Since releasing her self-titled debut album in 1991, Trisha Yearwood has spent more than three decades in the music spotlight, winning numerous Grammy, CMA and ACM awards. Among her No. 1 songs are “She’s in Love with the Boy,” “XXX’s and OOO’s (An American Girl)” and “Perfect Love.”
Yearwood celebrated Betty White’s 100th birthday on January 17 with a fundraising drive that raised more than $40,000 for animal charities as part of the Betty White Challenge, which asked people to donate $5 in honor of the late actress who died on New Year’s Eve. White, who was beloved for her roles on “The Mary Tyler Moore Show,” “The Golden Girls” and more, maintained a lifelong commitment to animal welfare and conservation, championing shelters, working with the Greater Los Angeles Zoo Association, and even secretly funding a private plane to evacuate a New Orleans aquarium after Hurricane Katrina.
Yearwood and TalkShopLive, which hosted her fundraising livestream, each agreed to match donations up to $10,000. Yearwood collected the donations for her pet charity Dottie’s Yard, a charitable effort she started in 2021 to honor her and her husband Garth Brooks’ late dog, Dottie. She said she and her team were vetting charities as possible beneficiaries.
The country singer, who’s also an actress, author, chef and TV personality, last year launched the Trisha Yearwood Pet Collection, which includes dog treats, chews, grooming supplies and accessories.
I had the opportunity to speak with Yearwood in January to learn more about her weakness for stray dogs and what inspired her to create her own line of pet products, which she describes as durable and high-quality products that honor and celebrate the resilience and spirit of rescue animals.
PA: What was it like participating in the Betty White Challenge?
TY: The Betty White Challenge, it was so cool. That was right up our alley. Who doesn’t love Betty White? Now we have to make it happen every year on Betty White’s birthday. I think shelters across the nation will do this every year. I ask myself why didn’t we do this while she’s alive? But I think she’s looking down and thinking “this is a perfect birthday for me.”
PA: Most of the dogs that you’ve had join your family are one’s that rescued as strays. Have you always been an advocate for animals?
TY: When I was young, growing up, we never bought a dog. For me, all the dogs that we had were dogs that just showed up. I didn’t even know it was called “rescuing” back then. It was just “OK, there’s a stray. It’s going to live here with us. That’s just the way it was. It was an organic thing growing up. For me, it’s helping a living thing that can’t help itself. It’s an act of love.
PA: You named Dottie’s Yard after the dog that you and Garth found on the side of a road in 2004. What can you tell me about Dottie?
TY: Our girls were young at the time. They instantly named her Dottie because she had these fawn-like spots on her. She was “that” dog. She could have been in the movies. Garth said if Dottie had a cap she could fly. She loved to farm with Garth. She’d get in the truck with him and hang with him while he was doing stuff on the farm.
She brought other dogs to us. She was the one who vetted the rescues for us. In Oklahoma, there’s no leash law and a lot of people dump dogs. And people started to realize “Oh, Trisha will take the dogs” so a lot of dogs showed up out there, and Dottie would bring the ones to the house that she thought were keepers.
It kind of made sense for us when we were trying to figure what we were going to call the charity arm of this [endeavor] to name it after her. We moved to Nashville in 2014, and Dottie made it here with us and she lived to 14. We hiked these trails out here, and she was hiking to the very end. She was an amazing animal, a real athlete. It just seemed right to keep her legacy alive.
PA: You currently have two dogs, Emmy and Millie. How did they become members of your family?
TY: Dottie was a female who tolerated the boys but she didn’t care for other female dogs. I found Emmy at the side of the road in Oklahoma with a dead bird in her mouth. She was very little. I found out later that she had been hit by a car as a puppy. Although it had healed, she had a broken hip… no one was going to adopt this dog so I kept her. Emmy took to Dottie and Dottie mothered her and raised her. She really took Emmy under her wing and showed her the ropes. It was so cool to watch. Emmy is almost 9 years old and she’s the matriarch now.
Millie was the first rescue dog that I had picked up from a shelter in a long time. She had come in with a bunch of puppies and a Mom that had heartworm. A friend of mine was volunteering at the shelter, which was a high kill shelter, I saw a pic of this puppy and I’m like “I have to go get her.” Some of the other puppies were spoken for, and there was one that wasn’t because it had a broken elbow, and they were going to put it down because they can’t afford [to do surgeries]. I took that puppy, and they were going to amputate [its injured leg] and I asked, “can we fix the elbow?” and they actually did. Now his name is Riley and he’s my neighbor’s dog because I talked her into taking him. And the Mom, with her heartworm, was definitely going to be euthanized, so we kept her. I had a vet friend who kept her and got her through her heartworm treatment and then we got her adopted out and she’s thriving. It felt really good to keep the family alive and see to it that everybody got adopted out.
PA: You’re a music artist, an actress, an author and the host of a cooking show. What made you decide to launch the Trisha Yearwood Pet Collection?
TY: Everything that I’ve done outside of music, and my music too, has come out of something that I enjoy. When I was a little kid, I wanted to be a singer, That was all I ever wanted to do. But I also learned to cook, I enjoyed it. The cooking show and the books was a natural extension of myself. It wasn’t something that I said when I was 5: “Oh, I’m going to have a cooking show.” It just came out of something that was natural for me.
Probably the first sentence that I ever said in my life was, “can I keep it?” [My love of pets] just seemed natural. When I was talking with my team about what was going to be next, pet was kind of rolling around because it’s something I’m so passionate about, and I’ve done a lot of things with pet charities and humane societies long before this. I challenged my team and said, “for the next project or brand, I’m not interested in doing it unless it has an element of giving back.” At that moment, I didn’t know it was going to be pet.
I’ve been fortunate to be making music for over 30 years and going into the food business has been really successful. It’s been wonderful, I live in a nice house and everything’s great, but I want the next thing to be giving back.
When we started talking more about pet, honestly the goal of starting the pet line was to get to Dottie’s Yard. We didn’t even have the name of it at the time. We knew we couldn’t start with a charity, we had to start with a product line and brand awareness. Even though the line hasn’t been out very long, the response has been very good and it’s getting ready to get even bigger. I’m just so excited. It allowed us to start the charity arm a lot sooner [than we expected]. We were able to give to a shelter – we had some really bad flooding in Waverly, Tennessee, and we were able to give to an all-volunteer shelter down there… And we had a lot of tornadoes that came through Kentucky a few months ago, so we were also able to help those shelters. It’s been really cool to see the impact that we’re having, and that’s with not even having a million dollars in the fund. It’s nice to be able to do it. It’s been really rewarding. I just can’t wait to see what the possibilities are to come.
PA: As for your pet line, what are some of the products in the collection? And what’s been your involvement in their development?
TY: We knew we’d start with products like beds, backpacks and collars and move into the food space, but we want to be careful and take our time to make sure we have the right products. Everything has to be tested by me and my animals first. For the food and treats, I met with a team of nutritionists and scientists, and I really got educated on food. We took inspiration from recipes from my cookbook but, of course, there are things you have to take out that dogs can’t have and things that you add in that dogs need for complete nutrition…
We have reflective collars because my dogs hike every day out on the farm, so I want to make sure I can keep track of them and see them. They also get really dirty so I want to be able to wipe down the collars, which are easy to clean. As for the dog beds, they have to go in the washing machine, because my dogs are “dog” dogs. They get dirty, and I want to take those covers off easily and throw them in the washing machine.
The backpacks we have are beautiful. It’s almost like when you see someone with a new baby and they have a diaper bag that screams “diaper bag.” I wanted the backpack to look cool and not have it be kitschy. Let’s have it be a pretty backpack that you can carry your laptop in if you want. And it’s got compartments for treats and food and collapsible water bowl and a place for doggy poop bags. But it’s classy looking. I’m a Virgo so I’m a control freak so I was in the middle of all that.
The blankets were the only thing that the developers said, “You know, dog blankets are a thing.” And I was like, “My dogs are not really blanket dogs. I don’t know.” We did a TalkShopLive and I had the blankets out and my dogs, both of them, were all over these blankets. So I was like “I had no idea,” so not they have blankest on their beds. They feel like a throw you would put on yourself, and they’re machine washable. What I’ve learned is that you put them on the dog bed, since normally that’s what you wash, and now you wash the dog bed covers a lot less.
PA: If you could say something to pet retailers about your brand, what would you want it to be?
TY: I think the biggest thing is for people to know that it’s not just a name on a product. I’m really passionate about it… I hope people will see that this is for real and it’s not just something that I put my name on.
I’ve learned in every area of business that I’ve gotten in that a lot of people just aren’t that involved; some people do put their name on stuff and that’s fine. If my name is on it, I feel responsible.
I say no to a lot of stuff, but I say yes to things I think I’ll enjoy because I do put myself into them. I want to make sure they’re something I can be proud of. I’m very proud of this line, and I’m really proud of the work that Dottie’s Yard has already done. And I’m excited for what we can do in the future.