Doggone Purrfect Holiday Gifts Made in the Finger Lakes

by Nancy E. McCarthy

Yep, we are a nation of animal lovers. Dogs and cats lead the way as the most popular pets in the house according to a recent American Pet Products Association survey, and 68 percent of all U.S. households have pets. So come holiday time, chances are high that pet owners and pets will populate your giving list. Here’s a roundup of gift ideas for the animal lovers in your life plus a few for the fur kids, too. Of course all featured items are made locally, right here in the Finger Lakes.

Holiday Sparkle

There’s nothing like a little holiday bling to elicit a wide Cheshire Cat grin. Ithaca artist Rose Gottlieb creates one-of-a-kind cat face earrings hand-painted on wood and sealed with a glossy, waterproof coating. The colorful earrings dangle weightlessly from hypo-allergenic ear wires. “Something about loving and understanding cats makes them incredibly fun to draw,” says Gottlieb. The artist’s jewelry is sold at Sunny Days of Ithaca, 123 S. Cayuga Street, Ithaca, NY ( ) or purchase online at

Avoca metalsmith Joan DeSimone hand crafts an entire line of animal-themed jewelry in limited editions. Her shiny tribute to nature and wildlife includes mountain lion earrings in graceful silhouette, saucy sea otter niobium necklaces, sterling silver and bronze sea turtle pedants, an elegant sterling silver heron lapel pin with gold filled legs and much more. Over 60 pieces in the line are featured in her MoonHeart Studios Etsy shop: Or find DeSimone’s work at Artizanns, 118 North Main Street, Naples ( and SkyLand Art Barn, 4966 State Route 414, Burdett. The artist is a vendor at Plowshares Craftsfair and Peace Festival, Nottingham High School, Syracuse, December 1-2.

Trim the Tree

Share the peace of the holiday season with ceramic dove ornaments handcrafted by Ann Harper of Hand in Nature Glass & Ceramics. Sold at Sunny Days of Ithaca, the light blue 4 by 5-inch doves are stamped with peace signs and come with a hanging ribbon. “They are a great selling item,” says shop owner Deirdre Kurzweil. “They commemorate Ithaca’s World Record for the largest human peace sign.” Sunny Days of Ithaca, 123 S. Cayuga Street, Ithaca or View all of the artist’s work on instagram@handinnature.

Ornaments are a classic housewarming gift, also perfect for newly marrieds and a popular teacher gift. Make it personal! Annette Jackson of AJ Pet Designs in Elmira paints lifelike pet portraits on glass ornaments from your provided photograph.

The typical turnaround time is only about a day. Jackson also makes and sells ready-made painted wine glasses and photograph frames which make great gifts, too. Find AJ Pet Designs on Facebook,  view/purchase the artist’s work at Finger Lakes Artisans at Waterloo Premium Outlets in Waterloo or at Winter Fantasy Craft Fair, December 1, First United Methodist Church, 1034 W. Broad Street, Horseheads.

Fanciful Gifts for Little Animal Lovers!

Sodus Point potters Mark and Cathy Lukacs put the “fun” in functional with cat and turtle vessels to hold your little one’s coins or trinkets. Cat coin banks come in two poses: reclining or standing kitties—both with signature “cattitude.” Pretty turtle-shaped boxes are perfect as a catch-all for tiny treasures. Banks and boxes are available in seven different design patterns. Lukacs Pottery Studios, 7060 Route 14, Sodus Point, or visit Lukacs Pottery is one stop of 20 shops participating in Wayne County’s Winter Wonderland Shopping Fling, November 9-11 (more info at and is a vendor at Plowshares Craftsfair and Peace Festival, Nottingham High School, Syracuse, December 1-2.

Canandaigua artist and writer Karen Sorce has penned and illustrated three charming books for young children. The whimsical Bird Shoes imagines what sort of shoes would sparrows, flamingos, chickadees and other bird species wear—if they actually wore them. Sheep?! explores some playful questions such as: Do sheep dream? Are they afraid of spiders? Perform magic? Rylie’s Grand Mouse Ballet stars Rylie, a mouse who wishes to dance after watching a ballet performance of “Cinderella.” Find these titles on or purchase locally at the Cheshire Farms Creamery and Pat Rini Rohrer Gallery in downtown Canandaigua.

Stocking Stuffers for the Fur Kids

Indulge your pup with Delightfully Delicious (DD) all natural dog treats, baked in small batches in Rochester. The Christmas Treat Sampler Stocking comes already stuffed with all three varieties: Peanut Butter, Organic Pumpkin and Organic Sweet Potato. DD products are available at select retail locations and sold at festivals. Find out where or purchase online at

For the kitties, Cat Sox are a surprising new product from the Etna-based dog biscuit makers at Bo’s Bones. Cat(nip) Sox, sold in colorful three packs, are 4-inch hand-stitched cotton/polyester sock shaped toys filled with fresh, dry catnip. Shop online at (click on Bo’s On The Road for upcoming craft show appearances).

Let Santa Paws pamper your pets with Doggy Wax, a personal care product produced by Eartherella in Clifton Springs. The unscented wax (to prevent licking) made with shea butter and other natural ingredients soothes and moisturizes paws while acting as a barrier between tender paw pads and snow, ice and salt. Doggy Wax is sold at Finger Lakes Artisans at Waterloo Premium Outlets in Waterloo
or purchase online at

Hang your pup’s stocking up on a K9 Leash Hook!

Wall mounted leash hooks, offered in over 40 breed-specific designs, are made of laser-cut steel. Each powder coated 6 by 9-inch doggie design, from tiny Yorkshire Terrier to a mighty Great Dane, is custom art created by Larry Raymond of Syracuse. After Christmas, it’s a great way to stay organized for those walks with a four-legged friend. Hang up leashes, collars or other dangling objects such as coat, scarf or keys. Purchase K9 Leash Hooks online at or at Finger Lakes Artisans at Waterloo Premium Outlets in Waterloo and at Skaneateles Artisans, 3 Fennell Street, Skaneateles.

Rock the Pet Portrait

A pet portrait painted on a rock is a trendy twist to the traditional canvas portrait. Depending on the size of the stone, these keepsakes can be used as a paperweight, shelf decoration or a doorstop. Artist Lesley Shakespeare-Brogan, owner of Hope in Art Studio in Canandaigua, accepts paint-a-pet rock commissions and also sells a variety of already made animal-themed stones. Shakespeare-Brogan, who hosts public and private painting parties, classes and workshops at her studio, can teach you how to paint a pet, too. “Beginners are my specialty,” says the artist. Visit for more information.

Small Business Saturday, a day to celebrate and support small businesses, falls on November 24 this year. The popular slogan “shop local!” reminds us that spending dollars at small businesses (rather than the big box chain stores) keeps the bulk of your money and taxes right in your community helping to support schools, police and fire departments and creating jobs. Besides, it’s fun and surprising to poke around these shops because you never know what unique treasures you will find!

Shops and galleries in this story are:
Artizanns – Naples
Cheshire Farms Creamery – Canandaigua
Finger Lakes Artisans – Waterloo
Hope in Art Studio – Canandaigua
Lukacs Pottery Studios – Sodus Point
Pat Rini Rohrer Gallery – Canandaigua
Skaneateles Artisans – Skaneateles
SkyLand Art Barn – Burdett
Sunny Days of Ithaca – Ithaca

Giving Twice…is Nice!

In the season of giving, it feels good to do good. Honor the special animal lover in your life with a thoughtful donation to his or her favorite animal cause. The contribution makes a double impact because both the animal lover and the charity are “gifted” by your donation.

Don’t know which non-profit to choose?

Some local organizations worth considering include these unique gems. Colony Caregivers humanely controls Ontario County’s stray cat populations through its trap/neuter/vaccinate/release (TNVR) program; Gordy and Friends, a grassroots volunteer group fanning out into Livingston, Steuben and Ontario counties, provides owner education and support for the care, nutrition and exercise of their dogs chained outdoors; and Pet Pride in Victor is a no-kill cats-only shelter. Cats are cared for until they are adopted or for life.

Some animal-centered charities also benefit people

Wildlife Rockstars is a Bridges for Brain Injury wildlife education outreach program in Farmington and Elmira. As part of their rehabilitation, people recovering from brain injuries are trained by staff in the handling and care of live native and exotic animals. As animal ambassadors, they make public appearances with the animals, birds or reptiles. Program participants engage audiences at schools, veteran, youth and senior groups and community events speaking about the animals, encouraging environmental and wildlife conservation and sharing personal stories about rebuilding their lives following a traumatic accident or injury.

Ontario ARC’s Pet Connections in Canandaigua offers meaningful animal-assisted therapy programs that connect dogs and individuals with intellectual and other developmental disabilities plus pet therapy training/certifications for volunteers and their dogs. There’s more! Pet Connections’ in-house BAD DOG™ grooming spa (bath, nails, fur trim) and retail items (handmade toys, treats, dog shampoo) offers paid employment opportunities for people with disabilities. All proceeds from spa services and product sales are re-invested in the Pet Connections programs.

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