Carol Gardner: Creator of Zelda Wisdom Hallmark Cards

Ms. Gardner was facing a divorce that left her with a huge debt and depressed. He created Zelda Wisdom Hallmark Cards.

At the age of 52, Carol Gardner was facing a divorce that left her with a huge debt, no job, no income, and depressed. Her divorce attorney gave her some advice: “Get a therapist, or get a dog.” Gardner chose the latter and bought a four-month-old English bulldog she named Zelda. They were both underdogs looking for a big dose of unconditional love.

A friend who knew of Carol’s financial plight told her about an annual Christmas card contest that a local pet store was sponsoring. The winner would receive forty pounds of free dog food every month for a year. Carol used her background as a creative director in advertising to combine the visual of Zelda along with verbal wit and wisdom.

With the Christmas theme in mind, Carol borrowed a Santa hat from a neighbor, filled the bathtub with bubble bath and lowered Zelda into the tub. With the hat on her head and a beard made from the bubbles, Zelda was the perfect Santa imposter. Carol snapped the photo and sent it off to the store with the one-liner: “For Christmas I got a dog for my husband... good trade, huh?” Six weeks later Zelda and Carol won the contest. She remembers asking Zelda how many ways she knew to fix dog chow!

Carol sent the prize-winning image out as holiday cards to all of her friends. The overwhelming response sparked the creation of Zelda Wisdom and a few years later, the attention of Hallmark. The unique international greeting card, gift, clothing, jewelry and book line offers wisdom such as “Life is tough...wear a helmet.” “ could be worse!” “Enjoy life...this is not a rehearsal.” “Go pulls the wrinkles down.”

Zelda, whose measurements are 32-32-32, allows us to laugh at ourselves and to recognize that things could be worse. “At the core of Zelda Wisdom is humor and healing,” says Gardner. “She always makes me laugh. Zelda and I started out as underdogs, but we are proof that you don’t have to be thin, rich, young or wrinkle-free to be successful. More importantly, you don’t have to be perfect.”

Charles Gibson of Good Morning America calls Zelda “the industry’s top dog!…a supermodel that has it all!” Tough but tender, sweet but strong, Zelda has attitude. Zelda Wisdom allows us to laugh at ourselves and helps us realize that in life’s ups and down, we are never alone. There is a Zelda in all of us!

Zelda is the official "spokesdog" of Delta Society Pet Partners®, an international program dedicated to the human-animal healing bond. She's a certified therapy dog and works with children who have learning disabilities. Zelda's one-liners keep them laughing while they learn to read and write.

SK: What is the source of your creativity?

CG: Creativity is something that came naturally to me. Even as a child, my parents couldn’t stop me from writing and producing zany puppet shows and drawing cartoons of our pets. Now, Zelda and MaxDaddy are my canvas for creativity.

SK: What was your motivation to launch Zelda Wisdom?

CG: Divorce, depression and debt were the motivating factors that led me to launch Zelda Wisdom. It was my divorce attorney’s sarcastic comment when she told me I needed to “get either a therapist or a dog,” that caused the lightbulb to go off in my brain. I chose DOG! And the rest is history.

SK: What lessons did Zelda teach you?

CG:Living and working with Zelda has taught me a great deal. One of the most important lessons is about friendship and loyalty. When I come home Zelda is always waiting at the glass front door. When she sees me her face fills with joy. Now, whenever friends come to my house they know I will be waiting at the door to greet them with hugs and kisses.

SK: Who is MaxDaddy?

CG: MaxDaddy is my rescued dog as well as Zelda’s boyfriend. We were told that MaxDaddy had been used for breeding and profit, and that he had been kept in a crate most of his life. Consequently when I adopted him, his joints had atrophied and walking for him was difficult. However, when he met Zelda, it was love at first sight.

SK: You launch a new venture with MaxDaddy. Can you tell us more?

CG:Because of MaxDaddy’s joint pain, we looked for something that might help him. CBD (cannabidiol), was suggested. The more research we did, the more we liked the results. Eventually we connected with a Ph.D. scientist who put together a recipe using the highest quality CBD and all natural and organic ingredients. We wanted something like this to help with MaxDaddy’s pain.

For those who aren’t familiar with CBD, it is an ingredient taken from the stem of the hemp plant, and has proven to have a calming effect on humans and animals. Marijuana also comes from hemp, but is derived from the flower. While marijuana makes one high, CBD has the opposite calming effect.

It is rewarding to know that our MaxDaddy products are now helping dogs lead healthier and happier lives. Our tag line is “Help is on the way.”

SK: What are some health benefits of CBD products for dogs?

CG:We have discovered that our CBD MaxDaddy products help dogs with not only pain, but also anxiety, inflammation, seizures, digestion, mobility and itching.

Zelda suffers from anxiety and the MaxDaddy Bark Nuggets keep her calm and relaxed. In addition, she and MaxDaddy love the bacon and pumpkin flavor. Please visit the website at

SK: Who was your role model?

CG: Perhaps, because he loved bulldogs and because he was daring, different and smart, Winston Churchill has been my role model. That, and the fact that he also resembles an English bulldog...I also admire Mae West for her witty and wise one-liners and sense of humor.

SK: What was the first book you've published?

CG: My first book, really a documentary, was “Bumper Sticker

Wisdom... America’s Pulpit Above the Tailpipe.” This was a portrait of America in the 90’s.