Tim Gunn Is Great, But Swatch the Boston Terrier Is the Real Star of "Project Runway"
It's not cool to admit it, but I get excited when I encounter famous people in real life. I let out an audible gasp when I saw Chelsea Clinton at SoulCycle. I texted my best friend when Adrian Grenier followed me through Whole Foods. (Could it have been coincidence that he took the same produce-to-meat-counter-oops-I-forgot-something-in-produce route through the store? I think not.) But, despite the gasping and texting, I would never EVER approach some random actor or public figure on the street and say, "Be my friend."
I suppose that most people watch Project Runway -- the Bravo-turned-Lifetime fashion design competition -- because they enjoy the designers' creative process, or Heidi Klum's short dresses, or the way Michael Kors smiles and nods to confirm that the judging panel has reached a decision. Some viewers may be dreaming of the day when they become best friends with Tim Gunn. (Don't we all want to be best friends with Tim???) But for me, the highlight of the show is Swatch.
I have a total dog crush on Swatch, even though he gets less than 10 seconds of air time during the show's fabric-frenzy montage. I have been known to rewind and rewatch "Swatch shots." My primary criticism of Project Runway is that the show needs more Swatch.
Braxlee, my Cavalier, is surprisingly tolerant of my crush, even though she’s a relatively possessive pup. She probably reasons that Swatch is on TV in New York, and she’s on our sofa in San Francisco, and our worlds will never collide. Except they did.
A couple of months ago, I found myself in New York’s Garment District with an hour to kill, and realized that the universe was leading me to Swatch. So I moseyed over to Mood to demand an audience. Sadly, he was at home that day. A normal person might accept defeat under such circumstances, but I think we can all agree that I left normal behind years ago. So I introduced myself to the manager, mentioned that I write for Dogster, and asked for Swatch's media rep. She gave me Mood owner Eric Sauma’s email address. Luckily Eric, who is also Swatch's person, is equally obsessed with Swatch and agreed to chat. A month later, I was back in New York and ready to meet my favorite TV personality.
Swatch did not disappoint. First, he’s such a love bug! When I arrived at Mood, he was waiting by the door to meet me. (According to Eric, that’s his favorite spot in the store: Hanging by the door -- and his food dish -- greeting customers.) Second, Swatch is pretty generous with puppy kisses.
A growing amount of Mood's foot traffic these days is actually from Swatch fans, queuing up to meet the most fashionable dog on TV. But Swatch, who just turned six, wasn't always the star that he is today.
Eric and Swatch paired up in 2007. Eric was looking for a puppy. His roommate saw a roly-poly Boston Terrier and declared, “This one! This is it.” Eric’s reaction? “I don’t want him. That one’s ugly." But the roommate insisted, and Eric finally held the black-and-white pup with the “droopy” face “like an old man.”
For Swatch and Eric, it was love at first snuggle rather than love at first sight: The moment that Swatch fell asleep in Eric’s arms, Eric accepted the fact that Swatch had chosen him.
When Swatch began accompanying Eric to work, the Project Runway crew was equally smitten. (It didn’t hurt that Swatch likes ANYTHING fuzzy and had a habit of chasing the boom mic.) The camera crew loved the little guy and filmed whenever Tim Gunn would hug or play with him. Little by little, Swatch started appearing on the show.
During his first season, it was just one or two episodes, but the number of Swatch cameos kept increasing with successive seasons. Now there's such outrage in the Twitterverse when Swatch doesn't appear on the show that the show's producers have added a clause to their agreement with Mood stating that Swatch must be in the store on filming days. (Side note: It’s high time that Project Runway incorporates Swatch into a challenge as either the inspiration or as a judge. Or maybe both. Come on, producers. Make it work!)
In the days since his first encounter with Tim, Swatch has become a media darling (#TeamSwatch) and more press opportunities keep popping up: Swatch has his own section on Mood’s Pinterest page, there’s talk of a Swatch cartoon, and Eric is trying to make a Swatch calendar happen by Christmas. The lovable Boston Terrier has even found a way to harness his fame for good causes: Over the last two years, he has teamed with Code Purple Event for a doggie-date-raffle to raise money to stop the spread of biting-insect diseases like malaria, dengue fever, West Nile, and Lyme disease.
My meeting with Swatch was everything I dreamed it would be: He may be famous, but he was completely grounded and charming. If you find yourself in New York, you can meet Swatch at Mood Designer Fabrics most days during business hours, Monday through Friday between 9 a.m. and 7 p.m. and Saturday between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. Feel free to give him a plush toy with a squeaker or a scratch above the tailbone; Eric is trying to cut back on Swatch’s edible treats.
If you prefer to admire Swatch from a distance on TV, Project Runway season 12 airs on Thursdays on Lifetime (check your local listings for times) and is available online.
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