Blog the Change for Animals: Mission Blue

BlogtheChangeToday is Blog the Change for Animals Day. If you have been on the Petosphere at all, I am sure you have noticed. I have been super excited about this date for a long time, ever since I watched Mission Blue on Netflix. I could not wait to share it with you within five minutes of pressing play but I knew it was so important that it needed its own special day.

Have you seen Mission Blue yet? If you haven’t, I have come up with five very important reasons for you to check it out right now. I hope you have some free time this weekend otherwise I think your plans are about to be cancelled.

Reason 1

It is just an extremely well-crafted documentary. Directors Robert Nixon and the always likable Fisher Stevens paired revelatory interviews with the fascinating Dr. Sylvia Earle with stunning underwater footage. Dr. Earle’s brilliant mind does not make her at all unapproachable and the filmmakers did an excellent job of capturing her passion and sense of humour. Though she is a pioneer for marine biology and women in science, and should be a household name, she didn’t come across as the least bit intimidating. As she spoke on camera, I almost felt like she had invited me over for a cup of tea and was sharing her amazing experiences with me first hand. Not that Dr. Earle ever sits still long enough for personal conversations. At the age of 79 she remains a force of energy.

Reason 2

We are inherently responsible for the curation of the planet. I have always believed this but Mission Blue reminded me how important it is for us all to be aware of the current health status of our home. If we don’t know, we won’t change.

Dr. Earle says it even better:

“People ask: Why should I care about the ocean? Because the ocean is the cornerstone of earth’s life support system, it shapes climate and weather. It holds most of life on earth. 97% of earth’s water is there. It’s the blue heart of the planet — we should take care of our heart. It’s what makes life possible for us. We still have a really good chance to make things better than they are. They won’t get better unless we take the action and inspire others to do the same thing. No one is without power. Everybody has the capacity to do something.”

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Reason 3

The film provides a unique perspective of ocean and animal life. When viewed through the eyes of someone who has witnessed the environmental catastrophes of the last eight decades, everything becomes personal. After watching how emotionally affected Dr. Earle is by modern fishing practices, I will never be casual about my seafood purchases again.

Reason 4

The scenes are beautiful. The chances of me getting to these gorgeous spaces and swimming with silky schools of tropical fish are very low. The next best thing is the vicarious route. I can never get enough of underwater footage and Mission Blue has it in spades.

Reason 5

Hope. There is a chance to be part of the solution. Not only does Mission Blue teach viewers the current challenges to ocean life, it also proposes a way to protect the vanishing species and prevent further destruction. Just as we have done on land through national parks and wildlife reserves, Dr. Earle has been working to designate areas of critical importance to immediately focus global conservation efforts. These “Hope Spots”, as she calls them, could help the regrowth of crucial plant and animal life. They could help reverse some of the damage we have caused.

I love the optimism in this message. There are so many films that end on a hopeless note but Mission Blue, and Dr. Earle, believe things can get better. If only we listen and act. To learn how you can help the efforts, I urge you to check out the Mission Blue website. If nothing else, your support for the project will be a terrific encouragement.

So why are you still reading this? Go, log-in to Netflix, watch this movie. If you don’t have an account, convince a friend who does to watch it with you. And then when you love it, as I know you will, share it with everyone you know. Let’s create a Blue movement.

This Blog the Change for Animals event is powered by Linky Tools:

Click here to enter your link and read about all the other important causes shared by your fellow activists. It’s that easy and it could help change the world….

Caring for Critters Round Robin: Preparing for sudden injury

I am participating in the Caring For Critters Round Robin hosted by Heart Like a Dog. Think of the Round Robin like a relay race, each blogger passes the baton to a fellow blogger, who will then share his or her experience in caring for an ill or injured pet. Kol’s Notes ran ahead of me yesterday and tomorrow SlimDoggy will take the next leg!

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We have been lucky with Shiva. In the five years she has lived in our home, her physical health has never faltered. I wish I could say the same for her mental well-being. The Shiva stories are somewhat legendary among those brave enough to cross her zigzagging path. If you dig through this blog’s disorganized archives you will find tales of such bizarre canine decision-making you will wonder how this dog has all of her limbs intact. It is something we ask ourselves every day.

The first thing you need to understand is that Shivas a born without an instinct for self-preservation. Believing themselves invincible, they crash through life, leaping from one distraction to the next. If Shivas lived in a world of factions, they would only ever be members of Dauntless.

Hmm, this bush full of bees looks like the perfect place to shove my head

Hmm, this bush full of bees looks like the perfect place to shove my head

This is why our Shiva’s history is made up of tales of near disaster. From scaling cliffs, to climbing trees after porcupines, to throwing herself from walls over six feet tall, Shiva likes to make sure her people are paying attention. Her agility career was filled with episodes of this sort of madness. Why run up the teeter from the ground when it is much more fun to lunge onto the end facing the sky? Why take one jump when it is faster to take three in a single stride? Why wait for a reward when it is funnier to bound over the fence and race through the barn, stealing treats from other dogs?

Outside of the ring, her attitude was, and is, no different. There are so many stories, I have forgotten the details of most of them. Unfortunately, I’ll never forget the time she crashed a wedding. I am still not sure I am ready to share that story. For my own sanity, it is best to pretend I don’t know how many times she has run into the walls of our home, how many stairs she has slid down, how many floors she has met with her face. We have stories of infinite number involving skirmishes with other animals, domestic and wild, desperate attempts to fill her belly with food from the vehicles of strangers, and, of course, her most infamous moment of all, the incident at the drive though. At the dog park, we often joke we know where she is by the trail of screams and laughter Shiva leaves in her frenetic wake.

Sometimes we laugh too. More often, we are horrified.

Given all this, it is stunning Shiva has made it to the approximate age of six with only one trip to the emergency vet. I was so sure during her panicked fight with an agility jump standard, resulting in several long seconds of choking, that her healthy streak would end. Amazingly, the only serious misadventure we’ve experienced together was an actual fluke, one I cannot even blame on her crazy nature. We’ll never know what happened that November evening in the woods, a place Shiva has roamed many an evening before. I will also never be casual about the possibility of serious injury again.

The idea of this post isn’t to recount the near misses of my dog’s past. Rather, it is to reiterate the fact that accidents do happen, no matter how careful we and our dogs may – or may not – be. Most are preventable but sometimes we are blindsided. The only thing we can truly control is our reactions to these often scary incidents.

I don't know what you're worried about. Life is awesome! I can't wait for my next adventure!

I don’t know what you’re worried about. Life is awesome! I can’t wait for my next adventure!

Have a plan

This might sound painfully obvious but until disaster happens, you may not think about the details. I know I didn’t.

  • Do you know the phone number and address for your closest after-hours vet clinic? Looking these things up in the midst of a crisis is no fun. Trust me.
  • Do you have money set aside so you can pay up front? Pet insurance is great for reimbursement after the fact, but it doesn’t help if you don’t have the cash or credit on hand. Most clinics won’t even look at your pet unless you prove you can pay.
  • Do you know how much you are prepared to spend or how far you will go to save your pet if the worst happens during surgery? These are tough questions but I remember being rendered speechless when the emergency vet asked if we wanted him to resuscitate our dog should she go into hear failure. I was so worried I couldn’t think of any rational response. Breaking down at the clinic did not help me or my family.

Prepare your pet

Following a bad injury and the subsequent surgery, your pet will likely be put on several weeks of crate rest. This is not easy for most dogs. We expected it to be especially hard on Shiva who is used to two long walks day plus hours of play time. Active animals can struggle just as much as humans against sudden restrictions. I know I am a terrible patient. It wouldn’t have surprised me if Shiva turned into the same. Luckily, we had a few things built in to Shiva’s lifestyle that prepared her for the temporary change.

  • Shiva has long been accustomed to the routine of a crate. It was nothing to her to sleep inside her enclosure when we had to leave her alone to go to work. She had no difficulty relaxing and giving her body a chance to heal.
  • Shiva is used to being carried. Though she is a medium-sized dog of about forty-five pounds, we have spent a lot of time getting her used to being handled. Most of it was in play and for the purpose of fooling around, but because Shiva learned to trust us when we lift her up, she didn’t struggle when we had to carry her up and down the stairs during her convalescence. She accepted that it was just something we were doing and that everything would be okay.

White Coat Syndrome

Shiva is not a fan of the vet. Is any animal? But for a dog who is fearless in the face of coyotes and ten-foot gaps, the emergency vet represents all of her worst nightmares wrapped into one terrifying individual: stranger danger, new environment, small space, and usually someone standing in a doorway. Because we have moved around a lot, Shiva has never seen the same doctor twice. This has prevented her from building a relationship with a health care provider. As we can never predict Shiva’s response to strangers, it is a tricky thing to navigate for us. However, even if your pet is somewhat bonded with a regular vet, when it comes to emergencies, it is unlikely he or she will be attending the usual clinic. It is important to recognize this experience might be even more frightening than usual.

  • In all health situations, you are your pet’s advocate. If you know something that might make it less scary for your dog, such as being examined on the ground instead of on the table, or you holding him or her during the examination, instead of an assistant, it is your job to speak up. A caring vet, as most are, will be more than happy to oblige if at all possible. They have your pet’s best interests at heart as well but they don’t know unless you tell them.

I hate to suggest it, even I have an automatically negative response to the word, but muzzles can also be a dog’s safety net during these scary times. When an animal is in pain and thrust into a new place with a stranger prodding him, it is understandable he or she might react. Even if your dog has never bitten anyone before, it is possible her inhibition might be non-existent in an emergency. Any sign of aggression is placing him or her in danger. At the very least it prevents the vet from examining him or her properly.

  • While your dog might being upset by a muzzle in an already frightening situation, if you purchase one in advance and treat the tool as something natural and rewarding, it will be much less aggravating. Muzzle training is not just for aggressive dogs. There are some great online resources that detail how to make it a calming experience for your dog.

Practice

  • It might sound a little like jinxing your pet’s health but I don’t know if it is possible to be too prepared. Your pet doesn’t speak English and has no way of knowing what is to come. If you work to create positive associations with places and smells when your pet is healthy, it will be much less stressful in the event the situation is real.

I hope my experiences have provided some helpful tools. With such an adventure-seeking dog on my hands, I know it is possible another injury is in our future. Maybe next time we will all be more prepared. If there are any suggestions or resources you can add, I would be extremely grateful.

Thank you to Heart Like a Dog for running such a useful blogging event and inviting me to contribute. Don’t forget to check in with SlimDoggy tomorrow to learn more about dealing with Spondylosis deformans (fused spine).

My Thoughts and How I Spit Them Out

If you have been following along on the latest blog tour you have probably been as equally fascinated as I in regards to the unique methods of some of the best writers in the Petosphere. Always eager to glean as much knowledge as I can from my blogging heroes, I have been reading every entry I find. As if I will somehow discover the map to their brilliance and be able to follow it myself. Alas, it does not work that way. Though learning from the experiences of others is useful, the only substantial thing I have found is that I will have to make my own trail, bushwhacking and dodging flying monkeys as I go.

Once I finished pouting over the unfairness of it all, I was honoured by an invitation from Kol’s Notes to join the tour myself. It took me a week to realize this meant I could no longer be a bystander, watching the parade and hoping to snag a piece of tossed candy. Suddenly, I had to climb on to a float and give out my own bon bons.

The thought was daunting, nay, paralyzing. What do I have to offer with my meager attempts at stringing words together? One would think after publishing 873 posts I would have more to contribute. I am ashamed to say, my writing process – if I even have enough hubris to call it that – is not the structured I’d like it to be. It’s not even a process, more of a thing I do when I have a few minutes or when there is a deadline looming. However, if I can help someone else then I will air my humiliating secrets. Perhaps you can learn something from my laziness, or at least feel better about your own valiant efforts.

How I manage to spit words out, all of your questions answered here, or something:

Question #1: What are you working on?

This is an excellent question. Unfortunately, I have a less than stellar answer. At least it is short?

Nothing. That is to say, nothing other than putting words on the page. There is no larger project, no higher goal, than the simple act of writing itself. I do have hope that some larger scheme will inspire me if I keep on with it. Thus far, all I do is trudge away at it, putting in my 100 words, trying not to worry about anything else.

I am not sure that I ever had a prime directive for this space. The idea was to keep a record, to connect with others, and to seek solace in personal reflection. Writing things down made me feel better about them.

wpid-wp-1408531052243.jpegOne thing I know for sure is that I am happier when I am writing. I am forced to acknowledge the distinct differences in my outlook on life when I compare the weeks I let myself slide and the weeks I make myself to keep on. Even if nothing comes of it, this act brings me joy. For that reason alone I must continue. My sanity is worth it.

Question #2: Why do you write what you do?

These days I write what I am thinking about. Sometimes it is something that happened to me, sometimes it is something I read, and sometimes it is something else entirely. I tend to spew whatever is most sticking in my mind. Often it relates to life with Shiva, but not always.

I started blogging as early as 2000, in the early days when Livejournal was still cool and required a special invitation. Given my propensity to get bored with a project after its early stages, I opened many LJ accounts and then abandoned them all one by one. When Blogger was a thing, I started an account there, and then left that behind too. The same with several attempts at WordPress. It was all too much like work, too much like journaling, and I never had a sense of community. For the most part, I kept my writing attempts to a private notebook.

Pet blogging was quite different. Instead of a chore, it was fun to share pictures and chat about the silly things my dog did. It was also much easier to connect with others. While I was always shy to comment on other personal blogs, I felt less vulnerable leaving a cheerful note about another blogger’s dog or cat. The more I commented, the more I got to know others in the community and the more I read, the more I wanted to share my own stories.

I suppose this is my long-winded way of saying I write about my dog because it is fun and because it has led to other positive opportunities. It has also allowed me to experiment with other forms of writing in a way I feel comfortable. Shiva remains my main inspiration but she is no longer the only source. I am still trying to figure out how they all can be combined.

Question #3: How does your writing process work?

Um… Writing process? You mean where I sit down and type letters on the screen? Is there supposed to be more to it than that?

Perhaps it will be easiest if I follow the lead set by Kol’s Notes and break it into steps.

Step the first: Inspiration

I go for a walk. Yep. That’s it. Away from distractions, with only Shiva to tear me from my thoughts, walking is crucial for the idea process. The only trouble with this lies in the fact I never have a way to write anything down. I have to rely on my memory to retain all of the genius sentences I come up with during my perambulations. I should probably start carrying a notebook but I have enough in my pockets, what with poop bags and treats and keys.

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I do find Evernote is a fantastic program for keeping track of thoughts. Of course, I have to have my phone with me to take advantage of this application. Which I never do during my chief idea-seeking wanderings.

I never said I knew what I was doing.

Step the second: Preparation

Okay, so, this isn’t really a step since I don’t do much planning in advance. There have been times where I have needed to do a bit of research. Often I utilize the skills I developed while writing history papers and research while I go. This isn’t ideal. I don’t recommend it.

wpid-wp-1408531003709.jpegWhile Jodi of Kol’s Notes recommends the Italian countryside, I find the hills and valleys of Canada have just as much to offer. Why travel when you can get a lovely burst of creativity at home? The Okanagan Valley is my new favourite destination and I highly recommend a little Therapy in advance of your next writing experiment. It did wonders for me.

Step the third: Execution

I sit down and start typing. Sometimes quickly, sometimes excruciatingly slow. Sometimes on my blue chair, sometimes on a camping chair, sometimes on the floor. I always sit and I always type.

My preferred method is to write by hand with a pen and paper. It feels more natural and is closer to the practice of my childhood. Typing is faster, however, and there is no way I will bother to type something I have written by hand. Is there a computer program out there that automatically does this? You’d think there would be.

The time of day changes. I used to write in the mornings before going to work. It is still my best time of day. My current schedule does not allow it, unless I am willing to get up earlier than five-thirty, which I am not, at the moment.

These days I write at night, shortly after Shiva and I return from our walk. This way the ideas are still gurgling. Unfortunately, this timing can also lead to bitter diatribes and emotional rants, as I haven’t given myself the chance to digest anything before putting it out there. What can you do?

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Step the fourth: Editing

I tend to edit as I go, an arresting and somewhat inhibiting habit, but it works well for me. It is hard for me to write a sentence without re-thinking every word. Reading a troublesome line out loud helps me figure it out before moving on.

Before I hit publish, I try to read through every post at least once. Often I forget in my elation at finishing and find myself reading through and making changes after the article has already gone live. Oops.

Editing is actually my favourite part. I love chopping words and fixing errors in punctuation. It’s the same feeling I get when I throw out old things around the house; it can be liberating and almost always makes the post better. I rarely make the time to do it in any serious fashion. Something else I need to work on.

So yeah… That’s the insight into my, er, writerly process.

You are wowed, aren’t you? I thought so.

According to the rules of the Official Tour, I am now to tag several other bloggers and make them divulge all of their juicy secrets.

Lauranne of 25 Castles on 25 Clouds is officially up. I bet she will have some terrific advice for everyone. If not, she can at least recommend some good wine.

I am also nominating Ashley of The Accidental Olympian because she needs to write more and may as well do this. Her taste in beverage I am sure is also inspirational.

And as my final nomination I choose Kelly of Tails of Insanity. I can’t speak for her beverage choices, she probably drinks Diet Coke while she blogs, but she is another who needs to write more often. Hopefully this will be the commitment she needs.

If you made it to the end of this very long-winded beast, you have my congratulations. I hope you found something that helped you. If nothing else, you now know an excellent wine to try.

Give Cancer the Paw – In Honour of Jenna the Agility Berner

give cancer the paw buttonWhen I heard The Writer’s Dog and Pooch Smooches were ending the Give Cancer the Paw blog hop after almost a year’s worth of helpful posts full of important information and shared experiences, I had to stop to acknowledge their combined efforts. I’ve never felt I had much to offer this particular Petosphere movement. While I have had a lot of experience with human cancer – haven’t we all – my pets have been lucky. So far. Since I know it won’t always be this way, cancer is a jerk like that, I watched from the sidelines, putting aside as much as I could for later.

Alas, it had to end for the organizers to move on to other, equally vital projects. As an appropriate finish, they are dedicating their final posts to the special pets who have endured this unjust disease. A number far too great for my liking.

At first, I wasn’t sure I would be able to contribute. I don’t know why I thought I was so fortunate as cancer is the demon that haunts us all. It didn’t take me long to remember one extraordinary dog who touched the lives of everyone in my little family for the better. Jenna the Gentle, Jenna the Goof, Jenna the Agility Bernese Mountain Dog.

Jenna the Magnificent is lolling to the far right, beside Shiva the So Whacked in Head She Had to be Held by Her Human

Jenna the Magnificent is lolling to the far right, beside Shiva the So Whacked in Head She Had to be Held by Her Human

Because we moved to Alberta, we haven’t seen this spunky beauty for over a year but we have known her for quite a long time. Jenna took agility classes with us almost from the beginning and as such, she was one of Shiva’s first friends. To be frank, she was Shiva’s first and only friend for a long time. Though she wasn’t the typical canine athlete, Jenna was just as skilled a performer as any of the border collies or shelties with whom she trained. She took the obstacles in her own time, it’s true, but she never lacked in joy or ability. She was always my favourite to watch.

We celebrated a lot of successes together, and sympathised over each other’s failures. Jenna was involved in so many activities; her human never hesitated to sign her up for adventures, undaunted by the thought that Berner’s don’t make for agility superstars. Jenna was there when Shiva finally weaved twelve poles in a row. Shiva was there when Jenna ran through her first full course. It was a connection that still exists today. She will always be our teammate.

Even when we moved into a later class, one of the best parts about agility was getting to see Jenna every Saturday morning. She and her kind owner would always stop to say hello in their way out of the building. I am certain it was the only reason my PH agreed to tag along for so long. Jenna was his one true love. I could hardly feel jealous. I adored her almost as much.

I loved her most in those rare moments of mischievousness. For the most part, she lived up to the nature of her breed: friendly, calm, sweet-tempered. She was the last to get in trouble and seemed to be Shiva’s character foil in every way. But every once in a while, her eyes would sparkle and her butt would swing into the air and this happy growl would emit from her usually silent throat. Jenna in play mode was the happiest dog in the world.

Puppy JennaAt the age of six, Jenna was diagnosed with an aggressive cancer. Too aggressive to consider treatment. On the other side of the country, my heart broke for her and her human. It wasn’t fair. How could this happen to a dog so loving, so warmhearted, so amazing as Jenna?

That’s the thing about cancer, it’s an asshole.

Jenna will always have a special place in our memories. It is impossible to forget her. I am so grateful we got to know her as long as we did. Her smile, the wiggling of her butt under my scratching hand, the lean of her body against my legs, these are things I will never forget. She may never have won any agility championships, but she certainly won all of our hears.

Jenna

Join the hop co-hosted by The Writers Dog and Pooch Smooches. Pay tribute to a special dog today…link up with just a picture, or a picture and a few words. For all the pets we’ve loved.

Train Your Dog Month Challenge – All You Have is Each Other

I attribute my success to this – I never gave nor took any excuse ~ Florence Nightingale

When the month began I was full of plans. I said an official farewell to 2013 and all of its days of aggravation. Nothing was going to get in my way of deepening my neglected relationship with Shiva. Not the office, not the new season of Community, not even my winter ennui. This time we were going to get things done. I vowed.

002Only, in all my swearing and promising I forgot one fairly vital aspect to my scheme. In order to meet my goal, I would need the committed participation of a partner, a canine partner with ambitions and desires of her own. I could be as motivated as I wanted but it wouldn’t make one bit of difference if I couldn’t convince Shiva to join in on the fun.

I’ve written the well-known agility phrase on this blog many a time before – “great dog, shame about the handler” – but in some, limited cases it can go the other way. Even if I am over-the-top enthused about something, if Shiva is more interested in napping on the chair, there isn’t much I can do. This is a lesson my former trainer used to try to drill in my head every time I complained that all the other dogs appeared smarter, saner, sharper. It only took me four years to learn it.

I have to work with the dog I have.

And she has to work with me. Don’t worry, I know all too well who has the shadier end of this deal.

This realization doesn’t mean this month was a failure. I didn’t give or take any excuses. The primary goal of Train Your Dog Month is to spend more quality time with your dog. I do think I have accomplished that.

Before I get to the exciting results of The Great Challenge of Getting Shiva to Hold an Item in Her Mouth, I first want to share a small, but important, victory.

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Due to a lot of patience I have been able to re-teach Shiva that the camera is not a scary Gorgon who will turn her into stone if she looks it in the eye.

I don’t know where she got this notion. She used to pose so well. All I’d have to do was pull out the black box and she would leap into action, presenting her best side for all the world to admire. Somehow, though, something altered. Was it the time I posted the picture of her with her tongue sticking out? Was she upset that I would share such an unflattering image? Or perhaps The Cat has been telling her about the time I captured his fur-less behind for all the world to see.

For the record, I never posted any of those pictures online.

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Whatever the reason, it was getting a bit annoying. She has such a pretty face. This is – mostly – a dog blog. It should feature photos of said dog, and not just the back of her head. I don’t think the world needs to be inundated with Shiva butt pictures, as cute as they may be.

So we got to work. A few handfuls of well-placed treats, multiple withheld sighs, and my best squeaky cartoon voice, and she forgot all about the mythical creature in the camera. The most vital part of this formula was the withheld sighs. I had to remind myself that Shiva is not inclined to respond to frustration. Instead of growling at her to pay attention to me and not the birds flying overhead, I had to force myself to relax and wait. And wait. And wait. And sometimes, I had to call it a day and try again another time.

I had to work with the dog I have.

It paid off. Just look at these puppy eyes.

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I even managed to get a picture of her in which she doesn’t look freaked out.

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My Shiva model is back. I am going to try not to lose her again.

004Now, I guess, I need to own up to this whole retrieving business. I wish I had a wicked video to show you. I mean, I have a video but it isn’t the one I wanted to make.

My clever PH realized that the trick to getting Shiva to return with the toy is to have another one in the wings. Since her favourite ball is this orange and blue wonder, he purchased a second. The results were solid. He had some pretty decent success getting Shiva to run back with the ball in her mouth, drop it on the floor in front of him, and then chase it across the room once again.

He had success. I did not.

Is it because I approach her at the wrong time of day? Do I just not throw as well? I try to match my energy to his and I spend a few minutes beforehand revving her up. But after the ball is thrown, she’ll pick it up, run around with it, and then come back to me with an empty mouth. I am beginning to think that ball games are just not going to be part of our relationship. It is not easy to admit defeat.

This doesn’t mean I am giving up on the challenge entirely. Even if Shiva won’t properly fetch for me, I am still determined to teach her to hold items in her mouth for photographic purposes. It. Will. Happen. Just not yet.

I’ll let this video speak for itself:

Not quite the trick I was hoping to show off at the end of this month.

Sure, I could say that Shiva has done much better with this behaviour than it appears. I am also much better with my timing when the camera is not running. I wish I could show you all of the other training sessions in which Shiva held that stuffed snake for five whole seconds. But I can’t. All I have in any given moment is the dog in front of me. Not the Shiva of yesterday who was a bit more interested in the game, or even the Shiva of tomorrow who might have benefited from a bit of latent learning. Shiva is a dog with emotions as important to her as mine are to me. It doesn’t matter how well she performs in a video. What matters is that we tried to do something together and we are going to keep trying. Because it isn’t about the results.

This is what I tell myself, anyway.

Now it is your turn.

I want to hear all about the fun things you have done with your pets this month. Have you learned any lessons that will help you in the future? Did your pet surprise you? Add a link with your story to the tool below and brag about all of your hard work. Every entry has a chance to win a $25 donation to your favourite pet charity and a prize pack for you and your dog!

The linky will be open for one week. While you are there, make sure to read about the challenges faced by my talented co-hosts at Something Wagging This Way Comes and  Alfie’s Blog, as well as by all the other participants. You may be newly inspired to join me in my Year of Training!

What is one thing making you proud of your pet this month?

Pet Blogger’s Gift Exchange – NEPA Pets, Pet Expert of the Northeast

Pet-Bloggers-Gift-Exchange-graphicWhen I found out who my match was for the Pet Blogger’s Gift Exchange I was almost more pumped than last year  – if such an emotion is possible. Not because the author is my close friend or because it is a website I frequent often, more because of the exact opposite. Obviously I knew of NEPA Pets and I have been following the blog’s Twitterfeed for some time, I’ve even had the honour of conversing with the accomplished writer via Facebook, but she isn’t someone I have been lucky enough to get to know on a personal level. The website itself, while a fantastic resource for pet lovers in Northeastern Pennsylvania and elsewhere, never found it’s way into my regular rotation. Which is a shame. Nonetheless it excited me as I had a whole new blog to explore! And who doesn’t love that?

Nepa Pets

First off, I have to say that the human mind behind NEPA Pets is brilliant and hilarious. I mean, just look at this first line from her about page:

“Oh, NEPA is a magical place, where unicorns slide down rainbows while glitter rains down from cotton candy clouds.”

Right away I knew this was someone I had to uncover.

Second to that, her pets are gorgeous. I could just look at her cat, Omar, all day long. As soon as I saw his portrait on her Facebook cover photo, I was in serious love.

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From the adorable pawprint logo – seriously, I would wallpaper my house in pawprints if I knew my landlord wouldn’t have a conniption – to the funny and insightful “You Know You’re a Pet Parent When…” feature there is so much to which I can relate. Then, when I found out she is owned by Jack Russell Terriers? Better yet, a JRT named Havoc? That’s when I was hooked for life. I fully intend on pestering the heck out of her when I finally get my own convince my PH that a JRT would be the perfect addition to our wee family.

Somehow this writer has time to not only care for four dogs, six cats, four birds, two Guinea pigs, one ferret AND one rabbit, but also to, I assume, feed herself, go to work, and publish a popular blog providing useful information to her local pet community. Yeah, did you get all that? I did the math. It doesn’t add up. Remember, she lives with Jack-off-the-wall Russell Terriers, plus all of these other critters who need attention every day. This woman is a force and should be taken very, very seriously.

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I am certain she wakes up with much more energy than the rest of us. She clicker-trained her rabbit, for crying out loud! If that doesn’t say infinite patience, nothing does. Heck, she and Glee have come a lot further with the retrieve than Shiva and I.

One of the things I admire the most is how NEPA Pets has established itself as a pet expert within the local area. It was one of the things I longed to do when I lived in Halifax but was prevented due to laziness and a job in the local hotbed of animal welfare. I wasn’t able to push myself forward due to professional conflicts and it is something I felt lacking about my website. NEPA Pets, on the other hand, has been able to fit right into that niche, contributing greatly to the local pet culture. For instance, I love the fact she has set up a whole Facebook group for owners in her region. What an incredible way for people to connect!

Of course, as the writer herself says, within the blog there is something for every pet lover, regardless of address. “NEPA Pets is a community where all pet people (and by all pet people we are talking about dog people, cat people, ferret people, parrot people, etc) can learn, love and share about the animals they love as well as help make a difference for those homeless pets in NEPA.”

soyouthinkyouwantaparrot2_thumbAnd it’s true. While perusing over her 2013 posts, I was able to learn quite a bit about pet care. One of my favourites, which I have marked in case the worst happens, was her post on how to handle a skunking. It is something every dog owner who lives near a forest fears. I am stunned it hasn’t happened with the Shivster. Yet. Or how about this helpful article on treating fur mites in rabbits? I also recall this terrific and informative post on parrot ownership that I wish more people would read before taking home their tropical friend. Her sharp wit and knowledgeable perspective would go a long way to changing a lot of minds. It should be standard reading in every pet store.

There are a lot of reasons to check out NEPA Pets. I have been attempting to capture it all on a single Pinterest board but it hasn’t come anywhere near doing the website justice. I recommend you just check out the real deal to appreciate the author’s wisdom and acerbic style. There is no way I could cover it all in one post. Seriously, a woman who finds the time to look this good after caring for so many fascinating animals while also contemplating a wicked assortment of DIY projects? This is someone who needs to be in your feed reader. Yesterday.

A special thanks goes to Something Wagging This Way Comes for giving me the push I needed to check out such an important website. I am a better person for it and I hope I have deserved the ultra kind post she wrote for me. If you are interested in learning about the other participating blogs, make sure to click on the links below. We could all use more pet related reading material, right?

Meet the Bloggers: Putting it Out There

petcrazy-300x300The long-awaited blog hop is finally here! Thanks to my fellow hosts Kol’s NotesGo Pet FriendlyI Still Want More PuppiesNo Dog ABout ItThe Daily Dog BlogMy Brown NewfiesCindy Lu’s MuseLife With DesmondBringing Up BellaHeart Like a DogPeggy’s Pet Place and NEPA Pets for putting it all together. It is time for a full tell-all and show-all of all pet bloggers brave enough to bare-all. If you have ever wanted to know the true dirt lingering in the closets of your fellow pet lovers, your dreams have just come true. Don’t worry, I will stop mixing my metaphors and just get right to it.

Of course, the major purpose behind this awesome blog hop is to show our faces. I have never had an issue with that. It isn’t that I don’t suffer from massive self-esteem issues, because, well, if there is something I do well it is rip apart my appearance. I am a girl, after all, it is what we do. But! I realize how truly screwed up this is and I do my best to encourage other women to see themselves as they really are – not as society tells them they are – beautiful, talented, incredibly, worthy human beings. If I am going to have half a chance at being successful at this, I need to walk the walk, so to speak.

So what I have for you today is the most authentic set of pictures I could muster. Un-freshened make-up, un-trimmed hair, un-changed clothing, this is me, after I get home from work each day. It’s pretty much what I look like right now as I am typing this.

Selfie!

Selfie!

Yep, that’s me. No editing, no effort. Just the cold, hard facts. But, this is a pet blog after all, so I recruited my long-suffering PH into snapping a few shots of me and the Sheevs, equally unedited. If you look closely, you can see the Shivster’s scar…

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Here is where I get down to the truth of the matter. I hope you are ready because this isn’t going to be pretty. I am wretched at naming my favourite anything. Mostly because making a decision is just dang hard. Choosing one thing out of the zillions of things I adore gives me a nasty rash. But I will do it for you. I hope you don’t hold my answers against me.

What’s your favourite non-animal related book?

Non-animal, eh? It depends on who is asking. My common, practiced answer to this question is Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy – a book I really do love. My knee-jerk answer? The book I could read a million times and then a million times more? Anne of Green Gables.

What’s your favourite non-animal related movie?

Again, this answer changes. My typical, job-interview – yes, I have been asked this question in job interviews – response is Life is Beautiful. I do love this movie. It makes me bawl my eyes out in a good way. But the movie I could watch ten times in a row and still not get tired of it? Anastasia. The singing! The Russia-ness of it all! The John Cusack! *sigh*

What’s your favourite non-animal related food?

This one is just obvious to anyone who has read anything I have ever written. You get three guesses and the first two don’t count.

Who’s your favourite actor?

Gosh, this might be the hardest question of all. My favourite actress is, without a doubt, Emma Thompson. But my favourite actor? The male performer who I will watch regardless of the quality of storyline? Hugh Grant? Kenneth Branagh? Are we sensing a pattern?

What’s one thing you have to do every day?

Walk the puppers. It’s the first thing I think of every single morning.

What makes you feel fabulous?

Completing a really difficult project. Finishing this blog post will make me feel pretty awesome, actually.

What do you wish you were more skilled at?

Writing. I really, really want to learn more.

What’s your favourite holiday?

Christmas Eve. I know, it’s not really a holiday but it’s my favourite day of the year. I am an anticipation junkie, what can I say?

Favourite meal?

Bread. And cheese. And garlic. Mix those ingredients together and I am bound to eat it all in one gulp.

What do you like to do in your free time?

Read. Sometimes, I wish I could just read forever. I actually do worry I will die before I am able to finish every book on my list. It is a fear that keeps me up at night.

What one word would people who know you use to describe you?

Quiet. Everyone tells me this. Most people tell me that don’t know what to think of me. That’s fine by me.

If your pets could talk, what one word would THEY use to describe you?

Stingy. Or, if you ask The Cat? Annoying.

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How is your pet most like you?

The dog and I are both kind of anxious. We both jump at loud noises and worry we are going to have to deal with strangers. In every other way we couldn’t be more different. Unless you count the fact we both like to sleep on the bed.

If you could change one thing about your life what would it be?

I don’t know that there is anything I would change at the moment. I would love to have more money but that is going to take some time.

Other than blogging, what are three things you do that bring you joy?

My life with my PH, my amazing friends, and this incredible blogging community. I am just so freaking grateful for you all.

What’s one thing you could do to be more kind to yourself?

Well, you may or may not have noticed that I skipped several questions relating to positive things about myself. I need to discover things about me of which I am proud. It is just so hard. Right now, I come up empty. Maybe one day?

If you didn’t have your current pets, what pets would you choose to have?

What an impossible question! If I didn’t have my current pets, I wouldn’t be here right now. Shiva is the reason for everything. If not for her, I wouldn’t have started this thing, I wouldn’t have worked in animal welfare, I wouldn’t be this person sitting here at night listening to Michael Bublé’s Christmas special and rushing to finish writing before midnight. This scrawny speckled dog is the reason for all. If I didn’t have her, I might be living in Shanghai, for all I know.

I hope I have enlightened you. If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to ask. I may or may not answer, but I will appreciate your interest.

There are still a few hours left! I want to see YOUR ravishing mug in this linky list as soon as possible. Don’t leave me hanging here, vulnerable, all on my own!