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).

Portland Can Have ‘Em: Keeping Edmonton a Secret

If you have been keeping up with Go Pet Friendly’s Annual Tournament, you’ll have seen that Edmonton was booted during round three. At first, I was pretty bitter about it. Portland, Oregon may seem brilliant with all its craft breweries and its gigantic bookstores and its Voodoo doughnuts, but that doesn’t mean it is pet-friendly. Dogs can’t drink beer or eat doughnuts and I am positive most of them can’t read.

Note the handy poop bag dispenser. This is a National Park that welcomes dogs with open arms. It was stocked even in the winter.

Note the handy poop bag dispenser. This is a National Park that welcomes dogs with open arms. It was stocked even in the winter.

In my opinion, the amount of rain the western U.S. city receives each day should be reason enough to stay away. Walking in a downpour is not fun, no matter how beautiful the riverside park might be. I know this from personal experience. I used to live in Halifax.

Can we go back inside now? Rain sucks.

Can we go back inside now? Rain sucks.

Edmonton has just as many off leash parks as Portland and an even bigger riverside forest, both of which one can enjoy in full sunshine almost 365 days a year. How does that not make it more pet friendly?

I am honestly asking because I am still confused by this.

But, I am not bitter. In fact, now that I have had a few days to gain perspective, I am relieved. Portland can keep its bragging rights. It suits me fine if all of the pet lovers of the world see it as some sort of canine Mecca. It means we will have all of this to ourselves:

Taken at Elk Island National Park, less than 30 minutes away from our home in Edmonton

Taken at Elk Island National Park, less than 30 minutes away from our home in Edmonton

No, looking at it now, I am thrilled Edmonton will remain a secret. I want everyone to keep thinking it is a frozen wasteland where none but the truly brave venture. The fewer people who visit, the more we can enjoy a peaceful hike on a Sunday afternoon, unaccosted by hordes of tourists. Places like Portland and Carmel are so jam-packed full of people during the summer months that Edmonton is almost serene in comparison. For that reason alone, it is a much happier place for Shiva and I. Crowds just give us hives.

We didn't run into a single person on this hike. That makes us happy.

We didn’t run into a single person on this hike. That makes us happy.

Heck, what do I care if people would rather stay on the other side of the border? In Edmonton, our pets are well-cultured. In order to preserve this, it is probably best to keep the riff raff away. They’ll never know just how much fun we Edmontonians can be, never get to experience the spirit of a true Edmonton festival – as Canada’s reigning festival city, we know how to have a good time – and they’ll never know how amazing it is to take in a performance of a symphony orchestra with their dogs by their sides.

We also have a wicked sense of humour*

We also have a wicked sense of humour*

As far as I am concerned, I’d rather avoid the publicity a win in Go Pet Friendly’s contest would bring. Save that for the more common jet-setting locales like Vancouver and Key West. Edmonton prefers to move quietly along, enjoying its diverse food trucks, its beautiful garden paths, and its very own restaurant for dogs.** I like that the employees in my favourite high-quality, regionally-owned pet stores have more than enough time to answer my questions and I never have to wait in line. What a shame it would be if these places were taken over by visitors. How horrifying if the invasion of foreign dogs meant some of the pet friendly spaces were taken away.

The grounds outside Muttart Gardens are beautiful, calm, and pet friendly. I'd like to keep them that way.

The grounds outside Muttart Gardens are beautiful, calm, and pet friendly. I’d like to keep them that way.

Thank you, to those people out there who recognized how pet-loving Canada’s most northern metropolis is. My appreciation for your support in the vote is sincere. You helped us not only beat out West Hollywood and Tuscon, but also Toronto and Montreal. Here in Alberta, we consider that a victory of epic proportions.

But my thanks must go to those who voted for Portland as well. You helped keep Edmonton a lovely secret. Every time I stroll along the river without meeting another dog, I will remember you and be grateful.

Of course, my real gratitude must go to Go Pet Friendly for running such an entertaining tournament. The competition is wicked and I can’t wait to see who ends up the final winner! Make sure to keep voting!

*Thanks for reminding me about this, Back Alley Soapbox! Best prank ever. 

**Thanks, Jessie, for telling me about this place in your comment!

Pet Blogger Challenge: A New Hope*

PBCIt is ridiculous to fathom that this is the fourth round of the Pet Blogger Challenge. It seems like only yesterday I was an awkward and terrified new pet blogger, shyly joining an event held by a pantheon of writers far funnier and more interesting than I. Would they even let me add a link, I wondered. Surely there was going to be some secret password that only real writers knew and I would be kicked out the second I tried to enter my measly little submission. At the time such rejection felt imminent. I am positive my fingers trembled as I typed my post for the Pet Blogger Challenge’s inaugural year.

Now anyone who has joined the Petosphere for any length of time knows how wrong and slightly offensive were these fears. There are no secret codes, no membership fees, and no traffic requirements. Everyone is welcome and encouraged and everyone has something important to contribute. One of my favourite parts of this annual event is how much I learn from and about my fellow bloggers. I try to read as many posts as I can and always come away feeling energized. I am hoping this year will be a new record for participation.

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This space hasn’t changed since March 2010 when the madness all began. I started because I have always liked the concept of blogging, even if I’d never been able to pull one off before. There were countless projects before this one – not a single one ever stuck. Not a single one was ever read by anyone other than myself. I can’t say why I’ve managed to keep going with Rescued Insanity. Nor do I have a clue what motivated me to leave my safe bubble and connect with others. If I was to think on it with a bit more care, I am sure it would have to do with the reason I am willing to get up at 5:30 every single morning. That was why I started blogging and it is why I am here still.

That’s something with which we can all relate. All of us in this Challenge are here for the same original purpose. This drives us to do nutty things like dedicate hours of unpaid work, forgoing sleep and sometimes neglecting other responsibilities. We may have different goals and unique perspectives, but we all share a common passion. Knowing that makes us instant pals.

At least, I’d like to think so.

038My goals have always been simple. I used to say that I didn’t know what I was doing, or that I had no intentions, that I was just here for the free books. But none of that was really true. It was easier to have people believe. Far easier to hide behind a shield of self-deprecation than to admit a desire for something more. I still do this in my writing. My declared fear is almost my protector. If I talk ad infinitum about how terrified I am and how little I think of myself – not that these feelings aren’t real – then I don’t have to take any risks. It’s like spitting gum in your own hair before a bully gets the chance.

Only, in my case there is no physical bully at all. My tormentor is my own imagination, a creature conjured entirely by my fear of humiliation. One isn’t putting her soul on the line if she keeps telling everyone she isn’t serious about anything. I have worn my deficiencies like a badge of honour, broadcasting them to the world at every interval. This way there are no expectations and, most importantly, there is no possibility of looking like an idiot. Of course, there is also no possibility of real accomplishment. Or pride.

But I digress. I think I was supposed to be talking about goals. Since I spent most of 2013 wallowing in self-pity – there I go again – I can’t say I achieved the aims I set last year. Then again, my goal was so vague that an optimist could say that I did succeed. Here is what I wrote in my 2013 post, verbatim:

“My goal for this year is to figure it all out.”

Jeepers. Could I have been any more vague? What the heck was I talking about? If by “figuring it all out” I meant learning the purpose behind why I spend so much time agonizing over every sentence in a pet blog, then I guess I win! Because I have figured it out. I am still here because for some, no doubt pathological, reason I actually enjoy divulging all of my deepest anxieties while boosting my ego as people coo over how cute my animals are. Is that so wrong?
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On a more candid note, there is one big thing that has changed for me this year. It took an eight month break, but I am forever beholden. 

No longer am I writing to please others.

Of course, I love connecting with you. I adore hearing your stories and perspectives. But when I write now, I write for writing’s sake only. It is a mental practice, a hobby, a way of escape. This has worked for me better than any committed assignments ever did.

I don’t know if my writing has improved. I am trying very hard not to think too much about that. Right now it is about re-cultivating the habit itself: sitting down every day, eking out my thoughts, sometimes with a glass in my hand, struggling to ignore the idea that other people might be reading. Please, please, please, don’t take this the wrong way. The public aspects are important. Vital, even. Without you, without the thought that someone, somewhere might care if I disappear, I wouldn’t be nearly so accountable. For me, no motivation in the world can compare with the potential disappointment of others.

035This is why I am so grateful to you and all of my fellow pet bloggers. You alone have taught me that it isn’t about page views or numbers or statistics or anything else that I never paid much attention to anyway. In the olden days I felt bad that I didn’t, that it made me less dedicated because I didn’t use SEO or couldn’t cite my traffic to anyone who asked. Now I know otherwise. None of that junk matters when all I want to do is learn how to write and engage with others who care about similar things. That’s it. If I write every post at the last minute and never look at my statistics again, does it really matter to anyone else?

And this is what I want to show others who may be struggling with a bit of blogging malaise. It seems there are a fair amount of you. Sure, you may have bigger goals than I, you are no doubt ensnaring the major sponsors and have actually made money at this thing, if only a few dollars here and there. True confession? I haven’t made a cent. I don’t feel ashamed about that. It’s not why I am here. It doesn’t make me less than. I am okay with this.

But even if you aren’t okay with the lack of cash – and this is fine too – maybe why you are losing your love for blogging is because you think you need to be doing all the things, all of the time. Really, you only need to be doing the things that are important to you. The things you love. If you enjoy Facebook, do that. If you never got the hang of Twitter? Screw it. Find the things you have fun with and excel at them. Drop everything that is a chore. I am willing to bet your audience will grow, not decrease.

Of course, I could be wrong. I’ve only been doing this for four years without a single dime to my name. Perhaps not the advice you want to take.

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One of my biggest challenges has been finding the time to do the things I do love. For example, one of my favourite things is responding to all of your insightful, warm, and usually hilarious comments. It bothers me greatly when I don’t and sometimes I’ve lost sleep over it. The problem is, it takes me so much time to write my posts that I can’t get to it even an eighth as often as I’d like. The other thing is, I ove, love, love reading and commenting on other blogs. Ofttimes I have to make a choice between reading everything I want to read, commenting on everything I read, and responding to comments on my own blog. How does one decide when all three are so vital?

This is my long-winded way of saying that usually what inspires me to comment on a post is having something sincere to say, something of value to contribute. Now that I have to be so conscious of my time, I will only comment if I feel I can add to the dialogue. By the time I get around to reading the post is several days old and everything useful as already been said. At that point, my comments are superfluous at best and tedious at worst. That doesn’t mean I don’t enjoy the article or get something out of the brilliant conversation it inspired, it just means I am likely to be cowed and move on without saying anything.

This is something I need to remedy. Any ideas on how I can go without sleep?

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To add to all of the things I am no longer doing, as I’ve mentioned, I will no longer be doing product reviews. Full stop. I was never good at them anyway. It showed. I am not going to spend my time, my precious free time, doing anything I don’t adore. In future, the only time you will see a review on this website, is if I fall head over heels  and must share the knowledge before I burst. It will be a book or an item I purchased myself and think is awesome. Free stuff be danged. It was never worth it for me.

There was nothing like a company’s deadline to kick writer’s block into high gear. Now that I have let all that go, I don’t find myself struggling nearly as much. Sure, It helps that there is no pressure for numbers or content. I am writing what I want, when I want and no one is able to tell me otherwise. My only rule is that I write as much as I can as often as I can. It makes it so much easier to navigate exhaustion or any blockages. When all else fails, I’ll just tell a story about a random mistake I made. It usually does the trick.**

Taking a break sucked for a lot of reasons. Primarily because I have this dinosaur-sized gap in my life that went unrecorded. I still haven’t written about Shiva’s very first kennel stay. Nor have I gone into any great detail over my horrific flight with Mr. Kitty Meister. Sure, you are grateful but these were huge moments for us! Lost to the wilds of my memory forever. It’s tragic. But it wasn’t a total loss. My over-long lapse also taught me something I hope I never forget again. Wait for it…

I love writing. I always have. Whether I am crap at it or not. I enjoy stringing words together. It gives me purpose. It helps me breathe. Ability, ambition, acuity, none of that matters when compared with joy. It took not-writing for me to acknowledge this. Will I keep going with Rescued Insanity forever? I have no idea. But it is the only platform on which I have been consistent. Sharing stories about my life with Shiva has been the only steady medium I’ve had for self-expression. So I will try to keep it up as long as I can.

That is my only goal for 2014: to keep writing as much as possible. And maybe to get the guts to admit being proud of something. But that is a topic for another post.

Thanks a million to Go Pet Friendly and Will My Dog Hate Me for running the Pet Blogger Challenge one more time. Thank you for allowing me to yammer on for way too may words. By the time I publish this novel, I am going to feel more relaxed than I have in a long, long time.

 

*Yay for random, out-of-body geekage! I am not even a Star Wars  fan. I simply couldn’t come up with a better reference. Last year the title of my post was an homage to the late, great Leslie Nielsen. But he died before they could make a fourth Naked Gun movie so, alas, I was without further inspiration.

**See above badge of honour.

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!

Pet Blogger Challenge 33 1/3


Pet Blogger Challenge Jan. 10
Oh, Pet Blogger Challenge, you old devil, you. This year, I have to say I’ve been both anticipating and dreading writing you. Anticipating because I get a lot out of reading everyone else’s posts. Dreading because I’m still grappling with all the same old things. I’ve been blogging for almost three years and not a lot has changed. Blah, blah, blah. I just feel a bit older.

Then I went back and re-read my challenge piece from last year. And then I read the one from the year before that. I was struck by how positive I sounded in both posts. I also realized that I’ve actually reached all of my goals! Granted, they were vague in nature but it stands that I accomplished them.

Golly, who’d have guessed that?

1. I wanted to meet some fellow bloggers in person. 

I achieved that and then some.

2. I wanted to keep the essence and authenticity of my blog intact.

I don’t see any gigantic ads taking up space, nor have I received a dime from sponsors writing posts for me. Not that either of those things are necessarily bad when done right. Apparently I was worried last year about doing them very, very wrong. Fortunately, the only meaningless drivel around these parts is one hundred percent mine.

Woo hoo?

So clearly a shift in perspective is needed. I don’t know why I get so down about my lack of success when I haven’t defined my version of success in any measurable way. Silly pet blogger. Once again I have fallen into a tangle of over-inflated expectation based on absolutely nothing.

If three words could describe all the mistakes I made last year they would be:  Missing! The! Point!

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This year I am going to work hard not to do that. How I am going to measure my success at this I don’t know. Maybe see if the permanent dent in my forehead has healed?

ANYWAY… I’m supposed to be answering questions so let’s move this steam engine along!

I still try to post every week-day. Except when I don’t.

This was my hardest blogging year yet. There were times it was grinding to no end. I was getting so stressed out about not having enough time to do anything and about how inane I felt my ideas were that I almost went on hiatus. Permanently. However, I really enjoy the practice of writing. The idea of quitting depressed me. So I pushed through the blockage and you had to put up with some pretty boring posts in the meantime. Thanks for that. Eventually I realized if I was going to have a hope of writing anything decent ever again something needed to change.

That’s when I took the pressure off. I don’t make any money doing this. The only reward I get is a personal one. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a hefty motivator! But it’s not worth what is left of my sanity. Once I gave myself permission to take a day off if I was too busy or just plain didn’t feel like blogging, I felt a million times better. I found I spent more quality time reading other people’s blogs as opposed to rushing through to get it all done. These days if I don’t get to every blog I follow every day, or even every week, I don’t sweat it. We’re all busy. People understand and don’t hate me for not commenting on every single thing they write. Imagine that. It was a hard lesson for me to learn but a valuable one. The blog-life balance has been restored and I have much more fun!

Did someone say fun?

Did someone say fun?

I guess that’s my long-winded way of answering several questions on the list. I no longer publish on a schedule though I do try to post at least five days a week. If I don’t get to it one day because there was something else going on, I give myself a break. I find it works better for me this way for now. We’ll see if it changes back to something more structured in the future. Right now it’s all about flexibility!

If there have been repercussions for my new relaxed attitude as far as my audience is concerned, I haven’t noticed any. My traffic has remained consistent enough. In fact, I think it has improved. Probably because I now try to write when I have something to say, as opposed to writing for writings’ sake. Although, I am still wrestling with the latter. Inspiration doesn’t hit me nearly as often anymore. I don’t always feel comfortable writing about certain parts of my life and when there is nothing going on I do feel comfortable sharing, it’s difficult to put something “post-worthy” together.

Not that I have any idea of what is truly “post-worthy”. That deserves a whole article of its own! I am really looking forward to seeing how others define this. Is a grainy video of my dog really post-worthy? On a personal blog, does it matter all that much? There are bound to be a few duds, in my opinion. One of the things I love so much about this platform is that it doesn’t have to be perfect. I just put it out there and hope for the best.

Kind of like fostering a kitten, with less bite-marks

Kind of like fostering a kitten, with less bite-marks

Ultimately, I am no longer willing to lose sleep over any aspect of my website. I will not stay up until three in the morning replying to comments. I will not turn down invitations to stay home and fiddle with plug-ins. I will not pass up things I enjoy because I have yet to post something that day. I will not spend more time online than I do with my family. If this was my full-time job I would give it a lot more effort. Unfortunately, I have one of those that I need to perform on top of whatever personal responsibilities are on my roster. For now, blogging is just a small part of who I am.

Quite likely if this offends someone, he or she isn’t going to stick around. I am okay with that.

The last three questions are the hardest for me to answer. I don’t know how to measure the success of a post, or even of my website as a whole. Numbers are, I suppose, the most scientific way. I don’t have the digits I probably should. They aren’t that impressive when compared to many, perhaps even all, of you. Again, I am okay with that. I don’t do the work so I can’t expect to get that kind of reward. I don’t know anything about Technorati or Alexa. Rating systems are so completely off my radar they fit right up there with NBA statistics. Heck, I can’t even really tell you how many page views I average a month. It hit me when I went to BarkWorld that I should probably know these things. I should probably care about them and quote them often.

But is that really all that matters when measuring success? Am I missing the point again? Help!

I guess this enables me to answer the penultimate question. If I could ask my fellow bloggers for assistance with just one issue it would be this: how should I measure the success of my website? Should I start looking at numbers? Should I figure out SEO? Do I need to know anything about Alexa? Is a blog worth anything without these things?

My goal for this year is to figure it all out.

I think I am happy with keeping this a personal gig without mucking it up with calculations or competition with other bloggers. That’s not my style. The pet blogging world is a warm, supportive community and I like to think I have something to offer it beyond big, traffic-generating articles. I don’t want to constantly be eyeing up my friends, plotting ways to edge them out of the ratings while putting myself higher. It doesn’t sound like fun, nor does it sound like what pet bloggers are really about.

Not that this is what I think others are doing! One must be clear! But it’s probably what I would turn into – or at least I worry it’s what I would turn into. If I allow myself, if I think I am good at something, I can be overly competitive. I’d rather be on the sidelines, helping others reach their goals. It’s a much kinder, happier place to be.

Now that’s an interesting thought, indeed…

I guess that’s it for my third edition of the Pet Blogger Challenge! My sincerest thanks to Go Pet Friendly for running it again this year and for coming up with some thought-provoking questions. Thanks as well to everyone who participates! I can’t wait to read every single one of your posts! 

Turning Points: A Brut Moment Challenge

In honour of her dog’s birthday, the author of 24 Paws of Love has issued a challenge:

“Tell us in a post what was the most monumental moment that you and your dog shared, that changed the course of your lives together.  How ever big or small, what happened that brought an understanding between you and your dog and brought your relationship closer than it was before.  What is that one story in your mind that stands out and you repeat over and over to anyone that will listen?  Tell us all about it!!”

Never one to turn away from a chance to blab on about my dog, I quickly hit on a moment Shiva and I shared that fits this idea perfectly. I am sure I’ve written about this before, though I couldn’t find the exact link. If I haven’t then I am long overdue.

Near our old house there were two paths that went around the lake. On one path I felt comfortable letting Shiva run around off-leash in the early morning and on the other I did not. According to HRM by-laws, both paths were strictly on leash areas. However, one was always vacant in the pre-dawn hours when I walked the dog and the other stretched directly behind homes and was a lot more popular. Given Shiva’s lack of recall at the time, not to mention her reactivity, we played it safe on this second path like good law-abiding citizens. Unfortunately, others did not.

On one particular day, about eight months or so after we had brought Shiva home for the first time, I headed home on the second path. There was a long boardwalk over a marshy section of the lake and I often liked to pause there to snap a few photos. You’ve seen a number of them on this website, I am sure. After a brief photography session, I slipped my camera back in my pocket and we continued down the wooden section over the water.

We had taken about five steps when I heard the barking. Before I could take action to re-direct a reactive Shiva still in the early stages of training, a small off-leash dog appeared on the boardwalk ahead of us, yapping and snarling.*

Anyone who has ever walked a reactive dog knows exactly what such a situation feels like. I am pretty sure I stopped breathing.

Shiva and I had made some decent strides in our training at this point. We had found our trainer who had given us the tools to work together. But I still crossed the street to avoid other dogs and people as much as possible. I just wasn’t confident enough in my own skills as a handler and I was still getting my timing down.

Since this was a boardwalk with railings on both sides, there was no way we could avoid this dog. The only option was to turn around. The question was, would I be able to turn quickly enough to prevent Shiva from taking a piece out of the wee barker?

Holding my breath, I turned to look at her. To my amazement – I still tear up a little – instead of staring at the other dog and preparing herself to lunge, Shiva was looking back at me! We actually made eye contact!

Eye contact!!

For the first time Shiva was looking to me for direction and guidance. I wasn’t just the person holding her back, I had become member of her team, her partner. She had learned I was on her side.

I’ll never forget the expression on her face either. I am almost positive she had a single eyebrow raised. If Shiva could talk, in that moment I am sure she would have sworn under her breath.

Luckily I didn’t let my joy get in the way of practical matters. Almost in sync, Shiva and I turned around on the spot and walked away. The little dog remained in his spot yapping behind us and we didn’t look back. Once we were out of sight I am sure I was wiping away tears and dancing. No doubt Shiva got more treats in the ten minutes it took us to get home, than she ever has before or again.

To this day I look on that moment as a turning point for us. It was the first real success we had with her reactivity and it showed me that things really could get better. Of course, it wasn’t all uphill from there and we endured many more moments of frustration, but it was a huge start full of promise. On that day for the first time Shiva and I were a team.

It felt awesome.

Is there a moment in your relationship with your dog that stands out to you as a turning point? I’d love to hear all about it!

*Incidentally, this was the same dog dog who attacked us several months later in this post.

Pet Blogger Challenge, The Sequel

For the second year in a row, GoPetFriendly.com and Will My Dog Hate Me have issued a challenge to pet bloggers. They created a series of questions centred around the topic of blogging and all the craziness that follows. I participated last year and enjoyed the opportunity to think deeper about what it is I am trying to produce with this space. Twelve months later, I still don’t really know. I hope you’ll indulge me as I try to figure it all out once more. If you feel so inclined, I also hope you will join in!

Pet Blogger Challenge Jan. 10

I have always been a little long-winded. One of my favourite university professors even wrote those exact words on one of my papers. He didn’t mean it as a compliment but I showed it off with pride. Blogging allows me to ramble as much as I please without dealing with red ink all over my page. If I want, I can say the same thing over and over again and no one can stop me. I can revel in the superfluous! (Kinda like I just did there. Mwahahahaha!) I’ve always enjoyed the process of writing; it was the discipline I lacked. As a child I would love coming up with new stories to tell but by the fourth or fifth page I would lose interest and move onto something else. For years, it was the same with blogging. I would create a new website, come up with a fun title, type a few posts about what I ate for lunch, and then never log-in again.

But then I got this dog and all that changed.

Blogging has been a lot of things for me in the last two years. It has been a release, it has been a chore, it has been a source of immense support. One of the biggest goals I set for myself in the previous challenge was to find a way to give back to a community that welcomed me instantly without even knowing my background. I could be an art thief with pink hair and a horrible taste in shoes. I could wear tights as pants every day. The pet blogging community wouldn’t care. It was a stunning thing to me. Still is. Much to my chagrin, I don’t think I have achieved this goal. Thanking people for their kindness just isn’t enough. Here is what I wrote last year and I still feel this today, maybe even more so:

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 still determined to figure this out. Even if I have to keep plugging away on here for the rest of my life.

The other goals I had were petty in comparison. I wanted to start self-hosting. Check! I wanted to create a unique design. Check! I wanted to better utilize social media. Check-ish: time-sucking Facebook continues to evade my prowess.  It does feel pretty cool to look back at the things I have accomplished, no matter how small. I even figured out, all by myself, how to add my own nifty social media buttons to my sidebar. Is it silly to be so proud of something others could do without taking a breath? Oh well, I’m going to brag about it anyway!

These days I blog on a pretty strict schedule. Every morning after walking the dog, I pour myself a cup of coffee and try to post something remotely interesting. Some days the words come easier than others. I do find this routine helps. Often, even if I don’t have any particular ideas, the act of sitting in my favourite corner of the sofa, Shiva’s warmth at my side, will inspire my thoughts. There are times I blog apart from this routine, such as the rare times I post on weekends, but that’s pretty much it. I am sitting in that exact spot right now, in fact, morning news on the television in front of me, mind on the Interwebs and the puppy beside me.

Traffic and site stats and all such insidious things did distract me a little this year, I have to admit. I have always maintained that I don’t blog for comments just as I don’t practice agility for ribbons. While that is still very much true, I did find myself clicking on the “stats” link a little more than was healthy. It helps that I have no time to figure out the intricacies of Google Analytics. Mid-summer, I was forced to delete my site stats when the WordPress plugin caused damage to my sidebar.  (Why do good plugins go insane? Why?) With no way to see the numbers in front of me, I stopped worrying about it. It was probably the best thing that could have happened to an over-thinking brain like mine. If I can’t see it, I can’t stress over it. Done.

Of course, if I am not generating the traffic, there is no chance for me to generate income either. I am still kind of ambivalent about this anyway. I’ve had advertisements up and then a few days later I’ve taken them down. Blogging for money is not an easy thing to do. From what I have seen, it is pretty rare for a person to make a career out of posting pictures of their dog on the Internet. (Dang.) I am not saying it doesn’t happen, but it probably takes more time and dedication than I have. A little bit extra here and there would be nice, yet I am not sure the work involved is worth the few extra cents. Right now I am definitely interested – working in the nonprofit industry for as long as I have will keep your mind very open to financial opportunities! – though not at all committed. (If you have any tips, I’d love to hear them!)

Ultimately, my feelings about blogging have not changed. I do go through periods where I question if I am just wasting my time. Taking the website thing a lot more seriously has put a strain on my other activities. I don’t read books as much as I used to, for one, and I don’t spend as much time emailing family and friends. It bothers me that I haven’t been able to achieve a balance, especially in regards to the latter. By the end of 2011, I felt overwhelmed by all the demands on my time. A re-prioritzation might be in order. There are never going to be more than 24 hours in a day. No magical girl is going to float down, glowing pink wand in hand, to grant me just five more minutes. I need to learn how to make the most of spare seconds I do have and spend them in a way I won’t regret. That’s going to be my biggest challenge. If the blog suffers for it, I may just have to suck it up.

All that being said, I do still love it. I love sharing stories about my crazy dog and I love feeling like a part of something. Even if it’s something my former self would have mocked relentlessly. I am also excited at the prospect of maybe, finally, eventually meeting some of you in person this year. Maybe. If I can stop myself from running away and hiding. The excitement is definitely scented with nervousness!

If this goes anywhere this year, if I do start attempting to make money or if my dog gets her chance at super-stardom, I hope the website never loses the essence it had when we began. At its core, this blog is about my dog and I and our struggles to connect. It’s about celebrating a relationship that is so often taken for granted or abused. If nothing else, I think to think it serves as a tribute to my dog and to myself, with all our flaws and foibles. If no one ever reads it again, not even my mother – who actually has never once read my blog – I hope I keep doing this dorky, crazy, silly, wonderful thing.

And I hope you do too.

Thanks to you all for your incredible support and encouragement! While I am not surprised Shiva has so many fans, I am constantly stunned by your kindness. If you have the time, I hope you participate in this challenge as well. I’d love to read what you have discovered about yourself in this last year of blogging!