A Round of Apaws for Queer Women Saving Dogs

When people ask me how to describe my style when I’m not on camera or a carpet, I usually describe it as “Crazy Dog Lady Chic.” Staple pieces include the messy bun, the oversized sweatshirt with shredded sleeves, the army jacket bursting with poop bags and dog treats, and, of course, a practical pair of shoes.

“How does one achieve this look?” Well, my first step was becoming a foster parent to dogs in need. Because if there’s anything you should know about me, it’s my personal mantra: canines trump people. (And people trump Trump.)

natasha-negovanlisMe, with a beautiful lady, and my previous foster, Spinelli, now named Luna.

I had grown up with a rescue dog. He was a scrappy mutt (much like myself) and after I moved out, I longed for a furry companion of my own. But understanding the financial responsibility and time commitment of dog ownership, I turned to fostering for the time being. At first, I fostered through a Québec rescue (being somewhat of a Montréal expat myself) until I found one of Toronto’s newest and hottest not-for-profit dog rescuing organizations. Enter Save our Scruff Re-Home and Rescue.

S.O.S is dedicated to rescuing dogs and finding them safe and suitable FURever homes through adoption, advocacy, and education. What’s awesome about this group (aside from their on-fleek social media presence) is that they rescue dogs from all over the world no matter what their shape, size, breed, or rehabilitation and medical needs are like. I just love that they don’t discriminate! Even when it comes to their team. Over 90% of their staff is made up of fabulous smart women, and their founder, Laura Bye, is as much into chasing the ladies as she is chasing stray pups.

laura-byeSave Our Scruff Founder Laura Bye saving all the dogs.

Recently, we sat down and chatted on how she came to start up the organization, and what it’s like balancing a dating life while being an every day superhero to our scruffy friends.

AfterEllen.com: So Laura, most people have heard the stereotype that “all lesbians are cat people, and all cat people are lesbians.” But what kind of a lesbian is a dog person, and does a dog person make a good lesbian?

Laura Bye: ONLY THE BEST KIND. I mean, dogs are a commitment. They take time, patience, and all your f-ing energy. A decision to own a dog is a commitment to put something above yourself for 15 plus years. If that’s not an indicator that they’re the best kind [of lesbian] then I don’t know what is. I don’t have a dog, though. Just two cats. I’ll get there. [sighs] Commitment.


AE: When did you realize you were a dog person, or what is your first memory of falling in love with a dog?

LB: I think I actually skipped that part and they just became a healthy/unhealthy addiction from the beginning. I don’t think I started to actually fall for the dogs until I took a step back and realized what I had gotten myself into. That’s when all the happy tears started, and things got a little crazier and more emotional.


AE: Alright, so do you care to dish on your first experience falling in love with a lady? Or could you share a fun tidbit about your coming out story?

LB: I’ll just say this: stalker turned girlfriend. Okay, she’ll hate me if I don’t explain. Basically, I had a friend—a lady friend—that followed me around because I was so awesome. And at that time, I laughed in the face of danger (A.K.A. the thought of dating a woman). I thought I was completely in control of my feelings and content with my dating life. Until my roommate sat in between us at the movies and I almost puked of jealousy. From that moment on, she was mine.


AE: Have you ever dated a woman who was not-so-into dogs or jealous of your passion for them? Or is MUST LOVE DOGS like a for-sure requirement when looking for that special someone?

LB: I don’t want to say there are ever any requirements. I don’t have time for boundaries. But, I need someone who can deal with my lifestyle. I need to be able to say, “YEAH, SO I’M A DOG HOARDER!” and we high-five and move on.


AE: So what prompted you to found Save our Scruff, and when did it all begin?

LB: I had been working in rescue for over a year and just felt it was time to take things one step further. I wanted to have more of a say and have more control. I would say this is the first time my whole control-freak-attitude has birthed something positive. I started Save Our Scruff almost two years ago, and last year I had a huge opportunity to make it bigger than I ever expected. Now, I have the most amazing team that does all the hard stuff for me, while I get to sit back and wrestle with all the pups.


AE: What is your favorite part of rescuing dogs, or can you share a favorite memory?

LB: I think my favorite part of Save Our Scruff is that fact that it’s still going and growing. I never thought I would be part of something that could impact so many lives. I mean, I can hardly put my shoes on the right feet every morning. Okay, so every night. I don’t do mornings. In just under two years, we have been able to adopt out over 300 dogs. Like, sorry, what?! I can hardly count that high!


AE: Why do you love rescuing dogs? And if you weren’t rescuing dogs, what do you think you would be doing?

LB: I don’t know! I don’t know how I got here, but I’m not mad about it. Holy crap, I just LOVE dogs!


AE: So if you’re often off scouring the world (like f-ing EGYPT! Holy crap!) for strays, how do you find time to date? And where would you bring a date?

LB: Well let’s just say there’s Tinder in Egypt. But, I don’t go on many dates. I’m too awkward for those. But I do like ALL the board games. And fancy cocktails, too.


AE: If a live-action movie of your life was made, but all of the characters were talking dogs, what kind of dog would you be cast as? 

LB: I’d be the scruffiest mutt with no manners and really terrible ideas.


AE: Sounds like we would be two peas in a pod. Or, uh two dogs in a pack. So who is your current favorite queer celebrity crush, and what kind of dog do you think they would be? 

LB: Brittenelle Fredericks because like, holy frigging hell. She’d be the most good looking dog, with severe separation anxiety, so she’d never leave my side.





AE: Big Dogs OR Little Dogs?



AE: Pure Bred Or Mutts?



AE: Last but not least, if there is any advice you could give to someone who is interested in adopting a dog, what would it be?

LB: Take your time to find the perfect dog. Don’t fall for a cute face. Have your resources ready. Do a lot of background info on breed specific training. Stock your wine cellar. Expect things to go wrong, get crazy, and a little hectic sometimes. PUT IN THE WORK. If you don’t think you’re ready for that, listen to your gut. You’re not. But, why not try fostering first?!


I agree with Laura. Dogs take work, and adopting is an important decision, which makes fostering such a lovely option. And even though giving up my foster dogs can be ruff (pun intended) knowing that I help find them the perfect homes is incredibly rewarding. Plus, belly rubs. So if you’re interested in fostering, or are out of the area and just want to donate or help out Save our Scruff in some way, check them out at saveourscruff.org or at @saveourscruff on Instagram. They even sell rad T-shirts, and 100% of the proceeds go to saving lives. So please follow and give them a look. Who doesn’t like reading about happy tails? Uh, I mean, tales!