Phoebe. And Hadley.

Phoebe and Hadley

A few months ago we decided to try and find a friend for our dog Stella. If you recall from the post about adopting her, I said she’s a star. And she’s still a star, but she’s become quite a pudgy star and our other dogs just aren’t interested in hours of playtime with her. You know, that nonstop young dog play that’s often ridiculous but necessary. George, after all, is about fifteen now. Sally only wants to stare at rabbits. And Chappie would still rather close himself in the bathroom for his quiet time. In fact, recently my husband quipped that Chappie is the dog equivalent of Walter Matthau and I would agree.

It’s always nerve wracking and gut-wrenching when trying to choose a new dog, hoping to get the “right” one. And there are other things, like telling people that you’ve gotten another dog. Or, in this case two new dogs, which puts us at six. And the only people with six dogs are crazy people or celebrities or crazy celebrities. I haven’t even told my mom yet, because when she learned I’d adopted Stella she whacked me with her cane in front of everyone on Thanksgiving at my sister’s house. And while she’s no longer using a cane, there’s always a wooden spoon nearby.

I began by looking at Facebook posts of dogs in shelters that were running out of time. There are so many high kill shelters so that’s where I target. Eventually I settled on a litter of 6-month-old puppies that were kind of German Shepherd/Husky-ish and I was having a difficult time choosing between a brother and sister. I drove the three hours to the place, warning my husband in advance that I probably will come back with both of them. When I arrived and met them I thought they were very sweet but also very subdued, even in the outdoor play area. But also we just didn’t connect. The shelter director informed me that a local rescue group had just committed to pulling the whole litter so if I didn’t take them they would still be okay. When I told her that I was really looking for a playmate for Stella she offered to show me a 7-month-old female smooth-coat Collie mix who had been dumped the week before because she had “too much energy”. A minute later her assistant burst through the door with this crazy thing that was more thoroughbred than dog.

At first I thought no way, she’ll knock poor old George off his feet. But then I watched her jolly up the timid female I’d been considering, she seemed to be saying “you WILL play with me!” and it worked. Her enthusiasm was infectious, her spirit couldn’t be contained, even after being abandoned by her owners and spending time in a chaotic shelter. Right then I just had a very strong feeling come over me that yes, this was the one.

And we were off.

Phoebe leaves the high kill shelter

Since then, we’ve found out that Phoebe is a very smart girl and she loves to talk. She also loves playing the squirt game with the hose. Yes she has lots of energy, and that’s just fine with us. And with Stella.

Phoebe and the water hose

So remember I only wanted one dog but figured I’d end up with two? A few days after adopting Phoebe, my husband was on his way home when he spotted a scrawny tick-infested puppy that had been dumped and was desperately chasing cars. Meet Hadley.

Hadley the pup in the catbed

Life has a funny way of working out, that’s for sure. And it doesn’t take long to reach the point of not being able to imagine life without the new additions, I guess that’s when you know they’re really part of the family.

Phoebe, Hadley, Stella

Erica Preo is CEO & Creative Director of Pantofola, pure luxury Italian goods for dogs.

The Name is Bug…Ladybug

Photographer Amanda Jones' dogs Ladybug and Benny

No matter what your parents do for a living, you benefit from it. Not just because they bought you socks (in my day) or bought you an iPhone (these days), but because their career experience directly benefits you. For example, my dad was an aircraft engineer so whenever flying gives me the willies, I call upon the knowledge and reassurance he provided over the years (turbulence is really nothing, flying is safer than driving, etc.). Of course back then, a candy maker or baker dad might have made me happier. As it turns out, a dentist parent also would have been handy.

Now if either parent happens to be a professional photographer, you’re going to grow up with every moment of your life beautifully documented. This benefit, of course, extends to our four-legged friends. In the case of rescue Ladybug, at left in the photo above, you hit the jackpot: a loving home AND professional photographer Amanda Jones as your mom.

A few posts back, I announced the launch of my own brand of Italian-made luxe dog accessories, Pantofola. I was very fortunate to have crossed paths with Amanda thirteen years ago and I’ve been a huge fan ever since: Amanda’s beautiful work is featured on my website, dogs of all shapes and sizes modeling Pantofola collars. I hit the jackpot, too.

Photographer Amanda Jones' dogs Benny and Ladybug

Recently Amanda started sniffing around for a new addition to her family, a sibling for Benny. Thanks to Instagram, she spotted Ladybug who was being fostered by a rescue group in the New York area. She had actually come from Oklahoma, a long journey for a little dog who was looking for her perfect home. Thanks to the network of rescues and fosters, she definitely found it. She’s all settled in, these photos were taken just 3 days after being adopted last weekend. Benny is performing his due diligence and checking her over to be sure she’s not a spy or anything like that.

We think she’s perfect—definitely not a spy—and wears our Pantofola collar well. You’ve come a long way, Bug. Welcome to the big time!

If you’d like to see more of Amanda’s work, or schedule your own session with her please visit her website here. She will be in these cities over the next few months:

Houston, TX | April 8
Tucson, AZ | April 11
San Francisco, CA | April 25 – 26
New York, NY | May 9 – 10
Chicago, IL | June 9 – 10
Nantucket, MA | June 20 – 21
Portland, OR | July 25 – 26
Bend, OR | July 29 – 30
Seattle, WA | August 1 – 2
Denver, CO | August 22
Vail, CO | August 23

Erica Preo is CEO & Creative Director of Pantofola, pure luxury Italian goods for dogs.

Photos courtesy and copyright Amanda Jones Photography.

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.

Erica Preo is CEO & Creative Director of Pantofola, pure luxury Italian goods for dogs.

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.

Erica Preo is CEO & Creative Director of Pantofola, pure luxury Italian goods for dogs.

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.

Erica Preo is CEO & Creative Director of Pantofola, pure luxury Italian goods for dogs.

 

The Portraitsphere : Kids Against Lab Beagles

"Louie" by Kat

It’s time to venture into The Portraitsphere once again, and this time we’re off to Pasadena to visit the world of a cool kid named Kat. But before we leave on this journey, I want to express my heartfelt gratitude to all of the talented people on this planet who choose to “use their power for good”, because that’s the theme for today. Let’s go!

Kat is an 11-year-old kid who loves beagles and she has one named Bentley. She put a beagle on the top of her Christmas list one year and her parents agreed that if she’d do enough research about them in advance, she could get one. Somewhere along that path, Kat discovered the horrific reality of laboratories that keep beagles in cages and force them to spend their lives suffering and enduring constant torture and pain in sadistic tests. Now to me, the fact that an innocent child full of excitement about adopting a rescue beagle for Christmas stumbles upon this cruel practice just adds another sad dimension.

But Kat was clever and she knew just what to do. She has talent, lots of it, and she’s using it for good. She’s an artist, and she paints — what else — beagles! She sells her paintings on her own website and donates 100% of the proceeds to an organization called The Beagle Freedom Project. I just bought this watercolor, titled Lola —

Lola watercolor by Kat

— and there are so many others —

Paintings by Kat

She loves painting, and she does as many as she can in between all of her other activities and school. Her parents underwrite the cost of her materials and manage her sales, so she’s free to paint up a storm. She churns out paintings based on beagles she knows but she will also create custom portraits. There are also lots of items available here on Zazzle.com featuring her beautiful paintings, including a 2014 calendar that I recently ordered as a gift. Proceeds from these products also go to support The Beagle Freedom Project.

And here, of course, is a photo of the artist with her pal Bentley when they brought him home (I think she loves him) —

Kat and Bentley

If you would like to check out Kat’s paintings and make contact for getting one of your own (she’s spending extra time over the holidays beefing up her inventory!), please visit her website Kids Against Lab Beagles here.

For more information about The Beagle Freedom Project, visit their website here.

All images courtesy of the artist.

Erica Preo is CEO & Creative Director of Pantofola, pure luxury Italian goods for dogs.

Vafa Animal Shelter

The gates at Vafa Animal Shelter in Iran

Governments get in the way. Rhetoric makes us bypass people we might otherwise admire. That’s a lousy thing because if we can push that aside and look closer, we’d be very surprised at what we’d find. Which leads me to the question: can dogs serve as ambassadors of goodwill between nations? Yes, I think they definitely can.

On my trip to New York last June, I met a very talented artist from Iran named Mahmoud Hamadani. For a brief moment I’m going to bring one of his pieces into this post, for a few reasons. First, he’s the one who told me about the Vafa Animal Shelter (because the topic of dogs seems to always come up with me) so it sets the context. Second, because abstract art is open to interpretation I’m going to use this piece as a visual for the point I’m trying to make about cultures. And third, because I love it so much.

Endless Roads by Mahmoud Hamadani

This piece is from Mr. Hamadani’s Endless Roads series which is based on a stanza from a poem called The Untimely Traveler by Azadeh Farahmand. It’s Untitled XV, ink on paper, and it’s a lovely 60″ x 44″. When I look at this piece in the context of different cultures, I imagine the vertical and horizontal lines represent “us” and “them”, which is easy enough because it illustrates a difference and distance between people and nations. But everywhere that these lines intersect, that’s a commonality: food, water, shelter, love, pursuit of happiness, security, the list goes on. And apparently that list includes dogs.

It’s never good to make generalizations, but I’ve always thought middle eastern cultures didn’t care much for dogs. But, judging by the photos below, this is clearly not the rule.

Photos from the Vafa Animal Shelter in Iran

Welcome to the Vafa Animal Shelter, just outside of Tehran in an area called Hashtgerd. Founded by Mrs. Fatemeh Motamedi when her husband donated the land, the shelter was built to provide a place for all of the stray dogs to live. And not only live, they seem to thrive here! These have to be the happiest shelter photos I’ve ever seen! I realize that it must be a huge struggle to maintain this facility with a lot of heartache on a daily basis but the dogs, staff, and visitors seem to be genuinely happy in every picture I find. There’s a true sense of love for these dogs that is captured no matter what’s going on: spa day, getting the place ready for the cold winter months, doing vaccinations, and odd repairs.

One huge difference with this shelter I noticed is that these dogs are able to move about freely, rather than being confined to cages. Since they are social animals these dogs seem much more at ease with this arrangement, making this place feel more like a dog village. They appear to interact so well with the staff, it’s as though they are helping with those repairs. I would assume that if you were to adopt a dog from the Vafa Animal Shelter (and people do!) you’d pretty much be guaranteed a fine dog that could get along well with other dogs. Even on days when a local restaurant delivers fresh raw bones, these guys just find their own spot and munch away. Amazing.

Vafa Animal Shelter in Iran

The word “vafa” means “loyal” and judging by these photos and the dedication of Mrs. Motamedi and her staff, I’d say that loyalty goes both ways. I’m giving these folks at Vafa Animal Shelter my highest respect and admiration, and I wish I could meet them someday for coffee and a nice how-do-you-do in the international language of Dog. No matter what our governments have to say.

Vafa dog now in Chicago

The photo above is one lucky pup from Vafa, now living half a world away in Chicago.

If you’d like to learn more or donate to the Vafa Animal Shelter, you can find all of the information in the About section of their Facebook page, which is here. If you are interested in adopting a Vafa shelter dog, please contact Farah Ravon (based in California): by email kfravon@yahoo.com, or by phone +1 (408) 431-6954 (mobile/cell).

For information on the artist Mahmoud Hamadani, you can visit his website here.

All shelter photos from the Vafa Animal Shelter Facebook page. Mahmoud Hamadani painting, copyright and courtesy of the artist.

Erica Preo is CEO & Creative Director of Pantofola, pure luxury Italian goods for dogs.