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 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.

Help Martin Usborne Save Mango

Martin Usborne and Mango

Yesterday’s post was about London-based photographer Martin Usborne, but there was more to tell (what else is new?). So I decided to chop it into two posts, and with today’s entry you can get your hands on one of his prints for a very good price AND help him save a little puppy called Mango from the meat trade at the same time.

It starts out like this: Martin loves animals and he decided to embark on a yearlong journey around the world to save as many as he can, and he’s named the project “A Year to Help”. Now I realize that sounds kind of granola and lofty and flowers-in-meadows, but this is also a personal odyssey for Martin. He’s a guy who, like a lot of us, has enormous compassion for animals but questions what he does with it on a daily basis. So he set out last July to do what he can, however he can. And when he says animals, he’s not excluding any species: he’s serving as savior to bugs as well. Here’s the manifesto from his project’s website:

1. Whenever I come across an animal in distress I must help (fruit flies included).
2. I must follow my heart, not my head. Ignore the nagging intellect Martin!
3. This project is deadly serious. Therefore I will try and be funny where possible.
4. I must risk failure, confusion and utter humiliation.
5. My allegiance is to the animals, not to any charity or religion.
6. I must stop eating bacon.

You can see that Martin has a good sense of humor. Read his “About the Project” page here for more of his reasoning behind his idea. It’s open, honest, and very entertaining, I must say. You’ll wonder if you’ve stumbled into a script for a new Ricky Gervais program or something.

At the moment, Martin is in the Philippines spending some time with a group called Network for Animals. In the last few days they’ve saved a puppy from the street where they sell dogs for the meat trade and named her Mango. He’s promised to get her back to the UK, and must raise at least £750 to do so. So he’s taken some beautiful photographs of her and is selling them through his project’s website to raise the money.

Mango by Martin Usborne

This one is my favorite. You can’t beat that stare of hope and expectation for keeping you up at night. If you’re thinking, “but it’s just one dog and there are so many in the same boat”, I’d say that’s true. But to this one lucky little Mango, giving her a chance is everything. Here are some others:

Mango by Martin Usborne

Sleepy Mango by Martin Usborne

There are also options with some added typography with a punch. I think Mango does a super job as a pin-up queen:

Stop the Dog Meat Trade by Martin Usborne

…and with a dash of Martin’s good humor. Or humour, I suppose:

Mango Wants Fish and Chips by Martin Usborne

So far Mango has been checked out by a vet and she’s become much more affectionate after getting some good meals in her tummy. It turns out getting off the chain and out of the grimy street is also a plus. Overall I think she’d say that it’s much better getting dinner than being dinner.

If you’d like to donate to Martin’s effort of getting Mango safely back to the UK and into a safe, loving home read his post here with the instructions on placing your photograph order (or just donating). The hardest part is deciding which print to get and what size.

If you can, please share this post to spread the word. You can also follow Martin’s journey on his Facebook page here.

The official “A Year to Help” project site can be found here.
Martin’s photography website can be found here.
All images courtesy and copyright Martin Usborne.

Sally and International Homeless Pets Day

My dog Sally

This is my dog Sally, often referred to as Sal. Another “mystery mix”, her face and legs feel like velvet but the rest of her feels prickly like strands of steel wool. Her ears are huge and her tail is a lot like Pluto’s or maybe a stingray’s. In a house full of boys she’s my only girl dog, so I should probably refrain from calling her Sal and reinforce what few girly aspects she does have, but she’s just not into it. The only time she ever “works it” is when my husband comes home, and then look out. It’s all wiggling and wagging and shameless flirting and good grief. I never get a reception like that…what is it about girl dogs? They can really lay it on thick when they want to!

She is a pretty good dog, she even came to work with me for two weeks one summer at the San Francisco office of Pentagram and made lots of friends. But most of the time Sally’s big thing is squirrels. She can and will sit completely still for hours observing and studying every little squirrel twitch. Her other big thing is the “freedom run”, leash or not. On several occasions while out for a run I’ve gone flying when a squirrel zips across the road in front of us. As a result, I’m convinced my right arm is now at least a few inches longer.

My dog Sally in puppyhood and today

Sally’s always been a pretty happy-go-lucky gal, but things didn’t start out so great for her. They could have been really disastrous: a woman drove her giant Cadillac into a gas station on the corner of a busy intersection, barely slowing down as she opened the door and threw out what appeared to be a black sweater. Except this black sweater was a puppy that picked itself up and started running frantically for its life. Luckily she was rescued before being hit by a car.

So in honor of Sally who did make it, I’m going to light a candle tomorrow on International Homeless Pets Day for all the dogs who don’t make it, or are right now on that hairline verge. For all the dogs who are put into precarious situations all over the world by rotten women in giant Cadillacs at busy intersections and every other horribly cruel individual. And I’m hoping that like that black sweater, they can all get up and run.

How Technology Saves Dogs in China

Zhang Xiaoqiu and his rescued dogs

Having Sirius radio in my car is wonderful, so much to choose from. But 95% of the time my station of choice is the BBC World Service and I just can’t get enough of it. Not only do I get to hear great stories and perspectives I would otherwise miss, I also get to avoid U.S. election year mud-slinging, toddlers in pageants and the Kardashians for a while. This story was so fantastic that I almost spun out of control when I heard it. Oh happy day.

Basically, in China they have their own rapidly growing version of Twitter called Weibo and this story was about how this amazing technology is creating enormous change within the country. They give five examples of how this is impacting lives and social issues, the first one being the story of animal activist Zhang Xiaoqiu and how he has started a movement to save dogs. Below is the text about Zhang Xiaoqiu from the BBC’s site, but you can find the entire technology story by correspondent Duncan Hewitt here. If you prefer to listen to the BBC’s audio, click here.

Zhang Xiaoqiu still remembers the date – 15 April 2011. It was when Weibo changed his life, and saved those of several hundred dogs. The Beijing-based businessman, originally from southern China, had always been an animal lover, but the news he heard via Weibo that day led him to take action.

Fellow internet users had spotted a truck on the motorway heading out of Beijing, loaded with dogs in tiny cages. This could only mean one thing – they were destined for restaurants in China’s north-east, where dog-eating remains more common than in many other parts of the country.

Pictures of the caged animals, posted on Weibo, soon attracted the attention of hundreds of thousands of people across China, and at least 100 animal lovers quickly answered an appeal to jump in their cars and block the truck’s path on the road.

Zhang was one of them. He and his wife arrived to find police and local government officials at the scene, and animal lovers attempting to persuade the truck driver to sell them the dogs.

Finally, after Xiaoqiu and other campaigners raised about £1,000 ($1,556), the driver agreed to drive the animals to the compound of the China Small Animals Protection Association (CSAPA) – the country’s only officially recognised animal rights NGO.

Today, Zhang is a volunteer organiser for the CSAPA. He says there has been a dozen more dog rescues over the past year or so, all organised online via Weibo.

“Each time someone will send out a message on Weibo and volunteers from all over the country will find out about it.

“They start to phone the company transporting the dogs, phone the police, phone the animal protection society and the government. It puts enormous public pressure on these people, so they really have no choice but to take action.”

Story text and photo from the BBC’s website.