Friday, May 31, 2013

Suzy Allman & Charlie and Wolf

Who is in the photo at right?

I'm Suzy Allman, and I'm the founder of CharlieDog and Friends, a toy company that makes plush toy dogs and cats based on real-life animal shelter adoption and animal rescue success stories. I'm also a professional sports photographer for The New York Times, Sports Illustrated, and other national media.

The geezers in this photo are Charlie and Wolf, both shepherd mutt mixes, both guys. Charlie's 12; Wolf (the black one) is anybody's guess, but around 12 or 13.

What's the occasion for Coffee with a Canine?

We are big hikers -- a hike a day unless it's pouring out -- but as Chuck and Wolf are elderly now, I'll occasionally pack my laptop and French press and set up in a lean-to with a fire going, and they'll just hang in the outdoors. They live for being free. Today, we're at a lean-to in Ward Pound Ridge Reservation, NY.

What's brewing?

It's gotta be French press. Not too fussy about the beans (it's Peets this week) but I do like to grind them at home.

Any treats for you or your dogs on this occasion?

Apple for me; freeze-dried liver for the dudes.

How did Charlie and Wolf get their names? Any aliases?

For Wolf, we gave naming rights as a gift to my son, and he nailed it. Charlie came from Elmsford Animal Shelter with the name, so that was a no-brainer.

Aliases? "Chuck", "Nuggety", "Charlie the Dog" for Charlie; "Woof-woof", "Wolfie", "Geezer", "Geez" "Mr. Snerguson" for Wolf.

How were you and your dogs united?

Charlie was our first dog, and he was the most awesome-looking dog at the Elmsford, NY shelter. First-time pet owners can be so clueless! It's funny how quickly awesome looks cease to matter.

Wolf came along seven years after we got Charlie. A friend at the dog park mentioned an 8-year-old shepherd mix who had lived his past five years at Elmsford shelter with no interest from adopters. My heart ached for him. Two days later, we brought home this big, scary-looking, frightened animal, and the world opened up to him. He has more freedom than he knows what to do with, and -- common story -- wears his gratitude on his sleeve. To use the expression I've heard so many times since, Wolf is my "heart dog", and is truly beautiful.

Charlie and Wolf do everything at the same slow pace. We would only consider adopting older dogs at this point and have had several "passing through."

Please tell us about CharlieDog and Friends.

I was going broke making chronic donations to small, local animal rescues, and transporting dogs out of city shelters. So I started CharlieDog and Friends as a way to finance my donations, and it snowballed. All our toys are based on real shelter animals that are now beloved family members: we have plush shepherds, Australian cattle dogs, pit bulls.

Our line of "Pocket Pitties" [photo right] -- little pitbull stuffed animals based on real rescues from the New York City pound -- are extremely popular.

You're a professional sports photographer--does that ever involve any gigs involving dogs?

Yep. Westminster Dog Show, agility training, and (my personal favorite) competitive dog grooming. But increasingly I have philosophical differences with certain dog sporting/show events, and so I've started to stay away. Now I greatly prefer to photograph shelter dogs heading to their new, forever homes.

Squirrel, postman, cat....?

Postman. Pizza guy. FedEx guy. Poor Fedex guy....

Squeaky toy, ball, stick...?

Plush toys that are not CharlieDog toys. Squeaky toy and ball for Wolf. Charlie couldn't care less if you throw something at him, unless it's edible.

What is each dog 's best quality?

They are incredibly obedient dogs when it counts; they are great companions in the outdoors and extremely willing hikers. But their best quality is love of the big family & friend gathering ("porch time"). We're a house that's often filled with people, and they live for that.

[photo right: Suzy and Sarah outside New York Animal Care and Control, before her transport to her new home]

If Charlie and Wolf could change one thing about you , what would it be?

They would make me immortal!

If Hollywood made a movie about your life in which your dogs could speak, which actors should do their voices?

Jack Lemmon and Walter Matthau.

If Charlie and Wolf could answer only one question in English, what would you ask them?

"Do you like it when I put salt and pepper on your dinner?"

Visit CharlieDog and Friends and Suzy Allman Photography.

--Marshal Zeringue


  1. Nice to meet you new friends
    Benny & Lily

  2. Great story. Cool stuffies! I would like one. Lady Caroline Lamb

  3. Love that you do this! Great post!

  4. Loved hearing how Charlie and Wolf got their forever home.