Have your kids been going through tough times and need an extra special friend to confide in? Trouble the Dog, a plush "therapy dog," is here to help!
Sheila Duncan, President of Larkin Ltd., the holding company for this beloved global children's character, and her family have invested much devotion into this small stuffed animal. Read on to learn more about Sheila and her mission to spread love through Trouble the Dog.
One winter night in 2006, my then twelve-year-old niece, Kendra, was at my home drawing while the television on. At this time, Kendra had lost her Nonnie, her dad, and her family Golden Retriever to cancer within a very short period of time. The St. Jude Telethon came on TV, and as she was very tuned into the word cancer, Kendra looked up and said, “I have to help those kids.” She then instantly drew a little dog. She searched for a name and then told me, “his name is Trouble, and he’s going to help kids.” It was one of those Divinely Inspired moments you hear about on Oprah! And so it began. . . Today Trouble the Dog is a global children’s character who comforts kids going through “troubles,” be they big or small. Plus, Trouble is all the more rare and special, as he/she is made right in the United States of America.
Since Sheila launched the website for Trouble the Dog, she has also authored three children’s books and researched how to have plush toys made in the USA. Today, Sheila has delivered thousands of Trouble The Dog plush toys and books to children undergoing chemotherapy and patients receiving services through organizations including Boston Children’s Hospital, MassGeneral Pediatric Oncology, and Hasbro Children’s Hospital LA Children’s Hospital, and more. Furthermore, Sheila and Trouble The Dog have worked with The Ronald McDonald House, Children’s Miracle Network, Meeting Street, and Emmaus, a shelter for homeless families.
Through kindness and compassion, Trouble The Dog is becoming a phenomenon in his own right. He has been applauded by CNN and MSNBC as a “socially conscious comfort toy,” a “gift that gives back,” and a “therapy dog” by the Boston Herald. Trouble is also successfully utilized as a comforting resource in play therapy sessions for children receiving services through Catholic Charities.
What is your background in business before creating Trouble the Dog?
I have a BS in Business Education but chose to work in travel, consumer shows, and ultimately our family restaurant, which I wound up running. Each business opportunity has been invaluable to me in moving forward with Trouble the Dog.
When did you start up the business around Trouble the Dog?
Kendra initially drew Trouble the Dog in 2006 and also wrote a comic strip telling his story about being abandoned and then rescued by a Nonnie that same year. Trouble, in turn, pays it forward and rescues other pups. I decided to turn Trouble the Dog into a concept once children started to tell me how magical Trouble was … how initially when we only had a medallion, they would rub it, and Trouble made them feel better. It continues to amaze even me.
What has been the hardest and the best thing about starting up Trouble the Dog?
The hardest thing about starting up Trouble the Dog was having people really listen to his story … to have them realize that Trouble is so much more than just a stuffed animal. He’s actually a proven comfort dog.
How does your family help you with your business? How do you help each other with your endeavors?
Kendra helps with events, and she is also a creative force behind the Trouble the Dog concept. We just recently wrote a third book together, “Trouble’s in Trouble”! introducing a brand new character who is a little fresh, I have to say.
What does a typical day in your life look like?
My day starts early with a coffee and a brisk walk around the block. I then settle into work on the challenges of the day. Today, for example, I was featured on a podcast in the UK, and tomorrow I have a meeting with my computer expert.
What has been your biggest moment/proudest moment as a business owner?
My proudest moment is when a child or their parent tells me that Trouble comforts their child like no other. Kids consistently tell us that Trouble has a marvelous energy they can instantly feel. I could share so many wonderful, heartwarming stories.
What are your favorite tasks do on the job?
My favorite task is creating … be it a new product, a new story, as well as sitting and talking to kids who tell me all about the magic of Trouble and how important he is to them.
What does a GOOD day look like?
I have an exceptional team that helps me with creativity, PR, and more … a good day is sitting and brainstorming with them and planning for exciting corporate team building events, which hopefully will begin again.
How do you unwind turn work off?
If I’m going to be honest, I have to say I never completely turn off. As an entrepreneur, I’m pretty much like Trouble … “on” 24/7 … and because it’s a passion, it’s ok.
What is your Trouble the Dog's mission?
Trouble the Dog’s mission is to help kids over the bumps in the road of life gently and with humor. Trouble is a 24/7 comfort Dog always ready for a hug or to listen.
In what ways do you want to see your business grow in the future?
It’s my plan to turn Trouble the Dog into a cartoon series. I feel in today’s upside-down world; it’s time for a fun show that will allow kids to laugh and also open up about their emotions. Kids identify with Trouble and his pals.
Does Trouble the Dog ship anywhere/where do you ship?
Yes, Trouble travels the world … literally.
Anything else you want people to know about Trouble? Any upcoming news/events/new products you want to share?
I’d like people to know that since day one, children have been asking that we deliver Trouble to other kids who might be going through something. Over a year ago, a mother approached me at an event to say that her child, who was adopted through foster care after a really rough start, received so much comfort from Trouble that they wanted to give Trouble to other kids still in foster care. To date, they have delivered, I believe, 208 Trouble Dogs and books to kids in foster care. Here he is on Christmas Eve, and his story is on our website www.troublethedog.com.
This child, Darius, was also shown a little cartoon on our site and said to his mother, “see … I told you Trouble could talk”! That’s magical. We also find that lately, people are purchasing Trouble the Dog for so many different reasons … night terrors, school anxiety, kids who can’t have a dog of their own, kids having a new sibling … as well as for elders who are lonely. The list is endless.
We love Sheila and her family's enthusiasm around Trouble the Dog. Daily she helps brings hope, joy, and smiles to children all around the world. Her simple mission of spreading love through her stuffed pup reminds us to find joy in even the smallest things. To follow along with Trouble, you can find them on Instagram or Facebook, or you can purchase them at www.troublethedog.com.
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