My hands-down favorite magazine is Monocle. It’s the one publication that keeps me hanging around the post office each month, waiting for its delivery. And if I’m not reading it, I’m listening to their Monocle 24 streaming radio content while I’m working. There are several reasons why I like it so much: international coverage of news, culture, business, design, travel, cuisine. But I think the biggest reason I love it is for their commitment to coverage of entrepreneurs—like me! They’re always spotlighting someone somewhere that’s committed to their pursuit of quality, craftsmanship and their dream.
Now there’s a new reason for me to love Monocle: a story about dogs in their upcoming issue. This story features four ambassadors and their dogs, and the “soft power” created by these important members of their respective diplomatic missions. Featured in the story are, clockwise from the top left: Deckard the Standard Poodle with US Ambassador to Finland Bruce Oreck; Herman the Shiba Inu with Danish Ambassador to Japan A. Carsten Damsgaard; Tchui the Labrador with UK High Commissioner to Kenya Christian Turner; and Füles the Golden Retriever with Péter Györkös, Hungary’s ambassador to the European Union. It’s a great story with an inside look at what goes on in the world of international relations, and points out that sometimes the best path to goodwill between nations is created by the presence of a dog. Sweet.
Today’s quote is by Thomas Campbell, but it is dedicated to Gwen Huneck who passed away unexpectedly on Sunday. Although I never met her in person, through email correspondence she was very kind and helpful to me when I requested information for a post I did about her late husband’s work and their beautiful Dog Mountain in Vermont. You can see that post here.
I learned of Gwen’s death on Facebook because I follow their gallery page. This is what was shared:
“It is with heavy hearts that we share with our Dog Mountain community that our dear leader and friend, Gwendolyn Ide Huneck has passed away. Gwen never got over the loss of Stephen and missed him terribly every day. As you all know, after Stephen’s death, she devoted her life to continuing his legacy as a great artist. She continued to manage the gallery and she kept active in community affairs. She vowed to help turn St. Johnsbury into one of the most dog-friendly places in Vermont. Gwen became a beacon for people who had lost loved ones and pets and we think she absorbed a lot of that emotion and she may have had difficulty in releasing it.
Many of you knew her as Gwen, Gwendolyn, and Mrs. Stephen Huneck. To us, she was “Gwennie.” Emails sent to the Gallery may not get checked regularly, but please post your condolences on the new Memorial Facebook page for Gwennie. This is a great, great loss and she will be sorely missed. We love you so much Gwennie and we will do everything we can to keep Dog Mountain going.”
So I chose this quote in honor of Gwen, because with all of the comfort and love she shared through Dog Mountain and Dog Chapel she will always shine. And I added the iconic black lab with angel wings created by her husband Stephen, because well, I think it might just be the most perfect circumstance for its use. Rest in peace, Gwen.
Photo courtesy and copyright Stephen Huneck Gallery.
If you would like to support the future of the Huneck’s Dog Mountain by donation or purchasing some wonderful artwork or other items, visit the gallery site here.
As my dad used to say every morning (much to my teenage chagrin) “Wakey, wakey!” We’re starting this week off with an adventure to the Portraitsphere! And this time you should probably pack a raincoat, because we’re heading to jolly old England to visit the truly jaw-dropping work of artist Ian Mason. And forget the big cities. We’re heading out to the countryside, through the villages and shires and something-upon-somethings, to the beautiful seaside destination of Cornwall. So get yourself a packet of Wine Gums or Allsorts, or perhaps a nice cup of tea for the journey. When we get there, you won’t actually believe your eyes.
Ink, paint, charcoal, paper, canvas. Every piece is so expressive. His technique is the kind that you just don’t find very often with lines that are so deliberate and confident, yet nothing is lost in translating the subject’s personality and a moment in time. You know these dogs, or at least you certainly feel like you do.
The nonchalant raised eyebrow on the black Labrador, the Churchill-esque blasé expression of the French bulldog, the thoughtful eyes of the greyhound. How do you decide which ones to feature in a post? It was impossible, so I kept going:
I have to say that I’m really smitten with Ian Mason’s portraits to an unhealthy state. Let me put it this way: if I was invited to Windsor Castle and wanted to bring a gift for Prince William and Kate, I would phone Mr. Mason for a portrait of their little dog…but I’m pretty sure that I’d end up keeping it for myself. Nope, wouldn’t give it up. Not even for all the Wine Gums in the world.
If you would like to see more of Ian Mason’s work, visit his website here.
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:
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!
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.
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.
I wanted to feature the artist Stephen Huneck’s work and the incredible Dog Chapel he created on his Dog Mountain in St. Johnsbury, Vermont for a while now. And so here we go, but unfortunately when I began doing research I was shocked to discover he passed away a few years ago. I think that perhaps I didn’t hear about it at the time because I lost someone very special on the exact same day: January 7, 2010. Stephen Huneck took his own life that day because he was distraught over having to lay off his staff. In an ironic twist, the staff was hired back following his death because of the renewed interest in his work. However, things have once again taken a downturn and the future of Dog Mountain is in serious jeopardy.
If you’re not familiar with the art of Stephen Huneck, the majority of his work consists of wonderful woodcuts and carvings, usually with dogs as subject matter. The pieces often depict true dog moments and observations with minimal text, but the dogs always retain a certain sense of nobility (as they should!). In addition, he became a NY Times bestselling children’s book author, with many of the books featuring his black Lab Sally as the main character. Following an illness and two-month coma, Mr. Huneck had the idea to create a special place where people could come and visit to honor their spiritual connection with their dogs, Dog Chapel. There is a sign outside the chapel that reads “All Creeds, All Breeds Welcome. No Dogmas Allowed.” People have come from all over the world to visit Dog Chapel, many of them posting notes to their departed dogs on the walls inside.
I think that Stephen Huneck’s art is absolutely wonderful, but I also think that maybe his most successful piece is the living, breathing one we can all share: Dog Chapel and Dog Mountain. Every dog that visits, every person who comes with a heavy heart and a special message to send, every afternoon spent laughing and playing and enjoying life is the essence of this living piece. I hope that Dog Mountain can stay open, providing so many with the comfort they need after suffering a loss or celebrating life with their friend. If you’re planning a trip to Vermont for the fall color this year, maybe make a stop in St. Johnsbury and visit Dog Chapel and the Stephen Huneck Gallery. Or if you’d like to begin holiday shopping early this year, visit their website‘s online shop because every little bit helps. You can find anything there from keychains to books and puzzles for mobile devices to signed original woodcuts and sculptures.
Note: I’ve noticed that posts about travel, Italy, and dogs are pretty popular (yay!). Because a lot of my travel is to Italy for the business I’ve started that’s about dogs, I decided to do some posts with adventures as I follow along this entrepreneurial path. You can read a little more about Pantofola on the About page.
Being an entrepreneur is a tricky thing. Trying to do business with Italian manufacturers and suppliers when you’re a small little upstart, that’s a tricky thing, too. Oh, and not being fluent in Italian is also a tricky thing. Okay, so it’s all tricky. And when I say tricky, that’s a nice way of saying tough, but with an added measure of “I can do it!” oomph. So with a healthy dose of “I can do it!” in my back pocket, I keep going. Plus, by choosing Italy for manufacturing I’m hoping that if an emotional outburst should occur down the road, it’s more likely to be accepted by Italians than another not-so-expressive culture.
One evening after a very long day at a leather trade show I came close. I climbed onto a packed bus with all the other exhausted attendees heading back to the city center. I didn’t have a ticket, and the machine onboard wasn’t working so I decided I should do the moral thing and hop off. I know what you’re thinking: that was stupid. And it was, because I ended up in a zone without many pedestrians, traffic, other buses, street lights, and everything was closing for the night. Oh, I should have taken karate. The other problem is that in Italy you can’t just hail a cab. Well, you can try, but they won’t stop and you end up being the crazy lady flapping your arms around like an angry penguin.
Now I’m not saying Bologna is a bad city but bad things happen everywhere, it was dark and my imagination was in overdrive. I walked and walked, trying to figure out what options I had. Why am I here? Eventually I came to a corner store (also closing up for the night) and saw this loyal dog sitting there waiting patiently for someone inside. Immediately I felt relaxed, calmed, comforted, safe. I was good now. Somehow just by seeing this calm dog I was able to take a deep breath and think more clearly. But not only did the sight of this dog put an end to my panic, it also served as a potent reminder for why I started this business in the first place: the human + canine bond. Thankful for the reminder, I kept walking and one street over I found a bus stop with a map and hopped on the next bus.
There’s nothing like a nice beverage on the waterfront to relax, breathe in the sea air and conjure up those pleasant “life is good” feelings. And I love that people can cruise by on their boats like a parade, or even stop and join the crowd for a while. Why, this guy loves the waterfront so much he created one of those nifty abbreviations and named his vessel after it, WTF, as in WaTerFront. I’m sure that’s it!
So what’s going on here? The labrador retriever is calm and content, as usual. But look at that other guy (a Welsh Terrier?), barking his head off. Does he recognize someone up there? Is he just excited and hoping they’ll stop for a cold one? Maybe he’s saying “Stop playing all that Lynyrd Skynyrd!” Oh no, wait. That was me.
Here’s a great example of dogs making something better. When I joined my yoga group a few years back, I was so happy on my first day to see that the instructor brings her dog to every session. Most people already know that yoga is great for reducing stress and increasing relaxation & focused breathing, but add a lazy snoozy Lab and that benefit skyrockets! You can’t help but relax. The first dog that came to class was Yogi, an older black Lab that passed away last year from cancer. Oddly enough, as soon as that sad event happened Lola transitioned from Yogi’s goofy sidekick to Miss Namaste practically overnight. Now she yawns and naps and breathes, rising only at the end of our session for her own “down dog” (because what else would she do, right?). After that she makes a beeline for me because she knows I bring her a few biscuits and she munches away while I roll up my mat. We’ll always miss you Yogi, but we know you’re very proud of your understudy. Viva Lola!