Kristin has been part of the PetSmart family for 3+ years now and helps to make #LifeAtPetSmart even more awesome for everyone. She and her team are responsible for developing and implementing an enterprise-wide DE&I strategy, program, and operations for our 45,000+ associates and makes a positive impact each day. Learn more about her story of belonging at PetSmart below!
The Belonging Program’s “I Belong” Series harnesses the power of empathy through storytelling. This series is intended to give associates a greater sense of understanding, a bridge to gain new perspective, and a way to build connection to each other.
Meet Kristin | Head of Belonging, Diversity & Inclusion
In the communities where I grew up, dogs were not sweet, lovable companions or surrogate children. Instead, I viewed them as terrifying animals and the haunting images of dogs lunging, teeth bared, attacking Black protesters is something that I thought I could never shake. This is what I knew, and for a long time, my beliefs reflected that imagery and those memories. I truly believed that the cultural adhesive that bound dogs to White people did not extend to me as a Black person, especially a Black woman. I read reports of the southern media referring to young Blacks as “dog biscuits,” and always placed an impermeable barrier between myself and any dog, a physical barrier if I saw one on the street, and an emotional barrier between me and the idea of owning a dog.
These barriers never extended to other pets. I was always an animal lover from a young age, and we adopted other animals with care and intention. We had rabbits, guinea pigs, snakes, turtles, frogs, lizards, all types of fish, and even an albino rat named Artemis. But dogs were different. They symbolized injustice too often in my psyche.
When I moved to New York City, I encountered Pomeranians tucked in the purses of my friends and the sleek Akita’s who appeared to float through Central Park. Dogs of every size, breed, and disposition. I learned that dogs were, in fact, different, or at least how their owners engaged with them was.
As Black people have benefited from some of the economic effects of integration and assimilation, so has our relationship with dogs. Thankfully, I, too, have reshaped my trauma and adopted my first dog, Sloane, during our 2019 National Adoption Weekend. Every day, she shows me tenderness and unconditional love while shattering the stigmas that once floated around in my mind.
It hasn’t always been easy but PetSmart has helped me find a best friend in a place I never thought possible and reaffirmed that we can all overcome our fears and prejudices once exposed to diversity. Despite the sordid past between dogs and the Black community, I am grateful to work for PetSmart, who recognizes that every (wo)man deserves a best friend and remains focused on building bridges.