Is the Better Government Association going to the dogs?
A few public officials might say that, especially after we shine a bright light on them and hold them accountable for unethical behavior or dubious policy decisions that affect our lives and tax dollars.
But in this case I’m talking about going to the dogs literally, not figuratively, as in: Adopting a watchdog as our mascot.
It makes perfect sense when you consider the symbol of the BGA mission, since its inception in 1923 — that’s 91 years ago — has been a bulldog.
Our staff has been talking for a while about adopting a real mascot, and now — with the help of our friends at PAWS Chicago, the city’s largest no-kill shelter — we’ve actually done it.
His name is Watson — he’s a big, strong, gentle mix of bulldog and terrier — and he’s a great story:
Abandoned with another pup earlier this year on the porch of a West Side building and rescued by two Chicago cops, who take them to the city’s Animal Control intake center, where they’re put on the euthanasia list — standard procedure for managing overcrowding.
Sadly, his mate never makes it off the list and is no longer with us. But Watson, called “Fulton” back then — after the street they found him on — gets lucky: He’s rescued by PAWS volunteers on one of their regular visits to the city pound in search of good adoption prospects.
At around the same time Fulton is arriving at PAWS, I’m talking about our long-standing mascot idea with business and civic leader John Canning, a friend and BGA donor who owns dogs and supports PAWS.
We agree a mascot could help us connect with the wide circle of dog owners and pet lovers who might not be familiar with our watchdog work, which is important because the more people who join the fight for better government, the more heat we can put on public officials to clean up their acts.
So Canning introduces me to the founder of PAWS, Paula Fasseas, who listens to our idea and decides to go all in.
Step One is to find the right dog, so Paula, her daughter Alexis and several other PAWS staffers introduce us to a few pups, including Fulton, who quickly wins our heart and becomes our mascot.
Our BGA staff labors over the name issue — Fulton doesn’t feel right — and we eventually settle on Watson, which goes well alliteratively with the word Watchdog.
It also conjures up images of sleuthing, as in Sherlock Holmes’ partner, and smarts, as in the iconic IBM computer, so that clinches it.
We introduce Watson and tell his moving story at our annual BGA luncheon in October, he does a star turn on the red carpet at the PAWS “Fur Ball” fundraiser a couple weeks later, and PAWS’ trainer Joan Harris continues to get him ready for prime time while we look for a foster family he can live with.
You can meet Watson digitally.
The plan, in partnership with PAWS, is to take Watson to BGA events, feature him on social media and perhaps, eventually, in ad campaigns.
Maybe the slogan, with his picture and our logos, will be: “Watson Is Watching And So Are We.”
Our hope is that, through Watson, people will learn about us, and PAWS.
That’s a win-win for two entities that, in their own very different ways, fight for underdogs.
And if it means the BGA is going to the dogs, so be it.
After all, our job is to sniff out corruption, and who is more inherently qualified to help us do that than a watchdog named Watson?
Andy Shaw is president and CEO of the Better Government Association.