Move Over, Cesar Millan: Meet the Dog Borrower

Cesar Millan, whose TV show “Dog Whisperer” ran for 9 seasons, has dedicated his professional career to helping canines and humans communicate more effectively. I’ve spent mine helping people deliver their messages to other people. Mine is by far the more difficult task. But dogs make it easier.

Brand Building and Dog Borrowing: Business Inspiration for Entrepreneurs | KOTAW Content MarketingWhich is why I’ve become the Dog Borrower.

Although this blog may appeal more to people who love dogs than those who don’t, it includes a vital content marketing strategy and branding message for any CEO or company owner who wants to impress his audience despite his less than stellar experience or credentials.

You don’t have to be a “leading expert” or “world-renowned authority” to woo clients and win clients.  You can borrow wow appeal. 

None of us is born with “authority figure” stamped on our forehead. And many of us still hadn’t earned the label when Internet marketing experts started insisting that business owners become authors, bloggers and personas, if not outright celebrities as the way to achieve Google gold — page one rankings.

But you don’t have to wait months — or years — to naturally acquire what you need to prove to the world that you’re as smart, knowledgeable and accomplished as you know you are.

You can borrow your branding credentials.

Bow Wow WOW

Just like I borrow dogs to give me what I don’t have.

Woofie, the furry blonde (pictured below) passed away in February. We were nearly inseparable for 14 years and she was a critical part of my professional as well as my personal life.

Woofie, Katherine Kotaw's dog and daily source of joy and inspiration | KOTAW Content Marketing

Woofie giving Katherine her daily dose of inspiration and joy; in this particular moment on the beach in Santa Cruz, California.

We wrote books and movie scripts together. We walked red carpets and appeared on TV together. Together we Skyped and emailed, met clients and deadlines, pulled all-nighters and pushed past problems. She inspired some of my greatest PR campaigns and helped me correct branding campaigns that had gone awry.

She wasn’t just my pal — she was my muse and business partner. So I was more than sad when she died; I was worried that I’d no longer be able to earn a living.

And that’s how I became the Dog Borrower.

Katherine’s Ark

Katherine Kotaw with Nooby | How dogs boost entrepreneur success

Katherine with Nooby.

In the hours, days and weeks after Woofie died, friends and neighbors offered to lend me their dogs. Did I want to keep Ivy, an everyday visitor, for overnight stays? Did I want Nooby, Woofie’s oldest pal, brought up from San Diego for a few weeks? How about two chihuahuas and two standard poodles for a weekend visit? Or daily walks with golden retrievers, rottweilers and assorted mixed breeds?

I mostly said no. The offers were heartfelt and generous but a bit overwhelming. It was hard taking care of my daughters and myself during those first grief-stricken days — I was in no shape to take responsibility for someone else’s beloved pets.

But on the day of a scheduled photo shoot for the KOTAW Content Marketing ‘Who We Are’ page, I knew I needed a Woofie stand-in to get through the day. I’m not a natural in front of the camera. I don’t easily smile on cue and posing feels like, well, posing. But if Woofie were by my side or anywhere in my field of vision, the awkwardness eased and the smiles looked real because they were.

When I was all dressed, coifed and glossed for the shoot, my younger daughter pronounced, “You look beautiful and absolutely miserable. Maybe we should cancel.”

A Borrower is Born

Canceling was not an option. Defeat has never been part of my vocabulary. I wasn’t about to let tears ruin my makeup or my mood spoil our plans. The photo session was scheduled for photographers’ favorite time — the “magic hour” before sunset when natural light is at its best. If we didn’t get moving, we’d be shooting in the dark.

I spent less than two minutes pondering a solution before I announced, “We need to borrow a dog. Quick, make some calls!”

Katherine with Pebbles.

Twenty minutes later, we were on our way to Johnny Carson Park with Pebbles, a dog we’d never before walked or taken for a car ride but who proved more than equal to her assignment. We got all the shots we needed with time to spare.

And I’ve been borrowing dogs ever since.

When I’m on deadline and out of ideas, I grab a leash and the nearest available canine and we walk until inspiration joins us on the outing. If stress about launching a new business keeps me awake, I find an available dog who’s happy to take a ride to a drive-thru or sit with me while I read. If I get so caught up in chasing goals that I forget to savor the moments along the way, I visit a puppy who reminds me that moments are the only things that really matter.

None of these furry faces replaces Woofie’s, but they make me smile, prop me up, urge me on and slow me down. They lend me charm, ideas and companionship when I need them.  Someday I’ll find all of these things in a dog I call my own. Until then I happily borrow them.

Borrow Success

In a similar way, you can also borrow what you need to fast-track your success. Let’s say you’re struggling to get a guest post published. You’ve written an excellent article but no one wants it, maybe because your website has weak content, you haven’t been in business very long or you sell a controversial or unusual product.

Katherine with Lucy (who is now our forever Poodle Doodle! Read update below!)

The easy — but slow — solution to your problem is to improve your website content, stay in business and wait until the public grows more accepting of your products. The better, faster answer is to do all of those things AND align yourself with someone who already has the authority you seek.

Borrow what you need.

Volunteer to ghostwrite a blog for someone established in your field. Let him put his name at the top but ask for a link to your website. Links from high-ranking sites — and your association with a prominent figure in your field — give you borrowed credibility until you fully establish your own.

Or, if you’re losing contracts to firms that offer more products or services than you do, reach out to companies that offer what you lack. Let’s say you sell silverware but only forks and spoons, not knives. You can keep forfeiting contracts to companies that sell all three types of utensils until or unless you start manufacturing knives of your own. Or you can borrow knives from another manufacturer (ideally one that doesn’t sell forks or spoons) and together you can compete against the all-utensil firms.

If clients ask me for a service I can’t deliver, I react the same way I did when my photo shoot was about to be cancelled. I make some fast calls and see if I can borrow the talent I need to win the contract. I don’t worry about making money on the borrowed talent and don’t particularly mind if I lose money — if I make or keep a client, I win in the long term. And if I’m good at choosing my lenders, they become partners and my borrowing needs decrease.

Good things may come to those who wait. Good things come faster to those who borrow.

What do you think of my “dog borrowing” content marketing strategy? Do neither a dog borrower nor a lender be? Or does borrowing dogs — or whatever you need to spur your success — make sense? Please share your thoughts in the comments section below or write to me at


From Borrowed Dog to Family Member: A Much-Needed Update Regarding My Sweet Pittie Ivy:

Katherine Kotaw with her sweet Pit Bull Ivy, KOTAW Content Marketing's Brand Ambassador

From borrowed dog to forever family member: the story of adopting Ivy.

May 11, 2014

Next month, it will be a year since I wrote this blog (and started KOTAW!) but it’s still one of my favorites. When thinking about re-promoting it in celebration of KOTAW Content Marketing’s one year anniversary, I realized it was in dire need of an update! Those who have come to know me and my brand this past year in social media might be confused to read about Ivy, KOTAW’s Brand Ambassador – and resident Pit Bull – as a borrowed dog. So I would like to clear that up right now!

Ivy started out as a borrowed dog. Her person, Jose, introduced his puppy red nose pit to my Woofie days after bringing her home. Ivy fell in love with Woofie as soon as she saw her beautiful fluffy face and Jose very generously gave my daughters and me permission to borrow her “any time” so that she and Woofie could spend time together.

Borrowing Ivy was easy, as she lived three houses away from us. Woofie would lead my daughters and me right to Ivy’s gate to pick her up for walks and Jose’s “any time” quickly became every day.

For the last three years of Woofie’s life, Ivy was not just a borrowed dog, but Woofie’s best friend and soul sister.

And when Woofie passed away, Jose gave my daughters and me the greatest gift: permanent family member status for Ivy.

He magnanimously let Ivy stay with us for a full month as we grieved Woofie’s passing and then she started spending every day with us when Jose was at work – and most nights, as his mom doesn’t allow dogs in the house and we made a great point: Why should she sleep outside in her dog house when she can sleep inside in our beds?! Jose has since moved away and Ivy now spends every single night in our beds and every single day by our sides.

The truth is, Ivy became Woofie’s sister – and a member of my family – the moment Jose carried her out to introduce her to Woofie. He gently put Ivy down on the ground in front of Woofie, Woofie put her nose to Ivy’s, and from that moment on, Ivy held a piece of all of our hearts.

A Much-Needed Update Regarding My Sweet Poodle Doodle Lucy (AKA LuLu)

We adopted Lucy! Lucy joins our KOTAW Girl Gang as a permanent family member - KOTAW Content Marketing

We adopted Lucy! Lucy joins our KOTAW Girl Gang as a permanent family member.

April 7, 2015

This is still one of my favorite blogs, but it now comes with a warning: if you let me borrow your dog, there is a very good chance she will become a member of my family!

As anyone who has been paying attention to my blogs and social media posts knows, my daughters and I adopted the sweet Maltese Poodle named Lucy pictured in my arms in this blog post of almost two years ago (about a year after the picture was taken!) Meaning, just like Ivy, she is no longer a borrowed dog!

You can read LuLu’s ADOPT ME NOW campaign here (spoiler alert: she threatened to jump off the roof of her previous owner’s house in order to prove to my daughters and me just how much she wanted to live with us!)

With Ivy and LuLu as permanent members of my family and my KOTAW Girl Gang (which also includes Doosis, the sweetest kitten-cat in the whole wide-world that we adopted at Ivy’s insistence!) I think I can safely retire my “Dog Borrower” title. It’s still a fantastic business concept — which I still highly recommend! — but in terms of furry love, I’ve got all I could ever ask for :)

PS: As I write this LuLu is curled up in her bed covered in my down comforter because it’s an unusually cold and rainy day today in Los Angeles… and all I have covering me is my laptop! Thankfully I have LuLu’s sweet Poodle Doodle love to keep me warm — metaphorically at least! (physically I’m actually shivering!) — and LuLu knows that since she would jump off a roof for me, giving her my down blanket is the least I could do for her!


  1. Anna says:

    This is such a beautifully written blog that I almost forgot I was reading a blog. That’s because it’s not often that you encounter such great writing in the blog world. I felt like I was reading an article in The Atlantic or The New York Times. I’m a sucker for good writing so I’m definitely hooked and will keep reading your blog, Katherine Kotaw! On a side note, it’s also not often that you read a blog with actual helpful information or advice, so thank you so much for that! A brilliant last line by the way: “Good things may come to those who wait. Good things come faster to those who borrow.”

    • Katherine Kotaw says:

      Thank you, Anna. I read The Atlantic and The New York Times religiously, so maybe some of the great writing rubbed off! Hope you’ll keep reading the pieces here.

  2. George Ross says:

    Love your writing and your love of dogs. Thank you for your intelligent take on marketing. I’m inspired.

    • Katherine Kotaw says:

      Really hard to know which I love more. Don’t think I could live without either. Thanks, George, for your comments.

  3. […] isn’t with us this year, but we’re carrying on our quirky tradition.  Ivy, a red-nose pit bull will get a burger and a window seat to our fireworks road […]

  4. […] course Ivy, a red nose pit girl, decided she just had to come for the car ride, which also meant that at least […]

  5. […] later, I took Ivy to McDonald’s for a treat and an outing.  Instead of getting her her usual grilled chicken snack […]

  6. […] Pulled into the drive-thru a few nights ago to order a hot chocolate (whipped cream on the side for Ivy) and was excited to see the signage announcing the arrival of the oh-so-yummy French-inspired […]

  7. […] since our social butterfly of a pit puppy, Ivy, wasn’t able to make it to Olive & Thyme with us, we decided to take a (literal) piece of the […]

  8. […] in Los Angeles; tomorrow morning the production will travel for several on-location shots (hint: Ivy gets to come […]

  9. Adrienne says:

    Hey Katherine,

    What an inspiring tale and heartbreaking too. I read another post earlier about a family who dumped their 12 year old dog off at a kill shelter because she’s gotten cancer and they couldn’t afford to take care of her. I was crying while I was reading that and it just broke my heart. I’m such a sap when it comes to dogs. I can’t believe some people.

    I also don’t have any children so they are my kids. As you know I only have Kayla but I can see if you’re not ready to get another one because no one can replace Woofie. After I lost my Cocker Spaniel it took me three years before I could even think of getting another child so Kayla came into the picture then.

    I love the part about sharing, all entwined with content and marketing. That’s really pretty brilliant when you think about. Share this topic and mesh these together and you definitely have a winning combination.

    Thanks for pointing me here and for sharing your story. I know it’s still got to be hard.


    • Katherine Kotaw says:

      Thank you, Adrienne, for your kind and supportive words. Yes, there’s no replacing Woofie. But in the last years of her life, Woofie adopted Ivy, a pit bull puppy who wandered from our neighbor’s yard into ours — and has made herself a near permanent presence here ever since. So Ivy makes us smile, all the more so because she learned many of Woofie’s most endearing — and stubborn — behaviors. I like to think that Woofie planned this to ensure that her spirit remained with us. Please give Kayla a kiss on the snout (of wherever she likes to be kissed) and yourself a hug.


  10. […] a silver lining to the chillier seasons.  Mainly, I look forward to being able to take Ivy on longer (and more frequent) walks.  LA summers can be brutally hot — when it’s […]

  11. […] decorated Ivy’s dog house. Ivy is a “borrowed” pit bull that technically lives three doors away but spends many days and nights at our home. […]

  12. […]  Yeah, the dog borrowing came around actually very recently, when Woofie died in February. It was at the same time I was […]

  13. […] Woofie, one of my puppy angels who inspired the KOTAW name and philosophy.  Ivy started out as a borrowed dog, but is now a permanent member of the KOTAW family, and my daughters and I are so grateful to Jose […]

  14. Dearest Kat…

    I am TIRED of appreciating your writing ;) – come on, mess up ONCE, please! hehe

    Can I get a hug, genius?! #HUGSSS

    LOVE YOU so very much, sweetie


    • Katherine Kotaw says:

      I mess up a lot, Krithika, but I try hard to fix those errors before I hit “publish.”

      Please don’t get tired!! I appreciate your comments because they emanate from one of the most talented writers I know.

      And I always have hugs for you!! :)

  15. […] later, I took Ivy to McDonald’s for a treat and an outing.  Instead of getting her her usual grilled chicken snack […]

  16. […] course Ivy, a red nose pit girl, decided she just had to come for the car ride, which also meant that at least […]

  17. […] for the last three years of Woofie’s life, we kept up the pretense that Ivy was a “borrowed dog,” even though with each passing day, she spent more and more time with my daughters, Woofie and me […]

  18. […] April, we said yes. But the decision wasn’t easy. We knew his visit would rekindle our grief over Woofie’s passing. We knew it would be difficult to care for a blind, diabetic and frail dog that had recently […]

  19. […] much from spending time with them. So I’ll leave you with this, a quote from one of my all-time favorite KOTAW articles: “If I get so caught up in chasing goals that I forget to savor the moments along the way, I […]

Join the Discussion