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

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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

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
Patagonia

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

PeruBoutique

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

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

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

GeorgiaOkaGirl

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

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

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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.'”

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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.

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