The Art of A Card

I am not sure when it started, but ever since I could remember, my grandmother and I mailed handwritten letters to each other at least once a week. She always wrote on pink stationery, the beautiful cursive in neat lines with a ballpoint pen. It didn’t matter that we just saw each other that week, we would always have something to say.

My grandfather’s Christmas card from the 1980’s.

My grandfather, her husband, hand drew his holiday cards every year. Before you could send the image online to a stationery company and get it delivered instantly to your door, he would draw it to size on a sturdy piece of paper, drawing exactly where he wanted it cut. If there was any color, he would lay a plastic laminate sheet over it, so that when it you put it on top of the work, it would show exactly what areas would be colored.

The combination of their love of writing and drawing was instilled in me from the beginning, subtly showing me just how important it was to always send something handwritten as not only a token of appreciation for a gift, but as a way of expressing your personality.

My mother would always make sure I wrote thank you notes when friends or family sent gifts, and eventually not having to even mention it because it was an automatic part of my routine.

Even when email became popular, and my grandmother started using it at age 92, we still wrote letters because it was easier for her to handwrite in cursive than spend an hour writing two sentences.

Recently, someone sent me an article from the New York Times about the art of sending a greeting card, and how almost 81% of people conducted in a survey preferred a handwritten note or card.

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One of my favorite cards to give to your wine-loving partner. Shop here.

This is why I love designing and selling cards in my shop. Sometimes you
don’t have the right words to convey your message, and when you find that card that does, it’s like a light bulb goes off in your head. You just know the
recipient will genuinely feel a sense of gratitude that someone took the time
to buy, handwrite, AND mail a card.

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Who wants an “ordinary” birthday when you have a CATASTIC Birthday?! Click here to shop.

So the next time a happy (or sad) occasion happens, and you whip out your
phone to text or email, pause, and head to Etsy, your local stationery
store, or somewhere like Target and I promise you that perfect card will have much more of an impact.

 

Lindsay is the owner of Sacco Studios, a pawsitively awesome shop for dog and cat lovers. You can find her work here.

2019: A Year in Review

Well, it’s 2020 dog lovers. Can you believe it? I sure can’t. But, whether or not you’re ready, it’s here.

For me, it’s time for a “fresh start”. A whole year awaits, to try new things, learn from my mistakes, and celebrate the successes (and failures) that will propel me to do even better in 2020.

So, I thought I’d reflect on all of these things, and talk about the highs and lows that not only shaped my business, but who I have become over these past twelve months.

Let’s start with August 2019, because that’s when it all really came together for me.

I redesigned my website, put more blogs up, and even included an access portal to my wholesale!

August 2019: A new venture awaited
After nearly a year of applying to hundreds (and I mean hundreds) of jobs, only to find they either a) never responded, b) responded but I never made the first round, or c) was one of two candidates they considered but went with the other one, I couldn’t take it anymore. As any applicant knows, searching and searching endlessly on job sites is a mind sucking task.

Around early August, I booked a trip to California to visit family for some fresh perspective. A couple of weeks before I was leaving, my husband said to me “I went to this conference for work about entrepreneurship, and it got me thinking: why don’t you give Sacco Studios a real try? Actually make it a business?”

It had never occurred to me to consider this possibility. We just moved to Florida the year before and bought a house, so naturally, I figured it was time to get a “9-5 career”, because the bills were going to be a lot higher.

As we discussed it further, I seemed like an ideal time as any, and I was ready to talk about it with my step-dad while in California.

Well, the universe aligned that night, because the moment he picked me up from the airport, he said, “I’ve been thinking, and I believe you should pursue Sacco Studios full-time”.

So, over the course of the trip, we laid out a business plan, figured out the investments needed, and a Sacco Studios was born.

September 2019: Losses hit hard
In a loss that was completely unexpected, a beloved Aunt passed away. She always made time to call me on my birthday. I was also fortunate she lived down the street from my step-dad for several years, so I could see her whenever I visited California.

When a huge loss happened in 2011, my family really came together, making sure to really support each other and schedule frequent visits. I wanted a career not only I was passionate about, but allowed me to work wherever I wanted, so I could spend quality time with the people I love. Because of her and family, I am able to do this.

My little display at Adjectives Market in Winter Garden, FL

October 2019: Stores became interested
One of my main goals in 2019 was to get my “feet wet” with the wholesale side, and get my products into a few local, boutique stores that sold unique, personable, and fun gifts. This way I could hone in on my pricing, what products worked, and support local businesses.

These store owners took a chance on me. I didn’t care that some ordered just 10 cards to start with, it was SOMETHING. My stuff was going to be seen.

As of December 2019, I am in SIX STORES! You can find my products in four stores in the Bay Area California, and two stores in Winter Garden, FL! My goal was 3 – 10 stores in 2019, so it’s a pretty good start.

November 2019: Tax Problems
Before I moved to Florida, I lived in Connecticut for 8 years, and had no problem figuring out the business and tax laws required to run Sacco Studios.

Florida has very confusing sites, so I ended up getting overwhelmed, including filing my business sales and use tax too early and ended up with a letter saying I owe $2,500. Where they got that number, I have no idea, but I was able to have that amount waived. And I immediately called an attorney.

Me at a festival, with products that didn’t sell. While they’re great avenues for some artists, it seems it’s not for me.

Also in November – Realizing Festivals are NOT good for business
In 2018, I was contacted by a great local organization to see if I wanted to have a booth at their yearly arts and crafts festival. It wasn’t expensive, indoors (essential with the humidity in Florida), and supported a great cause.

This resulted in little sales, with all the headaches of setting up. I did it again this year, and there was ONE sale. ONE. I also signed up for another festival, this time bigger, but you have to supply EVERYTHING (the tent, tables, chairs, etc). Doing heavy lifting for a 2 hour event?

No thanks. So I cancelled.

After doing now several festivals in the past few years, I have learned they are a) way too expensive b) annoying to set up and c) never get the sales I expect. I have mad respect for artists who do these fairs on a consistent basis.

Also in November – Shocking Loss, again.
The last member of my grandparents, my grandmother, passed away. She was another big supporter, always responding to my emails with “You keep getting better and better!”

She taught me that you just keep going, no matter what comes your way. Her toughness, optimism, and big heart will always inspire me.

Our last Disney World trip of 2019.

December 2019: Holiday Season is here
The orders rolled in, resulting in LOTS of trips to the post office, late nights, slacking on my social media posts, and having to remove listings on my shop because they sold out.

Thankfully, because of all of this, my sales have increased by 25%! While there is so much to learn, I am quite proud of this achievement. And to all the entrepreneurs out there, I celebrate you too.

Even if you didn’t make your goals last year, you are still here, working super hard for your dream.

I hope 2020 brings you all success, good health, and finding your passion!

Dog Lover Gift Guide: Best Friend Edition

A few weeks ago, when my friend was visiting us in Florida, she gave me the cutest mug as a gift. It had the quote “Best Friends Forever, Never Apart, Maybe in Distance, But Never In Heart”. It warms my soul that I have friends who are always there for me, even just for a short phone call or text.

I get really nostalgic around the holidays, when I wish we could all be together, singing badly to Christmas tunes, drinking hot chocolate, be with our dogs, and just being thankful we are altogether.

But since life takes us all in different directions, I like to send gifts to my friends I’ve known for 15+ years, just to say “Thank you for being a friend”.

Here are some great gifts for every one of your dog-loving friends will love, no matter the cost. Enjoy!

Gifts Under $10
Just because they’re less expensive, doesn’t mean they’re any less gift-worthy. Perfect for group gift exchanges, or when you want to put something nice in the mail.

I Pawsitively Love You Card
Now you may think, “A card?! That’s not a gift!” Hear me out. One of my favorite things to do is take a card that I really like, whether I bought it or got it in the mail, cut it, and put it in a frame. Cards are usually only $5 or less, and a 5 X 7 frame is usually under $10 (here are some frames I like). It’s sentimental, unique, and meaningful without breaking the bank. This card is $5 in my shop. You can see other cards here.

Paw print charm
Get matching ones for your key chain, bracelet, or other jewelry so you always a piece of each other’s hearts. $3/each. Click here to buy.

German Shepherd Notepad
Cute post it note sets so you can write how much you love your BFF. Available in German Shepherd, Beagle, and Boston Terrier. $3.00/set. Shop here. Shop here.

Gifts Under $20
This is my favorite price point, as you can get custom gifts for just a little bit more without completely breaking the bank.

Custom Dog Mom Mug
I got one very similar to this, with four of my best friends on it. Choose from a variety of hairstyles, colors, skin tones, as well as dog breeds, with their names below. They’ll smile every time they get this mug! $14.99 and up. Click here to shop.

Best Friends with Dog Print
A perfect tribute to your BFF…and the dog she is obsessed with and the one you dog sit every Saturday. Print $18.50. Shop here.

Gifts Under $100
When you really want to splurge on a friend, these gifts are unique and something they’ll treasure forever.

Custom Dog Lover Gift Set
Want the ULTIMATE GIFT that will make your dog loving friend’s holiday? For one fee, you can get a custom portrait of their adorable pooch on a mug, ornament, tote bag, and a 5 X 7 print. So matter no what they do, they’ll have their dog with them at all times. $85.00. Click here to shop.

Custom Memoriam Pet Portrait
We all know how hard it is to lose your best (furry) friend, so help them cope with the loss with a cute custom pet portrait. You can add wings as well. Available in different sizes. Starting at $47.50. Shop here.

Dog Pillow
Get their favorite pooch put on a cozy pillow. Not only do they get one for them, but an extra one for you, so you’ll get extra cuddles Netflix binging your favorite shows. $97.50. Shop here.

That’s it for this edition! I’ll update it more as I find neat gifts for your BFF! Stay tuned next week for another edition of Dog Lover Gift Guides! To see last weeks for great gifts for your dog loving coworkers, click here!

Sacco Studios, founded by Lindsay Sacco, a paws-itively awesome blog and shop featuring fun tips and tricks for cat and dog lovers. Click here to shop her products.

Dog Lover Holiday Gift Guide: Coworker Edition

It’s that time of year, folks! Can you believe it? Flash forward 11 months, and now it’s time to bring out the Holiday music, put up the tree (Yes, we do this before Thanksgiving. We can’t wait any longer!), and get going on Christmas shopping!

For many of us (me included), gift giving is very stressful. I always tend to buy more than I should, scrolling endlessly through Buzzfeed gift guides to see if I can find the “perfect blanket” for my friend even though I already has 10 of them.

You’re thinking, “And yet, this is ANOTHER gift guide!” And you’d be correct. But what makes this different is not only is it (of course) geared towards dog lovers, but categorized by different budgets and type of coworker, so you can get straight to the point and get that great gift. See, problem solved! So here is The Dog Lover Holiday Gift Guide: Coworker Edition!

For the Coworker who chats (A LOT!).
Do you have a coworker who just LOVES to talk and talk and talk? The one who won’t stop talking about their dog Molly who did “THE CUTEST THING yesterday” or about the toy they bought? We have the perfect gifts!

Under $50
Custom Dog Pet Portrait

They’ll be speechless with a custom portrait of their adorable pet! Sneakily ask them for photos of their dog (Shouldn’t be too hard), and send them to Sacco Studios for a personalized portrait experience! Starts at $47.50. Click here to purchase.

Under $20
Ask Me About My Dog Tote Bag

I mean, it’s pretty self explanatory! Bag by the Dogist. Click here to purchase. $14.00

Under $10
Dog Mom Wine Mug

Only get this gift if you are really close with the coworker, or know for sure they have a great sense of humor! $9.40 each. By OneCraftyMisfit. Click to shop here.

For the coworker who picks all the best lunch places to eat at:
Do they just know the coolest local joints to go for happy hour or work lunches? Show them your appreciation with these food inspired gifts:

Under $50
Personalized Dog Brewery or Vineyard Print

The perfect gift for the coworker who plans the best company outings (which always include good libations). Choose from a variety of breeds. German Shepherd is pictured above. Starting at $42.00 by Native Vermont. Click here to purchase.

Under $20
Sushi Dog Collar

If you work in a dog-friendly office, this gift is perfect for your coworker who loves to bring his dog in for “productivity”. He can show it off when you all head out to your favorite dog-friendly sushi spot! By UnrulyTails. $16.00. Click here to purchase.

Under $10
Bone Appetit Print

They’ll get a kick out of this play on words print. Perfect for sprucing up their office decor. By Ah-ha Design. $5.00. Click here to purchase.

For the coworker who brings in the coffee. And donuts.
Thanks to them, your mornings are a little less stressful.

Under $50
Dog Donut Art Print

I mean, how can this print not make you laugh! Comes in a variety of breeds and sizes. From $20 – $195 depending on size. From Leearthaus. Click here to purchase.


Under $20
Dog Hair Coffee Mug

They’ll not only get caffeine, but also lots of laughs while they’re drinking their third (and fourth…) cup of coffee. By MugCountry. $10.34. Click here to purchase.

Custom Coffee or Tea Spoon

This beautiful tea or coffee spoon will be their staple, especially with the personalization! $16.00. Click here to purchase.

Under $10
All I need is Coffee and My Dog Print

This downloadable print is a great addition to their office. Just buy, print, find a great frame, and voila! From GracieLouPrintables. $5.00. Click here to purchase.

That’s it for this edition! I’ll be updating this gift guide, as adding more throughout the week! Stay tuned! For my other gift guides, click here!

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, cruetlyfreekitty.com, 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.

Anastasia Beverly Hills Foundation, $38.00. After trying foundation after foundation, this one is a true winner. It glides on easily, isn’t cakey, nice and light, and gives your skin a natural glow, without making it look like you’re wearing too much makeup. Plus, RuPaul’s Dragrace wears it, how can you go wrong? Click here to purchase.

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.

NEW GREAT DOG LOVER GIFTS IN THE SHOP!

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 https://tryfi.com 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.

Restaurants

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.

Shopping

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 chillydogs.ca 

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!

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