"I walked into Wal-mart with $20 in my pocket, but I didn't come out with shampoo!"
Instead, Mandy gave her hard-earned $20 to the Rock County Humane Society, which was soliciting donations at Wal-mart that day. And her life was, as they say, forever changed.
She was living in a trailer and taking pre-requisite classes for law school when she started volunteering at the Humane Society after that fateful day at Wal-mart. She'd tried everything from music to fashion design to art, but after just one week of working at the animal shelter, she met with administrators at a nearby university to determine which classes she needed to enter the veterinary school.
Mandy was in her thirties by the time she decided to be a vet. Ironically, she'd never thought of herself as a "science person," but she ended up becoming the first person—ever, anywhere in the world—to complete a feline-specific residency in the field of veterinary science. She may have taken the long way there, but "all of these things are really connected," she says. "As I look back on all the different things I did and tried, I see how I got to where I am today."
Having lived through the soul-searching, what-do-I-want-to-do-with-my- life journey many women understand, Mandy's now embarked on a whole new one: helping protect animals from the climate crisis through her foundation, Pets for the Planet. She plans to allocate 10% percent of profits from her eco-friendly pet clothing and bedding line, Roving Woolens, to the cause (100% of sales from a special Pets for the Planet collar tag, available at rovingwoolens.com, will go to the foundation's endowment fund). Pets for the Planet will support programs like the UK-based Alliance for Rabies Control and Enviro-vet. "I wanted to give animals a voice," Mandy says of creating the foundation. "They're innocent bystanders in this crisis."
Determined that Pets for the Planet will make a difference on a global scale, Mandy declares, "I will see to it, to my deathbed!" She laughs, knowing it's a big dream. But "I believe in the power of visualization," she says. "I don't want people to buy Roving Woolens because it's a sweater?I want them to believe in the concept." In other words, she earnestly wants people to believe they can make a difference.
The Push Forward
Meanwhile, she's coping with the loss of the inspiration for Roving Woolens: her beloved cat Truman. He died two weeks before Mandy was to debut Roving Woolens to hundreds of potential buyers at an expo last August. "After I lost him, I thought, 'I don't want to do this. I don't even want to go.' But he got me back in touch with my creative side," the former art student says quietly. She felt she owed it to him to go. "Animals come into our lives for a reason, and when they think we're on the right path, they leave. I really believe that in my heart."
Mandy's path may have taken a lot of turns, but as Truman must've known, she's definitely on the right one.