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.

And Maverick Was His Name-o

2010 Mavericks Competition

Maverick’s is a famous big wave surf spot in northern California, just a few miles from Half Moon Bay. Since waves can break at about 80 feet high, it’s also the location for a world-renowned big wave competition held each winter, as long as there’s a good winter storm to produce these maximum waves. Only the world’s top surfers are invited, and there is just a 24-hour notice given to these select 24 individuals to grab their boards and hustle there to compete.

But the neatest part about Maverick’s (as far as I’m concerned) is how it got its name. According to Bark Magazine‘s spring 2013 issue:

“In early March 1961, three surfers decided to explore the big waves breaking about a half-mile from shore at Pillar Point, near Half Moon Bay, California. A friend’s white German Shepherd, Maverick, came to the beach with them. Maverick was used to swimming with his surfing buddies, and paddled out after them. Concerned for the dog’s safety, one of the surfers returned him to shore and tied him to the car bumper. Ultimately, the immense waves proved to be too much for them as well, and the men cut their day short. Because the dog seemed to have had the most fun that afternoon, they named the giant waves in his honor. Today, the Mavericks Invitational is known worldwide as a testing ground for elite big wave riders.”

Cool, man.

Maverick's 2013

Visit the Mavericks official contest website here. Photo above courtesy of The Inquisitr, read about this year’s contest winner 43-year-old Peter Mel’s victory along with a video on their site here. Great SF Chronicle article on a Maverick’s film here.
Thanks to Bark Magazine for the heads up on this story. Best dog magazine ever.

Capa of Robert Sinskey Vineyards

Capa from Robert Sinskey Vineyards

Since I did a post a few days ago about the dogs of Robert Sinskey Vineyards, I thought I should do a separate post on Capa, the one that originally caught my eye. So yes, what we have here is a photographic prequel, a tribute to a dog and forever a member of the Sinskey Vineyard family. I’m sure they are still telling stories about him and a life well lived among the vines.

Capa from Robert Sinskey Vineyards

Capa from Robert Sinskey Vineyards

Capa from Robert Sinskey Vineyards

Capa from Robert Sinskey Vineyards

Capa from Robert Sinskey Vineyards

Capa from Robert Sinskey Vineyards

Thanks, Rob.

All images courtesy and copyright Robert Sinskey.

Robert Sinskey Vineyards

Robert Sinskey Vineyard and Dog

When you’re a designer working directly with different clients, not only do you get to meet lots of wonderful people, you also get to step into their world for a while and see what it’s like. So I’d have to say that the world of wine and vineyard life in general is pretty darn sweet. And if you’re a dog that gets to live that vineyard life, it must be heaven on earth.

A few years ago (okay, like twelve or thirteen) I was lucky to get to work with just such a client, Robert Sinskey Vineyards in Napa Valley. And as it turns out, Rob Sinskey is also a professional photographer so we were able to use his work in the piece we were producing. After a quick scan through the shots, I was thrilled to see some that included his dog Capa and made sure to select those for the book. Capa was a handsome border collie who lived to a ripe old age of 16, and Rob says he ended up naming the vineyard after him. Now there are two dogs that have taken over Capa’s job (playing, frolicking, running up and down the rows of vines, basking in that golden Napa Valley sunshine, stuff like that), and their names are Paolo and Phoenix. Here are some of Rob’s photos of the lucky duo:

Robert Sinskey's Paolo and Phoenix

Robert Sinskey Vineyard resident dog

Robert Sinskey Vineyard dog portrait

Robert Sinskey Vineyards dog

In addition to being a dog’s paradise, Robert Sinskey Vineyards is a terrific place for people also… and that’s lucky for us! Of course there are wonderful tastings and tours, but spending an afternoon relaxing on their terrace with a bottle of wine is also just bliss. Their tagline is “Fine wines from organic vines” but there’s so much more than that. I would say this vineyard and its staff really put their hearts into their work, and you can feel that passion when you walk through their doors. And you can usually smell something wonderful wafting from the kitchen…

Robert Sinskey Vineyards property images

Robert Sinskey Vineyards has a great website with lots of nifty information about their vineyard and wines (and of course gorgeous photography). In addition to offering single bottles or gift sets of their wines, they also sell stellar cookbooks by renowned chef Maria Helm Sinskey, and wool skeins and knitting kits using the wool from their own sheep! Okay, so there are some pretty happy sheep there, too. And chickens. And probably a cat or two.

You can find a separate post dedicated to Capa here.

Robert Sinskey Vineyards   6320 Silverado Trail   Napa, California 94558   707.944.9090

All dog photos courtesy and copyright Robert Sinskey.

Tournament of Roses (and Dogs) Parade 2013

Early Rose Parade with Dog

For as long as I can remember (but not quite as far back as this photo), southern California’s Tournament of Roses Parade has been a non-negotiable part of my New Years Day. For anyone unfamiliar with the parade, it is shown on television live from Pasadena. A very colorful display, it’s a welcome sight to people living in drab frozen places who want to see vibrant flowers while their own are covered in ice. The floats are strictly made out of real flowers and other vegetation, and they get pretty darn creative. Normally the weather is sunny and glorious in southern California (but not this year) and they often share a recently updated statistic about how many frozen people are lured to the Golden State after watching, ditching their snow shovels and hitting the road for t-shirt weather. The parade always includes the best marching bands from across the country (and increasingly around the world), people on horseback, a few celebrities, and of course some great dogs. A few from the LA Times:

Beagle on HGTV's Rose Parade float

Rose Parade Pup on Bike

This year’s Grand Marshall is the amazing Dr. Jane Goodall, and the theme is based on Dr. Seuss’s book, Oh the Places You’ll Go! Best Friends Los Angeles, part of the main Best Friends rescue group based in Utah, is aiming for their shelter to be a no-kill, and one of their dogs by the name of Chuck was chosen to walk alongside the carriage with Dr. Goodall to represent America’s homeless pets. Sweet. He did a great job. Here are two pictures of Chuck from the BFLA Facebook page, the second one being just before his television debut!

Chuck with BFLA's Marc Peralta and Jane Goodall

Another float sponsored by the Beverly Hills Pet Care Foundation was beautifully designed and executed, with giant flower-clad dogs and cats but also lots of real dogs held by volunteers. The announcers said that all of the pets on the float are available for adoption and you could connect with them at the end of the route. The star Jack Russell terrier Uggie from movies like The Artist was even onboard with his trainer (but I don’t think you could adopt him) as the official mascot of the float, because he’d also been given a second chance.

But the best part of this year’s parade brought together many wonderful things: dogs, our military service members, and reunions. A few minutes before the float arrived, a woman and her son were introduced as lucky winners of a contest for military families living in Germany, and she said that her husband was currently serving in Afghanistan. The prize included a trip to California plus tickets to the famous parade. Next arrived the Canines of Courage float, sponsored by the Natural Balance pet food company, to honor (big hooray!!) canines that serve our country alongside troops. This float was inspired by a monument that’s currently being built to these canine heroes in San Antonio. Various branches of the military were represented by members in their dress uniforms and dogs that have served including one sweetheart German Shepherd mix named Lucca, who had lost a leg to a land mine in Afghanistan. In addition to a representative soldier, there were 4 dogs also made of flowers to represent the four most common breeds that typically serve: Doberman Pinscher, Labrador Retriever, German Shepherd, and Belgian Malinois. Beautiful. Below are some photos of the float during its construction and in the parade, and also the happy girl Lucca, to whom we owe a great debt.

Canines with Courage Float

Last but definitely not least, the contest winner and her son were pulled from the crowd to be reunited with one other rider on the float, her husband in his army fatigues. I jumped off my treadmill, not very gracefully, to make this video. It’s really wonderful, even the parade announcers were choked up. And, one last thing I noticed: this military family’s last name is Pazz, and it’s pronounced like “paws”. How cool is that?

Happy New Year everyone!

Article on the Canines of Courage float from the Los Angeles Times here.
If you’d like to watch the whole parade, KTLA’s website has it here.

Westside Story

Westside German Shepherd Rescue, Los Angeles

UPDATE: Not good news, folks. I checked with Westside German Shepherd Rescue today and discovered that the group did indeed lose their funding and so now they’ve lost this beautiful facility. I’m leaving the post up because it’s still a beautifully designed space, but more importantly because WGSR is an amazing and dedicated group that deserves attention. And even more important than that, this development serves as a reminder just how delicate budgets are for rescue groups. If you’re thinking about donating money this year as holiday gifts, please consider a shelter or rescue organization. :-)

So it turns out there’s something else that makes everything better, and that something else is DESIGN! I’m not only saying this because I am a designer, but also because it’s true. And, in my opinion, one of the areas where design really moves mountains is when it’s applied to projects that are typically mundane and just a little too darn utilitarian. Case in point: the beautiful new design for Westside German Shepherd Rescue in Los Angeles, designed by RA-DA. Instead of a sad, depressing shelter, they’ve created a comfortable and beautiful environment with a Cape Cod flavor for some special guests while they get ready for their new homes. Of course dogs love comfort, but if you’re thinking that dogs don’t care about beautiful environments, think again: if it means a shelter is more inviting to potential new families, I think they’re all for it!

As RA-DA states about the project: “This project reconceptualizes the environment surrounding the adoption of pets. Replacing the concept of adoption is an idea of ‘re-homing’. With this term comes the implication that these animals are well-adjusted and just going from one home to another home. The design responds directly to this and although the site is in an industrial area, the architecture is more residential from the exterior siding to the interior design. Past the front lobby area is a gallery that is designed to resemble an outdoor boardwalk. The kennel rooms line the edges of this boardwalk as a series of separate ‘houses’. A training yard at the end and large doors connect the space to the back of the property, used every day for exercising the dogs and on Saturdays for adoption events.”

Westside German Shepherd Rescue exterior

Westside German Shepherd Rescue exterior

Westside German Shepherd Rescue lobby

Westside German Shepherd Rescue boardwalk

Westside German Shepherd Rescue offices

So big high-fives to RA-DA for designing such a beautiful stopover home for German Shepherds on the move, and also for just using their design power for good!

If you’d like more information on Westside German Shepherd Rescue, click here. There’s also a wonderful video about this rescue organization and its founder Robin here.
For more information on the West Hollywood-based architecture firm RA-DA or to see more of their stunning work (which includes some other animal facility projects–yay!), click here.

All photographs courtesy RA-DA. Photography by Ralf Strathmann.

Operation Animal Airlift

Plane, puppy and palms

This past weekend in California, a major undertaking took place: the airlift of hundreds of dogs from overcrowded shelters in Los Angeles to the Pacific Northwest where there’s apparently a shortage of adoptable dogs (nice to hear that’s the case in a few places). The group that’s in the pilot’s seat, so to speak, is Wings of Rescue, a volunteer network of kind-hearted folks that are dedicated to flying adoptable dogs from point A to point B. According to the spokeswoman in the interview, they’ve saved 5000 dogs in the last 18 months alone!

“Dogs going to Olympia, Washington!” “All of those going to Hillsborough!” The video from NBC Nightly News is a flurry of activity: shouted destinations, happy goodbyes, crates being loaded, happy volunteers working like Santa’s elves, and also a lot of twinkling doggy eyes as they get ready to take off.

This story appeals to me for a few reasons: saving dogs of course, but also the southern California connection (because that’s where I’m from) and aviation’s role (my family tree is full of aircraft-related careers). It’s definitely one of those feel-good stories that just makes you applaud humanity. For me, it’s a well-rounded gush of love, pride and gratitude.

Volunteers, dogs and planes

The story mentions specifically the case of Sedona, shown below, who was saved on the day she was scheduled to be euthanized at a shelter. Instead, she’s greeted by her new owner in Oregon who says the perfect thing: “This is like Christmas morning!” I’ve watched the video about 10 times now and that’s where the lump-in-the-throat hits.

Sedona closeup and boarding flight

Sedona arrives in Oregon

If you’d like to watch the video, please do so! You can find it here. It’s really worth it, and they have a nice segue to the piece by showing the Obama’s 2012 Christmas card featuring their dog Bo at the White House in the snow. The idyllic image serves as a great reminder that the only thing that separates dogs languishing in shelters from dogs in loving homes is action. Happy holidays, Wings of Rescue!

If you’d like to volunteer or donate to Wings of Rescue, you can find the information here.

All images from NBC Nightly News segment