Pet owners and lovers, how well do you know your pets and do you know what they need? So why am I asking questions on pets? It turns out our guest today on the successful and influential series is someone who knows pets. As a matter of fact, she has worked behind the scenes as a pet welfare advocate. Not only that, our guest is a recognized icon of Philippine pet fashion. Better known as Ms. Bernie, it is my privilege to have Bernadette Alfonso-Leytte with us here.
The Pawsome Bernadette Alfonso-Leytte
Ms. Bernie, it is my honor and privilege to have you here on the Amazing Life Daily. I had intended to feature one successful and influential person each week. Unfortunately, it is not easy finding the right people and if I did, not everyone wants to.
The universe does have a way of making things happen, though. Imagine all the things that need to happen before I met you. I had to be active in the blogging community where one thing led to another. For that reason, I would like to acknowledge blogger Cindy Dominguez because it was through her that I came to know you.
Ms. Bernie, before we talk about pet fashion and welfare, could you tell us what you were doing before getting involved in the pet industry?
“My life before pets? I was a banker. A full-time senior manager who works more than 8 hours in the office including some Saturdays. At first, I was a happy camper. Don’t get me wrong, I loved my job and felt I was in the right place. In fact, I got promoted several times and received several recognitions. It was a happy world until I got married and had my ‘Unico Hijo’, and then there was a paradigm shift. My priorities changed.”
“I was a sickly person too, going in and out of the hospital. ‘My job is making me sick,’ ‘my job is taking away family time,’ and ‘is it worth it?’ replaced ‘I love my job’. I could say it was the loneliest time of my young adult life.”
“I looked for ways to ease my status. Because I have passion for food and cooking, I went into a food business while working full time. It gave me a certain high that my day job was not giving me and I was back to being happy again.”
“My love affair with pet fashion came by accident. We went to Baguio years ago and was shopping for a sweater for my pet. The ones I saw were either too expensive or not nice. So I bought a bonnet, cut holes and added ribbons – I made a cute sweater.”
“On our way back to Manila, I kept talking about how I could design and create pet clothing, which I could see at a fraction of the costs of imported ones. I talked about how I could do this as a business.”
“A few weeks after, I was making all kinds of pet apparels – clothes, boleros, hats, and others – and I was giving them away like crazy. My eagerness to influence other pet lovers to dress up their babies was becoming ‘annoying’. ‘Is it your birthday?’ Here’s my hand sewed pet outfit. On Christmas, I sent out gifts to people including those who do not own pets with a tag that said, ‘Share with other pet lovers.’”
“On March 2006, a stranger (a friend of a friend of a friend) surprised me when she asked me to make a gown for her pet. I realized I could make money designing, creating and selling pet clothing. By 2009, pet clothing became our part-time business.”
“And then disaster struck. Typhoon Ondoy took everything we were doing on the side and I was back to where I had started – a banker. My life was full of challenges and things were never easy for me. ‘Your job is taking a toll on your health,’ my doctor said. ‘You have to consider other options.’ I couldn’t just leave my job but one day, I woke up and couldn’t move my arms and legs. I had no choice but to leave work. I cried buckets of tears and realized I did love what I was doing.”
“All throughout the times I was on medications and undergoing grueling physical therapy, I planned on how I could follow my dreams. It was on one of those times while I laid on the bed when I decided who I wanted to be and what I wanted to do. Eight months after, I was back and became a full-time entrepreneur engaged in the pet business.”
Ms. Bernie, a friend said, ‘The only meaning life has is the meaning you give them.’ So when you look back to all the hardships you endured, they are the reasons why you are who you are and do what you do today.
Where did you get the desire to persevere and follow your dreams?
“I always had challenges since childhood. I always tell myself, life is what you make it. You only have two choices: wallow and be stuck with it or look beyond the challenges and see a brighter path. Problems and challenges will always be there, but life is not just about me. It is also about my son, and well, my late husband, brothers, and friends.”
“Being the eldest, I have to be strong and resilient. My grandparents always tell me, ‘Ikaw ang panganay, whatever you do, they will follow. Aim for greatness.’ I wanted them to be proud of me, especially my son.”
“Before sleeping at night, I would ask myself if I had done anything worthwhile during the day. And then I’d tell myself I did but I could do better.”
“Sometimes, people tell me to stop and take a break, especially after husband died. But what could I do? I am not built this way. Yes, I am lonely and still cry every single night. But my life will not end like this. Life goes on and I will be the person I want to be. I can’t stop and the challenges I encountered are just prompts to reinvent myself. It defines who I am and who I want to be.”
“Sabi nga, ‘When life gives you lemons, make a lemonade.’ So there are always opportunities in front of me and I only need to push myself.”
I agree with you that challenges are prompts to reinvent yourself. But I also have a different perspective of the word, challenge. As a matter of fact, I think life is what we want it to be. Challenges are nothing more than things to do.
Let’s move on to pet clothing. What does the icon of Philippine pet fashion advice pet owners when it comes to choosing pet clothes and accessories?
“Let me just say this, pet fashion is not for all pets – cats and dogs. Yes, you may want to put on clothes to all BUT please be mindful if you do. Responsible pet care is of utmost importance.”
“There are three things you should take note of when choosing pet clothes and accessories for your furry babies. First is the environment. The second is the engineering or material used. The last one is style. Whilst fashion sense is a priority, a responsible pawrent should not compromise on the welfare and comfort of their pet.”
I definitely learned something new. Not that I have ever dressed up my dogs, but I never thought about the comfort of pets when it comes to clothing.
Ms. Bernie, where can readers shop for pet clothes and accessories? Also, who could they talk to if they want to ask questions about dressing up their furry friends?
“For shopping inquiries, please contact Doodles Paw Couture Facebook page. They can also drop by anytime in any of my events and scheduled workshops to learn more about pet fashion. If they need more information, just shoot me a question through my Instagram @msberniedpc.”
Besides pet fashion and events, Ms. Bernie, what else are you working on as part of your advocacy?
“Pet welfare and care are important to me. Working with reputable pet welfare organization has always been part of my advocacy. But in the hope of creating further impact, I am currently developing another part of the business – natural beauty pet care. I am also doing freelance consulting with different establishments, malls, and resort, on creating and maintaining a pet-friendly environment.”
I think it is fair to say that allowing pets inside a mall doesn’t make a mall pet-friendly.
How can we distinguish between the levels of commitment of malls and other commercial establishments?
“My sentiments exactly. But in our country, an establishment that allows pets generally is already considered pet-friendly. As an advocate, I would like to stretch and push the level of commitment. I am aiming for types or classes which would mark and differentiate one from the other.”
If there is a standard guideline to classify establishments, it may result in two things. First, pet owners know what they can and cannot do, as well as know the amenities available. And second, I think more establishments would embrace higher classification levels.
Unfortunately, we do not have standardized guidelines. Having said that, if it were up to you, how would you classify the types or classes?
“For now, I only use the term ‘responsible.’ If given the platform, this is what I would like. 1st class for establishments that allow 50% or more indoor allowance plus amenities. 2nd class for establishments that allow 30% or more indoor allowance with few amenities. And 3rd class for establishments that allow pets in outdoor areas.”
I would love to see establishments working more with pet advocacy groups. It would be great to have standardized guidelines. Even better, it would be nice to see both parties taking a more proactive role in educating pet lovers.
Before I let you go, do you mind sharing some basic guidelines or courtesies? I am sure readers here who are pet lovers would appreciate learning more being responsible pawrents.
“There are five important things to remember. 1) Bring vet records. 2) Make sure the pet is well-groomed. 2) Keep them on a leash and diaper when strolling. A carrier or stroller may also be used. 4) Ask store attendants if pets are allowed, politely accept if it is not, especially restaurants. And 5) Be a responsible pawrent and mindful of surroundings.”
Ms. Bernie. I have learned a lot from you today. Everyone who follows the Amazing Life Daily knows I am a big fan of personal development. Having said that, what advice would you give especially to women in a world dominated by men? How could they grow themselves and have the inner strength to conquer challenges and exceed expectations?
“I always say this and I will say it again, be resilient. In this life of unexpected turns, resilience is your only friend. It is how you get up from every stumble that makes up your every triumph. And on the note that this is a world dominated by men, oh dear, just remember that as a woman you have a superpower a man can never have.”
Ms. Bernie, thank you so much for taking sharing your time with us. I am so excited to publish this interview. I wish you all the best and let’s put it this way, “The fate of the pets is in your hands.”
“Pets are family. You chose them to be part of your lives, the responsibility of their well-being resides upon you alone. Be responsible pawrents. All animals do not have the voice to speak up. Be their voice.”
Since the first time I met Bernadette Alfonso-Leytte, which was not too long ago, we have kept in touch. For many pet lovers, you would think Ms. Bernie lives a glamorous life and loving what she is doing. I think she has done a remarkable job of coping and moving on.
I am glad to have this opportunity to interview Ms. Bernie. Without a doubt, she has shown how through perseverance, one you keep moving forward.
Pets, especially dogs, are “man’s best friend.” It’s true. I dare say that dogs are more loyal than any human. It is on us then to reward the love and affection of dogs (and other pets) by being responsible.
I would love to hear your thoughts after reading this post. Are you a pet lover? Is there anything you want to ask Bernadette Alfonso-Leytte?
Note: All images used in this post remains the property of Peter Polillo of Peter Polillo Films & Stills. Please do not use without permission.