Pet Blogger Gift Exchange – Bringing Up Bella

For those who haven’t been following along, Pamela at Something Wagging This Way Comes organized a beautiful way for bloggers to give a little back this holiday season. Each participant was teamed up with another blogger with the idea of serenading one’s partner with kindness in the form of social media affection. It’s such a unique gift that only other bloggers would understand and appreciate. Based on the impressive number of links on the list, it has been a big hit!

When I found out who I was randomly matched with in Something Wagging’s Pet Blogger Gift Exchange I could not believe my good fortune. I’ve only been following Bringing Up Bella for a short time – less than a year. It feels like I have known the author for so much longer. At first, I thought this would make showing my appreciation for Leslie and her website easy. I created a quick board on Pinterest in her honour and immediately got to work on a blog post. But because there is so much I want to say about her and her beautiful girl, it’s been hard getting the words out. Nothing less than perfect will do.

Such a sweet, happy face, you'd never know what she has been through.

Such a sweet, happy face, you’d never know what she has been through.

Bella’s back story is a complex one. She was rescued as a stray from the streets of Puerto Rico at the age of five months. After being brought back to health by the kind souls who took her in, she was sent to the United States in the hope she would find a permanent home with a family there. According to the about page, Bella arrived with a handwritten note:

“I rescued her in a big parking (lot) of trailers. She was skinny, full of parasites and afraid of people. Hungry. She eats well. Loves to eat dog dry food mixed with dog canned meat. She is a little shy, loves to play with other puppies. Thank you for taking care of her!”

I can understand why Leslie and her husband Jan were taken with her. Though she was not their first dog, unlike Shiva was for us, they did not fully know what to expect after bringing her home. While she was still young enough to recover from her early experiences, there was a lot they just didn’t know about her. Unfortunately, the transition wasn’t easy for anyone. You can read all about their difficult journey here.

What strikes me most about Bella and her family is not how hard things were for them or how upsetting the situation with Bella became, but how they never gave up. Not even when Bella showed signs of serious aggression and threatened Jan with harm. They didn’t take her back to the rescue; they didn’t consider euthanasia. Their deep love for Bella, regardless of her anxieties, caused them to stick by her no matter what. They realized they were out of their element and they sought professional help. You can see for yourself on the blog just how beautifully she has grown under their care. She may never be the “perfect” dog but she is more than good enough for them.

Their experiences are inspiring. And humbling.

It’s a practice in ridiculousness to attempt to select a favourite post. They are all so different. Some make me cry, some make me giggle, some provide very useful information, and some make me laugh out loud. A life with a Bella is a rich one and provides Leslie with a lot of ideas to share.

If I can only say one thing about her, it would be that Bella is a character. She has such an expressive face. If she lived in my house, I think I would have to follow her around with a camera 24/7 just so I didn’t miss one hilarious lift of an eyebrow. I mean, just check out these recent holiday photo outtakes:

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Few dogs can pull off that level of teenage-variety disdain, or “bershon”, as I enjoy calling it. You can tell there is a lot going on inside that brain of hers. She is thinking about more than just her next meal.

Of course, it’s this deep intelligence that has contributed to a lot of the challenges Bella, Leslie, and Jan have faced. Smart dogs are not easy dogs to live with. I know this from personal experience. From what I have read, however, it sounds like I got off easy with Shiva. Motivated she may be but philosophy is not her strong suit. If ever a dog fit the description of an academic, it would be Bella.

To round out my entry in this year’s Pet Blogger Gift Exchange and showcase how moved I am by Bringing Up Bella, I would like to present Leslie with a special award. Last February I dedicated the second annual Shivie Awards to dog bloggers who showed the most perseverance. I was not a regular reader of Leslie’s website at the time otherwise I am sure she would have been first in line to receive the award. Since I can’t go back in time to add her to the list of recipients, I thought I would instead create a new Shivie just for Leslie and Bella.

In recognition of Leslie and Jan’s love and steadfast support of their unique dog, Bella, I would like to give Bringing Up Bella the first and only official Shivie Award for Loyalty.

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My heartfelt thanks go out to Leslie for sharing her inspiring story on her blog and for endeavoring so hard to understand Bella while helping her conquer her fears. I have no doubt she has helped many others who are going through similar trials with their dogs. I am so glad I have gotten to know her. Thanks as well to Pamela for giving me a chance to share my appreciation in such a meaningful way.

The Second Annual Shivie Awards!

I can’t believe it’s been a whole year since the inaugural Shivies last February. So much has happened, and yet so little has changed. I had such a great time putting it all together the first time that I knew I had to do it again. There is nothing more enjoyable than giving recognition to others for all their hard work, even if only virtually. If I could find a way to do it for a living, I would so be there. Heck, I’d do it for free.

Last year, I gave an official Shivie to ten bloggers who were practically robotic in their dedication to their websites. You can read all about them in 2011’s post. As far as I can tell, these same people are still just as amazing as they were last year. Probably more. They inspire me to put in more effort, while also making my jaw drop in astonishment. I really do wonder if they are all actually human and not some form of cyborg Internet cult, programmed to share humourous dog photos and pithy phrases on every trendy social media site, while also responding to emails within six months and remembering every birthday of every person they’ve ever friended on Facebook. They make it look easy when we all know it’s definitely not.

Since I didn’t want to just hand out the same award to the same ten people, I decided I’d change up the category this year. Instead of acknowledging bloggers far more devoted than I, I’d like to turn the spotlight on another astonishing group of people. People with whom I can identify just a wee bit more. People who have sacrificed their very sanity for the love of a dog.

That’s right, the 2012 Shivie goes to the brave souls who have endured life with a truly wacked-out canine. I’m not talking standard wacked-outedness either. The recipients of this award have dealt with the worst of the worst: separation anxiety, night-time zoomies, leash reactivity, human reactivity, destroyed crates, destroyed minds, destroyed shoes. These people live with, and somehow still love, dogs who have not only eaten their houses, but have then turned around and swallowed their goldfish. These dogs have then proceeded from the goldfish straight to running around the yard with panties in their mouths while the cute neighbour watches.

Yes, they really are that bad.

Despite all the chewed up lingerie, the following people haven’t given up. No matter how many bruises they have received – physical and emotional – these special people keep trying. The hope for a mellow future may be faint, but they hold fast to their beliefs in their animals. In their dogs they see something no one else does. It’s because of these bloggers, I don’t feel alone any more. Not even when sitting on the side of the road with my dog barking and lunging at a rock.

It looked at her weird, okay?

If any of the above scenarios are etched permanently in your memories, consider this award yours to cherish.

The Shivie for Perseverance goes to…

Tricks for Treats – As soon as I’d chosen the category, I immediately thought of Karen and her newly adopted Pearl. The author of this blog is also a first-time dog owner and rescuer. Many of Pearl’s, uh, rambunctious qualities are similar to Shiva’s in her earlier days. Unfortunately, their relationship has been just as wild as Pearl’s on-leash antics. But even though life with Pearl wasn’t at all what Karen expected when bringing home a dog, she hasn’t stopped hoping that it will get better.

Life With Desmond – The tagline of this blog says it all. It instantly made me smile: “We finally got a dog, and he’s a little crazy. This is the story of him dealing with us and us dealing with our first taste of parenthood.” I feel like I could have written it myself.

Kol’s Notes – I know what you’re thinking. How could such an adorable little puggle possibly cause so much trouble? Just ask his human. She’ll tell you all about life with the sneaky little devil who delights in bouncing on her head at all hours of the night. It’s not only big dogs that have the crazies. Little dogs can cause your hair to fall out too.

The Accidental Olympian Read this awesome post and you’ll know why I am giving this hilarious blogger the award. She owns two nutty mutts, one of whom is “blind in one eye, anxious, hater of hardwoods, tail chasing, “roooo-roooo-ing,” NON-snuggling, snow loving, bad hip wielding, diabetes surviving, best trail dog ever”. And she wouldn’t trade either of them for anything. Now that’s some heart-warming dog love.

Life with Sampson and Delilah… The 411 – The author of this blog also has two dogs. In her case, one of said dogs is the perfect gentleman. Calm, well-mannered, and affectionate: everything you’d want in a lab. Her other dog, let’s call her Delilah since that’s her name, is not-so-calm. In fact, this second dog is actually guilty of physically harming her human on more than one occasion. If that doesn’t make her Shivie-worthy, nothing will.

Peaceful Dog – When I think of crazy dogs, long-time foster Fozzie pops into my brain. It’s not his fault he’s missing the normal gene as he wasn’t given the best start in life. With his foster human by his side he has already made great strides toward becoming a more social, adjusted canine. Reading the author’s experiences with Fozzie over the last two years has been enlightening. I don’t know too many more people who would do all she has done for a dog who is supposedly only temporary.

 Donna and the Dogs – Donna deserves this award several times over. She must be one of the most patient women in the world. If I am feeling frustrated by my one nutty furball, after reading a few of her posts, I am immediately humbled. She has not one, not two, but three dogs, each very challenging in his or her own right. This is a woman who doesn’t know the meaning of “quit”.

Go Pet Friendly If this was a Shivie for bravery, this family would win it hands-down. To spend the greater part of the year travelling in close quarters in an RV takes a lot of  spirit for any couple, but to do it with two dogs, one slightly, er,  goofier than the other? That takes guts. Their entry for Something Wagging’s Challenge shows how far they have come over the years. I’ve often recommended their Buster-training posts to others going through similar problems. These are dog people who have been through the worst and come out all the better for it on the other side.

 No Dog About It – Mel’s dogs are probably much too sweet to be included in this list. However, when it comes to perseverance, this blogger has it in spades. Not everyone has what it takes to rescue a dog from a puppy mill and re-introduce her to life as Mel did with Daisy. It takes a lot of compassion and patience to work with a fearful dog. Amazingly, Mel didn’t even stop there. Recently, she has also taken on Lady, another insecure girl who is only now discovering how to relax. For all of her efforts, this blogger deserves so much more than a Shivie. Unfortunately, it’s all I have to offer.

 24 Paws of Love – The title of this blog should tell you why this crew was a shoe-in for the Perseverance Award. With six very different dogs to care for and train, I don’t know how the author does it. Like last year’s winners, I am starting to think she’s part cyborg. Robo-Mama. However, every post she writes about her crazy canines is filled with so much love that she can’t be anything but pure heart.

Congratulations to all the winners! Even if they don’t always show it, I know your dogs are full of gratitude for giving them a second chance (and a third, and a seventh…). It’s not easy what you do; sometimes it’s a lot more fun than others. But it makes a huge difference in many lives. Including mine.

The Very First Shivies Are Here!

One of the hardest parts about being back to a full-time job is lack of Shiva-ness to my day. I still get up way too early for our hour-long morning walk. I still play tug with her while watching the news and inwardly planning my day. I still slip her a few Cheerios. But before I realise it, it’s time for Shiva to get to work on her Kong and for me to get to the office. Each morning, it is a real struggle to force myself out the door. I really miss her. It feels like I haven’t seen her for weeks, even if it has only been nine hours a day. Judging by her energy levels, I’d say she sleeps most of the time thus probably doesn’t notice my absence at all. We dog owners are so unappreciated.

In order to make sure she doesn’t forget me completely, I have been neglecting Internet-land. Which sucks because I like it here. It’s warm and pretty and no one makes fun of my shoes.

There is still a lot going on. I know, I’ve said it a trillion times already this week, but there is! It’s my sad excuse for not updating my Flickr page for decades. And for not getting even an eighth of my reading done. And for grasping every moment I can with my family instead of sharing the love with my fellow bloggers. And for not putting up a post on Wednesday. I hope over time things will settle. They have to at some point. Once I’m a few weeks in and am not nearly so exhausted every night. It’s either that or I am just going to have to learn to give up on sleep.

How do you all do it? Are you all cyborgs?

 I’m not really kidding. Not only do so many of you put in forty hours or more a week at work, but you also blog with regularity and make time to respond to other people’s blogs. Some of you even have kids!! Some of you write two blogs! Some of you work seventy hours, blog every day, comment on 59,706 other blogs, raise children, train five dogs, foster puppies, volunteer 10 hours a week, and have championship ribbons in every dog competition ever invented.

Are you sure you have a pulse?

Because there is so much awesomeness to be found in the blogging community, I am taking it upon myself to give out a very special award. Tis the season for it, after all. There are thousands of you that are more than worthy but unlike you, I plan on sleeping tonight, so I am only going to name ten. If you are one of those out there working eighty hours a week while keeping up with ten blogs, consider this award yours to cherish.

Now to present the winners of the very first Shivie!

 And the award goes to…

A Poodle and a Pit Bull – The author of this blog not only puts in long hours walking and training the dogs of New York, but takes the time to raise many terrific animals of her own in a small apartment, all the while keeping up with her own blog and supporting many others.

Sara Loves Dogs – A teacher by day, one can only imagine how hard that job is, Sara is also a wicked dog trainer and blogger. She also leaves some of the best comments out there.

Tales and Tails – Another hard-worker, the author of this blog writes in several spaces, all the while participating in many popular online groups. She raises four dogs with her husband and still finds the time to read and write every single day. I honestly don’t know how she does it.

 Something Wagging This Way Comes – I am positive Pamela doesn’t ever sleep. Seriously. She writes two excellent blogs, raises a gorgeous golden retriever, reads pretty much every blog on the Internet, and holds a steady job. She’s a super-hero.

My Tail Hurts From Wagging So Much – So busy, so active, so kind. Michelle is often on Twitter, lending support and raising awareness for many great causes. Another tireless leader of awesomeness.

 Fido and Wino – Is there anything this blogger doesn’t do? She writes a hilarious blog and works constantly with her R.O.A.R. Squad to raise awareness for pet adoption, shares some of the best comments around, all while raising two fantastic dogs and blowing everyone away with her photography skills. Just amazing, really.

The Life of Eva the Sheltie – Another insanely prolific blogger who is kind enough to make time to cheer others on. One of the nicest, most considerate people I have ever met. And don’t get me started on her lovely dog…

 Dog is God in Reverse – I am running out of adjectives to use. But I know the author of this blog often travels for work. How she does that while blogging and commenting every single day I will never know. Perhaps someone else with super-human energy?

Mayzie’s Dog Blog – Sweet, adorable, fun, and also extremely prolific. I just can’t fathom how she does it all.

Two Pitties in the City – Another teacher, author A. updates her blog all the time with new stories and photos. She has shared a lot of valuable advice and done awesome things to help promote the pit bull name. In short, a very deserving recipient of the tireless blogger award.

Congratulations to all! I hope you will share your secrets in the comments. Unless you have been sworn to secrecy by the Federation of Super-Heroes. If so, I will understand.