Il Cucciolo

Agriturismo Il Cucciolo

This post is about a lovely 25-acre agriturismo in Italy called Il Cucciolo, which translates to “The Puppy”, but first I have to own up to the path that brought this place to my attention: the credit goes to my cat Ponyo. Yes, I said it, a cat. In the way that cats climb on bookshelves (and everything else), Ponyo knocked a book down that I had forgotten about. Crafty girl, it was a good suggestion. And that’s where I’ll begin.

I bought Philosophy Dog, The Art of Living with Man’s Best Friend by Breon O’Farrell many years ago in San Francisco at the now defunct Stacey’s Books on Market Street. It caught my eye because it’s beautiful and the topic is dogs. It’s loaded with great photography and typography, oh and it’s about dog training but clearly that facet was lost on me and mine. Maybe Ponyo was giving us a suggestion.

Philosophy Dog by Breon O'Farrell


Pages from Philosophy Dog by Breon O'Farrell

While becoming reacquainted with this book, I discovered that Breon O’Farrell had been a successful dog trainer in New York with talented dog-loving clients and friends like photographer Bruce Weber (which comes in handy when you’re putting a book together). Then I found that Mr. O’Farrell along with his Italian-born wife and kids now operates a great little gem of an agriturismo in the heart of Perugia called Il Cucciolo. You can take your dogs on holiday there for fun and training, with classes taught by Breon O’Farrell himself.

Breon O'Farrell and dogs at Il Cucciolo

I haven’t visited Il Cucciolo yet, but I sure plan to get there one day. I’m smitten by the whole idea of this place. Most of my trips to Italy (okay, pretty much all of them) are for business and I’m primarily up in the north, but I would love to venture down to Il Cucciolo, and why not? Cooking classes, mushroom and truffle hunting, yoga, hikes in the hills, hanging out with dogs! I’m there. Beautiful.

Il Cucciolo Agriturismo

I think Mr. O’Farrell had the right idea to leave the crowded city for a gorgeous place like this. I’m willing to bet there are quite a few people daydreaming of a life like this right about now. If that’s true and this post inspires someone somewhere to make a big life change, it can all be traced back to Ponyo’s bookshelf climb that day. Crafty girl.

If you’d like to contact Il Cucciolo, you can visit their website here. You can also check out their Facebook page with more photos and info here.

Other contact information:
Agriturismo Il Cucciolo, Vocabolo Figlino n. 31, Petrelle, 06010 Città di Castello (PG)
Tel/Fax: (From USA 011-39)-0758504138, (From Europe 0039)-0758504138
Cell.: (From USA 011-39)-3331877849, (From Europe 0039)-3331877849


Agriturismo photos: courtesy and property of Il Cucciolo

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.

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.

Martin Usborne: The Silence of Dogs in Cars

Prospero by Martin Usborne

Martin Usborne is a London-based photographer with an affinity for dogs. And if you’re lucky enough to be in London yourself before April 27 you can see work from his series The Silence of Dogs in Cars at The Little Black Gallery. Every time I look at these images, I get a lump in my throat and feel very emotional, almost to tears in fact. Now these dogs weren’t really abandoned, but you can definitely sense that’s how they’re feeling to varying degrees.

Ruby by Martin Usborne

Burt by Martin Usborne

Murphy by Martin Usborne

Shep by Martin Usborne

Bones by Martin Usborne

Normally my first reaction to the idea of dogs being left alone in cars is the danger of heat exhaustion. Maybe that’s why all of these were taken at night or during overcast conditions to eliminate that thought—or it’s just typical weather in England. For me, once I realize there’s no threat of heat exhaustion, immediately they become about something else.

Here is the statement by the artist, Martin Usborne:

“I was once left in a car at a young age.

I don’t know when or where or for how long, possibly at the age of four, perhaps outside a supermarket, probably for fifteen minutes only. The details don’t matter. The point is that I wondered if anyone would come back. In a child’s mind it is possible to be alone forever.

Around the same age I began to feel a deep affinity with animals—in particular their plight at the hands of humans. I saw a TV documentary that included footage of a dog being put in a plastic bag and being kicked. What appalled me most was that the dog could not speak back. Its muteness terrified me.

I should say that I was a well-loved child and never abandoned and yet it is clear that both these experiences arose from the same place deep inside me: a fear of being alone and unheard.

The images in this series explore that feeling, both in relation to myself and to animals in general. The dog in the car is a metaphor, not just for the way that animals (both domestic and wild) are so often silenced and controlled by humans but for the way that we so often silence and control the darker parts of ourselves: the fear and loneliness that we would rather keep locked away.”

Gulp. These images are 24 x 36 and 60 x 40, so I’m thinking that to see them in person would be even more compelling. If you’re like me and there’s no way you’ll be in London before the show ends, there is a beautiful book available.

Margaux by Martin Usborne

If you’d like some information on Martin’s show in London at The Little Black Gallery, price list, or interviews with the artist, it’s here.

A signed copy of Martin’s book The Silence of Dogs in Cars can be purchased here. And if you’d just like more information on Martin in general, you can visit his website here.
All images courtesy and copyright Martin Usborne.

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.

Photographer and Author Priscilla Rattazzi

Gianni Agnelli with his dog Dyed Eyes by Priscilla Rattazzi

I subscribe to too many magazines and I can’t stop. The print kind. It takes me a while to flip through them (especially those fall Vogue phone books) but sometimes I’ll commit to going through a stack and just flip away, tearing out articles or images and putting them into stacks like an old-school Pinterest. But it’s not Pinterest, so that means I usually have a stack of articles and images to go through after I finish my flipping. But I work quickly, I’m like that animal that’s attracted to shiny things and only shiny things. With eyes zig-zagging and darting plus some really heavy editing, I’m usually in pretty good shape and the stacks end up being pretty minimal. Things come to a screeching halt, however, when I see a dog. Or anything Italian. Or something really beautiful. When it’s all three, well forget it. At that point I’ve found the shiniest thing of all and it’s time out.

This happened to me a while back as I raced through the December 2006 issue of Town & Country when I came across an article about celebrated photographer and author Priscilla Rattazzi. For many years she worked as a fashion photographer in New York (in those Studio 54 days), later focusing on photography for her books: Georgica Pond, Luna & Lola, Children, and Best Friends. Such a beautiful collection of images, and what a life! Her uncle was head of Fiat and icon-in-general Gianni Agnelli, and everyone knows the Agnellis are pretty much the Kennedys of Italy. So just drinking in the private moments she’s captured over the years is really a wonderful treat. Lucky for me, she loves dogs and her 1989 book Best Friends is page after page of them with their mover-and-shaker owners. In the above photo, her uncle Gianni Agnelli is shown in his circa 1980 pin-striped slacks and tie (after a long day at the office?) sharing one of those private moments with his Siberian Husky called Dyed Eyes. I don’t know about you, but for me, seeing a captain of industry like Gianni Agnelli enjoying a moment like this with his dog is pretty darn endearing. And Mr. Agnelli also wrote the introduction for the book.

One of my other favorites from Best Friends is the photo below featuring Nini Guatti with his dog Andiamo. Such a great image, captured at the precise moment. I think I’m especially drawn to it because my dad often dressed this way and I really miss him, and what’s better than a dog called Andiamo (let’s go)?!

Nini Guatti with his dog Andiamo, by Priscilla Rattazzi

Priscilla Rattazzi has done a wonderful job of chronicling, in both pictures and words, the relationship between her family’s Golden Retriever and their miniature Dachshund in her 2010 book Luna & Lola. The images are warm in composition and reproduction, the book’s cover is a lovely matte stock complete with slipcover so it feels especially “gifty”. It’s a gorgeous book, certainly, but also an incredibly moving portrait of two dogs, the family that loved them and the time they shared together. Sadly, Luna passed away just before the book was completed, and the book includes a truly touching eulogy written by Ms. Rattazzi’s husband Chris Whittle at the end. Luna enjoyed her life with Lola and the rest of her family, and that really comes across on every page. As with all of Priscilla Rattazzi’s work, I really appreciate having the experience of taking a look. And it gets better: a portion of the proceeds from Luna & Lola will be donated to the Animal Rescue Fund of the Hamptons in Wainscott, New York.

Luna & Lola by Priscilla Rattazzi

For details on the book Luna & Lola, click here.
For more information on Priscilla Rattazzi, including many press articles and gallery information, click here.
To watch a video of a recent talk by Priscilla Rattazzi at the George Eastman House in Rochester, New York click here.
Gianni Agnelli with Dyed Eyes and Nini Guatti with Andiamo courtesy and copyright Priscilla Rattazzi.

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