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A Touch of Italy for Your Pets

Sisters Gina Wortz and Sharlee Fleshman have combined their love of pets with their love of Italy in forming the online store "Dog Italia."

Gina Wortz and Sharlee Fleshman are of Italian descent. They come from a long line of entrepreneurs. And they both love animals.

So it was a natural fit when the sisters decided to go into business together, launching an online store featuring pet-related products with an Italian theme.

Dog Italia offers a series of healthy and organic treats for dogs and cats. There's a peanut butter cannoli for dogs, for example and tiny biscottis. (A biscotti for your scottie, perhaps?)

And the pair sell a host of other products designed to spoil pets and their owners.

They are the real deal. Their maiden name is Castricone, and they proudly descend tout their ancestral roots from the Abruzzo region of Italy.

"We just wanted to go back to our Italian roots and offer a pampered kind of feel for our pets," Fleshman said. "To us, Italian means pampered. It means quality, it means warming ... it means family."

Dog Italia's product line includes organic elk antlers for chewing, organic bully sticks and paw conditioning cream. Pet owners can buy Dog Italia wine glasses, embroidered towels and gourment cookbooks.

"It's a touch of everything," Fleishman said.

Fleshman and Wortz run the business out of their homes in Odenton and Severn and work with about a half-dozen vendors. They sell all products online, but also make frequent appearances at pet-oriented venodor fairs. Long-term, they envision opening a brick-and-mortar store.

Fleshman has two dogs, Jaynie and Dakota, who have the pleasure of testing out the products ahead of time. Jaynie is a deaf boxer who was rescued from a breeder; Dakota is a pit bull mix who was also in need of a home.

Prior to launching Dog Italia, Wortz had a corporate job in Washington, DC.

Fleshman, meanwhile, operated a doggie day care facility in Odenton and previously worked as a veternary technician. She is passionate about issues relating to organic products and pet health, and frequently blogs about those subjects on the company's website.

After operating Dog Italia together, the sisters vowed never to back working for other people.

"Our decision is to never go and work for someone else ever again," Wortz said.

Dog Italia can be found online at DogItalia.com.

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