Wednesday, 11 May 2016 05:49

Happy Hooves will be happier with help from K Swagg

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Shalinda Kirby is doing her best to help local groups who help animals with a new clothing line called K Swagg. Shalinda Kirby is doing her best to help local groups who help animals with a new clothing line called K Swagg. Ryan Dahlman

It’s not too inconceivable that someone walking by Conny Lole wearing a T-shirt which would have a picture of a cat on it with the words “Check Meowt”; “Meowsitgoing”, “Show me your kitties” or “I just want to drink wine, save animals and take naps” would probably make her smile.

That’s because there is a high probability that those are K Swagg T-shirts from which the proceeds of the sale of those shirts will help her quest to assist farm animals.
Lole, with some help from her husband Darren, manages Echo Dale Farm at the Echo Dale Regional Park, about five kilometres west of Medicine Hat.
They rescue animals and care for them on their own private farm near Seven Persons called the Happy Hooves Farm Animal Sanctuary. Those animals are then brought out to Echo Dale Farm where they enjoy time there.
The animal rescue and care work the Loles do is
on their own and they receive little financial assistance as they do it for the good of the animals. It’s an expensive process.
According to the Happy Hooves Facebook page, on average it costs them “about $3,500 per year just to care for one equine, $1,000 per year for the pigs, $1,000 per year for the goat, $500 per year for the chickens, $650 per year for the ducks, geese and bunnies.”
However, with the help of animal advocate and southeastern Alberta radio personality Shalinda Kirby, Echo Dale Farm will get some financial help through the T-shirt fundraising initiative AKA
K Swagg, where every three months, an animal related cause will benefit from the T-shirt sales.
Kirby selected the animals at Echodale Farm to be the first recipients. Officially, the money will be going to the Happy Hooves Farm Animal Sanctuary Society, where they try to get money to help in the care of orphaned or abused animals. They have a donkey, geese, chickens, horses etc. which are regulars at Echodale.
Kirby explains that Happy Hooves was undeniably her first choice of the cause she wanted to support. After all, Lole has a donkey at Happy Hooves named Shalinda, in Kirby’s honour.
“The donkey who resides at Happy Hooves, the donkey would get riled up listening to the morning show when they had it on in the barns,” explains Kirby with a laugh. “So they named it after me. Conny knows how much I love animals and has been one of my biggest followers ... she has always had my back. I knew I wanted to help her out. I knew she got no funding. I knew she took in all of these animals and I know all these people enjoyed seeing them at Echodale, but nobody realizes there’s one person behind this.
“I knew right away that I wanted to get involved with helping animals when I moved here (six years ago). I got my fur baby Scarlett when I first moved here. I had to take close care of her because she was the runt (of the litter). Scarlett is like my baby, and that’s when the caring aspect for animals came into play. I’m not a fan of kill shelters ... I get it, over population of animals is an issue ... so I will always steer towards the places that would rehabilitate an animal such as places like Save Old Souls, Persian Dreams — organizations like that.”
K Swagg hadn’t been percolating in her mind for a long time; the idea just came to her while she was talking to her MY96 show co-host Kim Johnston.
She likes fashion but had no designs on becoming
a fashioner.
“Kim and I were driving around one day and I had an epiphany, what about a clothing line? I can’t sew and I can’t make my own clothes, but I’ll bet you anything there’s somebody out there who does and
I could work with,” says Kirby who has seen other radio personalities in bigger markets try similar ventures. “So I thought what could I do that showcases my personality that people would want to wear? Internet has created this whole cat craze over the past five, six years. Everybody loves cat videos. I’m sure if you added up all of the time we’ve wasted watching cat videos, I’m sure we’d all be very embarrassed.
“I’m thinking cats are a great idea so I’m going to do a cat-related clothing line and they have to be shirts that people think are hilarious, are cool and they would wear, not once, not just twice, but again and again.”
The turnaround time to get things rolling from when she first got the idea to actually producing the shirts was a mere two months. She put all of her energy into it.
On a radio remote at Custom Image Wear, she started talking to the owners and sure enough, a deal was done right there.
A graphic designer there designed some
of the graphics on the shirts, with Kirby personalizing each of them. She wanted to support and utilize the local community. Another company built a website.
Ta-da: K Swagg was off and on the prowl.
It’s not a surprise to see Kirby that passionate about the animal-assistance initiative.
Living in Drayton Valley, young Shalinda Kirby enjoyed both the advantages of small town and farm life.
The age of 10 marked a period in time where she demonstrated she would do a lot to show her love of animals.
Enter: Snowy the Cat.
“My grandparents had a farm and so I kind of grew up with farm animals then, but we lived in town and I wasn’t allowed any animals (but they did have a dog already).
By then one day I actually stole one of my grandma’s kittens and I put in my backpack and brought it to our house,” recalls Kirby with a mischievous smile thinking about her 10-year-old mind. “I kept it in the closet for three days before my parents realized I had a cat. (laughs). Once they realized this cat was living in my bedroom, I had to explain what had happened. They let me keep it ... and so there my love of cats (began).”
She took care of the kitten, bringing it food borrowed from a friend who had a cat, and it stayed relatively quiet. She used a towel for kitty litter. Her parents were not “cat people” so to bring a cat into the fold was difficult, but young Shalinda was persuasive.
“Cats were my favourite animal, hands down. I was obsessed with cats ... I had cat shirts, I had cat decorations, I would have cat trinkets ... (Snowy) I literally carried him everywhere around with me in a suitcase.”
About the same time Snowy learned to mouse
and went to a farm at the 15 or 16 years of age, Kirby decided to become a vegetarian. Snowy helped her realize her love of animals.
“I’ve always had empathy for animals. Then there was a very traumatic moment when I decided to become a vegetarian. I had a pet cow on my grandpa’s farm and they named it after me. We had a family dinner a couple months later and we’re eating.
My grandpa said, ‘How does ‘Shalinda’ taste as a cow?’ We’re literally eating my (pet). That was so traumatizing for me and to a normal person they’re like ‘yeah that’s beef, you eat beef’, but to me that was my pet. I would go out to the farm and see her and she had a personality like mine, very clumsy. She’d annoy the other cows and then I just ate her. Ever since then, I understood at that moment in my life the difference between I didn’t want my food to be animals that I loved. They’re a living, breathing, heartbeating thing.
“I’m a very different person that way. I have a lot of empathy that way and I will not eat an animal at all. Some people have kids, I have animals.”
Living in Drayton Valley, she knew she was different and wouldn’t be able to help animals more until she moved to the city. She went to SAIT in 2007-08 in Calgary and began helping at the SPCA.
“I knew right away I wouldn’t fit in a small town and to this day, my parents don’t know how I turned out,” says Kirby. “They’re Alberta beef all the way. I’m the tree hugger who should’ve fit in B.C.”
Her career started modestly as in her hometown she became the weekend news reader from grades
10-12 and later on when she went to Calgary she worked in radio for Fuel 90.3 (which is now AMP).
Kirby attended SAIT for two years, interned at a Yukon radio station and then went to Wainwright for her first full-time job for a year. At 19 years old, she did everything and then came to Medicine Hat about six years ago.
Kirby has received some criticism for her vegetarianism and strong animal stance being in the middle of beef country. However, she has also has had a lot of support for her unwavering stance on eating meat.
Now Kirby is still looking after animals.
As one of the most popular and recognizable media personalities in the region, she is her own person and her strength has made her endearing. She has started a Facebook page with vegetarian recipes as well as a supper group.
“I feel like I’m one voice among a lot, I know I’m not alone,” she explains and the support she has received for her anti-animal cruelty/as food stance has given her more confidence. “Sometimes it’s good to step out of that ‘this is what you’re supposed to be box and this is who you really are’ because it’s inspiring to others.”
For those wanting to check out the various fundraising shirts check out the website at; Twitter at @KSwaggKlothing
or the Facebook page: KSwaggKlothing/

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Ryan Dahlman

Managing Editor