The Outdoor Power Equipment Institute (OPEI) announced the official launch of The TurfMutt Foundation, an organization that will further the mission of the TurfMutt environmental education and stewardship program launched 10 years ago. The Foundation will continue to encourage outdoor learning experiences, stewardship of our green spaces, and care for all living landscapes for the benefit of all, and will likely expand into new areas in the next few years.
The Foundation launch has a bittersweet beginning as its founding “spokesdog,” Lucky the TurfMutt, a real-life rescue dog who “pawed it forward” by spending a decade educating children and families on taking care of our green spaces, passed away recently while at work at the TurfMutt Foundation office in Alexandria.
“TurfMutt got started thanks to a little black and white dog from Indianapolis who 13 years ago I rescued from an Indianapolis roadway,” said OPEI’s President and CEO, Kris Kiser. “He shot in front of my car on a freezing winter morning, cold and hungry, and we’ve been together ever since.”
Lucky will be remembered as a dog who lived a full and purpose-driven life; he found a loving home and a way to ‘paw it forward’ by becoming the face of OPEI’s TurfMutt program. “The TurfMutt program was greenlighted by the OPEI Board of Directors, but Lucky was the ‘dog force,’” added Kiser. “People, and especially children, related to the personality of a real dog and he became a great teacher for many. Lucky’s story is a redemption story because he went from being a street dog to being a backyard superhero that inspired others.”
Over the last 10 years, environmental education lessons featuring Lucky were distributed to children in grades K-8 through partners Weekly Reader, Discovery Education, and Scholastic, the TurfMutt youth curriculum’s current home. Lucky also was animated and “cartoonized” in videos and the program developed a robust online presence with www.TurfMutt.com and social media platforms.
During the course of his TurfMutt career, Lucky appeared on every major television network, The Hub, Animal Planet and more. He appeared on the award-winning show, Lucky Dog, for three seasons alongside Brandon McMillan and Kiser. The TurfMutt program also recently sponsored Ready, Set, Pet for one season and was featured in Parade magazine in celebration of Earth Day in 2017.
“Thanks to this dog, we at the TurfMutt Foundation look at yards a different way. We see through TurfMutt’s eyes, realizing that ordinary, home yards, parks and school yards have a larger purpose than just our human one,” said Kiser. “They are suburban and urban habitat that supports our ecology and climate, provide homes and food for pollinators and wildlife, and give us a safe and healthy place to play, relax and de-stress.”
Lucky’s passing comes as the TurfMutt program marks its 10th anniversary year. The program’s educational materials, available at www.TurfMutt.com, are free and support Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) standards. The TurfMutt environmental education program has reached 70 million students, teachers, and families since 2009. TurfMutt educational materials also can be found on the U.S. Green Building Council’s Global Learning Lab, a national database offering environmental education curriculum to teachers.
Animal rescue was part of the TurfMutt education equation. This year, the TurfMutt program will host its second annual pet adoption event, Lucky’s Mutt Madness, in Louisville, Kentucky at GIE+EXPO, the leading trade show in the outdoor power, landscape and hardscape industries.
TurfMutt’s focus on environmental stewardship and best practices for water use and landscape maintenance have been widely accepted, as evidenced by its listing as a resource by the U.S. Department of Education’s Green Ribbon Schools, the U.S. Department of Energy, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Green Apple, the Center for Green Schools, the Outdoors Alliance for Kids, the National Energy Education Development (NEED) project, Climate Change Live, Petfinder and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Lucky’s story was featured in a 2018 National Geographic book, Love Unleashed: Tales of Inspiration and the Life-Changing Power of Dogs. Photos of Lucky appeared in the annual calendar published by the Wildlife Habitat Council for the last three years.