So Doggone Clever

Corny subject line, I know, I know. But listen, I found the coolest thing today and I’m so excited to share it that I can barely type. Not even the dog that is snoring and twitching behind me right now can deter me. I discovered this thing, in the way we always discover things these days: a tweet leads to a click, which leads to an article, which sometimes leads to something really neat. So genuine and heartwarming and full of good will. What is it? Okay. Okay. I’ll tell you.

There’s a new (well, seven months old) website for men called Bureau of Trade. It seems that they curate cool vintage stuff (like iconic furniture, scarves, leather bags) from sites like eBay and feature it in a cleaned up manner, with basic info, etc. because good design also makes things better. Yeah, yeah. But what they also do, which is the reason I’m so excited, is they have a category called COMPANIONS with a dog icon.

Menu Icons from the site Bureau of Trade

When you click the icon, you get this page of photos featuring amazing rescues, mostly dogs but I did see a few horses and a fish.

Dogs on the Bureau of Trade Website

When you roll over each of the photos, you get some basic info like the dog’s name plus a snarky comment (which of course I like), and also the ability to share it around. Even though it says BUY NOW it’s really just a call to action because in most cases clicking the photo will take you directly to the site for more information to get the adoption ball rolling! Occasionally I did see a purebred dog linked to a breeder, and those were for sale, so we’ll hope they’re on the up and up. I’m highlighting the one below because Clover von Copperfield is such a great name (and, yes, I would love to adopt Clover):

Rollover Text with Description and Link to Petfinder

So I know there are already lots of ways to see dogs that are available for adoption, but in this high end retail space it’s a new frontier. I almost want to burst into tears of joy, where’s the kleenex? It’s a very clever and generous thing to do, and I think Michael Moskowitz with his Bureau of Trade is really on to something and for that he gets huge applause.

What’ll they think of next?

Visit the Bureau of Trade and see the pups.
If you’re interested, here’s a good post in the New York Times T Magazine Blog about Michael Moskowitz and Bureau of Trade (although sadly there’s no mention of the pups, grrrrr).

The New Yorker’s Cover Dogs

The New Yorker, cover November 26, 1966

I love this cover of the November 26, 1966 edition of The New Yorker because it features a dog. And not just any dog, but Underdog! Well, the balloon version of Underdog that is, floating by in the famous Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. For some reason I thought there was a particular story that inspired this cover, like a crash or escape or scandal, but since Underdog debuted in the parade only the year before in 1965 I guess not. There was a Friends episode apparently, in which the Underdog balloon did crash and added to the chaos of their Thanksgiving. But alas, no reality-based Underdog Thanksgiving Day Parade chaos exists that I can find. Oh well, I still really like the illustration and one day I really will frame it.

So then I started thinking about The New Yorker and what other great covers they’ve had over the years that feature dogs. Everyone knows (and loves) The New Yorker’s cartoons, there are so many books that feature collections of different subject matter such as teachers, lawyers, moms, doctors, cats, and of course dogs. But I was more interested in the iconic magazine’s covers, and so I put together an informal survey.

Covers of The New Yorker featuring dogs

It’s interesting to see the different illustration styles and palettes, and notice what trends come and go over the years. A few covers I’ve chosen feature the work of Mark Ulriksen, one of my favorite illustrators based in San Francisco (see the post here), but I’m not so familiar with the others. Some covers seem to be referring to a current event, like Obama getting ready to enter the presidency (and he’s listening to the dogs with their demands for maybe an off-leash area in the rose garden?), or it’s winter and time to ditch the old Christmas tree in the snow. Other times you just have to wonder what’s going on, if anything (is that dog thinking of water because it’s August or was there a big water shortage in 1974? I don’t remember, I was a kid). Not being a New Yorker myself, I’m usually drawn to the covers that feel, well, more “New Yorky”, like the one in the center below with the dog on the stoop having a sale. Or the one above with the Gotham-sized fire hydrant surrounded by a group of very happy dogs (bliss I guess). One thing that’s interesting to do is track is the cover price, beginning with a measly quarter in 1965 and ending up at six bucks. For now.

More New Yorker covers featuring dogs

Coming back full circle: if you love to root for the underdogs of the world and are interested in the phenomenon, there’s a really wonderful article by author Malcolm Gladwell that appears, oddly enough, in a past issue of The New Yorker. Not the November 26, 1966 issue, however, that would be weird. And impossible. Here’s the link.

All covers and illustrations copyright Condé Nast.

Jonny Justice Wins Gund Contest!

Ex-Vick dog Jonny Justice

Breaking news this morning: the good folks at Gund have announced on their Facebook Fan Page that ex-Michael Vick dog Jonny Justice is the grand prize winner of their contest! Thanks to everyone that voted for him, and what a tough choice…so many wonderful entries! This means that they will create and introduce a new adorable plush toy of Jonny Justice to their product offering for everyone to cherish. But what this really means is that breeds like Jonny are on the road to public acceptance, a huge step for mankind in stopping ridiculous breed specific legislation. As the saying goes, Jonny: you’ve come a long way, baby. And what a legacy. Congratulations!!

If you missed my first post about the contest, you can read it here.

Photo: Amado Garcia

Saving Stephen Huneck’s Dog Mountain

Woodcuts by artist Stephen Huneck

I wanted to feature the artist Stephen Huneck’s work and the incredible Dog Chapel he created on his Dog Mountain in St. Johnsbury, Vermont for a while now. And so here we go, but unfortunately when I began doing research I was shocked to discover he passed away a few years ago. I think that perhaps I didn’t hear about it at the time because I lost someone very special on the exact same day: January 7, 2010. Stephen Huneck took his own life that day because he was distraught over having to lay off his staff. In an ironic twist, the staff was hired back following his death because of the renewed interest in his work. However, things have once again taken a downturn and the future of Dog Mountain is in serious jeopardy.

Stephen Huneck with Lab, Woodcuts and Post

If you’re not familiar with the art of Stephen Huneck, the majority of his work consists of wonderful woodcuts and carvings, usually with dogs as subject matter. The pieces often depict true dog moments and observations with minimal text, but the dogs always retain a certain sense of nobility (as they should!). In addition, he became a NY Times bestselling children’s book author, with many of the books featuring his black Lab Sally as the main character. Following an illness and two-month coma, Mr. Huneck had the idea to create a special place where people could come and visit to honor their spiritual connection with their dogs, Dog Chapel. There is a sign outside the chapel that reads “All Creeds, All Breeds Welcome. No Dogmas Allowed.” People have come from all over the world to visit Dog Chapel, many of them posting notes to their departed dogs on the walls inside.

Dog Chapel on Dog Mountain

I think that Stephen Huneck’s art is absolutely wonderful, but I also think that maybe his most successful piece is the living, breathing one we can all share: Dog Chapel and Dog Mountain. Every dog that visits, every person who comes with a heavy heart and a special message to send, every afternoon spent laughing and playing and enjoying life is the essence of this living piece. I hope that Dog Mountain can stay open, providing so many with the comfort they need after suffering a loss or celebrating life with their friend. If you’re planning a trip to Vermont for the fall color this year, maybe make a stop in St. Johnsbury and visit Dog Chapel and the Stephen Huneck Gallery. Or if you’d like to begin holiday shopping early this year, visit their website‘s online shop because every little bit helps. You can find anything there from keychains to books and puzzles for mobile devices to signed original woodcuts and sculptures.

You can find more information on Stephen Huneck in these articles:
Puppy Love, by Rosalyn Graham
Stephen Huneck, Artist of Dogs, Dies at 61 by Margalit Fox

Most images copyright and courtesy Stephen Huneck Gallery; dog post image, Ann Dabney via Flickr

Thanks, I’m Good Now

Loyal dog waiting patiently outside corner shop

Note: I’ve noticed that posts about travel, Italy, and dogs are pretty popular (yay!). Because a lot of my travel is to Italy for the business I’ve started that’s about dogs, I decided to do some posts with adventures as I follow along this entrepreneurial path. You can read a little more about Pantofola on the About page.

Being an entrepreneur is a tricky thing. Trying to do business with Italian manufacturers and suppliers when you’re a small little upstart, that’s a tricky thing, too. Oh, and not being fluent in Italian is also a tricky thing. Okay, so it’s all tricky. And when I say tricky, that’s a nice way of saying tough, but with an added measure of “I can do it!” oomph. So with a healthy dose of “I can do it!” in my back pocket, I keep going. Plus, by choosing Italy for manufacturing I’m hoping that if an emotional outburst should occur down the road, it’s more likely to be accepted by Italians than another not-so-expressive culture.

One evening after a very long day at a leather trade show I came close. I climbed onto a packed bus with all the other exhausted attendees heading back to the city center. I didn’t have a ticket, and the machine onboard wasn’t working so I decided I should do the moral thing and hop off. I know what you’re thinking: that was stupid. And it was, because I ended up in a zone without many pedestrians, traffic, other buses, street lights, and everything was closing for the night. Oh, I should have taken karate. The other problem is that in Italy you can’t just hail a cab. Well, you can try, but they won’t stop and you end up being the crazy lady flapping your arms around like an angry penguin.

Now I’m not saying Bologna is a bad city but bad things happen everywhere, it was dark and my imagination was in overdrive. I walked and walked, trying to figure out what options I had. Why am I here? Eventually I came to a corner store (also closing up for the night) and saw this loyal dog sitting there waiting patiently for someone inside. Immediately I felt relaxed, calmed, comforted, safe. I was good now. Somehow just by seeing this calm dog I was able to take a deep breath and think more clearly. But not only did the sight of this dog put an end to my panic, it also served as a potent reminder for why I started this business in the first place: the human + canine bond. Thankful for the reminder, I kept walking and one street over I found a bus stop with a map and hopped on the next bus.

Step Right This Way

Chocolate Lab in Florence, Italy

Recently in Florence, Italy as I was rushing like a crazy person to a meeting, I came across this goofy dog on the sidewalk. I didn’t see anyone with her, so of course I had to stop because I thought she was lost (although I had no idea what I was going to do about it). After I stood there for a minute or so, she laid down and flopped open, what a ham! Then I realized (doh!) I was right in front of the fancy Lord Bau dog boutique. So I guess her job was to work the sidewalk, model stuff and look charming to lure people inside. Yes. I went in. But that got me thinking: if a women’s boutique did the same thing…sending out a sweet young thing to wiggle and work the sidewalk. Um, no. I guess then it would seem more like a strip club (or worse). Yep, dogs get away with everything.

England’s Cecil Aldin

Illustration by Cecil Aldin, 1902, from "A Dog Day"

I love to walk and wander around cities when I’m traveling because I often find wonderful things by chance. If I had read about a shop or something in a guidebook or magazine, I would probably spend most of the day pulling my hair out trying to find the place and be disappointed when I finally arrived. It might even be closed (doggone pet boutique in Milan). Or there would be no parking because I didn’t know it was market day (entire city of Siena). Even then, recovery is possible because other things can be discovered like an unexpected shop or a fantastic hidden-gem-of-a-locals-restaurant and hotel like Il Ceppo (see ya later, Siena). So, it’s taken a while but now I know: over-planning is overrated and chance encounters are best.

Example: seven years ago, I was wandering around in London when I came across one of those nifty London shops tucked away on one those nifty London streets whose specialty is antique prints. Not expensive prints, but old engravings and other cellophane-wrapped things in bins organized by subject matter. I bought three small prints that day featuring a cute dog because, well, I was smitten. They were only £6 each, but I could tell they were actually old and chopped out of a book. But what book?

Pup and woman with pup, from Cecil Aldin 1902

It turns out, the book is called A Dog Day, written by Walter Emanuel and illustrated by Cecil Aldin. Okay. It’s basically a day in the life of this cute but mischievous dog that gets away with everything and comes out smelling like a rose (Ferris Bueller?). This book has been reprinted several times over the years, but I doubt that a reprint would make me happy for the same reason my sister refuses to watch colorized old movies, Mr. Ted Turner: it just won’t be the same. I wouldn’t mind reading the whole day’s account though, because what I’ve read so far is pretty good. From the backs of my prints here’s a little disjointed sample of the story, complete with time stamps:

Excerpts from A Dog Day, by Walter Emmanuel and Cecil Aldin

So I end up being even more smitten than before. The thick paper stock feels special, the letterpress printing is wonderful, the metal typesetting’s imperfections make it perfect. I would say this find was a happy accident indeed, because while all of Great Britain has loved him forever and a day, I had never heard of Cecil Aldin or seen his wonderful illustrations. Mr. Aldin’s dogs Cracker (the Bull Terrier) and Micky (the Irish Wolfhound) are a famous pair that he featured in his popular book Sleeping Partners and as models for many other illustrations. Royal Doulton and other prominent English manufacturers have used his illustrations for a range of products over the years and these items are now hugely collectible. All of Cecil Aldin’s engraving plates were destroyed in World War II, so original prints are rare and have skyrocketed in value. I’m not a collector of anything (well, except dog hair) so I’m pretty happy with my three little prints, even if they were chopped out of a book. Unraveling the mystery of what I bought that day in London has been fun and I definitely plan to keep my eyes open for more things from one of England’s best loved illustrators, Mr. Cecil Charles Windsor Aldin.

Photo of Mr. Aldin and his dog/signature

If you’d like to read more about Cecil Aldin collectibles, this article seems very helpful.