Sara Turetta and Save the Dogs

Sara Turetta and dogs

It takes a very special type of person that can stay in the trenches, witnessing the constant bombardment of cruelty and injustice inflicted upon innocent creatures who want nothing more than to be safe and loved. A modern day St. Francis of Assisi, Sara Turetta is just this person and she’s my first “Shining Armor” post.

Sara is from Milan, Italy and in 2001 she went to Cernavoda, Romania when contacted by an Italian family living there for her help. The streets were full of dead bodies because local authorities were poisoning the strays by the hundreds, and an agreement was made to stop the killings if organized neutering and spaying programs were implemented. Sara had experience volunteering with groups at home and answered the call. Unfortunately, the existing association there was not interested in being managed by someone else, and so a new operation was started with Sara Turetta at the helm. With clearly established priorities of cleanliness, hygiene, efficiency, and strong leadership, Sara left her cushy ad agency position in Milan and hasn’t looked back. While I can imagine it has been a very sad and difficult road, there are thousands of victories for her with the happy dogs she has saved and the grateful families throughout Europe who have adopted them.

Save the Dogs and families

In Cernavoda today, Save the Dogs continues to offer a spay/neuter clinic for strays and through partner organizations transports them out and into new homes in other European countries. A free clinic is available to residents who cannot afford treatment for their pets as well. To combat the overpopulation within other parts of Romania, a mobile clinic travels the country to provide spay/neuter surgeries in these regions and they will soon reach 9000 in mobile sterilizations alone.

In addition to all of this work, Save the Dogs is playing a role in the welfare of donkeys and horses in Romania, animals that are also often cruelly treated and seen as disposable. Therapy programs have been started for children with special needs, giving these animals some joy, purpose and a brighter future. Also, educational programs have been implemented in these regions in Romania to teach school children the importance of proper animal stewardship and care. All of these projects are investments that will certainly pay off with future generations.

At the Italian Embassy in Bucharest last month, Ambassador Mario Cospito conferred the award of “Cavaliere dell’Ordine della Stella d’Italia” (Knight of the Order of the Star of Italy) to Sara Turetta. It’s the first time that someone involved in animal care and defense has received such an important award, which that in itself is a true honor. I’m sure Sara Turetta was pleased to be recognized, but I suspect just seeing photos of happy faces to which she’s given the gift of life warms her heart even more.

More dogs & their families

If you’d like more information, or to donate or adopt, you can visit their website Save the Dogs or contact them at their offices. In Italy: Via Pareto 36, 20156 Milano, Tel +39 0239445900 Fax +39 0230133300. In Romania: Str. Medgidiei, Bloc H4, Sc. C, Et. 3 – Ap. 52, 905200 Cernavoda (CT), Tel/Fax +40 241235081, or by email info@savethedogs.eu.

Save the Dogs partners include: Brigitte Bardot Foundation, DogRescue Sweden, Friends of Homeless Dogs, Hundhjalpen, Protezione Animali di Bellinzona and The Donkey Sanctuary.

George

George

Meet George. This is one of my favorite photos of Georgie boy, even if it is just a Polaroid from his photo shoot with Amanda Jones a few years ago. There’s a strange rule of photo shoots that dictates the best shot of the session will be from a grainy Polaroid. So while there were many great shots that day, I love this one the most.

George is a dog who is mostly made of Rottweiler material. He has the kooky brown dots above his eyes that jump around, and the typical black and brown fur thing going on. But his fur is a bit longer and silkier, his ears are a bit larger, and he got to keep his tail. Hooray! There are some other things about George that are even more unique, like a great Darth Vader impersonation. He’s a lovable fellow, and he especially loves you if you have food. Any food. In fact, he loves food so much that he can hear the tiniest crinkle of the smallest piece of cellophane and he comes running. Besides that, he’s all about living the good life of snoozing. And snoring.

The story of George’s arrival began one beautiful spring morning. As I stood washing dishes and looking out the window, I saw a dog suddenly appear in my yard. Oh no, I already have four. A fence panel had been taken down for a truckload of dirt that was delivered. Please go home, cute dog. I went outside with hands on my hips, determined to nip this in the bud. As I stood there, staring down at him and telling him that he needed to go back home, in a flash he’d jumped up to greet me, hitting me in the face and knocking off my sunglasses. This isn’t working. I went back inside and decided to ignore him. He left. He came back. He carefully chose a spot in the soft grass, in the shade. Ahhh, this looks good. And he stayed.

George in four photos

He had a collar, but no tag. I made signs and posted them around, asked the neighbors, checked with the shelters. Nothing. In Oakland at that time they would keep strays for only 3 days so unless someone came looking for him, he would be euthanized. No one was looking for him. After a few months, I bumped into some other people a few streets over with a dog of the same age that looked just like George—and they had also named him George. Hmm. Maybe George’s dad was a dog named George Foreman, and now just like with the real George Foreman, there are five offspring all named George. You never know.

On the Napa River

Man with his dog in a speedboat

Oh Napa Valley, now that you’re all French Laundry‘d and Press‘d up, do you think you can disguise who you really are? I want people to know that all it takes is a leisurely cruise on the Napa River to rediscover you: that long lost place that feels so very far from the speeding BMWs of Highway 29 and the Silverado Trail. Because I remember how you used to be, back when Halloween pumpkin carving contests, scarecrows and the fall harvest were the big draws. Now don’t get upset, I know you’ve been all about excellent wine for a long time. It’s just that, well, you’ve become a little too big for your britches, and it’s nice to see your folksy side now and then.

Sights along the Napa River

All kidding aside, the Napa River cruise is a great thing to do if you have time on your next trip to the Napa Valley. Like the Chicago Architecture Foundation’s River Cruise, this little journey allows you to see and learn about things you’d otherwise miss because you’re distracted by stoplights, wine tastings, looking for parking, overwhelmed by organic produce, and so on. For example, it’s not widely known that the tanning process to make Napa leather was invented right there on the banks of the Napa River by a German immigrant named Emmanuel Manasse in 1876. These kinds of facts normally are only revealed to you by a grandparent or someone else of yesteryear (way, way yesteryear). But on this boat, you can bring a bottle of wine and some excellent cheese and float along, taking it all in. If you’d like more information on Napa history and Napa leather, this article will tell you more.

Man with Lab in Canoe

Of course, I found it appealing that so many dogs were out and about on the Napa River that day, moving fast or moving slow. It seemed like they had the right idea, and maybe prefer old Napa to the new?

So I’m a Dog Person

Birthday card front with dog illustrations

I’m curious about something: At what point do people begin to see you as a “dog person”?

I guess the quantity involved is a big factor and if so, what’s the magic number when the moniker becomes unavoidable? Two? More than two? More than three? I’m smiling as I write this because there certainly are worse things to be known for and I don’t really mind, although “dog lady” sticks in my craw a little. Craw lady. No.

Let me just say this: I think if a person even has just one dog, but they begin to dress it up in little outfits every day and push it around in a stroller, the label might be knocking at their door as well. Just saying. Fair is fair, right?

In either case, once you are a bonafide “dog person”, people will begin to give you things that are doggy. Doggy tchotchkes. Sometimes they are really wonderful things (and not at all tchotchkes) that they make themselves, like this birthday card that a good friend made for me. I was so happy when I opened it and I cherish it. The truth is my birthday was lousy this year, because my ailing dog Henry took a turn for the worse and it seemed that day might be his last. But this sweet card with these seven pups she drew cheered me up a lot on that sad birthday. And it reminded me that no matter what’s going on, being a “dog person” really is a wonderful gift in itself.

Chappie

My dog Chappie in the snow

This is my dog Chappie. I’m not really sure what kind of a dog he is, but I usually just say “white shepherd” and that gets us through. Because what else would I say? He’s the kind of dog that’s terrified of thunderstorms? The kind that insists on sleeping in the guest bathroom, and closes the door for privacy? A micromanager of our daily routine, with a built-in clock so he knows exactly when it’s time for treats, dinner and last call? Snaps at bumblebees and would rather be indoors? Chappie is also the dog who refused to befriend Finn, if you happened to read my inaugural post. He’s pretty eccentric, that’s for sure. Just like with people, I suppose there’s a reason for it. Something that was stamped onto his psyche before I met him. But he’s a sweet boy and a good soul, a very tender heart.

Once upon a time, in a galaxy far, far away, I had a café and it was located in an historic building on Main Street USA. The shop had a great bay window, and being a designer (and not at all someone who wanted a café) I used to dream up different themes for this window and would devote lots of time decorating it. Now in this small town, my café became a daily stop for regulars (and oddly, occasionally a stop for Lawrence Eagleburger and that rotten senator that ended his career by calling someone macaca). Eventually I got to know the head of the county animal shelter who would come in for coffee each morning. One day she remarked that the new shelter was open, but no one knew and so I decided to dedicate the window to this cause. I visited the shelter and photographed all of the dogs and cats and puppies and kittens, framed them and hung them in this window with their names. Traffic picked up at the shelter and adoptions took off, hooray!

Of course, one polar-bear-looking puppy in particular struck me as extra-special, darn it. And so as a parting gift, my friend gave me this little guy who became Chappie. His story: animal control officers had received a tip to investigate a home and when they arrived they found an adult female dog tied to a tree and she was pretty vicious. This dog, Chappie’s mother, had been tied for so long that the rope had grown into her flesh. She attacked one officer and was shot and killed on the spot. Chappie and his 3 brothers were found behind a shed, they were covered in goat poop. Definitely a sad beginning for him, but he’s a resilient little chappie and he makes every day better. Now excuse me, while I go let him out of the bathroom.

Chappie photos

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

Black and white photo above by Amanda Jones.