21st Century Deities // Ellen Sue Ballon and Lindsay Bird invite TPP to meet their furry rescues at DEITY Dogs + Goods
Deity. Noun. Dee-uh-ty. A God or Goddess, something you pray to. A divine or celestial being.
Ellen Sue Ballon and Lindsay Bird of Deity Dogs + Goods are all of the above. They are the deities of the 21stcentury, our chosen spirit animals and the female leaders we strive to be. Ellen initially moved from Pittsburgh to Los Angeles to start her jewelry business, Deity Jewels, but spent most of her free time “holding leashes, transporting and even fostering dogs.” Despite the long hours that went into Ellen’s newly launched jewelry business, she always made time to help dogs in need. It was only when she was on the verge of motherhood, practically shipping orders whilst in labor, that she realised she wasn’t going to be able to make time like that anymore. The idea of designing rescued jewelry – specific pieces of which the profit would go back to rescue organisations – was born during Nico’s (Ellen’s son) naptime and allowed her to unite both her passions. Several years later, when Instagram came into play, Ellen remembers opening her inbox thinking “oh wow, there’s tons of messages here.” People started to connect and interact, amongst them was Lindsay saying “Hi, I want to help.” The two women met up and instantly hit it off. Although Lindsay was still a full-time hairstylist at the time she took on everything full force whilst Ellen spent months in and out of LA to take care of her sick father.
The turning point in their relationship came just after Ellen’s father had passed away. “I remember sitting in the family room with my mother,” Ellen recalls, “and Lindsay called to let me know that her sister was going to take one of our rescues, Allen, to his neuter appointment.” Ellen looks at Lindsay, now tears in her eyes, then continues. “So, I ask Lindsay if everything is ok and she tells me that she ended up in the hospital and is scheduled to have surgery the next morning.” What was initially a headache turned out to be a brain tumor and forced Lindsay to temporarily put her entire life on hold. Ellen continues: “she said it like it was nothing because that’s the kind of woman she is. Selfless, loving, always putting the needs of others first.” The love in the room is palpable. Nova, Chloe and Miracle (the dogs) swarm in and around us as we wipe away our tears, moved beyond words by Lindsay’s bravery, courage and strength. Six weeks later, after Lindsay recovered, she closed the door on her career in the beauty industry and joined forces with Ellen full time.
The ringing sound of the storefront opening breaks the silence. All seven heads (dogs included) turn towards the door. Elena, our TPP babe and photographer extraordinaire enters with Ellen’s bulldog, Big Girl. “Does she not want to walk anymore?” Ellen asks, her voice still slightly shaky. Big Girl throws herself in the midst of our laps and we all break out in laughter. “Do you want to take Nova instead?” Lindsay offers. Elena’s face brightens up at the sight of the tan colored dachshund mixture. We swap leashes and out Elena goes with Nova, one of many rescues in need of a forever home.
“Since Lindsay joined us,” Ellen continues, “everything has just been incrementally so much bigger.” Together they are no longer just rescuing dogs but have opened their own store, Deity Dogs + Goods, where people can meet dogs that are available for adoption, purchase Ellen and Lindsay’s hand-crafted jewelry as well as other dog-related goods all of which are produced locally by female led businesses. The profits from the store as well as any donations go back to their non-profit organisation, Deity Animal Rescue, which allows them to do what they do best: save lives.
“One of the hashtags I like to use is #ittakesavillage because it’s so true on every level,” Ellen explains.
Whether it’s monetary, sharing that post, fostering or even just transporting dogs when Ellen and Lindsay can’t be in two places at once, all of those deeds play a vital role in saving a dog’s life. Their social media following and extended network sometimes even guarantees their rescues a foster by the time they get picked up from the vet after their rescue exam.
“We just happen to be able to walk into shelters. Not everyone can do that but because of our life experiences we have been able to overcome that fear,” Ellen explains. “Unfortunately, seniors and large dogs often take longer to find homes for – in the shelters those are the first to be euthanized and they really don’t deserve that.”
Other times Ellen and Lindsay will receive calls about abandoned dogs. Just last month they went on a rescue mission in DTLA where a German Shepheard had been spotted outside a building in the pouring rain. He had been stranded there for several days with no clean water or food, not even a decent place to hide from the rain. Their gentle and loving touch permitted Ellen and Lindsay to approach him, put a collar around him and bring him to their vet for an immediate rescue exam. “It didn’t even cross our mind that he could hurt us,” Lindsay exclaims, “we just knew we had to help him.” Because most rescues need a lot of medical attention – Ellen and Lindsay never discriminate based on age, breed or health – their vet bills are expansive. “We do five dollar Friday’s for a dog who needs any extra medical attention,” Lindsay explains. “Even if all of our followers just gave 50 cents, that alone would already make a giant difference.”
Both Ellen and Lindsay have been in jobs that made money and allowed them to live off their income comfortably. However, none of that financial stability was able to compare to the happiness and fulfilment they have gained by doing what they love.
“It’s not a lucrative business,” Lindsay explains, “but I am definitely a million times happier doing this than when I was making a decent salary in the beauty industry.” Ellen adds on “we’re not rich, we’re not going to be rich, but we’re rich in love and rich in life and so are the dogs we rescue.”
In the semi-near future both Ellen and Lindsay hope to encourage people to be even more open to fostering. It is the number one most effective way in making a difference. “Every time we pull a dog out of the shelter it saves three dogs. It saves the dog that you pulled, a dog that can now be sheltered and a dog that doesn’t need to be put down due to overcrowding,” Lindsay tells us. They also believe that educating the young generation is key. “Seeing it through my son’s perspective and the way he responds to what we’re doing,” Ellen explains, “that’s pretty major.” After all, wanting a specific breed is not a good enough reason not to get a rescue. In the end, it’s not you who chooses the dog, it’s the dog who chooses you.
Q&A PART I
What time do you wake up?
LB: I wake up when my dog tells me its time… Usually 7am is the latest he will sleep in
What is your wake-up ritual?
ESB: I let my seven dogs outside including placing two two-legged Chihuahuas in the grass, watch as they do their business and then pick them up and bring them back inside when they are finished. It gets cold on those nubs in winter! Then I get my son up, make his lunch, feed the dogs and drive him to school. I come back, walk my dogs and get ready for work.
LB: I walk and feed the dog(s) (my personal dog and whoever is crashing at my place while searching for their forever home), call Ellen to discuss the day, open all the windows and make some coffee.
How do you mentally prepare for the day?
ESB: I mentally prepare when walking my dogs and getting ready, while answering pressing texts and emails
LB: My fiancé sleeps later than I do, so the first person I talk to everyday is Ellen. We spend the morning catching each other up on what happened since we last saw each other the night before, and often remind each other to keep focused on our goals – saving lives and being grateful. When I get my priorities in check like that, I can take on the day.
Who is in bed with you / How many dogs?
ESB: Oh boy… my 11-year-old son and seven dogs
LB: My fiancé has a strict no dogs in the bed policy… so it’s just him and I
What is the last book you read?
ESB: I’m still reading it, Grit by Angela Duckworth
LB: Currently reading Becoming by Michelle Obama
Who is the last person that texted you?
ESB: Caren, one of our veterinarians asking how Mama Moon’s puppies are doing
LB: Ellen…. It’s always Ellen
What's the most attractive quality in someone?
ESB: Authenticity and vulnerability
LB:I love a person who is witty and compassionate
Are you an early bird or a night owl?
ESB: Night Owl usually
LB: Early bird if you can call it that… I know 7am isn’t early by most people’s standards. I cannot stay awake past 11pm. Like full system shut down when the clock hits 11.
Q&A PART II
Dream person in the public spotlight you would most like to work with for Deity?
ESB: Hilary Swank and my wish is coming true
LB: Ellen DeGeneres
Favorite vegetarian / vegan restaurant in LA?
ESB: Café Gratitude or Pura Vita
LB: Sage Bistro
What inspires you?
ESB: Loyalty, authenticity and vulnerability in animals and humans
LB: Walking my dog in the morning around the neighbourhood
Something you can’t leave the house without?
ESB: My phone
LB: My phone...I wish it weren’t true
Words of wisdom you would tell your younger self?
ESB: To chill out, whatever it is, it will pass, it’s ok to miss a workout, enjoy that beautiful skin, do not ever settle, a disrespectful person needs to not be a part of your life, and congrats on deciding to follow your passions because look at you now.
LB: The way people treat you is a reflection of them, not you
What do you hold close in life?
ESB: My son, my family, my dear friends and every animal I have the pleasure of knowing
LB: My relationship with my fiancé
Most recent tattoo you got?
ESB: U2 lyrics from Beautiful Day “See the bird with leaf in her mouth. After the flood all the colors came out” in Daniel Winter Stone’s handwriting
LB: A line work sun and moon set on my forearms
Best thing about your job?
ESB: Looking in the eyes of an urgent shelter dog who would have been euthanized and telling her that she’s safe now. And watching her understand every word.
LB: Watching the happiness a dog brings to a human’s life
Hardest thing about your job?
ESB: Not being able to save more
LB: That we can’t save them all
Q&A PART III
Dog that has most influenced your life?
ESB: My dog Rafa. He was so stoic, so wise. He was diagnosed with cancer and was given weeks to live. He gave me a year. He stuck around to get me though my absolute worst year of my life. His strength gave me inspiration. When he knew that I was going to be ok, he left me.
LB: Allen. The first dog I rescued with Ellen. I was in a place in my life where I didn’t think I had more of myself to give. And I fell in love with him at first sight.
ESB: These days – working out
LB: I watch Say Yes to the Dress… everyday
Something every dog owner should own from Deity Dogs + Goods?
ESB: Our Freshly Peed On Grass candle
LB: Our Wear 1 + Rescue 1 tags with healing crystals! We custom stamp them by hand, attach a healing crystal of your choice, and when you buy one, we rescue a dog and they get one too!
Something you recently discovered?
ESB: That manifestation really works
LB: My under the desk bike! I can pedal while I work!
Something your dog / foster has taught you?
ESB: My two legged Chihuahuas have taught me so much. They were both born without their front legs and scooch around, totally keeping up with our four legged pups. And they are happy. Every day. Just the way they are.
What qualities do you admire most about each other?
ESB: Where to begin. First, we fell in love with the same pups. Unanimous decisions are easy. Second, Lindsay gets things done. Watching her cross things off of our endless ToDo list excites me to no end. Third, she balances my tendency to catastrophize things by rationally pulling my feet back down to the earth. And, the best part… she’s so kind, compassionate and sassy all the time. She inspires me everyday.
LB: Ellen is amazing at creating a personal relationship with everyone who walks into our store. She genuinely loves meeting new people and learning about them.
When you are not rescuing dogs you are…?
ESB: Being a mom to my son, being a mom to my dogs, working on my phone, and sometimes working out or having a cocktail with friends
LB: Planning me and my fiancés wedding
Q&A PART IV
Fondest Deity Dogs + Goods memory to date?
ESB: My fondest memory was when we had two puppies with parvo and were scared they were not going to live… Lindsay and I were grounded up for days in the isolation ward with them. We were not going to let them slip away and channeled every bit of our energy into getting them well and to start eating on their own. On day four they both ate from our hands. We cried tears of joy knowing they were going go make it…
LB: In November, Ellen and I worked till nearly midnight every night, getting totally slap happy, ordering in dinner, and getting the store ready for our opening. It was a true experience of how hard work pays off.
Ellen, describe Lindsay in three words?
ESB: Passionate, Tenacious, Beautiful
Lindsay, describe Ellen in three words?
LB: Compassionate, Sensitive, Dedicated
Best dog name?
ESB: The Dude
LB: I love mature human names for dogs
What’s your most used emoj?
ESB: Pink beating heart
LB: The three stars shiney glimmer thing
What’s something you’ve always wanted to learn?
ESB: Metal casting
LB: How to play an instrument
How do you recharge?
ESB: Dancing and then sleeping
LB: Quality time with my fiancé, usually watching documentaries on Netflix and eating pizza