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.

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.

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.

The Portraitsphere : Shannon Johnstone’s Landfill Dogs

Ciara from Wake County Animal ShelterCiara from Wake County Animal Shelter

UPDATE 12/04/13: ABC News with Diane Sawyer aired a special segment tonight about Shannon Johnstone’s Landfill Dogs project! You can watch it here.

Well it’s been a while, but at long last it’s time to head out into the Portraitsphere! What makes this one especially wonderful is that we hit the TRIFECTA! We’re seeing some beautiful photography featuring very photogenic dogs, and the goal is to save their lives. Shannon Johnstone is a photographer in Raleigh, North Carolina and she’s in the middle of a remarkable project that will pretty much guarantee her own sainthood: since the end of 2012 she’s been visiting the Wake County Animal Shelter once a week and will continue to do so until early 2014, each time taking one dog in desperate need of finding a home out to the grassy landfill open space for a few hours. The dog gets a taste of freedom, of hope…of just maybe. She photographs them playing and panting and smiling, and they become a part of her project titled Landfill Dogs. Then they are posted to her Facebook page dedicated to the project, and so far 92% of them have found forever homes.

I chose the photos above to kick off this post, it’s the beautiful grinning girl Ciara and Shannon tells me that she “has the most need right now”. We know what that means. They say she’s a little star, the sweetest and cleanest of the bunch, top notch in maintaining her own kennel. She just wants love. And life. The following photos feature the other dogs that are still waiting for that special someone, and if you’d like more information on any (or all!) of them, you can contact the Wake County Animal Shelter here.

Roscoe from Wake County Animal Shelter

This guy’s name is Roscoe.

Karsten from Wake County Animal Shelter

Karsten is doing that model-tossing-the-head thing.

Greyson from Wake County Animal Shelter

Greyson is a cool cat.

Marcy from Wake County Animal Shelter

Marcy says she could get used to the good life!

Ringo from Wake County Animal Shelter

Ringo thinks he prefers the great outdoors.

I want to share Shannon’s statement here about her project:

“These are not just cute pictures of dogs. These are dogs who have been homeless for at least two weeks, and now face euthanasia if they do not find a home. Each week for 18 months (late 2012–early 2014) I bring one dog from the county animal shelter and photograph him/her at the local landfill.

The landfill site is used for two reasons. First, this is where the dogs will end up if they do not find a home. Their bodies will be buried deep in the landfill among our trash. These photographs offer the last opportunity for the dogs to find homes.

The second reason for the landfill location is because the county animal shelter falls under the same management as the landfill. This government structure reflects a societal value; homeless cats and dogs are just another waste stream. However, this landscape offers a metaphor of hope. It is a place of trash that has been transformed into a place of beauty. I hope the viewer also sees the beauty in these homeless, unloved creatures.

As part of this photographic process, each dog receives a car ride, a walk, treats, and about 2 hours of much needed individual attention. My goal is to offer an individual face to the souls that are lost because of animal overpopulation, and give these animals one last chance. This project will continue for one year, so that we can see the landscape change, but the constant stream of dogs remains the same.”

Now to wrap up our visit to the Portraitsphere, here are more photos of dogs taken by Shannon that did find that last chance because of her courage to face this harsh reality and make a huge difference. You can help by sharing this post on Facebook, or by following Shannon’s Landfill Dogs Facebook page directly here and sharing her weekly photographs with your friends.

From Landfill Dogs by Shannon JohnstoneFrom Landfill Dogs by Shannon JohnstoneFrom Landfill Dogs by Shannon JohnstoneFrom Landfill Dogs by Shannon JohnstoneFrom Landfill Dogs by Shannon JohnstoneFrom Landfill Dogs by Shannon Johnstone

Additional information on Shannon Johnstone and more of her work can be found on her website here.

All images used courtesy and copyright Shannon Johnstone.

The Portraitsphere: Paul Boddum

R.P. by artist Paul Boddum

It’s Friday and a good time for an excursion into the Portraitsphere! This time we’re zipping off to Toronto, Canada to check out the work of artist Paul Boddum.

Lucy by artist Paul Boddum

Here is a portion of Paul’s artist statement as it relates to dogs in his work:

“The original idea for his twenty-four year ongoing series of dog works began during a trip to a dog show in the mid-1980’s. The source of Paul’s early works were photos he had taken there as well as sourcing vintage dog breed books at second hand book shops. Not having his own dog at the time, his ongoing series was influenced by oberving other city dwellers’ dogs; everyday joyful interactions between dogs, owners, and strangers had a unique positive energy that gave a big urban city a warmth and added to the fabric of a healthy community.

Paul is continually inspired by seeing people’s connection to their pets, how they enrich their lives, and become a part of their family. Growing up as an adoptee, Paul has always been interested in exploring the effects of nature versus nurture, and the transformative bond that forms from the domestic pet’s innate need to be cared for by others. Paul is also a long time vegetarian.”

Three Studies of Brody by artist Paul Boddum

Paul’s abstract paintings (without dogs) are also wonderful explorations of color and texture, expressionistic journeys influenced of memories, dreams and music. And when he combines this approach with the portrait of a dog, I find the result to be incredibly reassuring. A lot of people seem to request artist commissions of their dog after its passing, and by creating such a thoughtful background environment it seems very comforting to me. In other words, we’re not quite sure exactly where this place or space is because we can’t identify shapes or forms that are familiar to us, but it’s dreamlike and poetic. Our beloved is there, they’re safe, and it’s a beautiful image to behold.

Autumn by artist Paul Boddum

Summer by artist Paul Boddum

Katrina_Survivor

Jasper and Cooper by artist Paul Boddum

Paul works mostly in acrylics, adding thick layers of a gel medium at the end that creates an encaustic type of surface. Working from photos, he strives to make each painting a unique original customized to clients’ size, style and color requests. Although he’s based in Toronto much of his work is from outside of the area, ordered online. His paintings can be found in homes across the US, Canada, and internationally.

In addition to being a gifted artist, Paul is also big-hearted: he’s devoted to helping animal charities by donating portrait commissions and original paintings to raise money on a regular basis.

Here is a listing of Paul’s upcoming exhibitions if you would like to see his work in person.

You can visit Paul Boddum’s website here, to see more of his work.

All images courtesy and copyright Paul Boddum.

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.