Federico Bernardeschi: CHAMPIONS A CAUSE
Toronto FC star Federico Bernardeschi and wife Veronica Ciardi share their love of animals at Dog Tales Rescue and Sanctuary.
When you observe with whom people choose to associate themselves, you often get a glimpse of their own characters. When City Life approached Toronto FC star Federico Bernardeschi and his wife Veronica Ciardi to ask them about their first year in Toronto after they arrived with great fanfare from Juventus in Italy, they requested that the interview and photo shoot take place at Dog Tales Rescue and Sanctuary in King City.
“Sanctuary” is the perfect description of Dog Tales, which is set among the idyllic and perfectly manicured rolling hills of its 50 acres north of Toronto. Dog Tales was co-founded in 2014 by an animal-loving husband-and-wife team, Rob Scheinberg and Danielle Eden Scheinberg. Both owners had been involved in animal rescue for years before deciding that the best way to help animals in need was to open a rescue facility of their own. In its almost ten years of operation, Dog Tales has rescued approximately 3,000 dogs.
Here, in its splendidly serene setting among horses and farm animals, is the luxurious kennel space for dogs and cats that sets Dog Tales apart from any other rescue in the world, and is the reason that Federico and Veronica wished to showcase the excellent work it does for animals of all kinds.
“I just enjoy this place so much,” says Bernardeschi. “I love how this place works because the concept behind it is amazing and it is very nice to be here.”
What sets Dog Tales Rescue apart for its clients from around the world is the simple yet distinctive philosophy behind its conception: Rob and Danielle believed that their dogs deserved all the comforts of home while they waited for their forever homes and they wanted to create a space quite different than the cold, stark concrete cages and shelters they had grown accustomed to seeing. In contrast to the conditions many animals have to endure, which can be quite depressing, Dog Tales has elevated the shelter experience and created a fun, decorated environment filled with happy dogs, which also makes it easier for potential owners to visit as often as they wish until they find their perfect companion, without feeling emotionally drained by every visit.
The Dog Tales approach of enriching the experience for the rescued animals has turned a negative into a positive, which is why Bernardeschi and Ciardi, themselves the owners of two English bulldogs, feel so comfortable there. “I love everything about dogs — I really can’t describe how much I love dogs!” says Bernardeschi. “Maybe it is because I grew up with dogs in my life.”
“LIVING IN TORONTO IS AN ADVENTURE FOR ME BECAUSE THE CITY IS AMAZING AND THE PEOPLE ARE AMAZING.”
That youth was spent in the rolling hills of Carrara in the Tuscany region of Italy as a footballing prodigy — he first touched a soccer ball at age 4. Bernardeschi’s earliest games were not so much about playing against other children but about the other players simply relegated to chasing him as he dribbled the ball towards the goal. He was that good.
He made his professional debut at the age of just 19; by the time he was 23, he had grown into a superstar with a global audience. He transferred to powerhouse Juventus in 2017 where he earned the nickname “Brunelleschi,” after the Renaissance master sculptor and architect responsible for designing the glorious dome of the Florence Cathedral. The nickname was in recognition of his superb natural abilities but also of the hard work, passion and commitment that had carried him to the top, and of the fact that he was more of an artist than an ordinary footballer.
Bernardeschi joined Toronto FC in July 2022, and he, Ciardi and their young daughters, Deva and Lena, took no time in taking to Toronto. “Living in Toronto is an adventure for me because the city is amazing and the people are amazing,” he says. “When I go outside with my kids and my family, nobody bothers me. This is great for me because they respect my privacy, they respect my family and I appreciate that a lot.”
As for his day job on the pitch, to say that Toronto FC is going through a period of transition is a bit of an understatement. In 2023 the club had an underwhelming season, which left fans reminiscing about the heady days of 2017 when it won the domestic treble with the MLS Cup, Supporters’ Shield and Canadian Championship, the first and only MLS club to ever do so. However, Bernardeschi remains confident and hopeful for the future of the club, stating, “There is light at the end of the tunnel.”
Head coach Bob Bradley departed the team during the season, with his son, team captain Michael Bradley, retiring at the season’s end. New head coach John Herdman, who had such tremendous success leading the Canadian National Women’s team to a gold medal at the Tokyo Olympics, will be rebuilding the club around young stars like Bernardeschi as it turns a new page to the future.
Bernardeschi is always appreciative of the continued support of the Toronto FC faithful, who continue to flock to BMO Field, and has a positive message for them. “We must be better than this season because things didn’t work out as planned,” he says. “We needed, for sure, more resources for the fans, for the city, and I think we will be better next season. I want to thank my fans for always supporting me because that is very important to me and to my family. When my fans support me, I just feel better and better and better!”
Supporting good causes and good works by such places as Dog Tales Rescue and Sanctuary is just one of the ways that Bernardeschi and Ciardi have immersed themselves in their new city during this past first year. Given what Dog Tales does every day, it’s very easy to support them.
“Every single time a dog goes home, that’s a fond memory,” says Marina Williams, one of the caring and committed staff members who make up the Dog Tales family. “We spend a lot of time on social media, so we see the good and the bad stories — of dogs who were abused, for example. Seeing the past of some of these dogs and then seeing how they are transformed once they come to Dog Tales is extremely rewarding, and it’s not just one dog, it’s every single dog that comes here. The best part for me is just seeing them find a home.”
The world-renowned dog rescue and horse sanctuary is a country oasis with wooded areas, walking trails, therapy pools and a grooming spa — the perfect setting for abused and neglected animals to heal and be rehabilitated while they wait for their forever homes. Dog Tales regularly takes in owner surrenders based on available space; at any given time about half of the dogs are local, with the other half coming to Dog Tales through rescue initiatives both within Canada and internationally. The team proactively searches for dogs that they feel need them the most, regardless of geographic location. They are committed to doing as much as they possibly can to help as many dogs as possible, but the sad reality is they cannot save them all.
Dog Tales also has adoptable cats and a “Sponsor a Farm Animal” program where, for $25 per month, it provides life-saving medical attention, vaccines, food and care for the many horses, pigs, cows and sheep who also call Dog Tales their home. Its programs and its care and commitment to animals are on display for visitors, who are welcomed to its Open Houses from 12:00 pm to 4:00 pm every Sunday.
“We have approximately 100 dogs here at any given time, in addition to 57 horses, seven cows, and many pigs. Our staff of approximately 70 includes dog handlers, horse handlers and animal care therapists,” says Williams. “All of our dogs are walked three times a day and enjoy the finest medical care possible, with veterinary technicians on-site who check regularly on every single dog in the kennels. Oh, and we also have a friendly rooster — his name is Larry.”
When people are considering pet adoption, Dog Tales wants them to remember, through its new Foster Program, that adoption is much more than just that. “When you adopt a dog, you’re actually rescuing two, because when you take a dog out of a shelter you’re making space for another dog to come join us who we can help,” says Williams. “Our new Dog Foster Program has just launched and we’re trying to get 20 new dogs in as soon as possible,” she says. “Our website contains an application form.”
It is clear Dog Tales is making a difference by providing all the love, attention and training that its rescues need to recover from their difficult pasts, so that they can move on to permanent, loving homes, which most do.
Perhaps Bernardeschi put it best during his visit with City Life when he said, “These dogs, they are special. Honestly, you can see in their eyes, 100 per cent — all they want is love. If it was possible for me, I would adopt them all.”
Compassion, care and character are three attributes shared by Federico Bernardeschi, Veronica Ciardi and Dog Tales Rescue and Sanctuary.
A most gracious thank you to the Dog Tales family, who warmly welcomed City Life Magazine to conduct their photoshoot and interview at their location!
Meet the beautiful animals!
Meet Ernie, the most handsome boy. He is a Weimaraner who is only 13 years old. Ernie was a local surrender who was rescued from euthanasia. He is looking for a forever home in his golden years. Although Ernie is a senior, he is still quite spunky and active. He enjoys his adventurous walks and napping on comfy beds. Ernie is selective with dogs and prefers females. He is good with cats. Ernie would benefit from being in a home with teens or older as he is looking for a quiet and gentle family that will respect his space.
Meet Kobi, a gentle giant. He is as cuddly and cute as they come! Kobi is a 6-year-old Mastiff. He was surrendered to us from a neglectful and abusive situation. Kobi is slowly learning that people will no longer hurt him. He is very weary of men and some strangers. Kobi is quickly getting into a positive routine to meet new people. Once you have his trust, he becomes very attached and affectionate. He is so loyal and loving to his people.
Brown and White Horse, Eve:
Eve is a 22-year-old Clydesdale mare. She came to Dog Tales in 2014. Like almost all the Dog Tales horses, she was purchased at auction to save her from going to slaughter. She is one of our tallest horses and is distinctive with her beautiful long mane and tail.
White Horse, Moon:
Moon is a 23-year-old grey Percheron mare. She came to Dog Tales in 2015 when she was purchased at an auction to save her from going to slaughter. She is sweet, kind and a favourite of many staff and volunteers.
INTERVIEWED BY MARC CASTALDO
PHOTOS BY JESSE MILNS
CREATIVE DIRECTED BY FERNANDO ZERILLO
EDITOR-IN-CHIEF MICHELLE ZERILLO-SOSA
STYLING BY ASHLEY GALANG
MAKE-UP & HAIR BY TAYLOR CHOUSKY
VIDEOGRAPHY BY LISMERY LOYOLA
MOODBOARD STYLING BY MASSIMO SOSA
SHOT ON LOCATION AT DOG TALES RESCUE AND SANCTUARY