Weekend Dog Watching in Italy

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After a pretty long hiatus from blog posts, I’m back! When I first started this blog I posted every day, then gradually started tapering off. I was busy launching Pantofola, my brand of dog accessories that are made in Italy, but in the back of my mind I kept thinking that I really need to resume my blog posts. There were some blogs I followed and when those posts started dwindling I always felt sad, and wondered what happened?! So if anyone has wondered that about me and/or felt sad, I promise to get back to some regular posting.

A few weeks ago I spent a week in Italy meeting with my factory for some new items and collections, and also to attend the semi-annual mega leather fair in Milan. I always try and attend the fair because it’s easier than traveling all over to visit tanneries and other suppliers. Anyway, the first part of my trip was getting over jet lag and becoming reacquainted with life in Italy. It seems I’ve made the city of Varese my home away from home, and since I prefer smaller cities it’s become quite comfy. My first post about Varese can be found here.

One of my favorite things to do is stroll around the center of the city and since I was there over a weekend I was able to do a lot of people watching, and dog watching of course. It seemed as though everyone was out, meeting and greeting. This sweet Golden Retriever was more than happy to get neck and belly rubs from passersby…

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And these two guys were happy to check each other out, although one seems not quite as thrilled as the other…

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Of course there was no shortage of kids, and kids and dogs just seem to go together…

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This one I especially liked because he looked a lot like my dog Chappie, who I was missing already…

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Big ones, small ones, no one can escape the crazy American dog lady with her iPhone camera in hand…

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Of course there were other things going on during the weekend. There were markets both days, with everything to eat that you could possibly imagine. From the point of view of the dogs that were strolling around, I suppose this seller would have been a popular hangout…

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…and wouldn’t it be so easy just to quickly help yourself to some wild boar sausage or a slice of prosciutto on a Saturday afternoon? Why not? It’s la dolce vita after all.

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For me, I prefer something more along the lines of this seller…

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Actually, the best thing of all was already on my radar: the famous gelato chain Grom has opened a Varese location which was very close by. So, like a moth to a flame I went…

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That was Salted Caramel and Coffee together. It was so tasty, the next day I went back for a cup of Salted Caramel and Nougat because, when in Rome…or Varese…

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Not a bad way to spend the first few days in Italy, enjoying a weekend in a lovely city and strolling along with the locals. I’m sure that I blended right in, apart from that pesky iPhone camera.

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.

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

 

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

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

 

Giving Our Regards to Broadway

Pantofola collars & dog

So happy and honored to be donating an official Pantofola collar to this year’s annual Broadway Barks fundraiser taking place July 13th in the heart of New York’s theater district!

Now in its 15th year, Broadway Barks was started by Mary Tyler Moore and Bernadette Peters with the goal of raising donations and awareness for New York City animal shelters and adoption agencies. The event takes place in Shubert Alley (located between 44th and 45th Streets, between Broadway and Eighth Avenues) from 3:30 to 6:30pm. There are raffles, autographs, and a parade onstage of adoptable animals that are shown by Broadway celebrities and glitterati. This year’s show opens with a performance from the Jersey Boys, which I’m sure will be fantastic. You can see the full list of stars and events here.

So, all together now—

“Give my regards to Broadway, remember me to Herald Square,
Tell all the gang at Forty-Second Street, that I will soon be there;
Whisper of how I’m yearning to mingle with the old time throng;
Give my regards to old Broadway and say that I’ll be there ere long.”

New York

In Pursuit of Magic

Last week I took a trip to New York for some important meetings, but on my first day there I spotted this stenciled message as I made my way to Chelsea. Immediately I realized that although the meetings were very important for my business, the overall reason for my visit was the pursuit of magic. And I found it, I always do because it’s always there. New York never disappoints.

I have to admit something: long ago before my first visit, I really wasn’t sure about New York. Endless reports of crime, filthy subways, crowds of rude pushy people, nasty cabdrivers running people over, etc. But what I found out right away is that’s not really true, and any of those things can and do exist in most large cities. I also found out that New Yorkers by and large are the kindest, friendliest, and most helpful people anywhere. It goes without saying that they are also some of the most resilient.

Of course there are dogs. These first two were waiting for their owner outside a Starbucks. At first I felt special that they were being so sweet waiting for me to get a good photo…then I realized their owner was standing behind me, waiting patiently with her coffee. You can see their eyes are glued on her instead!

Dogs at Starbucks

I saw dogs out for walks near the Flatiron Building, sparkly Mia and Vienna in town for a fundraiser doggie fashion show, dogs and their walker under scaffolding taking a break, and a cute paper dog in the window of Kate’s Paperie wedding shop. Yes, they were everywhere as you might expect.

New York doggies

On the sunny day that I visited Chelsea, I finally took a stroll along the High Line. If you’re not familiar with it, the High Line is a pedestrian walkway elevated above the street that stretches for many blocks. A former rail line, this is now a botanical wonderland that continues to be maintained by the volunteer group Friends of the High Line. Visit the High Line website here for some cool information including animated journeys.

Walking along the High Line

And it’s not just what you see on the High Line that’s spectacular. Equally stunning is what you’ll see from the High Line. And, taking a break from traffic and stoplights is also a big plus. All I needed was an ice cream cone. Drawback: they don’t allow dogs. Boo.

Views from The High Line

So while the sights and sounds of New York make it a great place to visit, I’ve found that its spirit is the most intoxicating element. The dreams that you bring with you, and the people you meet there who already understand that. You don’t have to say very much, they know. I spent a lot of time in the Garment District, seeing the racks of clothing, the hustle and the bustle. Those are someone’s dreams rolling around on those wheels. The fashion design student working in the shop selling zippers and buckles, they definitely get it. The artist working days in a gallery and painting at night, he gets it too. Go anywhere, it doesn’t have to be Broadway, it’s in the air so just inhale it. Just like Frank Sinatra sang, “if I can make it there, I’ll make it anywhere…”

Thanks, New York. I’ll see you again soon.

Paws in NY concrete

PS: it turns out the In Pursuit of Magic stencil I saw is a very cool undertaking. From their website: two female street artists on a crusade to elevate consciousness and amplify meaning in the world. Thanks, ladies. You can visit their site here.

A Beautiful Sunday : Varazze & Genoa

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One Sunday in Italy a few weeks ago, a local friend offered to give me a quick tour of Varazze and Genoa. The weather for some of my trip had been drizzly, cloudy and very much like you’d expect to find in the north of Italy in October, but somehow over the weekend the temperatures warmed up to about 85 degrees and that was perfect for visiting two Mediterranean spots. I peeled off my sweater! I took off my socks! It was a wonderful break.

First we went to Varazze, a small city along the coast west of Genoa. People were on the beach in their swimsuits, kids playing, people strolling. There were kids doing their sailing classes, proud parents waiting on the pier. It felt like summer! Eventually I had to stop for the obligatory gelato. A very nice town.

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And of course there were dogs, lots of them out and about enjoying the gorgeous weather. Luckily my friend was (sort of) okay with me snapping away with my camera, taking pictures of his countrymen’s dogs. Actually, after noticing more dogs than he normally would, he’s beginning to consider getting himself a dog. :-)

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This gorgeous full-of-life boy is Athos, and I just love his stride. You can see that he enjoys cruising along like he owns the harbor (maybe he does?) and occasionally stirring things up with the other dogs he meets.

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Next, we jumped into the car and zipped off to Genoa. I was shocked (okay, horrified) to see a dog riding on the Vespa directly ahead of us. It’s not so much that the dog was on a Vespa (although that’s scary enough) but this dog was not in any type of carrier and was free to move around the rider’s feet! At one point his head was sticking out from the right side, and then he completely turned to poke his head out the left side, which is when I took this photo. Look closely and you can see the pup’s brown and white head. Hmmm :-/

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Genoa was a much larger city than I’d expected. It was also very interesting, with some of the most beautiful buildings and narrow streets I’d ever seen. My tour guide/friend pointed out lots of interesting places and offered some historical background and facts (for example, the streets are narrow to cut down on strong winds). When we arrived, he pointed out one area in particular near the waterfront saying “you probably wouldn’t want to walk around in there alone at night.” Okay. So as the sun began to set, the reason became obvious: the prostitutes started coming out and doing their thing. What’s surprising about that, at least to me, is that it was still relatively early evening, around 6pm. People were still out with their kids! I think even my friend was a little shocked.

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So I have to admit, somewhere along the line (design school? some movie?) I’d heard something less than nice about Genoa. I can’t remember what it was exactly, but I think it was described as nothing more than a grubby port city. I didn’t find that to be the case at all, nothing shabby about Genoa. In fact, the whole seafarer/exploration aspect was evident everywhere and I could feel its adventurous maritime past wafting in the air. After this quick day trip, I’m looking forward to spending more time in Genoa myself, and I’d highly recommend it to you also! And yes, there were lots of dogs (and pesto & focaccia)!

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Molto Bene: Dogs + Gelato

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Today in Varese I visited Buosi, the best gelato place in town, as I was told by two locals. Okay, so I was there yesterday too, but today I also met some great dogs and their really nice owners. And, I think I have a reputation now around Varese as the odd dog following lady: I was recognized by the people who own that gigantic Bernese mountain dog in my last post. Oh well, they were smiling when they saw me!

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These two had a few of those little biscotti for a snack and they were pretty happy. The one at the back is 14, maybe that’s the trick for a long life?

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