I’ve always been a dog lover, but when my boyfriend and I adopted Fletcher in February of 2012, I turned into a legitimate dog weirdo. I’d had dogs growing up but there was something about being an adult with my own little puppy to raise and train and love that sent me over the edge into “Best In Show” territory.
I’ve become the person I always used to make fun of.
Fletch wears elaborate Halloween costumes and football jerseys, walks in doggy parades and has his own Instagram hashtag (#Fletchgram). We bought a small statue of Fletch’s doppelganger, the RCA dog, and placed it proudly in the living room. Above his doggie bed hang two paintings that look like they could be commissioned portraits of him. Our prized possession is a headshot that Chevy Chase autographed to Fletch–the photo is the iconic Lakers scene from the movie “Fletch.”
Fletch sleeps in our bed every night and is snuggled tight at my side nearly every minute that I’m home. I pretty much think Fletcher is the greatest thing in the world–and I tell him that about a hundred times a day, usually in a ridiculous baby voice.
Ever since we rescued Fletcher, I’ve been the crazy lady on a soapbox screaming to the world that shelter dogs should be saved and loved. I post photos of dogs that need homes on my Facebook and Twitter accounts and convince friends to adopt instead of buying.
In every stray dog, I see someone’s Fletch.
So when I heard of the terrible animal cruelty going on in Sochi, my first thought was that any of the Russian dogs I saw on TV or in online coverage could be someone’s best friend. Most of the homeless dogs there are reportedly friendly and healthy, likely pets that were lost or abandoned when families were kicked out of their homes to make way for Olympic construction.
As details came out about the extermination service hired to kill the dogs, I became more and more disgusted and heartbroken. Dogs are being fed poisoned meat or shot with poison darts, left to suffer in agony for as long as 90 minutes, suffocating to death. “Biological trash,” was how these animals were described by Alexei Sorokin, the director general of the pest control company hired back in May to execute thousands of dogs.
There are no laws requiring owners to sterilize their dogs in Russia and there are no federal laws in Russia that protect animals from abuse. The result is thousands of abandoned strays, dogs that Sochi officials view as an eyesore during their Olympic moment.
The more I read and watched and talked about these Sochi strays, thousands of miles away, the more helpless I felt. Then I remembered three words I learned from coworker (and Olympic soccer stud) Julie Foudy: Choose to matter.
Foudy invited me to participate in a contest of the same name last year, run by her Julie Foudy Sports Leadership Academy. The focus was to teach young girls to make a difference in their community. In just two weeks time my friend Eliza Peters, a seventh grader here in the Chicago suburbs, and I raised over $18,000 for young athletes with hearing disabilities.
Choose to matter.
Instead of wringing my hands over the loss of innocent dogs in Sochi, I decided to make a difference where I could, right here in America. I reached out to influential friends in the sports and entertainment world and asked for their help in creating a pop-up campaign to benefit the national ASPCA.
“Saving In The Name of Sochi” launched on Tuesday. We hope to honor the dogs lost in Russia by helping tackle some of the problems we have in our own backyard. While the treatment of dogs in most shelters here in the U.S. is humane, and every effort is made to find every dog a home, there are still far too many animals that lose their lives when space and time run out.
Let’s help save some of those lives. Donations and info are here – http://videojuice.co/Challenge/Details/2073 – on Video Juice, a site I found that makes you commit to something embarrassing, scary or bold in the name of the cause you support. I’ve made a goal of raising $10,000 by the end of these Olympics, and if we reach it I have to do an entire radio show in a dog costume–complete with video and photo updates.
The celebs–Jeremy Roenick, Kyle Long, Charissa Thompson, Ike Barinholtz, Michelle Beadle, Kris Versteeg, Jemele Hill, Colin Egglesfield, Matt Iseman, Sara Walsh and Julie Foudy–have all made a promise, too. Each celeb will do a phone call or skype session with one winner when the campaign ends. I’ll do one too, if someone wants to chat with me.
If you give at least $9.99, you’re eligible to win. The first winner picked will get his or her choice of celeb, the second winner picked will select from the remaining celebrities, and so on.
We can’t save the thousands of dogs already killed in Sochi, but they can live on through the dogs we save here at home. Choose to matter — donate to help.
I recently joined Keith Hannon for a Cornell University alumni “Google Hangout.” I had fun chatting about my college days, my current work for ESPN and a lot more. Check it out!
People on Twitter are always asking me for the best restaurants, bars and activities in Chicago. While my recommendations do change based on who’s asking, who they’re going with, how much money they want to spend, etc. I do have favorites that always seem to pop up.
Rather than type them out every time, I figured I’d start a collection of suggestions here, adding to it as I discover new spots I love. So here’s my (always growing and evolving) list of Chicago faves:
Edwardo’s Natural Pizza
Harry Caray’s (Navy Pier has AMAZING memorabilia collection)
DRINK (with your date)
The Berkshire Room
Webster’s Wine Bar
RM Champagne Salon
DRINK (with your friends)
Clark Street Ale House (bring your dog!)
Chicago Architecture Foundation boat tour
Concert at the Pritzker Pavilion
Shopping on Michigan Avenue
North Avenue Beach
Sears (NOT Willis!) Tower Skydeck
Lincoln Park Zoo