My Favorite Cruelty-Free Products (So Far)

What makes a good product? Most people would say that it actually does what it says it’s supposed to do; it delivers results. Because it is a successful product, you become loyal. When you go to Target, most of the time you’re looking for that particular brand. Why change? The one you got is perfect.

A while back, I saw a horrible video from Beagle Freedom Project, where they rescued Beagles from several animal testing facilities. You see the rescuers going into a dark facility, where helpless dogs are stuck in steel cages, with tubes attached to them. They have never been outside, or loved by an owner. Everyday, they are used as test objects. You can see some videos here. Look at your own risk.

Yes, these videos are meant to tug at your heartstrings, but more than that, the cruelty these dogs and other animals face is very real. The more research I’ve done, the more I see how easily we can help this cause.

While they are working hard on getting animal testing banned, a lot of companies continue to do this because they can sell in China, which requires all products to be tested on animals.

Ever since the video, I have consciously changed my beauty products, ensuring they are cruelty free.

What is cruelty free mean?
According to Cruelty Free Kitty website, it has to meet these criterias:

” (1) they don’t test finished products on animals at any point during production, (2) their suppliers don’t test raw materials or ingredients on animals, (3) no third-party tests on animals on their behalf, and (4) they don’t test on animals where the law requires it, i.e. mainland China.”

How do you find out if a product is cruelty free? You can download this app, called Cruelty Cutter. Whenever you are shopping, you can open it, scan an item, and immediately it will let you know if it’s animal-tested.

You can also use these logos for when you’re searching for the right product. If you see these bunnies on any product, you’re good to go.

I also refer to this awesome site,, where they have an up to date list of all the products that are free from animal testing. You can use the list here.

I am also going to keep my own list of favorite products that meet this criteria. For now, here are a few products I use again and again.

Love Beauty and Planet Deoderant. They smell great, and help keep me dry even in humid weather! To buy, click here. or you can get it at Target.
Forget that it’s in the “Men’s Section”. The scent is very subtle and will make you feel refreshed and clean. Buy here or at Target.
Method Laundry Detergent – Works well, cleans my clothes, and doesn’t leave a scent. I also use their dryer sheets. Available here, Amazon or Target.
I gave this to my husband one year as a stocking stuffer. It’s such a cool kit, and he really enjoyed using it! Buy at any pharmacy, Target, or here.

Meychelle Night Cream, $40.00. This cream is prefect for dryer skin. Just a small, dime sized amount covers your whole face. Not greasy, and lasts for months. Available at amazon.

It’s can be hard to find cruelty free products, but with just a little effort, you can find equally as good (if not better products) to replace your current household items. Even just swapping out your deodorant will help! Small steps leads to big actions.

These are my top products for now, but I will add more as I find worthwhile products!

Small Business Interview with Natalia Ramon Gallardo

One of my favorite things about Instagram is connecting with other artists. You get to see different styles, personalities, and ways to inspire you as an artist. My style is cartoon-realistic, as I like to call it, and seeing others talent is so inspiring.

So this week, I have the pleasure of interviewing artist Natalia Ramon Gallardo. This self-taught 19 year old artist from Spain draws all types of different dogs. Her ability to get the details, expressions, and personalities of each dog is uncanny. Here, she talks about how she started, her process, and lots more. Enjoy!

Tell us about yourself.
I’m Natalia Ramón, a 19 years old pet portraitist who lives in Spain. Currently, I study Fine Arts at university, but I invest my free time taking commissions and developing my personal drawing style, a digital hyperrealism. 

Tell us about your shop.
What I offer is a customizable drawing of your pet (no matter which animal it is, or if you have more than one and you want them to be together on the paper), all made by hand but using a digital art programme. This sometimes causes a bit of confusion as some people may think that I edit photos due to the accuracy of the details, but this is far from reality. I follow the same steps as if it was a traditional artwork, adding layers and layers of fur with patience  and constancy. However, despite the fact that right now I’m mostly doing digital portraits, I have also skills in traditional techniques, being possible for me to take commissions of this kind. 

What inspired you to start drawing?
Well, I started drawing when I was just a little girl, maybe six years old. Probably this is such a common thing, as children are really imaginative and most of them enjoy creating characters, stories, new situations… a world made by their own. There are many reasons why I started, but the main one would be that my sister (who is 5 years older than me) used to draw a lot, and that inspired me and made me want to be better than her (as I’ve always been really competitive). However, I kept drawing because it made me feel more stable and relaxed. On paper everything is under control and things can turn out to be whatever you want. When I was about 15, I considered art more than just a game or a hobby, I wanted to become professional, so I decided to practice almost everyday to develop my technique.

“I kept drawing because it made me feel more stable and relaxed. On paper everything is under control and things can turn out to be whatever you want.”

What techniques do you use to make your drawings so realistic?
I started with traditional techniques such as pastel pencils, acrylics, graphite… Doing this I learnt many things, but when I tried the digital media, I completely fell in love with it. I am able to do the same as before, but there are lots of advantages: working with layers is easier (if you organize them correctly), you don’t have to clean brushes, you don’t need to buy a different paper every time you want to draw, you can undo what you’ve done if you don’t like it… Nevertheless, digital media is not a bed of roses. I remember the first drawing I did was a complete mess, I wasn’t used to handling a stylus (the pencil I use to draw), I didn’t know how to manage with the programme, I had many troubles with the layers and I didn’t know how to organize them. In addition, drawing was more difficult at first, as you don’t look at your hands, you look at a screen. It took me many hours to finally feel comfortable with that, but once you accomplish it, you can start improving. 

Why did you decide on pets?
I’ve always liked animals more than any other thing, and I believe that people with pets feel the same for their mascot. Moreover, drawing textures, such as different kinds of fur, is something I find so satisfying. For me, probably animals are the most enjoyable topic to draw, but of course, it’s not the only thing I do. Sometimes I accept human portraits to change my routine, and I also like creating random characters, but I hardly ever post them.   

How long does it take to complete one drawing?
Well, it depends. Some breeds are easier than others. Fluffy animals need more time, this also happens with the black (or white) ones, as the details need to be really subtle. I work on a piece until I think it’s good enough to see the world. But, in average, I need a week per drawing.

I love the expressions in the drawings. Do you use a photo for reference? Do your clients talk about what type of expression or look they want on their pets? 
Yes, I always use a photo for reference, but this doesn’t mean I copy it just the way it looks. Some customers ask me to change some parts they dislike of the pic, to correct the eyes, change the position of the animal…Others want me to avoid the harness, or anything that is not aesthetic. I also add details I don’t see if the photo is blurry, but I try to choose from the pictures they send me, the one with the highest quality. Occasionally, my customers talk me about how their pets are, and this helps me if I have to choose one picture from their profile, because I look for the one that better reflects the aspects they’ve highlighted.  

You mentioned you are self-taught. What did you do to develop your skills?
Yes, I always use a photo for reference, but this doesn’t mean I copy it just the way it looks. Some customers ask me to change some parts they dislike of the pic, to correct the eyes, change the position of the animal…Others want me to avoid the harness, or anything that is not aesthetic. I also add details I don’t see if the photo is blurry, but I try to choose from the pictures they send me, the one with the highest quality. Occasionally, my customers talk me about how their pets are, and this helps me if I have to choose one picture from their profile, because I look for the one that better reflects the aspects they’ve highlighted.  

What advice do you have for future aspiring artists?
I advise them not to procrastinate, the work will be the same today than tomorrow, with the difference that tomorrow you’ll have 24 hours less. Furthermore, the attitude they have is really important, no matter if they’ve just started, they need to be confident with what they’re doing, but also self-critical to recognize their mistakes and find appropriate solutions.

What do you hope to accomplish or is there something you have already achieved?
 I’ve achieved something I’ve always wanted: selling to other countries and being well recognized for what I do. However, there’s still a lot of work to be done. My first goal is to improve even more my technique, this is the reason why I prefer to take some extra time with the commissions I have, if the result is going to be better. I also want to do a special summer offer of traditional portraits made with pastel pencils, and try new art programmes to investigate new effects. Finally, I’m considering filming tutorials for the ones who are interested in digital hyperrealism and doing a contest for my followers, where the prize will be an original drawing of their pet (or the animal they like). My purpose is to do all of this progressively, and I’ll be uploading all the info on my Instagram and Facebook (nataliaramon_art), so stay tuned!

Some answers were edited for length and clarity. All images are used with permission from the artist. Please do not re-post without permission.


Dog Lovers! It’s nearly October already! Where the heck did this summer go?! I don’t know about you, but I’m super excited for Fall. Even though we don’t get the beautiful New England fall in Florida (Oh, how I miss apple picking, wearing boots, fall leaves…), it is still noticeably cooler.

This also means I have a TON of new products on the shop, right in time for early Christmas shopping. Yes, it is time to think about buying those gifts, especially if you’re planning on buying from small, independent business owners (which you should as MUCH as possible!). We need time to get your orders ready! But in the end, it’s so worth it, as your support makes us smile for days, and days, and maybe even months (Amazon doesn’t smile! Think about that…)

So this week, I’m proud to show you a bunch of new great dog lover products that are not only perfect for the holidays, but for birthdays, anniversary gifts, thank you presents…anything!

Dog Breed Sticky Notes

These awesome, peel off sticky notes are perfect for love notes, reminders, grocery lists…you name it! Plus, they have a magnet on the back so you can put them on your fridge, with your awesome magnet collection. Offered in four different breeds – Lab, German Shepherd, Beagle, and Boston Terrier! $3 each. Click each link to purchase!

Disney Custom Dog Portrait

Calling all Disney dog moms! This adorable custom portrait is perfect for their growing Disney art collection. They get a custom drawing of their pooch, the classic Mickey ears, and their name in Gold, just like the signature lettering on the hats. Price varies in size. Shop here.

BTW, if you want to see how a custom portrait works, and the process, you gotta click here!

Theme Park Dog Mom Hat

This is seriously one of my favorite products! Being in the vicinity of several theme parks, this hat can go from Disney to Universal and every other park in between. I’m making a cat version too, so stay tuned! $18.00! Shop here.

Cat Mom Car Decal

This hilarious decal is perfect for your phone, planner, car, mirror, whatever! Scratch and waterproof, it’ll last for years to come. Only $3.50. Shop here.

Greeting Cards!

All the cards you could ever need for any occasion! I love these and can’t wait to send them to friends and family. All are $5.00! Shop here!

And (last but not least) Boston Terrier Decal!

A Boston Terrier with Sunglasses?! How can you go wrong. I’m too obsessed. And based on the purchases, you have been too! Get your very own here.

We hope you love these awesome dog lover gifts! Check out my whole shop!

Product Review: Fi Collars

Product Review Fi Collars: A few weeks ago, some friends and I were headed out, and right across from our house, I saw a little dog sniffing a bush. There were no owners present, and it had just been raining, so the dog was soaking wet. I stopped the car. As soon as I tried to approach the dog, I realized I knew the owner! There are neighbors behind us who have three fluffy white dogs, and this one looked just like them.

I slowly approached the dog, not trying to scare it. It saw me and ran across the street. As my friends corralled the dog, I ran over to my neighbors house. After a couple minutes of knocking, someone finally came to the door. The person looked like a dog sitter, as I had met the other family members. She had no idea a dog escaped. Fortunately, we were able to get the dog safely home.

If my dog escaped, I would have known within minutes if he was missing. Unfortunately, if he did get lost, there would be no way of finding him. While he is micro chipped, the only way you can locate them is if someone brings him to a shelter or animal hospital, where they can scan the chip and know his exact address.

But what if no one returned him to the shelter? What if the person who found him just decided to keep him? Or he was sent to a shelter but no one thought to scan his chip?

Well, Fi Collars is here to help you solve this problem. A relatively new company, the owner wanted to keep track of his young pup, especially when they weren’t together.

So, he created a smart collar. Inside the metal box, attached to the collar, is a GPS tracking device. This is so you can see exactly where your dog is located at all times.

I was fascinated by this collar, so I reached out to see if I could try it out for a few weeks on my dog. Luckily, they were happy to oblige and sent me one!

Beautiful Packaging!
Contents of the Fi Collar – instructions, a base charger, and the collar itself

As you can see in the photo, I received the following contents: a base charger, instructions on how to use the collar, and the collar itself.

I was impressed with the packaging. It was sleek, well designed, and very appealing. It makes you excited to open it.

First, you download the app on your phone. After that, the set up is fairly easy. You enter all your info and your dog’s, including their name, age, gender, breed, weight, and then a profile picture of your dog.

Then, you need to create your dogs “Safe Zone”. This is the area that your dog is “safe and at home”, and not lost. I made it our house and a little of our surrounding neighborhood.

This is an example of a safe zone.

Next, you need to plug in the base. They recommend you plug it in where your dog spends the most time (living room, next to a window if you they’re always in the yard, etc). I put mine in the center of the house, since Gant is all over the house, and it can sense him there. Then you need to connect it to WiFi. This part was fairly easy for me to set up.

Then, you need to charge your collar on the base for a little while. This is a bit of drawback, especially if your dog is a flight risk and you’d like to use it immediately. However, the battery lasts for WEEKS, which is really great, especially if you keep forgetting to charge things (like me…). However, a drawback is if you take your dog to a different location, you need to take the base with you and reset the “safe zone” so it recognizes THAT location as a the dog’s safe zone.

Fi Collar in Yellow. The GPS is in the black and grey box with their fi logo

After all the setting up and your collar is fully charged, you’re ready to use it! This is what your dog’s profile looks like. As you can see, your dog’s picture is shown, where he is located, where he is throughout the day, and how many steps he has taken. Right now you cannot customize your dog’s steps, but the spokesperson for Fi Collar said they are working on that for the future.

I also realized, soon after, that the GPS part is NOT included with the collar. It is a separate, yearly subscription plan. As you can see below, you get a few features with the free plan, but you do not get the lost dog emergency alert features or 24/7 GPS tracking. In my opinion, you should get the paid plan, as the collar is not as useful without it. (They gave me a free subscription for a month to try it out, so I can see how the GPS worked).

The app also tracks the exact routes you go each day. I really liked this feature, and think it’s very useful for owners who use dog walkers or sitters, so they can make sure their dogs are getting all their required walks.

The app also texts you when you or another person is leaving with the dog. This is especially helpful when you leave your dog with a sitter or walker. You can also add another owner (I added my husband, for example), so they can track everything. They have to download the app as well.

One thing I noticed is that on occasion, the app would text me that “Gant was not with his owner” even though he was right next to me.

If for any reason (hopefully never!) your dog does get lost, you can use their Lost Dog Mode, which is included with their subscription. You press the red alert button your phone, and it immediately contacts Try Fi Headquarters to help you find your dog. I did not use this feature, but I’m curious to see how it works. I like that there’s someone else helping you find your dog.

After using it for about a month, here are my overall Product Fi Collar Review thoughts:

Design: 4 stars. The collar is sleek, comes in cool colors, and the GPS tracking device is nice and small. However, the collar seemed to big for my dog, who is 25 pounds. It was a bit too loose. I think it’s perfect for bigger dogs. Fi Collars told me they are working on smaller collars in the future.

Ease of Setup: 5 Stars. The Fi Collar app is very easy to use. It tells you exactly what to do, with clear steps on how to set it up.

Use of App: 3.5 Stars. It’s easy to use. I like how you can see the routes you’ve walked, see a log of where your dog has been, and that it texts you when your dog is with or without its owner. However, like I said above, the app told me a few times that “the dog was not with my owner”, even though he was right next to me. But most of the time, it was accurate. I also want to see you be able to customize the step goals.

Base: 3.5 stars. The Fi Collar base is nice and small, and can be easily moved anywhere in the house. But you do need to remember to take it with you if you head out of town with your dog. And, if you have a bigger house, you may need two bases.

Battery Life: 5 stars. I barely had to charge this collar. It was really great that I didn’t have to worry about it.

Overall rating: 4 stars. If my dog was off leash all the time, it would be a great accessory. But because he really doesn’t go off leash (unless at a dog park), or is mostly with me everyday, and we rarely leave him with a sitter, I don’t think I am the audience. However, this collar is perfect for larger dogs who are always off leash, or a flight risk, or you use a dog walker and want to track their steps. I can’t wait to see all the new things they develop in the future.

Additionally, they are extremely communicative, and always were there to help me with any questions. I think this is a very promising product for dog lovers!

To purchase, head to and use code SACCOSTUDIOS for $25 off your purchase!

Collar: $150.00.

Update: Now you can customize your dog’s step goals on the app!

This post may have affiliate links, and I may receive a small commission. However, all opinions and reviews are my own and not influenced in anyway.

Do you have a product you’d love me to review? email me!

Sacco Studios is a company founded by Lindsay Sacco, where dog (and cat lovers!) can find paw-sitively awesome products like greeting cards, art prints, apparel, and so much more! Check out her shop here.

Dog-Friendly Outings in Central Florida

Ever since we moved to Central Florida almost a year ago, my husband and I have been discovering new ways to include our dog on outings. While you can’t always take your dog, it’s so much less stressful when you can. Not only do you not have to worry about getting home at a certain time for a bathroom break, but their minds are stimulated in a new environment. Studies show that socializing dogs is one of the most important preventative measures for eliminating behavioral problems. So today, I’m going to give you my favorite dog-friendly outings in Central Florida. These have been tested, so you can trust our reviews.


Quantum Leap Winery – 1312 Wilfred Drive, Orlando
Phone: (407) 730-3082

Not only are their wine selections great, but they have a great dog-friendly patio for your pup to relax while you enjoy the $6 tastings. Can’t beat that! (You can also check out my post about this place here.)

A&B Oyster Bar – 358 N Park Ave B, Winter Park
Phone: (407) 636-7021

After you head to the Spice and Tea Exchange (description next), get some delicious oysters at this fun spot. Tucked in a little hidden area, you’ll feel like you’re in an oyster oasis.

Pig Floyds Urban Barbakoa – 1326 N Mills Avenue, Orlando Florida
Phone: (407) 203-0866

Craving some brisket? Amazing ribs? How about mouth-watering tacos? Head over to this funky BBQ joint in the bustling Mills neighborhood.

Ivanhoe Brewing Company
1300 Alden Road, Orlando, FL
Phone: (407) 270 – 6749

Some of the best beer in Orlando is at this local favorite. You can bring your dog INSIDE, in the nice cool A/C, without having sweat in the humidity outside, as most places only allow dogs in their patios. Enjoy some unique brews, board games, and lots of laughs.


The Spice and Tea Exchange – 309 Park Avenue North, Winter Park
Phone: (407) 647-7423

Winter Park is incredibly dog-friendly, with tons of dog owners walking around, enjoying the shops and array of awesome restaurants. One of my favorite stores is The Spice and Tea Exchange, where you can find unique and fun spices for future recipes. Our dog was greeted with lots of affection and love by the staff!

Public Events

Winter Garden Farmer’s Market – 104 S Lakeview Ave, Winter Garden
Phone: (407) 656-4155

Every Saturday morning, we go here to get fresh fruits and veggies. Our dog loves smelling all the produce, in addition to getting little bits of our delicious lunches we get from the local stands. There’s also poop bags everywhere, just in case!

Summerport Park – 14442 Bridgewater Crossings Blvd, Windermere
Phone: (407) 656-3299

One of my favorite dog-friendly outings in the Central Florida area!

Take lunch outdoors! After a nice walk, head to the covered picnic area, and then let Fido run around with some new friends at the nearby dog park.

*Updated 9/23/19* This post will be updated frequently as I find more fun dog friendly places. All opinions are my own. No sponsorships were part of this post. Check back soon!

Small Business Interview: My Whiskey Girl

Do you ever scroll through Instagram, just captivated by beautiful dog portraits? Then click on their account because every single one is just so breathtaking? If you head to instagram account @mywhiskeygirl, you’ll see why I not only drool over her photos, but why she has over 100K followers. Today, I get the pleasure of interviewing Adele, the amazing photographer, and her adorable dog, Whiskey. Enjoy!

Tell us when you started @mywhiskeygirl.

Whiskey, the inspiration behind the account.

4 years ago, I was working on “a photo a day project”. When I got Whiskey, every photo was of her, so I thought I would create an Instagram account. This way, I wouldn’t be overwhelming all my friends with too many photos! Since Instagram gives you the choice whether or not to follow an account, I feel guilt-free posting photos! Originally, I didn’t want an account, but my husband convinced me, so here we are!

Tell us about where you live and introduce yourself.

Adele and Whiskey.

My name is Adele, and I live in Vancouver, BC Canada. I absolutely love it, even though it’s expensive to live here! The nature is unbeatable in terms of being in a big city but still having such close access to both beaches and mountains

(As for me), I had been working in the Visual Effects industry for over a decade before quitting to pursue photography full time and other businesses. It’s not been easy, but it’s so much more rewarding. I’ve been taking photos since I was a child. I developed film in black in white, as well as color and enlarged and printed my own photos in darkrooms while also working in the digital world. I’ve worked in television and film since high school.

Tell us a little about your 5 year old Vizsla, Whiskey. 

Whiskey is an unusual Vizsla in that she’s calmer than most. She’s a gigantic cuddle bug at home, as long as she’s had her walks (usually 3 walks a day!), which includes one hike (around 3 hours outside off-leash). She loves soft toys and socks, and will greet us at the door with one, while wiggling her bum and squealing. Whiskey loves to “work”, so it’s easy for her to pose for pictures, retrieve sticks and balls, finding and pointing prey, and keeping mom company on long hikes.

Why did you choose a Vizsla? What is it about this breed that appealed to you? 

We were really careful in choosing a breed. I absolutely respect people that rescue dogs (we have a rescue cat). However, I knew I wanted some very specific traits that had been bred over generations, so I chose a breeder. I wanted a dog that was medium sized, short haired, interested in pleasing humans (not too stubborn), ranged close enough for hiking off leash, not too friendly to strangers, a drive to work, cuddly, healthy (long overall life expectancy with little genetic physical and mental problems), great in mountains, and could do really long hikes.

Did Whiskey love traveling at a young age or did you have to coax Whiskey to enjoy the adventures? 

Whiskey was carsick as a puppy! It was terrible! We didn’t own a car so she was vomiting in all our rentals and I was so scared because I knew we wanted to do roadtrips later on. Thankfully she outgrew her sickness (she was in a car everyday almost!). We took her to the mountains as soon as we had her. We would go to a ski slope in the summer and just let her run around while we ate dinner. She was scrambling on cliffs really young (nothing too long or extended as it’s bad for their growing joints). She was always fearless like her dad.

What is one of Whiskey’s favorite places you’ve been to? 

Whiskey is so used to going to new places that she doesn’t even get excited! The only thing she loves more than anything is fields with game birds. She absolutely loves to find and point grouse, ptarmigan, and chukar (this is what she’s bred for). A bunny chase is always fun too!

When did you start traveling? Did you travel before Whiskey or did he/she inspire you to start? 

Adele’s husband and Whiskey.

We’ve always traveled, and before we had Whiskey we did alot more traveling by plane. I’ve lived in Italy and Australia and we’ve adventured in so many places! We’ve swam with humpback whales in Tonga, dived with Great White Sharks in Mexico, camped under the northern lights with our dogsled teams in the Yukon, and roadtripped through the outback in Australia during the summer! After we got Whiskey, we stuck to more drivable trips so we could take her with us and we’ve gone all the way past the arctic circle with her, and as south as Utah.

It looks like you travel all over British Columbia. What’s your favorite spot you’ve been to so far?

Oh…that’s so hard! BC is absolutely varied and gigantic. A local spot that I keep going back to is Seymour mountain. It’s always different in each season and weather, it’s just a local mountain but I think it’s incredible.

The photography is incredible. How did you start getting into photography? What camera do you use? Do you have a favorite photo you’ve taken so far?

Thanks so much! I’ve always been making art since I was a child. I sew, paint, sculpt, draw, photograph, and anything in between. I work in film, and can work most aspects of it (editing, visual effects, shooting, produce, direct, etc).

I’m using a Canon 5D mark 4 but I’ve been thinking about making the switch to mirrorless. Photos, for me, are always about the moment.

Adele’s favorite photo of Whiskey.

I love this one so much because we all cracked up laughing at Whiskey’s expression. It was at the end of a long day of shooting and we were all so exhausted and Whiskey just helped us all get through the end of it.

What are your travel essentials?

  • My phone and battery pack if I’m heading out alone (I always have a map and gps on my phone)
  • Treats! We train almost everyday and treats are essential for keeping up a bomb proof recall and staying out of trouble (freeze dried or dehydrated raw food or one ingredient meat is best)  
  • Baby wipes– the dog life is a dirty one and I can’t live without wipes
  • Blankets – Whiskey loves blankets and soft things to lay her head on, plus we are always camping or venturing out where blankets are always helpful!
  • Merino wool clothing– keeps you warm even when wet. Organic material so there’s little footprint, and stink-proof!

What are Whiskey’s travel essentials for when it’s cold or warm outside?

We never get too warm here! When the summer comes, that means the snow melts enough to hit the peaks (so then we’re just walking our way up to cold!) Whiskey will need a jacket if it’s cold or wet, or we won’t get far! Rule is that if I need a jacket, she needs one (Vizslas only have one coat and get cold easily). We love Voyagers k9 apparel and 

Hurrta or Canine equipment boots for days when it’s much colder than freezing. 

Whiskey in protective gear.

Rexspecs for sunny winter days when you’re getting majorly snow blinded or when the wind is blowing so hard you need goggles yourself (dogs are better in the elements than humans but in extreme environments for long periods it’s good to have protection)

Where do you hope to travel to in the near future?

I really want to go back to the arctic and Alaska. The tundra is amazing and the land is just so wild. I also want to travel further down south, revisit Utah and keep going to Arizona and see where else! Honestly there is so much on my list still in my own province. I could be trying new peaks every weekend for the rest of my life here!

This interview was edited for length and clarity. Special thanks to Adele for taking the time to speak with me and provide these beautiful photos. You may repost this blog post, but please do not reuse the photos without the artist’s permission. Thanks!

Flying with an Emotional Support Animal

If you’ve been flying lately, you’ve probably seen at least one dog on your plane. They’re usually in a carrier and under the seat. Often times, you may not even know there is a dog there until the plane lands!

I have also seen large, 50 pound dogs laying on the floor!

You’re probably wondering…”Why are they flying without a carrier?” or “That dog weighs 80 pounds?! How are they allowed on the plane?”

Usually, these are service dogs. They are allowed to go anywhere with their owner, as they provide life-saving services.

There’s also another other kind of dog – the Emotional Support Animal (ESA), that is allowed on planes and typically aren’t in a carrier.

Our family travels a lot over the summer, and we wouldn’t be able to go to as many places as we do without our dog, Gant. He has become a seasoned traveller, and a certified ESA. Today, I’ll be giving a comprehensive guide on traveling with an ESA on a plane, what an ESA is, and tips and tricks for having a smooth flight. I also had the pleasure of interviewing Licensed Therapist John Stiteler of Total Health Guidance, where they provide counseling services, as well as ESA certification.

What’s an Emotional Support Animal?

An emotional support animal is an animal that helps affect someone’s emotional state, by offering physical and relational support”, says Stiteler. “An ESA is beneficial in that it helps those struggling with mental health issues like depression and anxiety. Having a reliable unbiased companion help manage many of the symptoms associated with these issues. “

Gant provides stress and anxiety relief when I fly, by remaining calm, sitting on my lap, and letting me focus on petting his ears.

How is it different than a Service Animal?

Service animals go through extensive training to become a certified service pet. “A service animal is trained to support with specific tasks like mobility, moving and collecting items,” Stiteler explains.

Does your dog qualify to be an ESA?

Is your dog even-tempered? Calm? Does he detect when you’re feeling anxious, stressed, or depressed? Stiteler says, “In order to qualify, the pet owner must meet some diagnostic criteria for a mental illness as defined by the DSM5.  It could be depression, anxiety, PTSD, ADHD, or any other mental illness. That illness must impact some area of their life and the animal must provide some level of relief of symptoms.”

Typically, you must have a medical professional evaluate and be able to confidentially say your mental health needs require a support animal. This is usually done through a psychological evaluation. Total Health Guidance evaluates the person during a 1-hour session, to confirm and establish the need for an ESA.

Ok, so my dog is approved to be an ESA Animal. How do I start the flying process?

First, book your flight. I recommend doing a non-stop flight (if your dog can hold it) if the duration of the ride is 5 hours or more. The maximum number of hours your dog can fly is 8. Any overseas or flights longer than that are typically denied. Check with your airline in advance.

Typically, after you book your flight, you need to indicate you are bringing a service animal. Either you go into your reservation “under Manage Reservations” on the site and check “Special Assistance Animals”, or you submit the forms needed to be approved (more on that below). For Alaska Airlines, as an example, you need to check “Special Assistance Animals”, when making your reservation, and then you need to submit forms within 48 hours of your flight for approval. Once approved, you are ready to go. I also recommend bringing a health certificate from your veterinarian.

With Southwest, you book your flight, and then bring a letter from a licensed professional proving your are under their care, the animal is well behaved, and their license information.

What are these “Special Assistance Forms” I need to submit?

These forms prove you are allowed to fly with an ESA animal on their flight. Forms typically include one that you have to sign, stating you are responsible for your pet, that they are well behaved, and they are healthy enough to travel. Another form will be one your therapist or a licensed professional has to sign, providing information on their license(s), how long they’ve been under your care, etc. Some flights also require your veterinarian to fill out a form stating your pet is healthy enough for travel. Delta Airlines seems to have all three of those forms, while Southwest, as mentioned above, just need one letter. It really depends on where you’re going. I have included forms from Southwest and Alaska as examples:

Southwest’s ESA Requirements
This is one of three forms Alaska Airlines requires, including information of your therapist or licensed professional.

IMPORTANT: You do NOT have to resubmit again for your return flight, if you bought a roundtrip ticket. If you do separate tickets, then you have to do the process each time.

Ok, my flight is booked, my ESA animal is approved. What’s next?

Good job! You and your adorable ESA animal are ready for travel! Here’s what I’d recommend:

  • Treats to keep them happy. Sometimes they won’t want to eat regular food, and it’s better to keep them hungry to prevent accidents, so treats throughout the day are a good option to keeping them sustained throughout the flight.
  • Poop bags. After a long flight, my dog has on occasion just pooped in the middle of the terminal. Make sure you have your bags handy! While there are some relief areas inside the terminal, your dog may not go because he is trained to go outside. When I do a connecting flight, I do take him outside if there’s enough time in between. But you do have to go through security again.
  • Blanket. My dog sits on my lap the whole time, and afterwards I’m covered in dog hair! Bring a thin blanket or towel to keep you both comfortable.
  • This is optional, but I did buy a little ESA Animal Vest, just to show the airlines he’s “official”. You can get them here.

The Day Of Travel

Ok, you did all the hard work – you got your tickets, submitted your forms and got approval, and all the supplies needed for your a safe and healthy travel with your dog.

If your flight is early in the morning (before noon), I recommend not feeding your dog. This will decrease accidents during the flight. I do give treats throughout the day to keep him sustained and happy. If your flight is in the early afternoon or evening, feed them once, and make sure they go RIGHT before you head to the airport. Try not to give them too much water as well.

I recommend arriving at least 2 hours before your flight, just in case. You are usually not able to check in online prior, so you give yourself ample time to wait in line. You go up to the counter, give your forms (if not submitted already online), tickets, and then head to security.

My dog is on leash the whole time. If your dog is not comfortable, you can leave them in their carrier. TSA asks me to put my baggage through the conveyor belt, and then hold my dog while walking through security checkpoint.

TSA is usually very friendly when you have a dog. On more than one occasion, they pull out their phone, show me their dogs, or ask to pet him. It does make the security process much more pleasant.

Hanging out in the Terminal. Excuse the blurry photo!

I basically walk him all around the terminal, and right onto the plane. Sometimes I pick him up because he gets nervous actually boarding the plane. Then he is on my lap the whole time. Most passengers love being around dogs, but I always like to ask. If I am alone, I have asked my fellow passenger to hold him or at least make sure he doesn’t get off the seat when I have to go to the bathroom.

Hanging out on my lap. Again sorry for the poor lighting. He just sits there the whole time.

Afterwards, I tend to immediately head outside, even if I have bags checked, as he cannot hold it any longer. There tends to be relief areas right outside airports.

I hope this information was helpful! Please let me know if you have any other tips and tricks for ESA animals, and if I left anything out. And thanks to Therapist John Stiteler of Total Health Guidance, who provided more info on getting a ESA animal certified.

Podcasts for Dog Walking, Part III

Podcasts are essential for my dog walks. I get outside, enjoy the fresh air, put on my headphones, and let the stories take me to other places. I listen to so many, I made two other posts about some of my favorite podcasts. You can read them here and here. Here are some buzzworthy podcasts I can’t stop listening to, part three.

For Crime Enthusiasts

The Shrink Next Door, Wondery. Click here for link.

Therapists are supposed to be helpful, supportive, and keep your information confidential. What happens when that therapist crosses the line? Learn about a therapist who conned his way into patient’s wills, in their homes, and boasted about having celebrity clients. You’ll want to binge the whole thing in a day.

For fans of NPR and CBS Sunday Morning

Mobituaries, Click here for link.

Mo Rocca, one of my favorite NPR guests, has a fascinating podcast about forgotten histories. Topics include death of sitcom characters, Alabama football rivalries, and Sammy Davis, Jr. His curiosity, great questions, and narration make each story unique and fun to listen to.

For the 90’s nostalgic

American Girls Podcast, Click here for link

Did you grow up in the 90’s? Were you obsessed with American Girls? Are your kids all about the cool cafes? Join Mary and Allison (who happen to be friends of mine) as they explore each American Girl, book by book, with relevant pop culture references that’ll make you LOL every time. Their podcast chemistry is undeniable.

For those who love Scandals

The Drop Out, Click here for link.

If you haven’t heard of the Theranos scandal, you must be living under a rock. Either way, this story is just so ridiculous you can’t believe how much the founder got away with. Listen as they investigate Elizabeth Holmes, the founder of Theranos, which was supposed to be revolutionary in blood drawing and testing. Listen as a Stanford drop-out manages to get millions from high profile investors, and then crash and burn at the end.

For Fans of Queer Eye

Getting Curious with Jonathan Van Ness, Click here.

If you can’t get enough of Queer Eye, and love Jonathan’s fierceness attitude, then get your extra dose with Getting Curious. Yes, he interviews the other Queer Eye guys, but he actually goes deeper and learns more about various issues effecting us today, such as “Why is immigration a Queer Issue”, interviewing journalists, or “How Are You Fighting for Gender Equality” with Melinda Gates. A great listen for anyone who wants to learn more.

Do you have other podcasts I need to listen to? Comment below!

Dog – Friendly Spot: Yellow Dog Eats

Whenever I’m out, I’m always checking to find dog-friendly spots. I hate leaving my dog at home for hours, worrying about getting home too late. On the days when we want to explore and enjoy the whole day, it would be MUCH easier (and more enjoyable for him!) for the three of us to enjoy the day together!

That’s why I was so happy to find Yellow Dog Eats. If you’re local to the area, you’ve probably heard of this place. It’s funky decor, selection of local brews, and great food make this a popular destination.

When you drive up to the restaurant, you see a large, wooden house. It has two stories, with a red door. You’re not sure what to expect – is the restaurant have two floors of dining? Is it actually someone’s house? (I had that thought for a few seconds…)

The outside

The cool entrance. Is it a house? Photo from website.

The entrance is hard to find, but once you get there, you know you’re in for a treat. They have a huge, unpaved lot, with string lights for navigating during the evening.

After that, you see this red van, parked right at the entrance. There are images of three iconic musicians – Jerry Garcia, Jim Morrison, and Jimi Hendrix, all seem to be saying “What’s up”.

Iconic legends saying hello

Then you walk to the entrance, into a beautiful outdoor patio. It’s covered, which is perfect for the crazy Florida weather!

Indoor Patio

Awesome patio that has live entertainment. Right: Inside the Iconic Red Van.

Local bands play here frequently, adding to the fun vibe. String lights, cool signs, and an awesome outside bar makes this a one-of-a-kind place.

Pet Portraits, Funny signs, and an Iconic Gotha (the location of the restaurant) add a “I’ve been here a long time” vibe.
The resident Kitty, Montel, has its own mailbox! More adorable signage!

In addition, the food is just as good as the decorations, if not better! They specialize in delicious smoked pulled pork and off the charts sandwiches. They’re perfect for all diets, as they have a vegan/gluten-free menu.

Buffalo Chicken Wrap (Left) and Pulled Pork Sandwich (R)

While the outside is completely unique, the inside is also just as fun. The walls are filled with pictures of dogs – some from customers, from the owners, staff…anyone who has a dog!

Inside Bar

Inside Bar. Photo courtesy of Fooditude21
Dogs, Dogs, Dogs! And a random surfer photo. Courtesy of Forkful.

Therefore, if you’re needing some delicious food, great entertainment, and a very unique vibe, head to dog-friendly spot Yellow Dog Eats!

Menu here. Open Sun – Wed 11:00 – 9:00 pm, Tues – Sat 11:00 – 10:00 pm. Serving sandwiches, nachos, wraps and desserts. Most entrees under $15.00.

To find more awesome local spots, check out here.

Orlando Event Planner – Overeasy Events

This week I’m so excited to be interviewing Orlando based event planner Overeasy Events !

Overeasy Events is located in Orlando, Florida area, founded in 2013 by Lora DeLorenzo. I had the pleasure of interviewing her to find out about how they started this business, how she makes your event amazing, and advice for dog lovers who want to include their pooch on their special day!

Tell us a little about yourself, and how you came up with the name “Overeasy.”

Lora DeLorenzo

Though event concept, design and coordination are my specialties, the drive to start this company came from years of falling in love with the people and culture in the Orlando community.

After graduating from Johnson and Wales University in 1995, I began working in the hospitality industry, which led to another love: wine! I earned my 2nd level Certificate from the International Sommelier Guild. Next, I fulfilled my dream to open a restaurant, operating a 100-seat full-service bar at Lake Eola (Florida).

I also developed my passion for helping children in need, so I co-founded the local non-profit Bridges of Light.

This passion for food, wine and people inspired the creation of Overeasy Events. I wanted to offer an event planning company that managed every detail, from site selection to budget development, menu planning and entertainment.

The unique elements of Overeasy Events are portrayed in our aesthetic name and logo, which pictures a pleasing and stimulating color palette that correlates with the ideals behind the company: Stress free, fun events. 

Overeasy Events logo

What services do you offer?

Overeasy Events is a full service wedding and event planning company. We specialize events in the Orlando area, where clients can plan all types of events; from a wedding to a milestone celebration to a corporate luncheon to a baby shower.

In addition, we provide event design services, and are happy to assist with the process of recommending and securing trusted vendors and venues.

A beautiful rustic spread for wedding guests. Posted with permission from Overeasy events.

Tell us about your two adorable pups, Charlie and Flash DeLorenzo!

Flash and Charlie are Overeasy Owner Lora’s fur-babies! They are happy to provide services at your event upon request! You can frequently find them enjoying a ‘mocktail’ at The Alfond Inn in Winter Park. 

Lora with her dog, Flash DeLorenzo
Posted with Permission
Flash and Charlie
Posted with Permission

In your recent blog post, you talked about how to incorporate pets in various ways on your special day. Can you tell us about a time when a couple did a great job highlighting their dog?

Just like our human guests, pups have to be entertained too! One of the most successful incorporations of man’s best friend into a wedding was accomplished by our preferred catering vendor, Cuisiniers Catered Cuisine and Events at a local venue a couple of months ago.

The happy couple had not one, but two furry companions that were very important to their wedding day! This idea could be a recipe for disaster, but instead all four-legged guests were entertained with a “doggie bar” that cleverly exclaimed “Bone Appetite!”. A chalkboard read, “all you need is love…and at least one dog” because the more furry friends, the better!

The setup was complete with an assortment of doggy treats, tennis balls and a picture of the happy couple with their two adorable pets.

A recent engagement photo taken by one of their preferred photographers | Steven Miller Photography Orlando
Posted with permission

If you want to make an event all-around pet-friendly, we recommend featuring a similar setup that will keep pups entertained and look amazingly aesthetic along with your décor. We have not seen disaster strike with pets at an event, but we tell clients to remember that their pup’s unpredictable behavior is just part of the fun!

I’ve also seen dogs being included in the “getting ready” portion, with either the bridal party or the groomsmen. Can you provide any advice for those who want to have their dog during this time?

For couples who are interested in having their pets involved in the “pre-wedding” festivities, like getting ready with the wedding party, we do have a few recommendations:

The many ways you can incorporate your dog into your special day. But make sure you read the tips below first!
  • Make sure that someone who is not in the wedding (or the bride or groom!) are responsible for the pets; their food and water, going out to use the bathroom, and transportation to and from the venue.
  • Make sure that the photographer and event planner both know about the animals and their timeline. If they’re supposed to be in pictures, make sure that everyone is on the same page about where and when those will take place! 
  • Make sure that the pets stay on their leashes, even if they’re usually very well behaved. There is a lot of activity and excitement before a big event like a wedding and the number of new people they’re meeting may overwhelm pets. 
  • Keep valuable items and expensive clothing up off the furniture and floor if pets are around. You would hate to have paw prints on that wedding gown or for a bouquet to turn into a snack! 

Can you recommend some great local venues that are either dog-friendly or can accommodate dogs? 

A surprising number of venues in the Orlando area would love to welcome your sweet dogs into your events; after all, they’re family too!

East End Market in the Audubon Park Garden District can accommodate 10-200 guests and has a beautiful outdoor Courtyard for guests and animals alike to enjoy. The Courtyard is set amidst the gardens and uses materials such as wood and touches of local florals throughout making it a one-of-a-kind venue.

The barrel room at Quantum Leap Winery, Downtown Orlando.

Quantum Leap Winery in the Mills 50 District is contemporary, yet rustic and is an urban winery conveniently located near downtown, ideal for private events large or small with space for your furry friends!

Finally, the Winter Park Farmers Market is both unique and historic and has a wonderful outdoor patio perfect for the amazing Florida weather that your pets can enjoy. The venue requires little décor as the gorgeous setting speaks for itself, ideal for wedding receptions and corporate events.

A fabulous wedding at East End Market | Steven Miller Photography Orlando
Posted with permission

When a couple comes to you and wants to include their dog during their special day, what are some of the first questions you ask them? Or things they must consider? 

Dog Save the Dates are a great way to introduce your dog to your guests prior to your wedding day. Shop here.

Of course, we first have to consider the venue and make sure the dog can be just as involved as the family!

After confirming a pet-friendly venue, we have to loop the photographer into our ideas for highlighting the pooch and preparing fun photography concepts (and preparing them for any unpredictable puppy behavior!).

I also like to have a conversation with the client about their dog’s personality, will he or she be comfortable with a large crowd? Does the pet prefer to be on a leash or held by a friend to put him or her at ease?

We love to recommend that the client lets the guests know the pet will be a star at the event through the save-the-date cards, just to make sure everyone is comfortable.

Most importantly, Overeasy Events wants their clients to feel at ease! If possible, we recommend a pet-sitter for the special day so our clients can relax and not worry about their pet!

Are there any other cool ways you have seen couples show off their dog(s) in events? 

A recent engagement photo taken by one of their preferred photographers | Steven Miller Photography Orlando
Posted with premission

Our team is full of dog lovers so any event where a client wants to feature their furry friends is an exciting challenge for us!

We want to make sure that our clients’ visions become a reality, so if that vision includes your pets, we’re here to make it happen!

We’ve loved pets in engagement photos, pets at weddings, pictures of pets used in the décor, and more!

If you can dream it, we can do it. 

What percentage of your clients are dog lovers? Have you seen an increase recently in people wanting to show off their dogs? If so, why? If not, why? 

Speaking from personal experience, when Flash is assisting me with greeting clients in the office, nearly everyone loves dogs! Now more than ever couples want to include their pets in weddings or special events, our dogs are so important and bring us so much joy. Nationwide couples are using four-legged ring bearers and fluffy flower girls.

We always want to help our clients make their events personalized, and more often than not the most personal aspects about us are our pets. Some venues and catering companies have even started baking gourmet dog treats for these special guests!

We want to show off our dogs because they are our family, and Overeasy Events understands that more than anyone. Sometimes Flash cannot help with the nitty gritty of client relations, but he sure can bring a smile to everyone’s face!

What are some of your future goals for 2019 and beyond? | Steven Miller Photography Orlando
Posted with premission

For the future of Overeasy Events, we’re focused on continuing to provide amazing service to our clients.

We also hope to build relationships with new clients and vendors across the Central Florida community and beyond!

We are always looking for new partnerships that will enhance the event experience for our amazing customers and new ways to share pictures and information about the work that we’re doing behind-the-scenes. 

Check out Overeasy Events here:
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