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Remembering man's best friend this holiday season

Cathleen Smith Bresciani

Cathleen Smith Bresciani Photo Credit: Courtesy Cathleen Smith Brescian

Cathleen Smith Bresciani wants people to remember our four-legged friends this holiday.

The former muse and model for Helmut Newton is now a highly regarded philanthropist based in Atlanta, Georgia, and is helping advocate for Canine Companions for Independence and The Humane Society of New York with her children's book, "Sassafrass Jones and The Search for a Forever Home."

The book features more than 50 pages of original photographs comprised of vintage Steiff animals as it tells the story of Sassafrass Jones, an abandoned dog at an adoption shelter who wears glasses because of an eye condition who finds a "forever home" with Madeline the Milliner Mouse.

On Dec. 17 from 4-7 p.m., Sant Ambroeus at The Loews Hotel will host a holiday "yappy hour" at its uptown coffee bar, with proceeds from the book sales and products going to the Humane Society of New York. Kids can enjoy hot chocolate and treats, photo opps with a Sassafrass mascot, raffles and goodie bags, while pups can enjoy free "puppycinos" and specialty treats.

Bresciani talks to us about the importance of giving back and animal rescue.

How did you get the idea?

A great friend of mine suggested that I photograph my collection of Steiff (I have over 300 of the tiny animals). They have brought me such joy since childhood and I decided I wanted to share that joy with the children growing up in a modern world.

What was your process of writing the book?

I would say it's different for everyone, in my case it was all about having this wonderful book comprised of photographs instead of cartoon images. I start creating the vignettes for the photos and then watch as the story comes to life, it evolved throughout the process.

What's the lesson you are conveying?

That nothing is impossible, even me writing this book. It's important for children to learn that just because you are different (as little Sassafrass with her glasses) doesn't mean that something is wrong. I encourage everyone to embrace your difference and hope this serves as a reminder and of course it aims to teach children the importance of animal adoption.

What has been the response been like?

I have been so delighted by the outpouring of support and love for our characters. I feel privileged that we have had such great partners work with us on the book release and events this year. A huge thanks to Barnes & Noble, Verdura and all of the schools we have worked with around the country to help spread our message.

Can you tell us about some of the charities you have partnered with while promoting this book?

The Humane Society of New York and Canine Companions of Independence have long been causes dear to my heart. Many years ago I set up The Violet Trust in honor of Tommy Lasorda Jr., with whom I was very close with when living in LA. The Violet Trust helps sponsor service dogs for Canine Companions for Independence, who trains and pairs service dogs free of charge.

Why partner with the Loews Loves Pets Program?

I love Sant Ambroeus and when I found out about the most recent Yappy Hour they did with the Loews Hotel, I knew it would be the perfect fit especially since they are partnering with the Humane Society of New York who I donate proceeds of my book to. We will be selling the books at the event and all profits will go to the Humane Society of New York.

Can we expect more from Sassafrass Jones in the future?

I am just fishing up the next book due out in the spring, called "Sassafrass' ABC's." This book will also feature the animals from my vintage Steiff collection, each with a corresponding letter of the alphabet and the name for each in five languages. We also have just started to introduce products to go with the series which are available on my website,, and look out for "Sassafrass Jones Takes New York" in 2016.


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