What I Did Last Summer

Pantofola luxury dog collars, Collezione Caramelle

Okay, the subject of this post is a little misleading…it was more than just last summer. And more than the summer before, actually it’s been lots of summers. Because it takes a long time to get something perfect, and that was my mission. But I chose to name this post “What I Did Last Summer” because it’s my first post since June of last year. Good grief!

If you’ve ever read my About page, you know that I’ve been working on launching my own line of luxury dog accessories called Pantofola that are made in Italy. So I travel there a few times each year, attending leather trade fairs, meeting with factories, flying around in a Fiat 500 (or enduring rail strikes), having good coffee, and taking pictures of dogs that I come across. For some time now I’ve been “that crazy American lady making dog collars” everywhere I go. Last summer I made three separate trips to London and one to Milan, and just a few days ago my website launched…hooray!!

Handsome doxie wearing Pantofola Mezzanotte collar in Luna

We have handsome collars for the little guys, and of course the not-so-little guys.

Black Lab wearing Pantofola Caramelle collar in Cielo

A very important aspect of Pantofola is to donate a minimum of 10% of our profits to dog rescue organizations around the world. Here in the US, we’ll choose an organization each quarter and make their day with a surprise gift. For sales outside of the United States, we’re donating to London-based Dogs Trust. They are a wonderful charity organization with a long track record going back to 1891, and their promise is never to destroy a healthy dog. In addition to rehoming dogs through their 20 centers in the UK (almost 15,000 just last year!), they go beyond their borders to train veterinarians in remote parts of the world where none exist, and they work to eradicate rabies in developing countries. I’m working on a separate post about our partnership, but in the meantime you can find more information about them here on their website.

Until next time…

Lhasa in Pantofola Caramelle collar in Liquirizia

 

All images copyright Pantofola, Inc. / Dog photos also protected under separate copyright Amanda Jones Photography.

 

A Good Day, Profiles in Virtue #1

Erica Preo:

I don’t usually reblog a post, but this one is so wonderful I just have to…I’ve read it 4 times in the last 10 minutes, and I’ll keep reading it. Happy Sunday, everyone!

Originally posted on dogtorbill:

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I never thought I’d see Dean again, or at least for quite a while.  I’d diagnosed osteosarcoma bone cancer in his beloved bloodhound’s leg about a month ago, and after we said goodbye to her, he floated off in a sea of tears.  I’m always touched by a man who feels comfortable sharing emotion while dealing with life’s difficult decisions.  Dean had carried some of his own medical issues, and had lost an eye on that journey.  So I was so very happy to see his face when I entered the exam room last Tuesday, embracing a new dog.  He shared his story.

“Doc, you know I was pretty tore up about ol’ Dolly.  I swore I could never get another dog again.  It just hurts so  much when you have to say goodbye.”

I nodded because I know that feeling well.  Clearly I didn’t need to share my wisdom…

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I am Abraham Lincoln

Abraham Lincoln, 1863

Okay, that’s not true. I’m definitely not Abraham Lincoln. And this post isn’t about dogs…or is it…?

Today I heard about a book by author Brad Meltzer, actually a series of books, that teaches kids important lessons and gives them some better heroes. The series is called Ordinary People Change the World and the names are familiar: Abraham Lincoln, Rosa Parks, Emilia Earhart, Albert Einstein. But they aren’t portrayed in the way that we normally think of them, they’re kids. And they’re cartoons, like this:

Brad Meltzer's Lincoln as a kid

The lessons are basic, not only schoolhouse facts like the Gettysburg Address, but other fundamentals and inspiration that’s not typically served up to kids these days. Concepts like determination, pushing boundaries, exploration, and in the case of Abraham Lincoln, fairness.

The reason I chose to feature the book about honest Abe is that it shares a true story about the importance of treating animals with fairness, and that includes dogs. There is a direct correlation between kids that abuse animals and then grow up to abuse people as adults. Domestic violence experts will tell you this is absolutely the truth. But besides that, teaching kids at an early age to respect animals and show them fairness might just filter down to what’s going on at home. Kids can be great little ambassadors to correct mom and dad or other adults that might not have a pet’s best interest at heart with cases of neglect, abuse, abandonment, and the need to spay or neuter. Schools did a great job with teaching kids about recycling and they carried this message home, passing it along. This can work in the same way.

In the story, little Abraham Lincoln comes upon some other kids playing with turtles. At first he’s thrilled because he loves turtles, but then he realizes that they’re putting hot coals on their backs so he speaks up and immediately puts an end to it. This was a moment that began to define who Abraham Lincoln would become, eventually abolishing slavery.

brad_meltzer_lincoln_turtles

Brad Meltzer Lincoln Spread

Last year I attended a fancy dinner hosted by one of the largest animal rights organizations in America, and afterward I was able to meet the president of this group. Given that my business is selling luxury dog collars with the goal of donating profits to saving dogs, I wanted to ask him if he felt that educational programs for kids would be a good investment. His answer surprised me: he said not really, because it would take 20 years or so to see a return on the effort. I don’t agree. I think that every day that passes is a missed opportunity to begin teaching kids about respect and kindness toward animals. And people.

An interview with Brad Meltzer about his book series can be found here.

Images courtesy and copyright author Brad Meltzer and illustrator Christopher Eliopoulos.

Maddie’s Fund Pet Adoption Days

Maddie's Fund saved pets

I’m dedicating this post to a dog I never met named Similee. At the end, I’ll explain why.

This weekend is the 5th annual Maddie’s Fund Pet Adoption Days in 9 states here in the U.S. It’s an incredible opportunity for people that are considering adopting a dog (or cat!) from one of the participating shelters without any cost. The shelters win because not only do they find great homes for these guys and reduce their numbers, Maddie’s Fund will donate between $500 and $2000 to the shelter for each adoption. For healthy adoptions, $500 is donated, but for medically treatable and senior animals the amount rises to $1000 and $2000 respectively. Amazing. The number 15,154 above represents just how many dogs and cats they’ve placed in just 4 weekend events since 2010.

If you’re not familiar with Maddie’s Fund, it’s a dream organization funded by wealthy entrepreneur Dave Duffield and his wife Cheryl to the tune of 300 million dollars in memory of their special pup Maddie. I recently read that their goal is to have America kill-free by 2015. That’s just around the corner, but if they think it’s possible then that’s incredible news. Over the next two days, their goal is to find homes for 10,000 dogs and cats. I love it when people use their power for good.

And now, back to Similee. I saw Similiee’s photo in my news feed on Facebook two days ago, a shelter dog that was being labeled “invisible” because she’d been there since April without any interest. She was beautiful. She was young. She was black and white. She had a lovely smile, a happy face, despite being unnoticed and left too long in a shelter. She reminded me of my dog Stella, the sweetheart that I adopted from a shelter in the same area. At some point in the last 24 hours, the Cleveland County shelter in Shelby, North Carolina killed Similee to make space. If Similee could have been included in a Maddie’s Fund Pet Adoption Days weekend, she would have been snapped up immediately. What happened to her should NEVER happen.

If you’re interested in adopting a wonderful dog or cat, start by checking out the Maddie’s Fund Pet Adoption Days website here. You can preview the lucky ones that will be available for adoption on the site as well.

How Adopting a Dog Saved My Life

Wes Siler's Dog Wiley

If I meet someone that doesn’t already have a dog, of course I immediately tell them to get one. Run, don’t walk! Now I understand that some people can’t have one for a few good reasons: they travel too much, their lease doesn’t allow it, stuff like that. But if I get a whiff that someone is on the fence about it, I try to point out how adopting a dog can make their life so much better. Because I know the day will come when that person won’t be able to imagine a life without their dog.

The pup in the photo above is Wiley and he was adopted by a guy named Wes Siler. I happened to come across his story recently and it’s absolutely worth sharing, so I am. The title is “How Adopting a Dog Saved My Life”, and it’s a safe bet that Mr. Siler agrees with me. It’s a great story with sweet photos, especially at the end. He breaks down his story into the different ways adopting Wiley helped to get his life on track. One example:

“Adopting A Dog Gave Me A Reason To Come Home: That crash was the third time I’d broken a bone on motorcycles. Not exactly a good track record and not one that I could keep repeating. Having a living, breathing thing that required attention and care and exercise waiting at home changed my priorities. I still ride every day obviously, but have dialed-back the risk taking. No longer is it my priority to come back with the most epic photo or craziest story, it’s to make it home in one-piece, on time, so Wiley gets dinner.”

So take a look and add it to your own arsenal of reasoning for the next time you encounter someone that’s on the fence about getting a dog. Direct them to the nearest shelter. They’ll never want to look back.

You can find the story here.

Photo courtesy and copyright Wes Siler.

Monocle Magazine : Dog Ambassadors

Monocle Magazine's Dog Ambassadors Article

My hands-down favorite magazine is Monocle. It’s the one publication that keeps me hanging around the post office each month, waiting for its delivery. And if I’m not reading it, I’m listening to their Monocle 24 streaming radio content while I’m working. There are several reasons why I like it so much: international coverage of news, culture, business, design, travel, cuisine. But I think the biggest reason I love it is for their commitment to coverage of entrepreneurs—like me! They’re always spotlighting someone somewhere that’s committed to their pursuit of quality, craftsmanship and their dream.

Now there’s a new reason for me to love Monocle: a story about dogs in their upcoming issue. This story features four ambassadors and their dogs, and the “soft power” created by these important members of their respective diplomatic missions. Featured in the story are, clockwise from the top left: Deckard the Standard Poodle with US Ambassador to Finland Bruce Oreck; Herman the Shiba Inu with Danish Ambassador to Japan A. Carsten Damsgaard; Tchui the Labrador with UK High Commissioner to Kenya Christian Turner; and Füles the Golden Retriever with Péter Györkös, Hungary’s ambassador to the European Union. It’s a great story with an inside look at what goes on in the world of international relations, and points out that sometimes the best path to goodwill between nations is created by the presence of a dog. Sweet.

You can find the full Monocle story here.

Photos copyright and courtesy of Monocle Magazine.

 

Dogs Teach Us Things, Part 2

Sadie

I’ve said it before, that dogs teach us things. It was a title of a post I did last year for my boy Henry. It lives in my head and in my heart all the time, some days more than others. When I think about one of my dogs that’s not here anymore and begin to feel sad, if I can instead focus on something they taught me then I feel like they’re still right here with me. And I understand that we teach them things, too, but “sit”, “stay” and “down” hardly measure up to the lessons they give to us. Theirs are bigger, much more important. It’s usually at the end through our tears when they leave us, that we realize that all along—whoops!—they had been teaching us. And when they depart, we’re always—always—better for having known them.

A few days ago I read this really wonderful tribute in the newspaper and I wanted to share it here. It’s for Sadie, the dog in the photo above. Of course it’s sad, but it’s really a celebration of her life and the lessons she left behind for her family. I think that’s what each of us hopes to achieve. Sadie was no different, and her time here was well spent.

A Dying Dog Gives Lessons on Life’s Dynamics
by Mack Paul

My family faced a difficult decision. Our dog Sadie was diagnosed with a virulent form of cancer. The vet told us she would not live much longer. As friends and family members learned of Sadie’s condition, a network lit up as words of concern and encouragement arrived. The architecture of her life became apparent as an interwoven set of relationships emerged.

My wife and I worried that she might experience a painful end. We debated whether to avoid that risk by scheduling an appointment to put her down. This discussion caused me to reflect on the value of her life.

How important was it that she live another week, a month, six months? Would she really comprehend the difference? I realized the answer to that question was not about her but about me. I did not want to lose her. A week or month to her probably mattered little, but it mattered a lot to me.

We had our issues with Sadie. She struggled mightily against certain impulses. One Halloween we dressed her as a devil with cape and horns. She managed to escape from our house and terrorize the neighborhood before we corralled her home. At Thanksgiving another year, she grabbed the turkey off the counter before dinner. That did not go over well with our guests.

Escape and jumping up on the counter were repeated themes for Sadie. Of course, she felt tremendous remorse for these acts. She knew that she had let us down and would try to do better.

Despite these foibles, Sadie performed a valuable role. She greeted us each day with love and affection. She bonded with anyone perceived as a family friend. Her presence at my side said that no worry was worth the effort. As I encountered the typical conflicts in life, she helped sustain me. In other words, her efforts lifted me and thereby my family, colleagues and others tethered together through a variety of networks.

Numerous studies underscore the important role that relationships play in health, happiness and longevity. A dog can deepen and extend these important relationships. Animals offer a unique personal bond that transports us beyond the mundane stress that can envelope our lives. Just as importantly, a dog facilitates connections with others. Nothing breaks down barriers better than an encounter with someone else’s dog.

An elected official recently told me that if board members could take their dogs to meetings, the incessant infighting would decrease dramatically. Just imagine what might happen if Congress dropped its “no pets” policy.

After her diagnosis, Sadie rallied. For two weeks, the pain receded, and I was able to put the illness out of mind. We treasured each day, spoiling her with treats. We even laughed when she grabbed my brother-in-law’s sandwich off the railing before he left on a long journey back to DC.

When the time came to end her life, we knew it was the right thing to do. We faced an unbearable void and would feel her absence acutely. However, Sadie left the network of relationships that comprised her life stronger through her love, service and toil.

Is our own charge in life that different?

We are here to love family and friends, serve our community and toil in order to sustain our material existence. We struggle against impulses that impede our capacity to perform these acts. This dynamic forms the basis of our life’s narrative and ultimately affects a much larger world.

Thankfully, we have friends who can help us on this journey.

Beautiful. You can read the original column here.