I walk the streets of downtown Bend on a daily basis. I started doing that the night I arrived in town. I walked up Minnesota Ave in absolutely frigid temperatures and found a few spots that night that I would later frequent. I walked by Bendy Dog one day and, as I have an adorable dog named Pal, had to take a look inside. We met Tawna and immediately became friends. She's a laugher. And so bright and cheerful. And very encouraging. Pay her a visit. I can almost guarantee that she'll brighten your day.
Who are you?
I am definitely in transformation. That's for sure. I'm Tawna. I own Bendy Dog. I have a lot of history behind me. I'm a positive person that likes to try to influence the world in positive ways and share things that I enjoy with other people. It's fun to share.
Where do you come from? What brought you to Bend?
I'm from Southern California - born and raised. I lived in several different places down there. I went to school in San Bernardino. I lived in Pasadena. And worked in Burbank. So I've experienced a lot of those communities down there and done the whole Southern California deal. And I was just tired of it. I started to realize that I just did not feel happy. And I needed to do something about it. I was 40 and I needed to take some control and make some changes that I felt would make me happier in the long run. It was hard. My dad died in 2010 and that gave my mom and I an opportunity to get out of there. It's too hustle bustle. The mentality down there is different. The people are less invested in anybody else. I just was ready to have more of a community. When I came to visit a friend here, I was blown away by the community feel and the celebration, kind of. People are kind and they wave you across the street and they let you into traffic. And it's beautiful. Like, it feeds the soul. It was a perfect move for me. My mom felt that, too. After my dad passed away, there was nothing other than family holding us there, and you can always stay in touch with family and that never changes. So, I was just happy to go. It was enlightening and I felt like I had a ton of rocks off my back. And I still feel like that and it has been three years now. We moved here in 2014. I worked on my business plan for almost a year, sitting at The Lot, having beers and eating Thai food. I'm never looking back. I have no intention of going back. If I have to drive to California, I get to La Pine, and I just don't want to go... I'd rather turn around and go back home. I'm happy to be here. And I'm happy to be part of the community here. It's a real positive experience.
What do you like about Bend?
I'm all about Bend. There is so much anonymity in SoCal because there are so many people - you just get lost in the crowd. It's hard to feel passionate about doing anything because there are so many damn other people. You are just so invisible there. And here, people are friendlier. I feel like in general they're happier, so they're more open to other people. There's more eye contact here. Things like that make people feel welcome. I'm happy to be a part of that. I feel like it makes me a better person to contribute to that. It makes my community a better place. I have my little dog shop. I am passionate about dogs. It may be silly to some people, but they make my heart happy. I feel like that comes through. When you come in my door, I'm happy to see you. I'm really happy to see your dog. And that's completely genuine and sincere. If I give them a genuine and sincere smile and show some interest in who they are or what brought them here and then they take that out on the street and they talk to somebody else and it influences them to do the same thing... it's almost like a pay it forward thing. And if we are all just a little bit better for it, then great. I'm not a community activist... I enjoy what I do and in general, I like people and their dogs. Hopefully that comes through and perpetuates itself through the community.
Do you have a favorite memory or activity here?
This is silly. I really like going to the Michael Franti concerts once in a year. I look so forward to that! There's such a mainline of positivity, surrounded by people who are also so pumped to be there. I'll walk around on a cloud for two days after that dumb concert. And I will go every year until I die. Every year he comes here, I will go. Just because I feel like my soul needs it. It's such a great experience. I love all the festivals and the festivities - the Munch & Music and the things that bring the community together. Where I'm from, they don't have that. What could be bad about walking down to Drake Park on a summer evening and sitting on a blanket with a thousand people listening to some music and eating some food and having a beer? I mean, come on. It's simple. It's so simple and yet it's such an influence. It's a magical activity because I am just so not used to feeling a part of any community.
I have a lot of favorite haunts. I discovered El Sancho recently. Whaaaat? Try the chilaquiles, they're amazing! The back spot at McMenamins with all the fire pits is a fantastic place to go and kick it and have a drink. They make the best Screwhounds (half Greyhound, half Screwdriver). And I like places like Atlas and Crux and GoodLife where you can go sit outside and just chill and enjoy the experience.
What do you wish for the future?
I'm pretty happy right now with the direction my life is going. I hope that I find a little more direction with the shop. I hope that it becomes a business that sustains me. As of yet, I haven't made a dime. They say it takes about three years. At the three year mark, I'm hoping I can pay myself. Otherwise, I can't do this forever. This is just kind of a spot in time if it doesn't become profitable. I'd like to become a bit more business savvy. A good balance is hopefully in my future. I would hate to think that Bend blows up and becomes some sort of Mecca. Honestly, no matter how big it gets, it's still going to have that draw. It's in a beautiful area. In general, the people that are here have an inherent goodness and happy souls. For the most part - way more than I've experienced in other places. I know some people get really upset about how many people are here. And especially people coming from southern areas. I'm just not going to worry about it. I love Bend. So wherever it goes, I can't see it making a hard right and turning into something I'm not going to enjoy. Everything evolves. It's just evolving. Hopefully it's getting better.