Wearing many hats is a way of life for Cheryl Crowe.
On this day, she is wearing two hats: in the office as contract coordinator for Jack Lingo Realtor in Rehoboth Beach and fostering dogs for Brandywine Valley SPCA in Georgetown and Grass Roots Rescue.
While she juggles contracts – she jokes she spends most of the day glued to her cellphone – at her desk are two of her latest foster dogs, Beatrice and Alice, fostered through Grass Roots Rescue. As she often does, Crowe brought these 5-week-old puppies to work for a day to help them get used to being around people.
For Crowe, her work with SPCA came from yet another hat, or in this case crown, that she wore in her former life as Miss Delaware 2003. Being Miss Delaware required Crowe to do community service, and it's something she took with her when she got involved with the SPCA more than 10 years ago.
She has fostered 45 animals, mostly dogs, one of the most recent being Marvin, a mastiff, who was rescued and fostered after being found emaciated by the side of a road.
Crowe has a particular fondness for English mastiffs, the gentle giant with a large head and thick, powerful body. "I don't do yappy dogs," she says with a laugh.
Mastiffs can grow to be more than 150 pounds, and, like Saint Bernards, have a tendency to drool. Crowe jokes that every day she has to check for drool on her before leaving the house. She said she enjoys the English mastiff's temperament, which she describes as "goofy and stubborn," not unlike herself. Crowe has one mastiff, Ripley; a second, Lucy, died recently. Both were fosters that Crowe adopted as her own.
Crowe is nearly 6 feet tall in heels, loquacious with a quick laugh. She said she grew up with dogs and always loved animals. She now helps coordinate the Brandywine Valley SPCA's events and outreach, her most prominent event being the Run For Paws 5K in Rehoboth, which she started 10 years ago. Crowe said the event averages 500 runners, and last year raised $10,000 for the SPCA and other local rescues. She is now working with animal rights groups on legislation to strengthen tethering regulations.
"It was the very least I could do," she said
Born on a military base in England, Crowe grew up in Felton. Her father was in the Air Force and was stationed at Dover Air Force Base. She said she was fortunate in that her family, which includes her twin brother and older sister, did not have to move around much after she was born, as the Dover area became home. The family would visit the beach often during her youth, which started Crowe's love affair with the Rehoboth area. Crowe had all of her schooling in the Dover area, attending Lake Forest High School and Wesley College, where she earned a bachelor's degree in elementary education. In college, Crowe spent the summers working at Grotto Pizza in Rehoboth and other businesses around town
Her pageant days started when she was 18 years old, competing in the Miss Teen Delaware competition in 1997.
"It was kind of an accident," Crowe said. "Growing up, it was certainly never what I would have considered an option for me. I was certainly not a child that one would assume would get into pageants. I was considered a little bit of a tomboy, growing up with a twin brother. I definitely gravitated toward the mud puddles and getting in trouble with the boys than hanging out with the girls."
She said she did not have any experience or knowledge of what pageants were about when she first entered. Crowe said her parents never pushed her into it, and when she told her mother she was entering her first pageant, the response was, "Are you sure?"
"I was 18 going on 19 when I entered my first pageant. No clue what I was doing. Beginner's luck," she said.
She would then compete for the title of Miss Delaware through Miss America - a different pageant from Miss USA - but come up short.
"Always a bridesmaid, never a bride," she says with a laugh today.
In 2003, she entered the Miss USA pageant, this time taking home the title of Miss Delaware and competing in the national Miss USA pageant. Crowe said she still works with Miss Delaware in helping prepare today's contestants, and she says she still has her sash.
"It definitely feels like a lifetime ago," Crowe said. "It's enjoyable to think back. That experience has really afforded me every life skill that I have now: the confidence, the public speaking, and the ability to handle different situations and being out in front of people without feeling nervous. That in itself, to me, was worth every year of not winning. And I love dresses!"
After giving up her crown, Crowe spent time teaching in the Caesar Rodney School District and then moved to Los Angeles to pursue modeling and TV work before coming back to Delaware.
"I prefer this pace of life," she said.
Upon moving back, she got into real estate with Jack Lingo Realtor, a company she said she is happy and grateful to work for because of the sense of family in the office.
As for how Crowe manages to juggle so many different interests, she said, "It's all about balance. It's taken me quite a number of years to say no. I don't like to say no, especially when it comes to rescue. With everything, you have to know you can only do so much. I'll do as much as I can for as long as I can."
Ed: Note - Crowe also volunteers with Grass Roots Rescue and the puppies in the story were fostered through another family.