Wednesday, December 18, 2013

• "Meet the Bloggers" with Go Pet Friendly

Buster (L) and Ty. I think Ty is smiling.
Amy Burkert is one of the coolest women you ever want to meet. Amy and her husband, Rod, and their dogs, Buster and Ty, travel full time. Their passion is helping people travel with their pets. Check it out: Go Pet Friendly. Amy even asked me to write a guest post about traveling with a hamster. Meeting Buster and Ty was my highlight of BarkWorld 2012.

So when Amy announced the "Meet the Bloggers Hop", I couldn't resist. And today—my birthday—is the perfect day for this post! Amy posed questions for us to answer.

What's my favorite non-animal-related movie?
I'm tired of watching "Where the Heart Is," but I cannot for the life of me change the channel when it's on. I think it's how Natalie Portman is so alone, and finds community. It gives me hope. "To Kill a Mockingbird" moves me. When Atticus Finch loses the trial, the Blacks, in the balcony because they are not allowed on the floor, rise. "Stand up, Miss Jean Louise," says one man. "Your daddy's passing." I tear up every time.

Who is my favorite actor?
Meryl Streep is scary good. Liam Neeson is just about the hottest guy around. Sir Laurence Olivier ("Is it safe?"). Gregory Peck as Atticus Finch is . . . unspeakably sexy and ethical. Sam Sheppard (oh, that snaggletooth!). Ed Harris. James Lipton. Jimmie Stewart. I can't think of everyone.

Butler was a partner in Equine Guided Discovery,
which is a blog post in and of itself.  :)
What makes me feel fabulous?
The Southwest. I don't know if its the heat, the terrain, the sun, or the freedom, but I come alive there like nowhere else. A locational geographer confirmed that several places would be ideal for me to live. And a great haircut makes me feel fabulous.

What's one thing I have to do every day?

What do I like to do in my free time?
Photography. My mother wouldn't let me take pictures with her Brownie, but I haven't been able to put down a camera since I was in high school. Recently I've taken classes in animal communication, TTouch, IET (Integrated Energy Therapy), and Reiki, and done energetic work with horses. Energy healing fascinates me. There's so much we don't know. And I watch reality TV. I'm not proud that Bravo is my go-to channel, but there it is.

What is one thing you've done that you're most proud of?
Getting clean and sober 21 years ago. This is as good a time as any to come out of the closet about this. When I was drinking I didn't mind who knew, but I feel like there's something shameful about having had a drinking problem. So. There it is.

If you didn't have your current pets, what pet would you choose to have?
A horse. Two horses so they'd have company. As Carol Bryant might say, my heart beats horse. I'm in Lancaster for my birthday, and today I drove 340, the Old Philadelphia Pike. Snowy fields and Amish farms line the road, which has wide buggy lanes on either side. You can see the horse's hooves when you're behind a buggy. Even though it was freezing (really—it was 30° F) I rolled the window down so I could hear the clip-clop when I passed.

I didn't say much about my pet. My dear hamster Charlotte passed away about a month ago. I still miss her. Winnie is my new baby. Winnie is painfully shy. I have to remember to speak and move softly around her. When I came home from a three-day pet sit last week I startled the heck out of her. But tonight Winnie got in the ball for the first time while I cleaned her cage. And she left me a birthday present: poop! On that note, I'll stop here.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

• Wordless Wednesday: Charlotte

Charlotte loved getting out of her cage.
Every night she waddled about in her play area.

Dr. Felton gave Charlotte a health certificate before she flew.
She wasn't as fond of the doctor as I am.

Charlotte helped me pack. We traveled together to AZ, NM, and GA.

Like her mom, Charlotte did not travel light.
Charlotte was the only hamster at BarkWorld and BlogPaws.

Rest in peace, sweet girl.
June 2012 ~ November 16, 2013

Friday, November 1, 2013

• 'Tis the Season for Pet Photos with Santa

Flyer from Martinsburg Mall ( WV)
It's November, time to plan to have your pet's photo taken with Santa. Many places schedule photo shoots the first weekend in November. Below are venues you may find a pet-friendly Santa.

• Petco and Unleashed by Petco ~ Search your local store calendar for dates.

Petsmart ~ Search your local store calendar for dates.

• Shopping malls ~ Online, search mall events.

• Independent pet stores ~ Call or check their web site. If you don't see dates, keep checking.

• Rescues (including breed-specific) and humane societies ~ Call. Sometimes an organization or business hosts a photo shoot to benefit the rescue. (Ask if a portion of the cost is tax deductible.) For example, in the D.C. area, Lucky Dog Animal Rescue is partnering with Dogma Bakery to do the Pet Photos with Santa fundraiser.

• Local holiday events, such as the lighting of the town Christmas tree

• Call or check the web sites of local radio, television station, or newspapers (including Patch).

• Larger cities may have their own pet-centric online magazines. For example, in the D.C. area, NovaDog Magazine posts events

A couple of things:
• When you search online, be sure you're looking at 2013 dates.
• Photo shoots may be free or there may be a cost.
• Read the small print. Does the pet need to be on a leash or carrier? Is there a limit to the number of pets? How many photos will you get? Can you buy digital files?
• If you call to make an appointment, ask what times are slow. You don't want to wait a long time with your pet.
• Pet stores want you to buy holiday toys, costumes, treats, etc. If you don't want to be tempted, steel yourself before you enter.

Have you ever had your pet's photo taken with Santa? Do you have any tips? I'd love to hear your comments.

Monday, October 21, 2013

• Costumes and Compassion
In 2013, Americans are expected to spend $330 million on Halloween costumes for pets.

That is a lot of money.

Here's a crazy, crazy idea. Stick with me, OK? Imagine that for every dollar they spend on a costume, people donate a dollar to an animal shelter.

I'm going to say it again: Spend $10 for fairy wings for your bulldog, write a $10 check to a bulldog rescue.

Are you with me? That would be . . . $330 million dollars donated to animals!

You don't have enough to donate because you spent so much on a Superman cape for your hamster? Translation: You'd rather spend that money on groceries or Starbucks or Netflix or toilet paper. So would I. But if you can afford $10 for a pet costume, you can afford to help pets in shelters that need food or medication. You can save their lives.

I'm not a grinch. I love pets in costumes. But when I heard that we in the U.S. will spend $330 million dollars to accessorize our dachshunds with a hot dog bun, I was disturbed.

If you fashioned a costume from things you found around the house, you're excused from this challenge. But if you bought so much as a bow tie for your dog, would you challenge yourself? Make a real difference in an animal's life.

Who's with me?

Thursday, October 10, 2013

• This Girl Is On Fire—Kindle Fire, That Is

Lordy! I entered the BlogPaws "International Pet Blogger Month Essay Contest"—and I won! The contest asked participants to explain, in 150 words or less, how being a member of the BlogPaws Community has affected them or their blog.

I've attended the BlogPaws annual conference since 2011. The Community is an online tour de force that gives pet bloggers a virtual place to share tips, join special interest groups, chat, join blog hops: in short, a boatload of information that bloggers need. Here is my contest entry:

"My blog has benefited from being a member of the BlogPaws Community from the ideas and support of community members. #WW [Wordless Wednesday] blog hops and #BlogPawschats yield new followers. No matter how much (or little) I know about a topic, I can share expert tips via #BlogPawsChat. Genius!

"Microblogging (Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest) is even more important to my social media presence. When BlogPaws posts news, such as how to help pets during the Colorado flooding, I share so my followers know how to help. In turn, BlogPaws retweets when I send them pertinent news.

BlogPaws lays out the red carpet. Work it, Rocco!
"Personally, the BlogPaws Community means the world to me. Beginning with the 2011 conference, I've made friends and contacts. I'm constantly inspired to do my best. The BlogPaws Community connects me, informs me, and rewards me. They make me look good. They even lay out the red carpet for me! What's not to love?"

BlogPaws also asked me to mention my favorite blog post. If you know me well, you won't be surprised that it's 'H' is for Horse.

If you love pets and blog about them, check out BlogPaws and its online Community. Join #BlogPawsChat on Twitter, Tuesdays 8–10 p.m. EST (except  the third Tuesday of the month). Meanwhile, I can't wait to see what new possibilities my Kindle Fire opens. Thank you, BlogPaws!

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

• Wordless Wednesday: October 9, 2013

What do you call it the first time you see a breed in "pawson"?
These are my first Spinone Italiano!

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Friday, September 27, 2013

• I Get by with Help from a Little Friend

Charlotte in her traveling cage at a pet social media conference
I have an Emotional Support Animal: my hamster, Charlotte.

It's OK to laugh. Of the few people I've told, I get two responses. Usually a person laughs, then says, "Oh, you're serious?" The second response is a raised eyebrow, a pregnant pause, and, "Ohhhh."

I first heard about Emotional Support Animals from pilots with whom I was sharing a shuttle to BWI airport."How much do you pay for that to fly?" asked one, nodding at my hamster. "Some people get a letter from their doctor, then the animal flies free. Comfort animals, they're called," said another. The pilots chuckled and poked each other in the ribs. I smiled stiffly. The Bad Boys of the Sky thought I was crazy. I sat self consciously with my arms around my hamster's cage as they joked about bunnies, kitties, and silly people who needed comforting.

Fast forward several years. At pet social media conferences I made friends with people with service dogs trained to assist them. Having help is essential for my friends; there's nothing wrong with needing help. I remembered the pilots talking about comfort animals. Would I qualify? According to one source, a person with an emotional disability qualifies to have an Emotional Support Animal.

Emotional disability. Ouch. I was embarrassed that I qualified.

I've worked hard to hide my lifelong struggle with depression and anxiety. A supervisor once suggested that I not be so moody in the office. I wanted to tell him that some days it was all I could do to get out of bed. I hoped my bad days were offset by the times I livened staff meetings with jokes and stories (they weren't). Anxiety caused me to avoid anything that made me fearful. As a result, I rarely made a deadline—and I was in publishing, a deadline-driven business.

My main reason for designating Charlotte as an ESA was so I could fly with her on any airline. The only certification needed was a letter from a licensed medical health professional, which my psychologist wrote. Ironically, when I called airlines, none would carry a rodent—even an ESA rodent!—in the cabin except Frontier Airlines. Thank you, Frontier!

Although it wasn't necessary, I bought a badge and ESA patch for Charlotte's cage. I was worried that someone would question Charlotte and that the official-looking items could come in handy.

So, you ask, what does an ESA do? They're not trained to do anything; their mere presence may be enough to help an emotionally disabled person cope better. When Charlotte pokes her pink nose out of her cage and grasps the the bars with her paws, whatever else is going through my mind goes away. I smile. That's how my Emotional Service Animal works for me.

*     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *
The Differences Between Service Dogs, Therapy Dogs, and Emotional Support Animals
Psychiatric Service Dogs and Emotional Support Animals: Access to Public Places and Other Settings
• Sunday, September 29, 2013, is the Service Dog Blog Hop, designed to educate the public on the differences between service animals and laws, hosted by service dog Carma Poodale, therapy dog Garth Riley, and Oz the Terrier. Click on the links below to learn more. If you blog about working dogs, join the #SundayServiceDog blog hop!
• My favorite Pomeranian and roommate at pet social media conferences, service dog Pepper

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

* Wordless Wednesday: September 25, 2013

Pet sitting a semi-feral cat. Squeaker can run so fast I literally can't see him!

Thursday, August 15, 2013

• BarkWorld 2013: Here We Come!

Have you been to BarkWorld, a pet social media conference? It's a real treat. Some tips:

• Bring plenty of business cards. Even if you don't have a blog or web site, go to a copy shop and make cards with your name, phone number, and email.
• Make notes about a person on their business card when you get it. I met people I promised to follow on Twitter, people whose blog I wanted to read, and people I wanted to follow up with. I only made notes on about half the cards; I missed a lot of opportunities.
• Get a business card from a pet's owner if you take a photo of their pet. If you post the photo on Twitter, include the owner's Twitter handle. Even if they have dozens of photos of their pets, people always want more!
• Post on Twitter and Facebook during the conference. Add the hashtag #BarkWorld. Use the Twitter handle of speakers and sponsors; they appreciate the visibility and they may retweet, exposing you to a new audience.
• You'll meet a lot of people. It's OK if you don't remember someone's name. (I usually remember pet names, though!)
• I love Carma Poodale's suggestion of having my photo taken with speakers and/or conference attendees, especially those I follow.
• Power up your computer and phone in your room before you go to the conference (there's a shortage of outlets). You might want to bring a power strip if you're rooming with someone.
• There's food and drinks on Thursday and Friday nights, but not on Saturday. If you want to eat with people on Saturday night, arrange ahead of time.
• Bring fewer clothes than you think you need. Dressing up Thursday and Friday nights is optional. Leave room in your suitcase to take home swag.
• There are lots of prizes, but you have to be sure to sign up for them and you usually have to be "present" to win ("present" meaning in the main conference room).
• You don't have to do everything. There are dozens of places in the hotel (which is very nice) to hang out and regroup.
• Have fun!

Dr. @LorieAHuston (r) and me
See all my photos from BarkWorld 2012!

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

• Dog Fighting Doesn't Affect Me. Or Does It?

ASPCA Dog Fighting exhibit, with Dr. Randall Lockwood (right)
Below: How to TAKE ACTION

Before I saw an ASPCA exhibit about dog fighting, I would have said I wasn't directly affected by it. Now I'm not so sure.

"Dog Fighting: The Voiceless Victims" laid out horrifying tools of this unspeakable, brutal blood sport. A "rape" stand that immobilizes female dogs so they can be bred. A collar with sharp nails that antagonize a fighting dog. Skeletal remains of animals found at crime scenes.

"We want people to realize the brutality of dog fighting and see that it's the greatest violation of the human-animal bond," says Dr. Randall Lockwood, senior vice president of ASPCA Forensic Sciences and Anti-Cruelty Projects. In May 2013 Dr. Lockwood lead a tour through the temporary exhibit, at the Crime Museum in Washington, D.C., for several attendees of BlogPaws 2013, a social media conference for pet professionals. (The exhibit is now closed.)

One solution is the Animal Fighting Spectator Prohibition Act. When I think about dog fights, I think of organizers, promoters, animal owners—Michael Vick, for example. Spectators are another key component. They may travel long distances to see a fight or gamble on it. If a fight is raided, principals can escape into the crowd. The Act would make it a federal offense to attend an organized animal fight; major players could be apprehended.

Members of ASPCA Government Relations staff brief BlogPaws guests
The Act would also enforce fines for forcing a minor to attend fights. That's right. Some spectators bring children. A child who watches a bloody, violent dog fight can be traumatized. A child surrounded by the culture of criminal activity around dog fighting—drugs, weapons, gambling, more—could, himself, become a criminal.

I live in Fairfax County, Va., near the nation's capital. I thought dog fighting occurred in inner cities or rural areas. Yet in 2012 a potential dog-fighting ring was found in Fairfax Co.; law enforcement fears there may be more. My tax dollars are used for dog fighting. Children and animals in my community may have been victims.

TAKE ACTION in 2015!
April 8 is National Dog Fighting Awareness Day. You can take action!
• Ask the Department of Justice to #GetTough on dog fighters by creating harsher sentencing guidelines. Fill out this quick form and let the DOJ know that you support prosecution of this horrific form of cruelty.
• Visit the ASPCA's Fight Cruelty section to learn about its work against dog fighting
• Download a #GetTough kit on dog fighting
• See "Three Ways to Stop Dog Fighting that Take Three Minutes."

• Wordless Wednesday: August 7, 2013

A lady never reveals her age, but Mama is at least 22.


Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Friday, June 21, 2013

• Love Letter to BlogPaws

To everyone who planned BlogPaws 2013, to everyone and e-furry-one who came to BlogPaws, and to everyone counting the minutes until BlogPaws 2014 . . . I love you.

I love you, Tom Collins, lone dude on the BlogPaws team. It is no accident that "aplomb" rhymes with "Tom." Does the man ever break a sweat? Maybe in the gym, but never at BlogPaws. He greets every participant with the genuine enthusiasm of a Golden Retriever (without the shedding).

I love you, Yvonne DiVita, you who faced AP reporters with—yes!—aplomb. At lunch one day I looked across the table and swear I saw pieces of paper sticking out from Yvonne's crisp red hair, as if she carried an oversize binder with every last detail of BlogPaws in her head. (She did know every detail, but it never interfered with her hair!)

I love you, too, Chloe DiVita. For two years I pronounced her name with two syllables and Chloe (KLO) was too polite to tell me I was one syllable off. You should see this girl under pressure: she copes like nobody's business. I get the feeling that Tom, Yvonne, and Chloe share the same trait, of looking like ducks gliding smoothly across a lake, whether or not their legs are paddling like hell under the surface.

Carol and Dexter
I love youCarol Bryant! Carol doesn't throw around her title (BlogPaws PR & Marketing Manager); she just wants you to know that she's Dexter's mom. It was she who brought the AP to BlogPaws. Best of all, she makes you feel as if you are her favorite person in the world. And of course I love my wiggle-butted boy, Dexter.

Pepper Pom
I have eternal love for my furry roomie Pepper and her momma. We hung out before and after the conference and I count the days until I can plunge my face into Pepper's thick fur and kiss her.

I love BlogPaws: love, love, love. Fur everywhere—white, brown, wispy, wiry, long, short—it got on our clothes and no one cared. Wagging tails and endless sniffing of butts . Barks and mews and cheeps and wheeks. Hugging old friends and making new ones. Energetic conversations about what, together, we could accomplish. Laughing so hard my nose dripped. (TMI? Sorry, but that's how it was.)

I'm not going to mention any other names because I know I'll leave some out and I don't want to hurt anyone's feelings. But you know who you are. And I love you.