Recently my business coach told me that I was born to be an entrepreneur. She swore that she wasn’t just fluffing my ego, but actually meant this. Wow! Oddly, I had never tossed that idea around in my head before—am I meant to be an entrepreneur? I know I love it, but was I destined to do it? When I look back at my life I think the answer to that question is a resounding, ‘YES,’ I was always meant to own a dog business. The signs were always there.
I was the kid who spent her free time trying to make friends with our landlord’s mangy guard dog and conning my little brother into money-making ‘opportunities’ like picking berries along the railroad tracks and attempting to sell them to random strangers for $5. It shouldn’t come as a surprise that not a single person took advantage of that bargain. The dog and I became friends.
A few years out of high school, I remember sharing with an adult that I wanted to pursue working with animals, but she knocked the wind out of my sails and promptly told me that my idea was silly and I should just stick with my original plan to be a police officer. I would spend the next two decades not sticking with anything.
In my late twenties, I lived in Southern California and was obsessed with the idea of owning my own dog boutique; they were everywhere in Orange County at the time and I wanted a piece of that froufrou action. I envisioned something along the lines of Three Dog Barkery, making money surrounded by dog apparel, dog treats, dogs, dog owners and my own dogs. All dogs, all day. I bought books on entrepreneurship to feed my curiosity and visited every shop I stumbled upon. And then life happened as usual and the fantasy faded.
Fast forward to my mid-thirties and I’m back in New York, living in Albany and bartending my way through grad school. Again, I’m working my rear off to carve out a place for myself in a non-dog, non-entrepreneurial field while simultaneously dreaming of opening a dog boutique on Lark Street. I see all of the people swarming Washington Park with their dogs and just know that my store would be the Cheers of Albany dog lovers. Instead I enter the world of political campaigns.
A couple more years down the road and I’m telling one of my interns in the U.S. Senate office that we should go into business together selling the amazing treats she makes for the office…but for dogs. I’m not sure what my role would be in this proposal since I don’t bake for humans let alone dogs, but I know that day dreaming about it makes me crazy happy and I’m slightly bothered that she doesn’t feel the same. She’s a lawyer now.
My last and final job working for someone else was when the light bulb went on like fireworks over my head. The political machine I worked for can only be described as a soul-sucking, human meat grinder. Chewing people up and spitting them out was the office culture and it pushed me to my breaking point—better yet, my breakthrough point. I was finally ready. I was ready to give up on what I thought was safe and respectable to follow the dream that had always been bottled up inside me. There were no assurances that I would be successful, but I simply jumped because I couldn’t continue to follow the path I was on for one more damn second.
And now, I am living my dream. I own a dog business. It’s not perfect, it barely pays my bills (for now!) and definitely doesn’t mirror what’s in my head (yet!), but it’s my dream. It’s me. In my heart I know that I’m doing what I was born to do.
I’m sure any dog owner would agree, life with a dog is more colorful. They make our own stories richer in often unexpected ways. And with raw beauty they help us discover who we are.
Part of the self discovery I speak of means stepping outside of our comfort zone to tackle things we couldn’t have imagined doing five seconds before taking the plunge. Take for example, this vegan—me—feeding raw meat to my dogs. For those of you who don’t know me that may not seem like a big deal at all so I’ll give you a little background on my gastronomical philosophy. I am completely and utterly disgusted by meat. And not just the red, bloody kind, but any flesh that came from something that used to breathe and have a face. I grew up in a steak-and-potatoes kind of house so I’m no stranger to consuming animal parts, but it has never felt normal to me and I’ve spent nearly my entire life defending my belief that meat is downright gross and should remain attached to its original owner.
Now fast forward to present day and I’m feeding my dogs raw meat. How is it possible that a girl who, back in the day, couldn’t prepare chicken without plastic baggies on her hands could now be dishing out bloody flesh, organs and bone to her four-legged kiddos? The simple answer is because I love them so much that I’m willing to grin and bear it. Seeing Dexter drool with anticipation is worth the discomfort of having to pick up a turkey neck and place it in his bowl and then listen to him crunching on it for what seems like an eternity. The warm-and-fuzzy feeling that I’m doing what I can to make sure my dogs are healthy and happy is worth every whiff of sardine and splatter of blood…and the smirk on my husband’s face as he watches me scoop it into each dog’s bowl.
It’s all about looking each challenge in the face and saying, "this is good because..." For me, this experience is good because I showed myself that this is yet another thing I can conquer. My dogs mean more to me than the momentary discomfort I feel when I touch ground rabbit.
Next up: tripe. Help me.