Monday, May 26, 2014

Memorial Day Tribute to Service Animals

I am so thankful for the brave men and women serving our country, as well as those who have done so in the past.  I wanted to take a moment, however, and thank the furry friends who have helped serve, too.  Dogs (and cats!) have played a crucial role in serving the US - "war dogs" have been helping armies for many years, and the tasks they do are varied.

They sniff out bombs and the people who planted them.  Search-and-rescue missions and land/water retrieval are two other things at which dogs excel.  Service dogs also make excellent guard dogs, protecting their soldier from various threats.


The most commonly-used dog breeds trained to serve are, of course, the German Shepherd and several other shepherd breeds, the Jack Russell terrier (yep, you read that right!), the Golden Retriever, and the Labrador Retriever (info from here).  All of these breeds show great amounts of loyalty and a love for the work that they do.  

This guy is happy and proud to be serving his country! (link)

There is a whole lot of love, trust, and loyalty going on in this photo. (link)

Dogs can also be trained to be service dogs for veterans of war, who may be suffering from the effects of PTSD.  They are loyal companions, providing constant affection and assurance, helping calm the individual if needed.  There is nothing quite as reassuring as the feeling of a dog by your side.


And we can't forget our service cats!  Yes, that's right - cats can be used to help serve as well!  Armies often need the assistance of cats to be expert mousers, chasing away or killing mice and rats that could contaminate their food stores.  This particular cat, known as Pfc. Hammer, was made an honorary member of an army unit in 2009, and he now lives happily with his human comrade!

Thank you all (both two-legged and four) for your brave dedication and service!  

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Cyber Saturday

Hope you are having a lovely long weekend so far!  Before I get started with this week's link round-up, I wanted to thank everyone for their kind words on my receiving the Liebster Award - it basically made my week! :)

I love, love, LOVE Sophie Gamand's photo series of wet dogs!  To capture these comical photos, she hung out with a groomer and snapped each dog right after their bath.  Each picture is equally adorable - I would totally hang these on my wall!

Dogster posted a sobering essay about what it's really like to work for a pet store.  It was a very difficult piece for me to get through, but I think it's important that people read it.  I would never buy a puppy from a pet store, especially after reading this!

I love to shop at the amazing online store called Fab, and this week, I stumbled across this diagram of dog breeds on the site.  Every (purebred) breed is included on this poster.  I'm pretty sure I need this, though I think they need to make a poster dedicated solely to mutts, too :)

BlogPaws posted a great little article this week about how to write engaging content and drive more readers to your blog.  The tips are SO helpful, meant to keep pet bloggers from posting boring content.  I keep going back to refer to it as I'm writing - definitely check it out!

I am in love with this adorable polka-dot life jacket for dogs from PetCo.  Riley will be accompanying my husband and I up to Minnesota next week, where we rented a pet-friendly cabin that comes with boat rentals.  Have any readers used a doggie life jacket before??  All this pink might make Riley feel a bit...effeminate...but eh, he'll be okay - he's pretty secure with his masculinity :)  (Some other great life-jacket options can be purchased here, including an ADORABLE nautical print!!)

I stumbled across this article about an Ohio man who operates a service called Rescue Road Trips, which transports shelter dogs from high-kill shelters in the South to Northerners wanting a new pet.  He goes on the road trips every other week (!!!), picking up around 80 dogs with each trip.  He even sleeps in the back of the vehicle with the dogs so they don't get scared!  This is just awesome.

Buzzfeed posted a list of the 17 best places to visit if you love animals.  This picture shows an island in Japan that is absolutely covered with bunnies!  That would be so neat to see!  I was, however, disappointed to see that Utah's Best Friends Animal Sanctuary wasn't on the list - my husband and I are planning on visiting them next year, and I hear it's pretty amazing.

Don't forget to visit my other blog this week as well!  Thanks for reading! :)

Friday, May 23, 2014

The Liebster Award + Giveaway Winner!

This must be our lucky month!  This May has yielded exciting job(ish) opportunities - more to come on that later - as well as two giveaway wins and now, my first ever blogging award!  The lovely Shannon over at Walks With Rama was sweet enough to give my blog the Liebster Award, which is meant to recognize new bloggers.  A huge thanks goes out to Shannon, and I encourage you to check out her blog if you haven't already - her dogs are gorgeous, and her photography is wonderful!

How it works:  I answer Shannon's 11 questions, then pass the torch on (along with my own questions) to 11 other great bloggers who have fewer than 300 followers.  Read on to learn more about me and my blog! :)

1.  Has your vision for your blog changed since you started it?
Not really; I started my blog as a way for me to post info about animals in need, and that is still my main goal.  However, I do think my vision has expanded - I'm looking into posting more general info about pets rather than just focusing on rescue.

2.  What have you learned from other bloggers since starting your blog adventure?
A LOT!!!  The BlogPaws community has been extremely helpful, offering kind words and useful suggestions all along the way.  Through other bloggers, I have learned the importance of networking and commenting on other blogs, as well as tips on posts and layouts.  Honestly, I have learned much more than I can sum up in words here.

3.  What do you hope to accomplish with your blog?
I want to help animals find forever homes.  That is my main goal, and I have been posting both stories about animals up for adoption as well as happy stories about rescuing - I hope that people are more inspired to rescue their pet after reading my blog.

4.  Do you feel you are able to coexist with other bloggers even if they might express opinions that are different from yours?
Absolutely.  All of the pet bloggers I have come across have one thing in common - a love for animals - and that is the only thing I really need to know.  There are so many differing opinions out there that it seems counterproductive and close-minded to refuse to acknowledge other bloggers if they see things differently than you do.  There is so much nastiness on the Internet these days, so I like to try to get along with my fellow bloggers.

5.  What is your favorite blog (other than your own) and why?
Yikes!  This is a tough one.  There are so many.  In terms of pet bloggers, I love Lessons From a Paralyzed Dog for the inspiring posts about special-needs pets, Fidose of Reality for the many useful articles, Irresistible Pets for the fun mixture of animals and DIY, and This Pug Life for the hilarious anecdotes and sweet photos.  

Some new pet blogs I have only recently come across and added to my favorites are:  It's Dog or Nothing, Let's Go Dog, Oh Melvin, and, of course, Walks With Rama.  I definitely encourage you to check these blogs out - they're great!  (There are many more I read and love; I just thought I had gone on for long enough!)

I also read many other different types of blogs - humor, fashion, DIY, home decor, book reviews - and some of my favorites are:  Amalah and The Bloggess for lifestyle/humor, Penny Pincher Fashion and Bows & Sequins for affordable fashion, 7th House on the Left and Gorgeous Shiny Things for DIY/home decor, Tina Says... for book reviews, Always With Yoo for gorgeous photos and lifestyle (she also has an adorable senior cocker spaniel!), and Our Nerd Home for pure geeky awesomeness! 

Sorry about the novel there :)  I also have my own personal blog - Happy Little Birds - if you'd like to check it out.

6.  If you could live anywhere in the world, where would it be?
It's no secret I love my small town.  Big cities are definitely not for me, and I guess I would continue to live in Iowa - I know that's a super boring answer :)

7.  If you could drop everything right now and do anything you wanted, what would you do?
Hmm.  I guess that at this moment, I'm already doing exactly what I want to be doing - a mixture of reading, writing, and hanging out with my dog and husband.  :)  Those are my favorite things to do.  However, if I could do anything, with no thought to cost or consequence, I would:  1.  Adopt a cat (my husband is allergic); 2.  Adopt another senior dog (my Riley is very territorial); 3.  Travel.

8.  What is your favorite animal?
Really, I love all animals.  I am a huge dog and cat lover, and I honestly couldn't say which I prefer.  I can, though, definitely tell you that my favorite exotic animal is a seal :)

9.  What are your passions in life?
Animal rescue.  Writing (though it's been tough lately).  I wish I had more passions, but those are the only big ones right now.

10.  Which do you prefer - rainy days or sunny days?
Rainy/stormy days.  Sunny days are nice and cheerful, but I really love a rainy day when I can just curl up inside with a book and listen to the storm.

11.  Which do you prefer - city or country life?
Country life would definitely be preferable to a city for me, but I would prefer a small town/suburb.

Here are the official rules for accepting the Liebster award:
 - Nominee posts award on their blog
 - Nominee links back to nominator's blog and thanks them
 - Nominee answers 11 questions asked of them
 - Nominee then nominates 11 blogs they like with less than 300 followers and notifies them
 - Nominee gives their nominees 11 new questions to answer

Here are the blogs I nominate!  A few of these may have more than 300 followers; I'm a bit of a blogging n00b, so don't be offended if you have a large following and I just didn't realize :)  I encourage everyone to check these blogs out - they are all wonderful!

And here are your questions:

1.  What made you decide to start your blog?
2.  Do you have a pet?
3.  What's your #1 way to curb writer's block?
4.  What is your favorite book and why?
5.  If you had boatloads of money...what is the first thing you'd do with it?
6.  What are your blogging goals?
7.  Name a couple of your favorite blogs.
8.  Is there a celebrity you just cannot stand?  If so, who?
9.  If you were given a weekend all to yourself, no distractions, no interruptions...what would you do with your free time?
10.  Have you ever went on a "blogging break" or given your blog up for a while?  If so, what made you decide to start blogging again?
11.  What is your favorite dessert item?

Thanks again to Shannon for my Liebster Award!  I am SO looking forward to learning more about my fellow bloggers.  Spread the love!

I also want to thank Dolly the Doxie and the ASPCA for hosting such a great giveaway!  I won this T-shirt, bracelet, and tote bag, along with a magazine, magnet, and frisbee in honor of National Dog Fighting Awareness Day.  Isn't my dog-in-law Bella a great model?! :)


Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Finding Comfort: (Mostly) Wordless Wednesdays

I find comfort, I find hope, at the animal shelter.  In these furry faces:

Lovable Zima...

Rico's odd, adorable little lean...

Brielle's pretty blue eyes...

Chester's deceivingly grumpy face...

Playful Tipper and his love of tennis balls...

And, as always, my own sweet Riley.

Out of curiosity, how do you fellow Wordless Wednesday-ers find your inspiration?  I've been having some trouble finding the motivation to write as of late and could use any suggestions you've got.  Thank you in advance :)  (Side note:  all of these animals - except of course Riley - are up for adoption at the HSNI!)


Monday, May 12, 2014

An Interview with Design Crush blogger Kelly!

Kelly, founder of the popular blog Design Crush, is most passionate about three things:  art, design, and animal rescue.  Since 2007, she has been blogging about the things that inspire her - up-and-coming artists, gorgeous wallpaper, DIY projects - and I have been following along for several months now.  Kelly's blog has filled up many of my bookmarks (with things to buy, things to make, things to drool over), but my favorite posts on Design Crush are the ones about animals.  Kelly often rounds up great links featuring animals or rescue, shares cool new products for dogs or cats, and features animal-inspired art; she also has shared a bit about her own menagerie!

Currently, Kelly has five pets - three cats and two dogs - and they are all rescues.  One was abandoned inside a sealed crate in a parking lot, and another was a lost pet as a result of last year's Oklahoma tornadoes.  She is also very involved with fostering animals in need and volunteering at her local shelter.  I was recently lucky enough to speak a bit with Kelly about her pets and their rescue stories.  

Bebe, Kelly's adorable "foster fail" from a local shelter

First, tell me a bit about yourself, your family, your pets, etc.  Have you always been an animal lover?
I grew up in a home town where we weren't allowed to have animals - the closest we got were fish, a turtle, an albino frog, and some hermit crabs.  But I've been an animal lover my entire life; I was the little girl who preferred stuffed animals to dolls and gravitated towards dogs and cats any time we visited someone who owned any.  I'm still that way, in fact!  I can't even explain in words the effect they have on me; I guess I just feel a connection that needs no words.  

Now I have five pets - two dogs and three cats.  Roxy (14) was my first cat, followed a year and a half later by Peanut (13).  Several years later came my pups, Piper (5), a Jack Russell/Manchester terrier mix, and Bebe (2), a Yorkie/Cairn terrier mix.  Then last fall we added Rainey the kitten (1) to our brood.

Peanut, the cat rescued from a covered container in a parking lot

How did you first get involved in animal rescue?  What led you to each of your pets?
Roxy was born to a farm cat in Arkansas and was my first cat that I adopted my sophomore year of college.  I had zero idea about felines and always had tons of questions for her vet!  About a year and a half later I adopted Peanut from that same vet after he was found inside a covered litter box that had been taped shut.  Several years later I bought my first home and couldn't wait to put up a fence so I could have a dog!  An acquaintance was fostering Piper, who had been found as a stray, and as soon as we met I took her and her immense energy with me.  Shortly after that I became involved with fostering myself through some friends who had grown up doing the same.  Bebe was my fourth dog foster who was straight out of Animal Welfare.  She almost immediately became a fail, and I actually (nerdy!) refer to her as my soul puppy because we were just meant to be together.  Last but not least comes Rainey.  Last May Oklahoma had some huge tornadoes, and the rescue group I work with became heavily involved in the reuniting of pets.  Of course, that involved some foster work as well, and I took in 8 eight-week-old kittens.  Rainey was partially feral and the last kitten left come October and I just couldn't let her go!

I suppose I got involved in fostering because I couldn't imagine not.  Once I did, I also realized the scope of how many animals are needlessly put down every year simply because people are either uneducated or too lazy to spay and neuter their pets.

Rainey, the kitten who was once a feral stray due to the Oklahoma tornadoes

Tell me a bit about your pets and their personalities.  Do they all get along?
Their personalities crack me up daily; I'm so thankful for that.  Roxy has always been a bit cranky and only really gets along with Peanut, who she has more or less grown up with.  Meanwhile, Peanut is like Switzerland - he gets along with whoever and whatever I bring in the house, including the dogs.  Piper can be a bit grouchy but has grown to like her sister Bebe, who is basically the female dog version of Peanut!  Rainey is a bit of a scaredy-cat but loves Bebe; in fact, I like to joke that she's actually Bebe's and not mine.

Piper, the energetic stray foster of a friend who came to stay in Kelly's home

What has been the most difficult thing about owning shelter pets, especially those who may have had trauma in their past?  How about the most rewarding thing?
The patience, for sure.  Bebe, in particular, had an awful shelter experience.  When I went to pick her up as a foster, they literally handed her to me to carry because she was too scared to walk out.  It was amazing to watch her do a complete 180° over the first six months - she didn't know what rawhide bones were, didn't understand the joy of being petted, none of it!  Now she's as sweet as can be and a 100% fully functioning pup.

Roxy, Kelly's first rescue cat!

What made you decide to rescue instead of buying a pet from a pet store/breeder?  What would you tell people who don't understand the importance of adopting?
I've never once looked at buying a pet as a viable option when there are so many in shelters looking for homes.  We may not know their backstories, but shelter pets are some of the most grateful, loving creatures on this earth.  When it comes to telling others about them, I just speak very openly and try to avoid the guilt side of things, though I do throw out some ugly numbers.  Nine times out of ten their eyes are wide open by the end.

If you'd like to learn more about Kelly, her pets, and the gorgeous things that inspire her, visit Design Crush!  It really is a beautiful blog - definitely check it out!  And a big thank you to Kelly for sharing her pets' stories!  :)

If you'd like to share your rescue story, comment or shoot me an email at  I always love hearing stories about animals in need finding their forever homes!

Thanks for reading!

Saturday, May 3, 2014

The Healing Power of Pets

I've written about my depression before.  I have come a long way from where I used to be, but the depression is still there somewhere, lurking in a dark corner and waiting for any opportunity to take hold again.  When I try to explain it to my husband, I describe it as something big and heavy sitting on my chest - it is almost that physically real.  (To assure the readers of this blog, I promise I am okay.  I lead a happy and healthy life - don't worry.)  There are many things I try to do to "ward off" an episode of depression - go outside, visit with family, get involved with an awesome book.  But the tactic that has proved to be the most effective is spending time with animals.

Having a pet is known to benefit a person's health.  Just petting and being near a furry friend is shown to lower blood pressure and to allow your brain to release feel-good hormones.  The sense of touch you feel when stroking a cat or scratching behind a dog's ears is soothing and stress-relieving.  Our pets love us unconditionally, and the affection they show us has an amazing effect on our mental health.  Owning a pet has also shown to improve symptoms of depression:

Riley always improves my mood.  No matter how awful I am feeling, Riley never fails to make me smile.  It really doesn't take much.  A tilt of his fuzzy head, a glimpse of his hilarious underbite, the way he tosses his bones into the air with glee - I always have to crack a smile.  My dog drags me out of whatever gloomy funk I am in, and, if only for a little while, brings me back into the joyful present.

I can't not smile at this.  Look at that tooth!

Riley forces me to take responsibility.  When you own a dog, you cannot sleep until noon or veg out on the couch all day.  You have to get up, shake yourself off, and take the dog out for walks and potty breaks.  You have to interact and play with the dog, showing him affection and love.  Riley helps me get off of my butt and get moving outside, where the sunshine and the sight of him running through leaves or snow is usually enough to cheer me up again.

With Riley, I am never alone.  Depression hates company; it waits until your friends or loved ones leave, and then it wraps you up in all its dark loneliness.  But when you have a pet, you always have company - you never have to feel lonely.  This has been a blessing to me.  My husband and I have very different schedules; he often works night shifts, and when I have been home without him for nights on end, I often miss him terribly.  Riley helps to fill the void, to keep his spot warm on the other side of the bed.  If I get sick, Riley is lying right there with me on the bathroom floor.  It's very comforting, to say the least, knowing that.

Riley makes for good conversation.  I am not generally a very social person.  I tend to keep to myself, and that's not always a good thing.  But through blogging about animals, I have learned this:  Other dog lovers love to talk about dogs!  Dog-related stories or advice have done wonders when breaking the ice with new blogging friends, and I find it very easy to talk about animals with others.  Pets can act as a "social lubricant", allowing us to make conversation where we might otherwise not have.

Riley senses when I am not feeling myself.  I believe that dogs really do have an excellent way of sensing human emotions.  Riley is a daddy's boy through and through, and when Jared and I are both home, there is no question as to whose lap he will choose - I get snubbed every time!  However, there are a few exceptions to that rule.  Riley has an uncanny knack for climbing over to snuggle with me every time I am upset or sick.  During one particularly nasty crying jag, Riley crawled to my side of the couch, plunked himself in my lap, and stayed there for several hours.  When I had a rough day at work, he wouldn't leave my side that night.  I'm interested to know - does your pet do this, too??

Riley snuggling with his mama (which he never does!) after a cute little dog hurt her feelings.  And her face.  Also, I promise I don't usually look this...corpse-y.

And it's not only your own pet that can change your mood.  Every time I volunteer at a shelter or humane society, I leave the building feeling ten times better than when I entered it.  Jared and I did just this the other day, as I needed some distraction from the down-in-the-dumps feeling I had had all week.  Snuggling a kitten and receiving some sweet dachshund kisses definitely did the trick!  This always does wonders for my mood - just another benefit of volunteering :)

This sweetie pie is Ella, a very snuggly Doxie whose butt wiggles and excited kisses are the ultimate anti-depressant!

Thank you so much for reading!  If your pet has helped you through tough times, too, please feel free to leave your story in the comments!

Friday, May 2, 2014

Cyber Saturday

They say a watched pot never boils; it can also be said that a watched cell phone never rings.  This week absolutely slithered by for me, mostly because I was waiting excitedly for several phone calls/emails that never came.  I clutched my phone to my side throughout the entire week - I seriously felt like I was back in the tenth grade and waiting for my crush to call and ask me to the winter formal.  It was ridiculous.  I am so very glad the week is over.  And after a particularly rough day, I am always grateful that I have a pet - Riley always knows when I am down, leaving his "daddy's" side to come lay with me.  What a sweetheart.  :)  Here's the links from around the web that I found interesting this week!

People don't think of overfeeding their dog as a form of abuse...but take a look at the photo above, and you might change your mind!  Poor Obie is a dachshund who, due to previous owners, ballooned up to 71 pounds!  Thanks to a dedicated foster family, he is now down to a comparatively svelte 30.  Great job, Obie - you look amazing!!

Generally, we tend to think of service dogs as assisting the blind.  However, service dogs are becoming more and more typical lately, for a huge variety of disabilities:  epilepsy, autism, and issues with mental/emotional health.  This amazing post is about one woman's service dog and how much he has helped her cope with everyday life.  Definitely inspiring!

I stumbled across this blog last week and was struck by this post in particular.  It's all about how one pit bull terrier at a shelter helped this woman's son, who has autism.  Thanks to this dog, her son is more able to communicate with others and make sense of emotional cues in conversation; he loves being around the dog because he doesn't feel judged - he can be himself.  The way dogs can help improve the symptoms of autism really amazes me - I can't wait to learn more about it through this blog!

This sweet face is that of Lil' Bub, who was born a "perma-kitten" and a dwarf.  She has no teeth, some extra toes, and is so cute I can't even stand it.  Check out more photos of her on her Facebook page!

Lisa's dad has Alzheimer's, and he is not able to communicate with her anymore.  This video shows how he responds to her dog.  (Warning:  You will need a tissue.  Or seven.)

And don't forget to check out my other blog - my most recent posts involve the perks of living in a small town and the best books to read when you're in the mood for a scare!

Have a great weekend!