Participating in 4-H activities as a child can foster a life-long connection to animals, farming and resiliency.
For Orcas resident Brittany Johnson, it inspired her profession.
“If someone would have told me 20 years ago that I would have built an entire career from leaning into my childhood joy of caring for animals I wouldn’t have believed it!” Johnson said. “Especially if someone told me that in the same exact place that I used to play with my chickens and baby rabbits would be where I would open my own pop-up business.”
Johnson, who has been a dog groomer for 11 years, offered canine hair services out of her flower garden on Orcas this summer.
“It brought me so much joy to finally be able to give back my love and talents to the people who have played such an instrumental part of shaping me into the person I am today,” she said. “Up next we will get to practice that mentality and service in our country and our world as my husband and I plan our next big travel and filmmaking adventure through the states and hopefully down through Central and South America next year. My dream is to document our journey on our YouTube channel (Britt & Steve) and film stories of ordinary people doing extraordinary things to make them feel seen and loved and hopefully inspire others to take risks and chase their passions too.”
Johnson began 4-H at 8 years old with her polka-dotted bunny named Little One. Over the next decade, she ventured into new categories, ambitiously competing in rabbit; poultry; dog; photography; drawing; costume contests; races; round-robin; pie; jams; table decorating; and cat showing in her last year.
“I was never drawn to sports, instead I was motivated to bring joy to others through my creativity,” Johnson said. “4-H was my place that gave my passion for animals and creativity a purpose. I might not have been good at basketball, but you better believe I could whip out a chicken wing and tell you the exact names of every special feather. In fact, I had so many ribbons from over the years that I didn’t know what to do with them all! So my final year I sewed them into a dress to wear at the Trashion Fashion show.”
At 18, Johnson moved to Bellingham. While applying for her first job at PetSmart, her encyclopedic knowledge of animals won her a position in the dog grooming department. The company sent her through their academy program to learn to style dog hair. That decision set the stage for an 11-year career.
“It fueled my passion for bringing joy through my creativity, and beyond that, to be able to financially invest into my side filmmaking career and travel with my husband to 30 countries and counting,” she said. “Three years ago, I began combining my love for dogs and filmmaking, they now call me the ‘videoDOGrapher’ and I have been amazed to see my content go viral numerous times, get nominated for awards and get sponsorships from my favorite brands.”
Johnson says strangers have said her videos of snails with flower crowns made them weep with joy.
Beyond learning animal husbandry facts, Johnson learned about how to be a good teammate, lift others up and show kindness in a competition no matter the outcome.
“Being a kid is hard,” she said. “You’re constantly trying to figure out who you are, who others think you are and who you someday want to be. I believe that having the space to be loved for who I was and having my passions celebrated instead of teased, gave me the self-confidence I needed to be able to love myself for who I was too.”