Trust, Transparency Draw Brooke Shields to Pet Industry, CBD Health Sector

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*originally posted in Pet Age on 7/1/2023*

It’s been a busy year for model, actress and icon Brooke Shields. She recently earned accolades as the subject of “Pretty Baby: Brooke Shields,” the 2-part documentary that reveals her intelligence, vulnerability and humanity while reflecting on her turbulent career and the personal struggles that she had to overcome throughout her life.

Since she was 11 months old, Shields was a model before starring in Louis Malle’s controversial 1978 film, “Pretty Baby,” at the age of 12. She became a household name, as well as a sex symbol, after her provocative Calvin Klein jeans ads and leading roles in such movies as “The Blue Lagoon” and “Endless Love.” However, Shields resists playing the role of victim, instead choosing to embrace her own identity.

Shields has a long history of loving animals, and she doesn’t hesitate to admit that this passion carries over into all categories of companion animals. Despite being allergic to dogs and cats, she expects to always have companion animals, adding “I get shots because I’m allergic to my dog.”

Shields recently took the plunge into the pet care industry by joining Prospect Farms, a Maine-based single-source organic CBD company as its chief brand officer and being appointed to its board of directors. The brand organically grows and formulates its CBD products on the brand’s centuries-old farm, and its veterinarian-recommended pet line includes 30+ premium, full-spectrum products that are crafted without synthetics, fillers, additives or preservatives. In her role, Shields will advise and collaborate on product development, marketing and community engagement.  

“People everywhere look up to Brooke as an authentic and inspiring source of truth and honesty, especially when it comes to her own personal battles and her ability to combat them,” said Brad Tipper, co-founder and CEO of Prospect Farms. “It’s been a great relationship with Brooke, and it’s great that it started organically.”  

He met Shields in November 2021 when, as Tipper explains, the Hollywood celebrity reached out to hear more about the Prospect Farms story. The two bonded over lunch, with Tipper sharing why he was drawn to the CBD health sector.

“In those early conversations, we shared a lot of personal anecdotes,” he added. “A big motivating factor in my exploration of the hemp and CBD category – ultimately becoming one of the brand founders and CEO, was my own personal loss of my mother from colon cancer. It was the power of the plant, its incredible anti-inflammatory benefits, and how this plant could play a meaningful role in helping to be a preventative tool.”

However, both Shields and Tipper also had something else in common: pets. Thus, the lunch meeting ended with them showing off photos of their beloved pets. Tipper shared photos of his springer spaniel Bigsby that he adopted from Posh Pets Rescue in Long Beach, New York, in 2018. Shields, meanwhile, showed off photos of Pepper, her Portuguese water dog.

A few months later, they met up again so Shields could learn more about the benefits of CBD. It was during this meeting that Tipper explained a variety of topics to her, including the benefits of terpenes and the exploration of the pet category. As Tipper sees it, pet CBD is a relatively unregulated category that “only requests that you test and disclose for THC, but there’s no other regulatory requirements. Across all pet supplements, there’s no disclosure requirements for heavy metals, pesticides, bacterial contaminants.”

“Brooke came in with her daughter, and she had a Wake Forest spiral notebook,” Tipper recalled of the meeting at Prospect Farm’s New York office. “She wanted to pick my brain about Prospect Farms, the products and what we’re working on. She was furiously writing in her notebook and at one point literally said, ‘I can’t wait to tell my friends I know about this!’

“I told her about some of the issues that we’re trying to solve,” he added. “The unfortunate rise of cancer rates in companion animals, specifically dogs, and how 50 percent of dogs over the age of 10 are dying from cancer.”

That’s when, according to Tipper, Shields shared with him that one of her beloved dogs, Darla, had passed away from cancer. And she also asked him, “OK, how can I help?”

“This is a quote,” noted Tipper. “She said she’d love to come on board and become just the lead singer to the band. We’ve got a great drummer, bass guitarist, but we didn’t have that voice. We didn’t have that public authority that could tell that story of trust and transparency and create a conversation that we desperately believe needs to be happening in the public lens around safety, efficacy and transparency. And not just around CBD products, but across all of pet.”

In speaking with Shields, it becomes clear that she wants to make a difference in the health and well-being of companion animals. Although her experiences with pets have been as tumultuous as many of her other personal relationships throughout her life, she remains steadfast in wanting to provide the best for them.

Looking back at her childhood, Shields remembers how she and her mom would foster dogs.

“We would foster dogs, and we’d find that people would adopt them because we had them, so we kept fostering dogs for people,” she said. “It was an endearing thing to see. Just because I owned the dogs didn’t make them better dogs.”

Shields explains that pets have always been part of her life, going as far back as her days in elementary school. The earliest pets that Shields could remember were a turtle, a rabbit and a parrot.

“I had a turtle named Bucket because I had him in a bucket,” Shields recalled. “When the turtle died, my mother took me to the East River, where we did a little ceremony. We had a little tongue depressor, and we slid him off into the East River. We said a little prayer, wrapped him up and gave him a proper ceremony. It was a burial at sea.”

Bucket was followed by a rabbit that Shields brought home from school when she was in the first grade. She initially kept the rabbit, which was named Bunnzaroo the Hopping Bunny, or Bunnzy for short, in her bathtub.  

“We thought Bunnzaroo was a boy, but then she had babies” Shields laughed. “Bunnzy was great. She was very sweet. I ended up keeping her, and we found homes for her litter.”

As for the parrot, Shields remembers it was green and “it bit everyone,” but she can’t recall its name. Shields went on to admit that she’s had “really tragic stories” with dogs. The first dog Shields had was Goldie, a golden retriever that she brought home from a horseback riding camp.

“She was so beautiful,” Shields said. “She was little, but she was tall and lean. Then I had to go away with my mom for a job, and we asked our cleaning lady to babysit the dog. And our cleaning lady sold the dog, so when we came back, the dog was not there.”

It should come as no surprise that the cleaning lady was fired, as the family could no longer trust her after that incident. When Shields turned 10, she had Clipper, a Siberian husky.

“Clipper had asthma, and we had her for a couple of years,” Shields explained. “Then I went away to my dad’s for Christmas. And I remember that every time I’d call my mom, she would cry. And I came home from my father’s and Clipper was no longer there. Mother told me that she sent her to pull a sled in Alaska because it was better for her lungs up there. I believed her until I recounted the story in college and realized that I had been believing a lie my whole life.”  

While many online news stories call her a dog person, she disagrees with that label.

“No, I always had cats,” she noted. “We always had at least two cats when I was growing up. When I went to college, we adopted four cats at one point; three were mine and one was my roommate’s.”

It was only after graduating from college that Shields chose to focus on dogs because she expected to be traveling more, and she felt it would be difficult to have cats with such a lifestyle. The first dog that Shields got post college was a German shepherd named Jack. Then she had a Maltese dog named Donut, which she would carry around with her in a purse. It was at that time that Shields learned that she was allergic to cats and dogs.

“I had dogs and foster dogs my whole life, and I never had a problem,” said Shields, who ended up giving Donut to her mom when she got married to tennis player Andre Agassi.

Then, in the late 1990s, Shields gave into her desires to have a dog as a companion animal, ultimately adopting a pitbull that she named Sam.

“She was an older mommy dog, and she was amazing,” Shields said. “She would sleep on my chest. She loved me so much. I would bring her to Suddenly Susan, and I’d have her around me in my dressing room. Then she started going after people to protect me, and it got really bad.”

Shields believes that Sam would notice people moving towards Shields, so the dog would lunge at them to protect its food source. As a result of the incidents, Shields was forced to find a no-kill shelter in California that would take Sam, where the dog “lived a better life.”

At that time, Shields was acting on Cabaret on Broadway, and it was during that time that 9/11 terrorist attacks took place.

“When we went back to the theater, I learned that there was a dog that had been found under a bridge at the Hudson River. He was an adorable little black pittie, and I took him in. I adopted him and named him Hudson. I kept him all through Cabaret, and then one day, I fed him and had to move his bowl to get past him, and he attacked me.”

Shields went online and found him a home in New Jersey that could give him the space that he needed.

“They were fine keeping Hudson,” she said. “They’d keep in touch with me and send me pictures of him.”

Then, after Shields married TV writer Chris Henchy, Darla entered her life. Shields describes the American bulldog, which was gifted to her as a puppy, as “human.”

“I was really nervous that I wouldn’t be able to have a dog,” Shields explained. “I really just thought that somehow, I failed, and I would keep fostering dogs and finding them a home or they’d go after someone or attack me. They all became dangerous, and it was too risky for me. I thought it’s got to be me. I don’t have the lifestyle. My husband said, ‘Brooke, all types of people have dogs, and they’re good dogs. Each time you were adopting some type of dog that had been abused or trained for fighting or was protecting its food source, and you can’ have that reflect on you.’

“He convinced me that we should take this gift with this dog, and Darla was the best gift that I have ever received in my life,” she continued. “When I got pregnant with our first child, I lost our baby, and Darla was the only one that I’d let be in the room with me. She slept at the foot of my bed on my feet, and she would crawl up like a pancake every 20 minutes to lick my face and then would crawl back. She totally knew what was going on.”

In fact, Darla knew that Shields was pregnant even before she did.

“When we got pregnant again, I didn’t know I was pregnant,” Shields recalled. “She kept circling me, and I couldn’t understand why she was getting in my way so much, and I was like ‘why are you getting in my way all the time.’

“She wouldn’t let me get three feet before circling me,” she added. “I found out not much longer that I was pregnant with Rowan, our first daughter. The day I brought Rowan home from the hospital, Darla stopped sleeping on my bed and in my room, and she would only sleep in front of the nursery.”

Sadly, Darla died from cancer in 2011 at the age of 13.  

“She is indelible in my heart and in my soul,” Shields said. “She was beyond a member of the family. She was first. After Darla, we emotionally couldn’t handle getting another dog.”

Despite her allergies being at an all-time high, Shields found herself being repeatedly asked by her daughters to get another dog. The family agreed to get a hypoallergenic dog, so they found Pepper, a Portuguese water dog.

While Pepper wouldn’t be able to fill the void that Darla left, the pup’s wacky personality added a refreshing level of happiness to the family. Pepper’s presence was even more important with Rowan going away to college.

“[Pepper’s] the center of our family,” Shields said. “She unifies us. On those days that are crazy, she’s still herself. The girls love taking care of her. She’s not a big dog-dog; she’s a person-dog. She talks and barks a lot, and she totally makes eye contact when she’s talking to you.”

Tragedy struck in February when Pepper passed away suddenly from a rare case of spinal cancer. However, while Shields and her family are mourning the loss of their beloved Pepper, it hasn’t dampened her spirit and desire to do what she can to help other dog parents in their quest to provide their pets with optimal health products.

“Pets have always been an important part of my life but never really in a public way,” she said. “I think about how much our pets give to us. All they know is love and giving love. They give us so much joy, and they play such meaningful roles in our lives. We owe it to them.

“Prospect is such a source of purity in my life,” she added. “Brad is so knowledgeable and he’s such a dog lover. After experiencing the positive effects on Pepper, I immediately began thinking of ideas of how I can support the company or be a part of it. They were looking for a pet ambassador to get the message out about what we’re putting in our dog’s bodies.

Shields has already been having an impact with Prospect and its place in the pet industry, including her help with the company’s relationship with Pet Food Experts (PFX), according to Tipper.

“We’re excited about our relationship with PFX to launch the expanded Prospect line,” he said. “Brooke was a meaningful part of that, including meeting with [PFX director of market strategy] Antoine [Seailles] and the team over there.”

Shields is planning to support Prospect Pet in August at SuperZoo in Las Vegas. In addition, she will play a role in Prospect’s appearance at upcoming distributor trade shows with PFX, including its PFEXPO West Show that takes place this month in Anaheim, California, as well as the PFEXPO East Show in September.