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Olive enjoying running with her new forever sister (Photos: TurfMutt)

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Saturday mornings on CBS is home to the Lucky Dog show, part of “CBS Dream Team” and one particular episode featured a rescue dog named Olive. Brandon McMillan, the dog trainer and star of the show, works with Olive to learn how to behave well and find a forever home.

A special part of the episode was with Kris Kiser, president and CEO of Outdoor Power Equipment Institute’s (OPEI) Education and Research Foundation, who shared a bit about their environmental and stewardship program and some advice for Olive’s adoptive family.

Following the episode premier, Life With Dogs, had the opportunity to speak with Kris and learn a bit more about their program.

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Life With Dogs:      Can you explain what the Outdoor Power Equipment Institute is?

Kris Kiser:              The Outdoor Power Equipment Institute (OPEI) is an international trade association representing more than 100 power equipment, engine and utility vehicle manufacturers and suppliers. OPEI is also managing partner of GIE+EXPO, the industry’s annual international trade show, and the creative force behind the environmental education program, TurfMutt.com.

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LWD:     How does OPEI relate to TurfMutt?

KK:          The TurfMutt education program (www.turfmutt.com), sponsored by OPEI’s Education and Research Foundation, is an important initiative for the association. The program has reached more than 62 million kids, teachers and families with its message of “saving the planet one yard at the time.” Created in conjunction with Scholastic, the global children’s publishing, education and media company, the TurfMutt program helps students in grades K to 5 learn about science and the environment from the perspective of the backyard, community and personal green spaces they enjoy every day.

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LWD:     What are the objectives of the environmental education and sustainability components of the program?

KK:          TurfMutt inspires elementary school students and their families to take care of their yards, school grounds, parks and other living landscapes and get outside and enjoy them.

 

A real-life rescue dog named Lucky is the “Clark Kent” behind the cartoon-ized superhero, TurfMutt. TurfMutt “paws it forward” by fighting environmental villains with the help of “The Outdoor Powers,” a band of cartoon superheroes. In the process, he inspires children and their families to care for the green spaces we all love and enjoy.

In classroom materials, TurfMutt and The Outdoor Powers invite children to join them on their adventures. . Through digital storybooks and activities, children help TurfMutt and the Outdoor Powers – Green Ranger, Professor Botany, Water Warrior, the Oxygenator, and Big Rooty – to fight environmental villains like Carbon Creep, Dust Demon, Dr. Runoff, and Heat Freak and become environmental stewards. Kids learn how grass and other plants keep water and air clean, cool the planet, and make our communities healthier. They also learn how important their backyards are to other wildlife, to be “water-wise,” and the importance of putting in plants based on their climate zone. We teach “right plant, right place.”

The program’s materials are free and aligned to Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) standards for grades K-5.

Kris and Lucky.

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LWD:     How are you connected to both OPEI and TurfMutt?
KK:          OPEI and the industry recognized many years ago that there needed to be a way to spread the word to families that nature starts at their backdoor, and the importance of taking care of those managed, green spaces. Lucky, who was rescued from an Indiana highway, put his blanket on like a superhero’s cape and became the program’s mascot, TurfMutt. Now Lucky and I are on a mission to create environmentally-responsible living landscapes that families and pets can enjoy and make our communities healthier.

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LWD:    
Can you share a bit about the experience and your advice about Olive to her family when you were on Lucky Dog?
KK:          TurfMutt appears on the Lucky Dog show that airs as part of ‘CBS Dream Team, It’s Epic!’ on Saturday mornings.  The TurfMutt-featured episodes share how to create a quality, living landscape and outdoor space for the health and well-being of families and their pets. (According to a recent Nielsen Harris poll, 67 percent of women and 54 percent of men said that they were interested in learning about how a yard provides a safe place for families to gather and for children and pets to play.) In the “Olive” episode, we not only share the importance of our living landscapes, but with the help of Lucky Dog’s trainer Brandon McMillan, Olive gets a forever home with a family and learns a new role working alongside a courtroom child advocate. It’s very rewarding to see dogs placed with good families. But in this episode, we see a dog, Olive, also get a chance to “paw it forward” by helping children in need.

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LWD:     How can people learn more about and become involved in the TurfMutt program?
KK:         Many ways! The program website, www.TurfMutt.com, offers take-home sheets and activities for families, interactive games for children, and a fun, digital storybook. Children also can create their own stories using an online writing tool. Downloadable  lesson plans, videos offer tips on going green and a blog that shares weekly advice on how improve your yard are also part of TurfMutt’s offerings. The program’s materials are free and are aligned to Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) standards.

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LWD:     Is there anything people might be surprised to learn about you and/or TurfMutt?
KK:         The superhero TurfMutt is inspired by Lucky, who I rescued from an Indiana highway. I’m a passionate supporter of animal rescue and adoption, and have rescued dogs. Our pets are an important part of our lives, and who better to be an ambassador for the value of backyard green spaces than a dog? Lucky loves his backyard and we believe every family and pet should have an outdoor space that works for them.

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LWD:     Most important question….do you have pets and, if so, what kinds and what are their names?
KK:         Lucky, a.k.a. TurfMutt is my dog. (Or, I’m his.) I rescued him from the side of a highway and immediately took him home. He was as a scared young pup who’d clearly needed a home. Today he has got a great home, a big backyard, and dog friends. He’s earned his name, Lucky. Now he’s “pawing it forward” by helping me educate kids and their families about the importance of their living landscapes.

Check out TurfMutt.com for details!

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