The little terrier pup running down one lane of a four-lane Indianapolis thoroughfare didn’t look much like a superhero. Kris Kiser spotted the frantic pooch from his vehicle and followed closely, protecting him. They were approaching a busy intersection, and Kris’s heart began pounding. As the dog entered the cross-traffic he bounced off the side of a car, and Kris wheeled in next to him, halting approaching cars, whose drivers began honking.
“I opened my door and said, ‘C’mon in here,” and reached out, picked him up and put him in the passenger seat,” Kris says.
From that moment on, the little dog was Kris’s shadow — and remains so to this day.
But that day, the dog’s safety was foremost on his mind. He hurried to his veterinarian, who said that the malnourished and dehydrated terrier pup might not make it. She had known Kris for some time and knew if this dog had a chance, he had been found by the right person. To the dog, she said, “You’ve won the dog Lotto today. You’re lucky.”
And the name Lucky stuck — at least among his close friends and at home. But in public he is known as TurfMutt, an environmental superhero who fights bad “guys” like Carbon Creep, Heat Freak, Dust Demon and the evil Dr. Runoff.
This little mutt is on a mission to teach kids that no matter where they live, they can take care of the environment.
Today, Kris is the CEO of OPEI, Inc., a trade organization of small engine, utility vehicle and outdoor power equipment manufacturers and suppliers. His job took him from Indianapolis to Washington, D.C., and condo living.
“Lucky didn’t have a yard and he missed it,” Kris says. It made him realize that people need to be thinking about how important the green environment is. “After all, grass isn’t bad,” he reminds us. “How we manage it is bad. Planting it in the wrong place, for instance. I wanted to get this message out to kids.”
TurfMutt, an environmental program, was born. It was first introduced into 1800 schools, but by the second year, the program had grown to 20,000 or more. Kids all over the country are finding out that even if they just have a flower box on the back porch or a tiny yard, the way they treat it can affect the environment.
Kris has always been an animal advocate, and he also wanted TurfMutt to speak for homeless pets. So his new focus is to incorporate once-abandoned pets into the environmental messages. “After all he can speak for other dogs who have been abandoned.”
TurfMutt has teamed up with Discovery Communications to spread the word about good environmental stewardship, and his reputation is growing. “He goes to board meetings, schools, hobnobs with CEOs of large companies,” Kris says. He’s a dog who is making a difference and is definitely a celebrity. “He’s very good in elevators and hotel rooms. Recently, at one hotel, he was upgraded to a suite. Not me, but him!
“I’m an optimist, but I’ve had some tough things happen to me, and this dog was there for me. A dog gets you through some hard times. I’ve also seen his wonderful, positive effect on others. My hope is that the TurfMutt education program becomes a self-supporting program for the foreseeable future. We have a responsibility to nature and the environment, and how we manage it affects us all. If I can capture Lucky, or TurfMutt’s, voice and use his backstory that here this little hard scrabble street dog can turn his life around, if he can help other dogs like himself, that’s what I want.” Kris would like TurfMutt to speak not only for the environment, but be a voice for dogs who don’t have a voice: the homeless or abused ones.
It’s a mighty big goal, but not one that’s impossible for a superhero.