Zelda Wisdom: How One Bulldog Inspired an Empire

Carol Gardner promotes humor and healing through greeting cards, calendars, books, and phone cases featuring her dog.


When Carol Gardner fell into a deep depression, it was the face of a four-month-old English Bulldog that pulled her out of it. If a dog has ever helped you through rough times, rejoice and relate in this fairytale story.

At some point while browsing through the card aisle, many of us have been affected by the wisdom of an endearing Bulldog — Zelda Wisdom, to be precise.

“I often say there’s a little Zelda in all of us,” Gardner says. “I was going through a divorce and left with deep debt. My divorce attorney told me to get a dog or a therapist.”

Gardner was 52 years old at the time.

The magic of Zelda resonates through the photography of Shane Young coupled with humorous, spot-on quotes from Gardner to mirror the frivolity and mood of the message.

What started as 24 greeting cards in Gardner’s living room blossomed into more than 1 million cards sold within six months, landing the Bulldog on Oprah and Good Morning America. With licenses spanning the globe, Gardner remains a bubbly, vivacious force of good nature, wit, and passion for all she does.

“I give speeches to women and tell them to find out what really makes them happy,” Gardner says. “Make a list of what it is that makes you want to jump out of bed in the morning.”

Looking at the famous calendar published yearly, the cover shot is reminiscent of Gardner’s philosophy: “Think outside your cage.” Zelda’s mom says that Zelda is actually impersonating her in this shot.

Merchandising and musing are but one slice of the Zelda pie. Zelda is involved in a partnership with the American Humane Association on its Children’s Hospital Initiative. The goal of the partnership is to take a rescued dog, train and certify them, and then share them so they are in Children’s Hospitals 24 hours a day.

Families can adopt the dogs and take them home. In modular units that are planned, kids will be able to enter “Zelda’s Secret Closet” and interact with the dogs and many of the famous costumes Zelda wears.

“I like to call this hug, hold, and heal with the dogs,” Gardner says. “Doing these things with the dogs reduces the kids’ fear factor.”

Cards and calendars aside, Gardner is also a published author and a motivational speaker. Having penned three books for kids and eight books for adults under the Zelda domain, the English Bulldog continues to touch lives through the muse that is her mom.

Like Lassie and Rin Tin Tin, the Zelda name continues with the latest pooch in the empire making her debut.

“The new little Zelda has stepped into some pretty big pawprints, and she is loving it,” Gardner says. “Along with her ‘boyfriend’ Otis, a rescued dog, they are continuing in the original Zelda’s legacy.”

I had the pleasure of meeting Carol Gardner and hearing her read one of her books aloud. She exudes magic. I smiled when she entered the room and noticed it lasted the entire afternoon. Of course, meeting Zelda and posing for pictures with the sagely wonder was a treat, too.

Thousands of people subscribe to Zelda’s free daily newsletter. These days, Zelda can also be found at Cardstore.com, where folks can send customizable Zelda cards as often as they like.

“Giving back is the true sign of success,” says Gardner. “When Zelda can help someone start their day with a smile, we know we’re doing something right.”

Judging by the good deeds, tongue-in-cheek humor, and giving-back spirit this dynamo encompasses, fans can look forward to sharing in the wisdom that is Zelda for a lifetime.

Put a little bull (dog) in your own life by visiting Zelda Wisdom.

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