my $26,613.75 birthday gift.

As I walked through the rows of kennels of Chicago Animal Care & Control, I spotted him. A senior dog with a wagging tail and folded ears, waiting patiently until it was his turn to be loved. We continued walking through the rows with dog after dog waiting for their moment. Waiting for their chance to prove they were worth the time and affection. Some barked, some jumped, others retreated, unsure of who we were and why they were there. When it was time to take photos, I knew who I wanted to see: senior boy Toby.

Toby’s story is similar to many of CACC’s dogs. He was brought in by his owners because they were moving and couldn’t bring him with. After ten years in a loving home, he found himself dumped into a shelter, confused, lonely and facing an uphill battle being a senior dog. Just like every other dog, he had nothing but a concrete floor and metal dog bowl in his kennel. It’s not CACC’s fault, as a government-run facility, their budget is tight and they’re truly doing great work. When it was time for him to take Toby’s glamour shots, he was so excited to be outside and enjoy the smells. He was happy to just be a dog.

I turn 30 in ten days. A milestone generally marked by extravagant dinners and parties, I had no idea what I wanted to do. Instead, I focused on what I wanted. Turns out, I have expensive taste because my wishlist cost $26,613.75. For my birthday, I want to give every dog at CACC a dog bed and I’d love your help. You can use this link to donate whatever amount (please write “CACC Donation” in the notes section) to help me buy dog beds for our city dogs.

When I asked Susan Russell, Director of CACC, what the dogs need, we both agreed that dog beds would make a world of difference to the pups. The Kuranda bed is the best because it can be completely cleaned and it’s chew-proof. Both are necessary for a high-volume shelter. Now, sadly, I cannot shell out a casual $26,613.75 (oh boy would I love to) so that’s where you come in. With an average price of $125, I understand this is a big ask, but these dogs don’t ask for much.

In fact, these dogs haven’t asked for anything since arriving at CACC. All they want is love and affection and for someone to take them home forever. Someone who will keep them safe, happy, and warm for the rest of their days. They’re all waiting patiently, hoping that the next person walking through that door will choose them.

But of course, not everyone can adopt or has the capacity to foster at the moment. I’m well aware of that fact. So I wanted to do something was more accessible to people. It might not be easy, and I know it’s a lot of money, but any amount will make a difference. While I’d love for everyone to buy a bed, a simple monetary donation of any amount will help! Real Dog Moms of Chicago have kindly set up a PayPal link for this campaign. Please make sure to write “for CACC” so your donation is properly earmarked!

While this is technically my birthday present, it isn’t about me at all. It’s about the dogs of my city who are sleeping on concrete floors, wondering what they did wrong, and why they ended up here. It’s for dogs like Toby that I had to leave, wishing I could take him with me. This birthday present is for any dog that didn’t get their chance because we let them down. So please, help dogs like Toby find comfort tonight. Help provide him a comfortable place to curl up while he waits patiently for his forever home.

I’d love to make a few trips to CACC with the beds in tow and show you the dogs who will be sleeping comfortably. I want you to see exactly where your money went and to who. So help me celebrate my birthday and join me in buying a bed for every dog in our city shelter. If you’d rather buy a bed directly from Kuranda, I’ve linked that here as well.


Toby – The boy who this post centers around, Toby is a 10-year-old Sharpei mix with the cutest face. He might be a senior dog, but you couldn’t tell from the way he acts. He’s a fairly low-key, happy boy who and would do well in almost any home. For find out if Toby is the perfect gentleman for you, click here.

Camero – Oh, my, goodness. You guys. This goofy boy might have the cutest/froggiest face I’ve seen. His lopsided ears and wonky eyes make him one of the smooshiest faces I’ve seen. He’s got plenty of energy and would do well in an active home that can help him basic commands. He’s such a sweet man, check out all about him here.

Tammy – Did I mention it was kitten season? There are enough cats for everyone and Tammy is the sweetest girl you’ll meet. She was found as a stray but it so cuddly and ready to curl up in your arms. I was ready to take her home with me. Tammy is still being vetted and should be available shortly.


I’ve been into dresses lately, with the beautiful weather we had, I couldn’t help myself to another. The slits and open back made me want to walk the beach (with SPF 1000) with a tropical drink in my hand. I suppose being at CACC was my second best option. Shop the look below!

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All photos: Margaret Rajic

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9 thoughts on “my $26,613.75 birthday gift.”

  1. Aaaaaad now I’m crying at my desk. My heart breaks for this guys. Our very first dog was 10 years old and came from a hoarding situation. Senior dogs are THE BEST and I hate that they get overlooked. Also, I hate that they don’t have beds so I’m donating right now.

    1. 100% agree with you. Senior animals are the friggin best. So laid back and loving, but still a lot of joy and frivolity. Everyone’s all zany for puppies and kittens, but senior critters are where it’s at.

    2. Erin, you know I love all you do in the rescue community. Thank you so much for donating. I cannot wait to adopt a senior dog one day… a senior pittie pupper is high on my list 😉 Thank you for donating it is truly so appreciated!!

  2. Happy birthday, beauty! We are all so lucky you’re doing what you’re doing (and so well and stylishly!). I donated in your bday honor and for all those sweet critters to feel cozy and loved. Thanks for such a selfless opportunity to celebrate your birthday. XO

    1. Thanks Ashlee, totally flattered to have a BA babe like yourself on my team. Thanks for your kind donation, it will go so far in helping our city’s pups. Also, CANNOT WAIT FOR YOUR BOOK!

    1. Hi Rebeca, thank you so much for reading and taking the time to respond. It was my pleasure to visit with our city pups and do something fun for them. I can’t wait to bring the beds and provide some much needed comfort <3

  3. Christine: Thank you so much for highlighting our pups and our bed drive for your birthday! The dogs do get blankets every day, but everyone at CACC is excited to implement a process to make sure the dogs also get beds, and that the staff can keep them cleaned and sanitary to keep the dogs health so they can get transferred to one of our amazing partners or adopted into a new loving home. The photos are so beautiful and we can’t wait to have you back!

    1. Ah thank you Jenny for reading! I so appreciate all you are doing and that makes me so happy to know they have blankets! I’ll be sure to note that and they’re so lucky they have you. I can’t wait to come back with so many beds for all the pups!!

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