“Who are we to doubt? Why not do it for the animals? Why not let women take the lead? What else is there to do?” - Paula Sara
Paula Sara tells no sob stories: she tells a story of the beautiful things that arrived to her when she needed them most, and the sense of purpose they left her with. Dogs and creativity have been the constant sources of inspiration, so it’s dogs and creativity she serves.
Dogs and Paula found each other early on: all the way back to her earliest memories of standing at the screen door of her foster home to watch for the neighbour’s dog, who would watch for her, too. Creativity found her through her grandmother, a tailor, who taught Paula sewing and design, giving her an artistic outlet during the cruelty of grade school. Every Spring they repainted porch furniture: it was a practice of care and respect, of treating nothing as disposable, that would echo throughout Paula’s life and her approach to it: “My job will be taking care of things.”
At 25, working in retail design in Toronto, Paula received a diagnosis that she may not live to 50. It was time to get a dog - Morgan. When Paula couldn’t lift her head while the scars from brain surgery were healing, Morgan would help pull her up, hand-on-collar.
The idea of life without dogs was just ludicrous now, even despite the inevitable heartbreak they come with. In 2012, she watched as her perfectly healthy 6-year-old springer spaniel withered away and died; a week later Paula got a phone call announcing a dog food recall for salmonella food poisoning. That one went beyond heartbreak for Paula. It changed the direction of Barkn up the Green Tree, which she’d started just a year prior. She earned her certification in raw dog food nutrition and set her sights on doing justice to dogs, and their humans. We can do better, she insisted
Paula uses her voice, values, and experiences to run her business the way she wants to - with health and wellness at the centre. She runs her life like that too: before her brain surgeries she had used perfumes and cleaning chemicals in her home, but as she puts it, “once they cut into your dura, you don’t want those chemicals around anymore.”
In the beginning of the first lockdown of 2020, Paula’s reworking of her business coincided with the resurgence of birdsong, clean air, and curious wildlife roaming through cities across the world. Mother Nature showed up, and so would Barkn.