, because that is the animal that needs you the most. That is the animal that deserves you the most. And, through my platform, I offer education on how to deal with those animals. I don’t just do a video of the animal the day it gets adopted—I start from the first interaction with that animal and show the whole process.

Do you think there is a benefit to humans who help animals with challenges?
Yes. I think it makes us more unconditional. You know, these animals who have suffered abuse and neglect should not ever trust another human being or love another human being, and yet they do unconditionally. It’s amazing that they still want to love, and they still want to be loved. They don’t give up as quickly as humans give up.

Leo’s preferred method of being held.

With regard to the hard-luck animals you’ve dedicated your life to, what is the thing you worry about the most?
The number of people who are breeding dogs for monetary reasons. For every litter of puppies that is born to a backyard breeder, one of my shelter dogs is euthanized—a dog that would give anything to find a home and would go above and beyond for its owner. That dog loses its life because someone wants to make a buck.

My other worry is that I don’t want people to be afraid to go into animal shelters. You see these emotional ads on TV with these sad images that make you want to turn the channel quickly. I want people to view a shelter as a very positive environment and not a sad, dark, dirty place.

What do you feel the most optimistic about with regard to your work?
That’s easy—I think rescue and adoption is becoming the new normal way to get a pet. People are realizing most pet stores are getting them from dark places—that is not an opinion-based statement.

Your dog, Leo, has become a star in your videos and TV appearances. Where did you get him?
The great thing about Leo is he looks like a $4,000 dog straight from Petland. He was dumped at a shelter when he was four months old after he had been tied to a tree in the middle of the night. So Leo was somebody’s trash, and now he has become an ambassador for all my homeless [animal] friends at the shelter.

You’ve said that Leo plays a role in your animal rescue work. How?
I bring a different dog from a different animal shelter home every single night. I’ve been doing that for years. The dogs that I bring home are the ones that are struggling the most in the shelter environment. The best part about Leo is, Leo allows any dog into our home. And Leo adjusts his energy level and his vibe to the vibe of the dog I bring home. If I bring home a puppy that’s been abused but that’s still a puppy that’s got energy, Leo’s gonna play. If I bring an adult dog home that’s been severely neglected, Leo’s gonna lay around with that dog and help them build confidence. I call him a therapy dog for dogs.

Is there a breed of dog that you think most embodies your natural personality?
A mutt. One that doesn’t exactly fit any kind of a mold anyone is looking for but that wants to love you twice as much as any other. 

Interview condensed and minimally edited for clarity.

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