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.

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.

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.

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.

Stella is a Star

Our Girl Stella

World, meet Stella. Lei è una stella, she’s a star. And if you read my last post, she might seem a little bit familiar to you. They called her Fern, this little one. They couldn’t understand how she’d been overlooked, why no one came to rescue her. But there are too many, they keep coming, the clock keeps ticking. Her time was running out and before I knew it, I’d dialed the shelter to say she will have a home. Our home.

It’s nerve-wracking when deciding to adopt a new dog. Especially when you haven’t even met the dog in person, you’re flying completely by instinct. But one thing I did know: I wouldn’t let her die, no way would that happen. Yes, the risk would be taken. She hadn’t been given the chance to live yet, and that’s just not acceptable. Not enough days in the sunshine, maybe none snoozing in front of a toasty fire, and I’m pretty sure no time at all spent frolicking on any beaches. And what about nicknames—which all dogs must acquire, in addition to the requisite sing-songs and ditties that are made up one day at a time. Those things hadn’t happened yet for her. So, no. No dying, only living.

Stella's Freedom Snooze

On the long drive home, she insisted on snoozing on my lap and I could tell she was really thankful. But I was also thankful that I’d been given the chance to save her. And thankful to this shelter, and all of the shelters, and all of the foster homes that provide safe haven for these guys that society has neglected and discarded. These people do an incredible job, the elaborate networks they’ve built on Facebook and everywhere else, giving their time and resources and love. It’s 24 hours a day, and it never slows down. This Thanksgiving I’m thinking of these people and hope they know how much their difficult and often heartbreaking work makes the world a better place. One adoption at a time.

Stella Snoozes with George and Chappie

Stella says she agrees, but for now she’s getting some rest with her new dog family. After all, she knows she’s got a lot of nicknames to learn and some serious catching up to do. Happy Thanksgiving everyone!

And here is a super list of 10 dog-related things to be thankful for by The Bark Magazine. Enjoy, and no calories!

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