For the first 12 years of my career I was a workaholic. It was a time before blackberry phones meant you could work remotely, which I realize sounds like it was also a time when dinosaurs walked the earth. That cute, blue, little screen and keypad (that I still pine for) made it possible to unchain from your computer and emerge pale and blinking from your windowless office into the sunlight. Oddly though, unshackled, my 12 hour days didn’t stop. At first it was great. Freedom. Vitamin D. But then I realized the work day never ended. You could contact me anywhere, anytime…and expect for me to answer. What the hell was that all about?! Some of it was understandable. During that decade I turned 26 and started all moxie. As a small business owner everything was on my shoulders. And, the stakes were high. I was traveling internationally for fashion week, producing segments, press days in NY, celebrity events in LA. It was go time. But, as it wore on I realized something had to give. I started toying with the idea of getting a dog. When I’d tell people, their first reaction was always “You’re too busy for a dog.” Which to their credit was completely accurate. But, the heart wants what the heart wants. Why should the rest of the world enjoy wet nose kisses while I toiled away on excel spread sheets? You can’t play fetch with data columns! It all seemed HUGELY unfair to me. I traveled a ton. And was on a trip to San Francisco for work and decided to see a dear friend, Lesley Papola. I’d met her when I represented Brian Atwood. A visual director, we adored one another instantly and would leave an extra day to paint the town red, in our Brian Atwoods of course, when we were together. Lesley it should be noted has the best legs I’ve ever seen in a mini skirt and 4 inch heel and if she wasn’t the nicest person on the planet you’d hate her for it. As she drove us to lunch I told her of my want for a dog and everyone’s reaction of “no.” To which she replied, “Here’s the thing, I think if you don’t have time for a dog, then you don’t have time for a life and that makes me sad because your life is too fabulous for you NOT to have time for it. Get. The. Dog.” And so I did. Several weeks later, my mother was in Chicago visiting and headed out to run errands while I was at work. At some point during the day she passed the shelter and caught a glimpse of “Fawn” through the window. She called me and told me she’d found my dog, which was odd because she was squarely rooted in the no-time-no-dog camp. I hustled downtown just as Anti-Cruelty was closing. It was love at first sight and I told them I’d take her. But, in a Hallmark movie, all hope is lost plot twist, they told me no. Seems they have a rule about no adoptions starting after 6pm. I felt helpless. They took her leash and walked her to the back. I followed. They locked her in her kennel and then marked a red “x” on her cage. That red “x” terrified me. What scared me even more was that when I asked what it meant the volunteer exhaled loudly and said to me, “It means she’s been here a while and you HAVE TO come back first thing, before we open, before anything can be done and take her.” As I peered into the cage, “Fawn” was quaking and pleading at me with those soulful eyes of hers to take her. I turned to the woman and said, “I want you to put her new name in black marker on the paper so that they see it.” She started to respond that it wouldn’t matter but instead asked me what it was. I knew I couldn’t leave her name as Fawn because that felt less like a dog and more like a stripper…sorry to all you Fawns out there. So I said, out of nowhere, “Her name’s Merna and I am her call from the Governor.” I didn’t sleep a wink that night. The next day I was there as the volunteers arrived and when they brought her out to me, even Merna seemed shocked that I was standing there. I got the distinct feeling that she’d been left at the altar one too many times to trust us humans much. She jumped into my arms and whimpered hysterically as if she were saying “we’ve got to get the hell out of here!” I think of that day often and feel so grateful that it returned a piece of my heart to me, a piece I didn’t even know existed until it arrived in the form of this scruffy, blonde, beyond adorable dog. But, maybe even more importantly, in honor of Merna and all shelter dogs I think just as often about the other faces I saw that day (and the MILLIONS more I’ve never seen) that never found their forever home but instead met a more grisly fate. So, not to sound trite or preachy or like Bob Barker, spay and neuter your animals, adopt don’t buy, and know that every breed has value beyond measure. LOVE, Me and Merna.
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