We had the good fortune of connecting with Mark Cooper and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Mark, what’s the end goal, career-wise?
What is my end goal? That is actually a very easy answer. In my profession, I am devoted to animal welfare and giving a voice to the voiceless. In my 18 years of working in shelters, I have had a hand in saving thousands of animals from their abusers, neglect, and from the dangers of the streets. There have been many I could not save, but so many more I was able to help. I have invested my adult life to animal welfare. I have raised three kids to love and respect animals. They also have a love and passion for animals. I have sacrificed many hours helping with a rescue mission when I was supposed to be with my kids at a movie or weekend getaway. My kids came to realize that I could never pass up the opportunity to save an animal in need. It was not always a huge rescue mission they witnessed. My kids have always watched as I stopped traffic to help a dog on the shoulder or pull over to save a turtle while crossing the highway, They have seen countless neighbors drop by at all hours of the night with an injured bunny or kitten or baby bird. We have temporarily housed and nursed tons of bottle baby squirrels, raccoons, bobcats and opossums. We even had a baby fawn for a short time nursing him. My kids are grown and have carried on my passion and they are now future animal rescuers. My goal was never to be super wealthy, but to always do what is right and morally ethical. I am a Christian man who has always believed that God gives each human a purpose in life. Many people fulfill their purpose by being doctors and nurses. Some are police officers and firemen. Some are advocates for children or senior citizens. I learned in my 20’s that my purpose was to be an animal advocate. My college career was focused around Mortuary Science, but that was not my purpose. It was a career field that interested me out of high school, but it didn’t fulfill me in any way. It was after losing a great job as a train conductor for the railroad that I became desperate and found a job in Animal Services, There was a posting in the paper for a job as an Animal Service Officer for the City of Dallas and I thought to myself, I love animals, its a paying job and I need work fast. They hired me right away and I began working assuming it was a gig that could pay the bills until something better came along. I soon learned that not only did I love my work, but I was also good at it. I had a special way with the scared and timid animals. I also saw how cruel people could treat them. I learned so much about animal abuse and became educated on the state legislation pertaining to animal rights/laws. It soon became more than a job. It became a passionate mission to better the lives of animals in North Texas. I soon advanced and became the Lead Rescue Coordinator and began working closely with Texas rescue organizations. I created a name for myself and a respected reputation amongst fellow animal welfare advocates. After 11 years I was offered a job as a manager for Operation Kindness, the largest no-kill shelter in all North Texas. There I learned the differences between municipal sheltering and private no-kill sheltering. They work nothing alike, but both have the same goals in mind. With the support of my family and many friends and fellow animal advocates, I always said “if I ever have the opportunity to run and operate a municipal shelter, I will combine the two shelter worlds and run a city shelter as a no-kill shelter. After 4 years, I was offered the position as The Director of Animal Services for a fastly growing suburban city of Dallas. In 2016 I took over as the Director of Animal Services for the City of The Colony, TX. The Colony was previously known as being a high kill shelter. A shelter that didn’t work well with it’s public and was not well cared for by animal rescue organizations. The shelter offered absolutely no medical attention for its animals and was run by a leader who had no passion or compassion. I was greeted by a city that was starved for change. City leaders, including the city council, city management, and shelter staff. I was welcomed and encouraged to take charge and make any and all necessary changes to improve the overall reputation, animal welfare, and shelter operations. In 4 short years, we have restaffed the organization with Officers that share an equal passion for animals. We have expanded an outdoor play yard for enrichment and socialization, made many renovations to the existing shelter, We have already been approved for a large building expansion in the coming year. We have introduced a large volunteer program and opened positive relationships with rescue organizations, Thankfully we have created a medical fund to treat any sick or injured animal, improved the quality of care and compassion given to each animal in our care, provided comfortable beds, calming music, soft relaxing lighting, much like you would find in a boarding facility. But most importantly we have decreased our live release rate to 98%. This simply means 98% of the animals impounded either go back to their owner or find a forever adopter or go to a registered rescue organization. We have successfully become a no-kill shelter. This is rarely found in municipal shelters. I am proud of the work we have accomplished in such a short amount of time. Our reputation has been noticed by magazines out of LA, and become the role model for all area shelters. I have poured my blood, sweat, and many tears into this shelter. I have been blessed to have a career that I love. I am paid well to fulfill my passion and witness my hard work benefit the animals I encounter. My end goal is easy. I want to someday end my career knowing I successfully completed my God-given purpose. I want to know that my career made a difference and changed the lives of animals and their owners. I want to believe that my hard work leaves a legacy that my kids, grandkids, community, and fellow supporters can be proud of. At the end of my life, I dream of entering the gates of heaven met by fields of animals that I once helped. I want my maker to stand before me and say, you did good!
Can you open up a bit about your work and career? We’re big fans and we’d love for our community to learn more about your work.
My shelter is unique because we place value on each animal that crosses our path. No matter if the animal is aggressive, fearful, dying, or far too hyper, each animal is treated as if it were your family. many of these animals we encounter are loved as if they were someone’s child and we continue that compassionate, loving treatment. I have moved through the ranks because I have invested myself to the cause. I have poured my soul into my work and never stopped working to save the next life. It has not been easy either. The job can be emotional at times, exhausting all the time, and frustrating often. But, just about the time I feel like giving up, I find myself helping a pet(s) by reuniting them to their owner, or saving them from a horrible situation and I realize this job isn’t just a job, it’s a passion. I have learned that people can apologize all day long and beg for forgiveness and never mean it. But when a dog wags it’s butt and licks your face, its the most sincere act of love you can ever imagine. If anything, I want to world to know, I did not choose this life of animal rescue, it choose me and I am dedicated to continuing my mission until I cannot any longer.
Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?
Here in The Colony, we have a large new development called Grand Scape. It’s a new development created by Warren Buffet and houses many patio restaurants, Galaxy Movie Theater, Scheels and Nebraska stores, Andretii’s Arcade and Racetrack, Bowling, and live banks individual musicians and bars galore. It’s a fun place to hang out, have a drink, eat and visit while listening to local bands. The Truck Yard is also a fun venue full of interesting food trucks, and live bands. It’s a great atmosphere. With The Colony only being 15 miles from Downtown Dallas, there are always places to hang out and activities to fill your weekends. I enjoy spending my time with my spouse and my grown kids and two new grandbabies.
Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
I credit my success to the many mentors that helped me in my animal welfare journey. There are far too many to name, but they know how important they are in my life. Currently, I owe the success of our shelter to my amazing staff and the many volunteers who dedicate their spare time to making the shelter a better place. Without each of these, I could not achieve everything I have.