How a Puppy-fostering Superstar Spent $1,000 on Wellness in Atlanta, Georgia

Everything featured on The Nessie is independently selected and rigorously tested. We may receive a small commission on purchases made from some of our links. Also, The Nessie is part of the Ness Card ecosystem. (The Ness Card is issued by The Bank of Missouri, pursuant to a license from Mastercard, and serviced by Ness Well Financial, LLC.) Since you’re here, you’d probably be into it.

What if you had $1,000 to spend on your health?

Welcome to Wellness Diaries. In this series, we send readers $1,000 to splurge on any product, service, or experience—as long as it’s something that can enhance health. Any leftover cash is donated to a charity of the diarist’s choice.

This time, we’re highlighting the healthiest cities in the United States. We found caretakers—a resident physician in pediatrics, an abortion doula, and a puppy-fostering superstar—who live in these cities so they could highlight the different products and services in the area that keep residents well. (And also just give them some cash to spend on health and wellness, because they deserve it.)

Our only requirement: In the spirit of community wellness, all purchases had to be made at local businesses. Consider it your healthy spending guide for these cities—and, of course, an invitation to live vicariously through each local, healthy buy. 

Local hero Mary Jo DiLonardo is based in Atlanta, Georgia. She spent her $1,000 on rain boots, body salve, and an alpaca throw blanket.

Meet Mary Jo

She’s been a writer and reporter for decades and now primarily covers animals and wildlife from her home in metro Atlanta. She’s fostered about 60 puppies. Many of them are blind, deaf, or both. She has a “ridiculously patient” husband, a “brilliant” adult son, and the “world’s best” rescue dog.

Her charity of choice: Leftover funds were donated to Speak Rescue and Sanctuary.

Mary Jo’s Diary

$125 Running Shoes

Big Peach Running Company

Big Peach Running Company Gift Card

“I walk at least five miles a day around the community and do laps in my house before work and when I’m on the phone. I’m also always on my feet taking puppies in and out, so I put lots of mileage on my sneakers, which are long overdue to be replaced. I’ll head to Big Peach Running Company for a good pair of well-fitting sneakers so I can put less stress on my feet and knees and have energy to keep going.”

$18 Salve

snooty giggles salve
Snooty Giggles

Snooty Giggles Tribal Healing Salve

“The first special needs puppy I ever fostered was with Snooty Giggles, a special needs rescue based near Nashville that specializes in dogs with medical issues that make them harder to adopt. This healing salve is supposed to be amazing for people and for dogs.”

$12 Calendar

snooty giggles calendar
Snooty Giggles

Snooty Giggles Weekly Planner Desk Pad

My desk is always a mess as I juggle work, rescue, and personal tasks and seeing that jumble can be stressful. This calendar offers the week at a glance and has pups along the border for coloring—a good stress reliever.

$38 Plants

pike nursery
Pike Nursery

Pike Nursery Amethysts and Carnations

“My desk faces the window to our backyard, which is wooded but doesn’t have much color. I’d love to have some azaleas or other flowering bushes right outside to bring nature indoors. When I can’t be outside, at least I can have a lovely view… and the bees should appreciate them too.”

$30 Dog Food

victor dog food
Victor Super Premium Dog Food

Victor Oceanfish 15 lb Bag

“I buy my dog food at this small, locally owned pet store, Pit Stop for Pets. It feels good to support a local business instead of having food shipped far away from an online store.”

$75 Rain Boots


Bogs Patch Waterproof Rain Boot (Black Multi)

“There are so many mornings or nights when I take the puppies outside and end up stepping in something gross or wet. I’d love a pair of garden/rain shoes that are easy to pull on and easy to hose off for the many, many, many trips I make in and out of the yard. It’s amazing what wet, squishy feet can do to ruin your mood.”

$149 Fleece


Patagonia Better Sweater Fleece Jacket

“I try to keep a jacket by the back door for all the puppy outings, whether it’s potty breaks or walks. I think a jacket like this, which I’ll get from my local Peter Glenn, would make it easier for middle-of-the-night trips outdoors in winter. Plus, I love Patagonia’s sustainability mission.”

$90 Alpaca Blanket


Handmade Alpaca Throw Blanket (Charcoal) from Peru Boutique on Etsy

“I have chronic insomnia. I worry about everything when my head hits the pillow, so I a warm throw should help in bed or when reading at night. I already have an air purifier that I use mostly for white noise. Maybe I’d sleep better if my dog wasn’t draped on top of me, but I enjoy him being there.”

$10 Socks

bombas performance running ankle socks

Bombas Tri-Block Low Cut Ankle Socks

“I’ve heard these are truly the best socks ever. With all the walking and standing I do, I bet they would make life a little easier. I love that for every item purchased, Bombas donates similar products to people in need.”

$52 Balms

savannah bee company
Savannah Bee Company

Savannah Bee Company Royal Jelly Body Butter Original Formula, Original Honey Almond Beeswax Hand Cream, Honey Almond Lip Balm

“My day typically starts by 5 a.m. I don’t have much of a personal care routine other than brushing my teeth and putting my hair up in a ponytail. I am trying to get better at taking care of my skin. This local line of honey-based products should offer some pampering and might even help with all these wrinkles! (Laugh lines?)”

$128 Leggings


Lululemon Align High-Rise Pant with Pockets 28″ (Black)

“I work from home, I walk a lot, and I spend a lot of time on the floor with puppies, so leggings are pretty much my daily wardrobe. Pockets are key because I have my phone and dog treats on me at all times. I’d hate to see one of my puppies do something cute and not be able to take a photo!”

$6 Shower Steamer


Shower Steamers (Mint, Eucalyptus) from Georgia Okra Girl on Etsy

“When the puppies nap and I’ve met my work deadline, that’s when I’ll jump in the shower. It’s a 10-minute oasis of steam and warmth where I get to just breathe. I think these shower steamers might make that break even more relaxing and refreshing.”

Total: $733

Stay tuned for details on our next Wellness Diaries by subscribing to Nessie Sightings! (That’s our newsletter.)

Exploring the health and wellness world is better with a friend.

Wellness recommendations you’ll want—delivered to your inbox twice a week. Subscribe to our (free) newsletter and join our growing community!


"*" indicates required fields

This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.
In this article
Articles you might like

Want more?

Subscribe to Nessie Sightings. Wellness recommendations you’ll want—delivered to your inbox twice a week. Subscribe to our (free) newsletter and join our growing community!

The emails are free, the finds are priceless.

Sign up for twice weekly emails discovering the best in health.

“This card is such an exciting addition to my wallet and it’s perfect for someone who values health and wellness but hasn’t found a credit card that rewards me for that. I love getting rewarded for wellness practices like sleeping, meditating, and moving my body—plus extra points on purchases at my favorite places like Whole Foods, ClassPass and sweetgreen. The app is easy to use and the card is designed for your definition of health and wellness, which I love. It’s flexible!”

Kira's Favorite Healthy Merchants

“It’s no secret that wellness is such an important part of my everyday life. I spend a lot of money to help fuel my love of running, recovery, nutrition and mindfulness, so the fact that I can now earn rewards for every dollar I spend with the Ness Card is amazing. My health always comes first, and the Ness Card makes that easy to do. It’s a win-win for everyone!”

Andi's Favorite Healthy Merchants

“As a new mum, wellness and self-care is a priority for me—so I can, in turn, be able to take care of my baby. I love the incentives that Ness offers for making healthier choices. And to be rewarded along the way for those purchases is such a plus!

Oh, and getting 5x point rewards on my Erewhon $20+ smoothie makes it a little more justifiable.”

Amrit's Favorite Healthy Merchants

“I made a promise to myself to find my joy again in 2023. For the past few years, I haven’t been taking care of myself mentally and physically because I’ve just been on the go and focusing on the future instead of being present. I realized that part of the reason I wasn’t happy was because I wasn’t taking care of myself. So, now with the Ness Card—which literally rewards you for staying on top of your wellness journey—I’ve easily been able to focus on my mental and physical journey. Using the card is now a part of my weekly routine, whether I’m buying groceries, going to therapy, spending a day at the spa, or treating myself to a delicious yummy meal.”

Candace's Favorite Healthy Merchants

“I love life with the Ness Card! The team behind the scenes work really hard to make it valuable and to create a sense of community, which you feel in every newsletter and hand-crafted partnership. The card itself encourages me to be even more curious about where I’m spending my money. It definitely incentivizes me to spend ‘healthier’, which is really unique. On top of that, getting points for taking more steps? There is seriously nothing like it.

David's Favorite Healthy Merchants

“My favorite thing about the Ness Card is that it rewards you for your healthy habits, and not all of them require spending. Yes, you can earn 5x points when you spend at any of their approved health and wellness merchants (think Erewhon and many of your other favorites) but you also earn points for being active daily! So now your sanity walks are literally paying off :) As someone who not only works in wellness but lives and breathes it, essentially most of my expenses live in that realm and with the Ness Card I can now be rewarded nicely for those purchases.”

Kirsty's Favorite Healthy Merchants

“I love that I have rewards to look forward to when I focus on my health and wellness. As a mom of two and full time photographer/creator, it’s hard to find time to prioritize my health and—as my body ages—I want to make sure that I’m treating it to all the TLC it needs (and deserves)! The Ness Card reminds me to take care of my mental, physical, and emotional health on the daily.”

Valerie's Favorite Healthy Merchants

“It’s refreshing to have a card app that is so easy to use. I can track my spending and rewards at the click of a button. I love getting a notification when I get extra points for getting a full night sleep or getting my steps in, though of course those are optional. I work a lot, and I feel like I get extra rewarded for taking the time to take care of myself – whether it’s therapy or simply cooking at home instead of dining out. The points accumulate really quickly, and I’ve already gotten a $1,000 credit at Erewhon in my first four months. I also go visit family in Europe a lot, and no one takes my card there, so it’s so convenient to be able to use my Ness Card without ever paying a fee.”

Mélanie's Favorite Healthy Merchants

“As someone who spends the majority of her money on wellness, the Ness Card is perfect for me! I love earning 5x points on purchases at healthy businesses that I was already making, anyways. The Ness Card also motivates me to get enough sleep, practice mindfulness and other healthy habits. The app is really user-friendly and I love watching my points add up. I am excited to redeem them for wellness-related items!”

Lauren's Favorite Healthy Merchants

“The Ness Card motivates me to keep up my healthy habits, and has helped me discover new brands and products that are in alignment with my goals. I’m not spending any more with my Ness Card, but the money I am spending on health and wellness is actually earning me rewards, benefits, and even cash back. And because Ness’s definition of a ‘healthy merchant’ is so generous, I’m able to recognize all of the small ways I practice self-care throughout the week. From buying fresh veggies to going to therapy to taking my supplements, the Ness Card is there to cheer me on: ‘Keep being healthy, girl. You deserve 5x points for that.'”

Melissa's Favorite Healthy Merchants

“The Ness Card rewards me when I spend money on health and wellness. Especially because so much of my wellness routine is spent being active, gardening, making food with my husband, getting a massage, or having some me time, it is nice to be rewarded for that with points that are with brands I shop at all the time anyway. It allows my wellness choices to work harder which I love.”

Research Based

This article was rigorously researched and fact checked. We use peer-reviewed journals and reputable medical sources (think: CDC, WHO, NIH, and the like) to back up every claim we make, and also reach out to experts in the field to ensure we’re covering things the right way. We apply these principles to everything we cover—including brands we partner with—and we’ll always disclose sponsorships, ads, and any kind of financial relationship with anything featured on The Nessie. You deserve the best, most straightforward information on health and wellness, and we think this is the right way to do it. You can read more about our testing and review process here.

If something doesn’t seem quite right, let us know at [email protected].