Edie Jarolim from Will My Dog Hate Me and Amy Burkert from GoPetFriendly.com are hosting The Pet Blogger Challenge. They have created a set of guidelines to help us look back at what we have done with our blogs. As well as to prompt us to consider where we would like to take them in the future. January is often a reflective month, so why not take it one step further and share your reflections with the pet blogosphere? If you’d like to join in, or see what your fellow bloggers are up to, check out either of the above linked blogs.
Some random day in March 2010, my practically husband suggested I start a blog about our rescue dog, Shiva. We had adopted her not a year before and it had been a very eventful eleven months. He thought it would be fun to have a record of her progress. And I think he also thought it might be a way to shut me up about every little cute/annoying thing she did. Hah! Joke’s on him as I think I talk about her even more now.
If you’ve read this blog at all, you’ll know that Shiva can be particularly trying to live with. The first few months of her life with us I wasn’t sure I was cut out to be a dog owner. But by the time the PH suggested the blog, Shiva had made vast improvements in her behaviour and was no longer barking and lunging at garden gnomes. Finally, I had a little more time on my hands. At first, I admit I just laughed at the idea. I’ve never been any good at keeping a journal beyond a few weeks. I’ve started and abandoned previous blogs with rapid speed. There was no reason for me to think I would actually keep up with another, especially one just about my dog. Would I really have enough to write about? One evening I must have been bored enough to sign up for a WordPress account. I spent a few days thinking about it, coming up with a title. I never intended to actually share it with people. It was a place to post pictures of my dog and keep track of her progress. That’s it.
Obviously, something changed. I’m not quite sure what. It wasn’t until September that I started to take the blog a bit more seriously. Perhaps because I’d found other dog bloggers, a lot of them going through similar problems, which lead me to discover a whole community of people just as dog-obsessed as I am? I couldn’t believe I wasn’t alone. That there were others who care just as much about their pets as I do, maybe more. Others that knew what it was like to have their dogs freak out over every little sound, every little leaf that blows by on the street. For so long I had felt isolated because of my dog and it was stunning to me that I didn’t have to.
So I reached out, connected with others in the pet blogosphere. I got up the nerve to write my first comment and was amazed to find it wasn’t as scary as I’d expected. I was amazed at the warmth I found in other blog writers. A warmth that inspired me to keep writing. I’ve written about it before, but the support in the pet blogging community still wows me every single day.
While I can’t really say I blog on a schedule, I still try to on a fairly steady basis. I participated in November’s NaBloPoMo and the discipline of writing something every single day kind of stuck with me somehow. Though I still don’t think I could keep a private journal for very long, I do really enjoy the practice of sitting down almost every day to blather about what is on my mind. Some days are harder than others. I find the more I try to force ideas, the more difficult it is to create them. Fittingly enough, most of my posts come to be as I’m walking the dog every night. Frequently, I form whole paragraphs in my head while Shiva digs for something disgusting in the snow. It makes both of us happy.
I try not to think about things like traffic or comment numbers. It’s not why I started and it’s not why I write. Brené Brown, one of the women I’d like to be when I grow up, talks a lot about authenticity and integrity. Many of the things she says I think apply a lot to the way I want to live my life in general. Shiva and I don’t participate in agility for ribbons, we do it because it is fun and because it strengthens our connection. I blog for a lot of the same reasons and I don’t want to let that change. With all the wonderful people I have met, it’s just even more fun now than it was when I began. In the future, authenticity may be more of a struggle than it is now, but I’ll take on that particular dragon when it gets here. If it gets here.
Currently, my blog doesn’t generate any income. As I say, it’s all about the fun! For some reason, I get something out of yammering on about myself over and over every day. My life-long issues with shyness have prevented me from being all that upfront in “real life”. There may be a psychological benefit to writing on the Internet for me that I haven’t before considered.
Do I intend to make money by posting pictures of my dog in the future? That would be really cool. But I don’t want to do it if it becomes a simple job. If I have to spend time thinking about what my sponsors want or if every post becomes just another boring product review, then no. That would just be a chore and I would start to dread turning on my computer. I like writing when I feel like it about what I feel like. Right now, that’s good enough for me.
Not that I’m about to turn down some free stuff. Many of you have seen the way Shiva chews through her toys, seconds after the tags are cut off. If any one wants to toss a free bone her way, I’m all for that!
Something to do with my free time, a way to remember all the wacky stuff Shiva does, a way to stop boring people at parties with all my dog stories, bragging about all Shiva’s death-defying (not really, except for that one time last summer on the teeter) tricks, connecting with so many incredible, inspiring people who make me laugh, cry, and hang my head in humility every day, those are all the best things about having a dog blog. Getting away with run-on sentences is another small perk.
But what are some of the things I dislike? That’s a much harder question to answer. I’m too green to really have a clear idea of the pitfalls of pet blogging. Truthfully, the thing I dislike the most is the lack of time. If I’m writing a post, I am not reading other people’s posts, which is something I equally enjoy. And if I’m reading other people’s posts I am not spending time with my dog. The reason for all of this in the first place. It’s not an easy balancing act.
The Pet Blogger Challenge was created by two people who felt bullied by their blogs. I interpret that emotion in my way. At times I do feel pressured to keep coming up with new ideas to stay relevant, to support my personal goals, to keep myself focussed lest this blog die the same death all the others did. Thus, I want to keep at it, I want to keep spending the time it takes writing. However, the more time I spend writing, the less time I have to enjoy all the other things that make writing worthwhile. Frankly, that make my writing even remotely interesting.
I guess that’s my only complaint. Not enough hours in the day. Maybe getting paid to blog wouldn’t be such an evil thing after all.
As this dorky little blog grows, I would like to do more to give back to the community that has done so much for me. I would like to find a way to celebrate everything the pet blogosphere has achieved. Not just in the name of animal welfare, though that is important, but in the name of ourselves. Pet lovers, pet bloggers, rock hard. This community is filled with the best kind of people in the world. People who care about others, people who make sacrifices, people who will take five minutes to stop and impart a kind word, people who realise that such kind words matter. This is a place I am so grateful to have found and I want to deserve the honour. There has to be a brilliant way to acknowledge the silliness, the preciousness, the awesomeness, the stark genius, of this entire community. I am going to find it. One poor-quality video at a time.