Monday, September 7, 2015

5 Things to Tell a Spouse who Hates Your Pet

Meet Khan.

Khan is a mature Himalayan mix located at the Ames Animal Shelter in Iowa.  He's got beautiful eyes, a laid-back personality, and a heart condition that requires a very special home. 

Khan is also a ginormous ball of fur!  I don't think I've ever seen so much cat!  But it's mostly fluff :)  Who wouldn't want this giant hunk of man-cat love in their life?!

Well...the people who surrendered him to the shelter.  That's who.

Khan was dearly loved by a woman at one time...but unfortunately for him, the woman's husband hated Khan.  Hated.  But he tolerated him, at least until a new baby came along.  Then it was off to the shelter for Khan.  Husband's orders.

So this leads me to today's lesson:  5 Things to Tell a Spouse who Hates Your Pet.

1.  So long!
2.  Farewell!
3.  Auf wiedersehen!
4.  Goodbye!
5.  ...See ya! (I ran out of Sound of Music lyrics.)

Yes, this is tongue-in-cheek, and I am not actually suggesting that you file for divorce.  But if I was still single and dating, my motto would definitely be "Love me, love my pet."  :)  What's your opinion?

If you're interested in adopting Khan, please click the link at the top of the page to contact the Ames Animal Shelter.

Friday, August 28, 2015

Lucy's Story

The noises came in the middle of the night.  I didn't get up to investigate, but my fur-sister Roxie did, and so did My Person and My Lady.  There was a lot of banging and shouting - I was afraid, so I pretended I was still asleep.  "Open the door or I'll smash your face in!" a voice yelled from outside.  The voice was mean-sounding and scary, and it wouldn't stop.  It was yelling words I couldn't understand.

"Call 911!" I heard My Person say.  I could sense his fear and wanted to help...but my back legs were so sore...and my bed was so comfortable.  The noises got quieter, then stopped.  I did a big yawn and tried to blink the gunk out of my eyes.

Suddenly there was a loud thud from the next room.  I heard my sister Roxie whine.  What was happening?  The smell of the house had changed - something was wrong.  Minutes passed, and I tried to go help, but my legs kept giving out beneath me.  Why were there strangers in my house?  Where were they taking My Lady?

My Lady didn't come back the next day, or the next.  And something was wrong with My Person.  Roxie and I licked his hands, nudged at his legs, but we couldn't make it better.  People came to the house, lots of people - some I knew, some I didn't.  Some of them brought big platters and covered containers that smelled really good...but I couldn't eat.  I didn't know why.  My chest felt tight and the goop in my eyes was worse.

And somewhere deep down inside, I knew My Lady was not coming back.

Everyone sat around the table and talked in quiet voices, and The Girl sat beside me.  I did not even lift my head to look at her, or thump my tail when she talked to me.  I didn't care.  She tried to wipe my eyes with a wet cloth, but I wanted to be left alone.  As I walked to the door to be let outside, I couldn't make it and I went all over the kitchen floor.  I didn't mean to.

Dogs have dignity, too, you know.  I had just lost mine, and I was ashamed.  I wouldn't look My Person in the eyes after that - I had done a bad thing.

I hung out in the back room for the rest of the day.  I was so thirsty, but when I tried to drink, it would come right back up.  Something was wrong.  The Girl and The Boy loaded me in the car and took me to the vet.  I don't like going there, but the doctor was kind and gentle, and I thumped my tail as he poked me with needles and spoke quietly to me.

Days passed.  The Girl and Boy visited sometimes, and so did My Person.  For him, I managed to get to my feet and say hello.  But as soon as he left, I couldn't anymore.  I was so tired.

I knew that my sister Roxie would look out for My Person.  She could be annoying sometimes, but she was smart, and she was loyal.  He would be okay with her.

For those of you who don't believe in the Rainbow Bridge, I can assure you that it exists.  And now I am with My Lady again.  We watch TV together like we used to, and I thump thump thump my tail while she scratches my ears.  My legs don't hurt anymore...I can even run again.  I miss My Person, but I'll see him again one day.  And until then, I'll be here, waiting, with My Lady.  Thump thump thump.

I feel a little weird about sharing this, but writing helps me cope - maybe this will help you too.  Three weeks ago, a drunk stranger tried to break into my husband's grandparents' house.  He had no idea who they were, but threatened to steal their car and physically harm them.  In the middle of calling the police, my husband's grandma collapsed with a heart attack and passed away a few hours later.  She was 68 and a wonderful woman.  Four days later, their 8-year-old Lab Lucy died of kidney failure...and a broken heart.  This is her story.  

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

So You Want to Work With Animals, Part 2: Oh, My Achin' Bones!

Way back in March, I started this series with a post about POOP!  (By the way, what is it about poop posts that makes them so fun to write?!  Is it just me?  Anyone?)  This one won't be quite as interesting, but it's still a need-to-know if you're looking to get started working with animals on a daily basis.  It's another thing people don't consider when they think about working around a bunch of snuggly puppies and purring kittens.

You will go home in pain.

Like, a lot of pain.

As in, so much pain your doctor might think you have arthritis.  (Yes, that really happened.)

We all know that there is emotional pain involved when you are in rescue...and lots of it.  But that's a post in itself - that is not the pain I'm referring to today.  What I'm referring to is bruises.  Scratches up and down your arms.  A swollen lip from an over-exuberant Lab puppy.  Aching joints.  You get it.  Turns out, working with animals is hard work!

Who needs the gym?  Kenneling dogs at a shelter was the best exercise I ever got, bar none.  (Was that the right phrase?  I've never actually used that before in real life.)  I had no idea that it could take so much muscle to scrape poop off of a cement floor.  Or carry a full bag of dirty kitty litter to the dumpster.  Or a bag full of frozen poop-sicles!  Those things are heavy!  I had sweat pouring down my face more often than not.  And I probably had feces on my shirt.  Maybe a little on my face too.  It wasn't glamorous, and I went home every day not believing the pain I was in.  It was the good kind of pain, though - the kind that lets you know you've worked hard :)

It's not arthritis - I just grip the leash too hard.  This is an actual phrase I uttered to an actual doctor.  After having a couple of days off from work, I realized I was wincing in pain every time I gripped my steering wheel or a doorknob.  My wrist and finger joints ached constantly.  What the hell? I thought.  This isn't normal.  So I went to the doctor, and he worried aloud that I might have arthritis.  I went to work the next day, slipped a lead around the most energetic dog's neck to take him outside, and felt a familiar pain as he yanked on the leash.  Oh my Lord...I realized, not arthritis after all.  Just the result of overuse of fingers and the strength of big dogs!

No, I am not a self-harmer or the victim of domestic violence...I just work with animals.  Kenneling cats would often leave me with scratches up and down my arms, whether as a result of a fearful feral or a rambunctious kitten.  One evening I was sitting down to dinner with my parents after a day at work, and I noticed my mom looking over at my clawed-up wrists.  "Are you...okay?" she questioned with concern.  "Mom.  These are from cats."  "Just making sure!  I didn't know!"  And kenneling large dogs would often leave me with bruises all over various limbs.  I bruise very easily, and if a Lab playfully mouthed my arm or a pibble tail whacked my shin too hard, I would be black and blue the next day.  Let's just say Jared got a few nasty looks when a cashier rang us up and spotted the bruises on my upper arms!

Sometimes dogs bite, y'all.  Who knew?  Usually it's a nip through your jeans.  Or maybe a snap at your fingers.  But sometimes it can be worse.  Sometimes it's a dog who you never expected would bite.  Who you thought was your buddy.  Who used to give you kisses and let you rub his belly!


This was my fault.  I leaned over to give him a kiss when a strange (and potentially dangerous) man was holding his leash.  He was probably worked up, and I was stupid.  My point is, you never know.  At the shelter I worked at, bites were rare...but they did happen.  This is something you need to be aware of if you want to work with animals.

You've also gotta know...IT'S ALL SO WORTH IT!  You will be grinning all the way through the blood, sweat, and tears - trust me!  :)  No pain, no gain, baby!

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Tuesday's Tails: Skipper and Lucy

Transports are SO FUN!  It's like a relay race (without the race) of people who really really love animals.  I can always tell which vehicle I'm scheduled to be meeting because it's usually covered in animal rescue bumper stickers - my kind of people. :)  You get to help these dogs on their journey to a safe place, and that's a really awesome feeling.  And, believe it or not, you fall in love with each and every one of them, no matter how short the drive is.  I will always recommend transporting as a way of volunteering if you aren't able to foster.

Anyway, this weekend Jared and I got to chauffeur a very sweet senior Lab mix and an adorable Lab puppy.  And now that they are in a safe foster home, they are both up for adoption!

This is Lucy, and she's SUCH a sweet girl.  She kept putting her paw up on Jared's shoulder to get him to pet her!  Lucy loves giving kisses, and she would make an amazing pet for just about anyone.

And this is little Skipper.  Skipper is a typical puppy, full of love and snuggles!  C'mon, you can't say no to those eyes, can you?!

If you're interested in adopting Lucy or Skipper, they are available through the New Leash on Life Dog Rescue in La Crosse, Wisconsin.  In the meantime, please share this post to help them get adopted, and to spread the word about the awesomeness that is transport!!! <3

Sunday, August 2, 2015

Cyber Sunday: Links I Love

We have really been having an awesome few weeks!  After purchasing our first home, Jared and I have been having fun making plans for each room.  My job as a library director is incredibly fulfilling, and my little pet sitting side business is picking up like crazy!  (You can like my Facebook page here - I share lots of cute dog photos!  :)  Jen DeHaan of Dogthusiast designed my cover photo, isn't she awesome?!)

And for your Black & White Sunday viewing pleasure, here is a sneak peek of the transport we did today!  I will be posting more about it later this week :)

And these are the links I loved most in July:

Kol's Notes always has delicious-looking recipes for your pup, and this cheese ice cream recipe is no exception!  Looks pretty simple too, and such a great idea for the summer months.

I LOVE this blog, and this post brought me to tears.  Jake has had a bit of a rough time adjusting after the death of his big brother Melvin, but this post is all about why his mama will never give up on him <3

It's always nice to read posts about shelter animals that are uplifting rather than depressing.  Talent Hounds recently shared this wonderful roundup of shelter dogs who make a difference.  Click on over and smile!

This craft kit for kids is a very cute take on paper dolls - paper dogs and clothes to dress them up in!  I have a feeling my niece would love this :)

This dog bed is not in my budget, but I am so in love!  It's covered in words - one of my favorite quotes from the Velveteen Rabbit:  "You become. It takes a long time. That's why it doesn't happen often to people who break easily or have sharp edges or who have to be carefully kept. Generally, by the time you are Real, most of your hair has been loved off and your eyes drop out and you get loose in the joints and very shabby. But these things don't matter at all, because once you are Real you can't be ugly, except to people who don't understand."   Beautiful!  Jared is loving this baseball mitt dog bed from the Martha Stewart line at PetSmart.  I have to agree - it's pretty darn adorable!  We saw it in the store today but can't find it on the site. :(

Buzzfeed posted an awesome roundup of books about animals...they missed my personal favorite (Cowboy & Wills by Monica Holloway), but there's TONS of great reads on the list.

HeARTs Speak is an organization of artists doing good for shelter animals; they just put out a guide to photographing shelter dogs that looks super helpful!  I'm not very good at photography, but it's definitely something I would like to work on - I'd love to photograph adoptable pets!

Is this hilarious or what?!  Dogster recently featured the work of illustrator Josh Lynch; my personal favorite was this Pug/Spiderman!  So funny :)

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

When is it Okay to Give Up Your Pet?

You hear a lot of things when you work in rescue.  Some of those things warm your heart, make you believe in people again.  Most of those things, though, frustrate the hell out you.  Make you want to tear your heart out by the roots and scream, "What is wrong with you?!?!" at the unsuspecting person across the counter.  (I just had a flashback of working in retail.  That's a special kind of frustration all its own!)

You hear things like, "I adopted this dog from you last year, but I need to bring her back.  We're expecting a baby."  And, "My cat keeps peeing outside of her litter box, so I want to surrender her to the shelter."  Or what about, "We're moving to a place that doesn't allow pets"?  Or, my personal favorite, "We just don't have time for him anymore."


Now.  Guys.  I understand that sometimes it's unavoidable.  Sometimes your (my) husband is allergic and asthmatic, and you (I) have to choose between keeping your (my) cat/dog or keeping your (my) husband alive.  (Hardest choice I ever made!)  And sometimes your pet bites your child.  And, yes, sometimes it is the right decision for your pet to have another home.

But many times there is a solution.  If you must move, only look at places that will allow your beloved pet!  If you are expecting a child, do your research - your dog will probably adjust to the new addition just fine.  There are places that will help you with low-cost veterinary care and free pet food if you are short on money.  There are also sitters who will care for and play with your pet while you are at work if you're short on time.

Giving your pet up to a shelter should be the last resort.  (It also needs to be said that you should never, ever post your pet on Craigslist.  Or, honestly, those Facebook "giveaway" pages.  Just don't do it.)

(Also, at least act sad or regretful when you're surrendering what is basically your family member to a shelter.  Just a little bit.  Please?  It's one thing to give up your cat if you tell it goodbye with tears in your eyes.  It's completely another if you surrender your Border Collie puppy for chewing things in your house, and then you walk out the door with a smile and arms up, touchdown-style, saying "Free at last!")  (Did that sound like an oddly specific example?  That's because it is an actual thing that I experienced.  UGH.)

When it comes right down to it, when is it okay to give up your pet?  Well...when you feel you have no other choice.  When it breaks your heart to do it.  I guess it all depends on personal circumstance.

But I want to hear what you think?  When do you think it is okay to give up your pet?  I would love some discussion in the comments!  I would also love to know the "excuse" that most frustrates you?

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Promise 4 Paws Senior Dog Sanctuary

By now, you've all seen the viral video about the retirement home for dogs located in Maryland.  (And I'm sure you, like me, reached for the tissues when they talked about the "Stairway to Heaven"...)  Shortly after I watched this video for the first time, my husband and I took a day trip to Omaha to celebrate my birthday.  And we stumbled upon a place very similar to the video...and basically, guys, it's where I would like to live for the rest of my life.

Whenever I go on trips, I do a lot of Googling in the weeks prior.  Usually, I search for bookstores and animal shelters, and on the Omaha trip, I struck gold!  I found an organization called "Promise 4 Paws Senior Dog Sanctuary" located near Council Bluffs, Iowa.  There wasn't much information about it online, but we hoped for the best and headed there anyway.  I'm so glad we did!

3 of the 4 dogs on this couch are blind...and all so very sweet!

This place was my version of heaven.  25 dogs, all between ages 8 and 18, with a house all to themselves.  Most of the dogs had a few health issues (many were blind, incontinent, missing teeth, etc.), but man, were those dogs happy.  You could really tell that they felt safe and comfortable in this environment.

Promise 4 Paws just opened its doors in April, and it's all because of 3 AMAZING women who had a great love for dogs and a dream.  They visited the retirement home in Maryland (of viral video fame), and it inspired them to make their own sanctuary for old dogs.  They managed to raise enough money to purchase a little house for the dogs to live in.  Now, someone is there 24/7, though each of the women have full-time jobs.  They do not get paid, and there are (usually) no adoption fees being brought in, since most of these dogs are not adoptable.  Their money comes solely from donations and fundraisers.

This sweet girl has congestive heart failure and wasn't feeling so well that day :(

I mean...if only all of us could be so selfless, right?

This guy looked just like a black bear...he was my husband's favorite!

Promise 4 Paws only takes in senior dogs that get along well with other dogs, since they are around one another all the time.  There was a bit of growling amongst the Chihuahuas and Pomeranians, but with 25 dogs, that's to be expected.  The house, a cute cottage-like home, was full of oversized couches, chairs, and dog beds, many specially fitted with ramps.  There is always daytime access to a large, fenced-in yard, and at least half of the dogs were sunbathing on a big porch when we arrived.  A long countertop was custom-built to have multiple cubbies along the bottom with dog beds in each - the Chihuahuas love to snuggle inside the cubbies when they want some alone time.  They also, using the wonderful idea from the Maryland retirement home, have a "Stairway to Heaven", putting up photos of the beloved dogs that have already crossed the Rainbow Bridge.

The Pom in the doorway was the resident greeter :)

I have never seen an organization like this before - I wish there were more around!  Visiting Promise 4 Paws was an experience I will never forget, and I hope to go back again and again.  In fact, I wanted to somehow collaborate with a professional photographer and get a piece together about the place, so if you know any photographers in the area, let me know! :)  These photos do NOT do this place justice, and I am positive some amazing moments could be captured :)

One of the residents, probably thinking, "This is the life."  (Photo from Promise 4 Paws Facebook page)

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Chuck the Former Congressman

I have been keeping up with the blog Dooce since 2007; I was still in high school and absolutely adored Heather, her kids, and of course, her dog Chuck.  I would spend hours on my computer going through her archives and laughing out loud at the things she balanced on Chuck's head - hairpieces, clothing items, and allll kinds of treats.  (All photos from Dooce)

Quite the talent, no?

I read about Heather's daughter's birth (Leta is now 11, I think), and how Chuck reacted to the new arrival.  

And I read about Chuck getting older, then older still.  

And this week I read about Chuck passing away.  I sobbed like it was a member of my own family.  I woke my husband up with my cries.  And even though you will need a package and a half of Kleenex, I beg of and read that link.  What a devastating, heartwrenching, beautiful piece of writing.  

The entire Internet misses you, Chuck.  Rest easy, sweet boy.

PS:  Thank you all for your incredibly thoughtful comments on Monday's post.  Your words help more than you know.

Sunday, July 19, 2015


July has been good to me - my job is amazing (and, for once in my life, feels right), I turned 25 and went on a lovely road trip with my husband, and we purchased our first home.  I have never had more reasons to be happy.

And yet I haven't blogged all month.  I have barely volunteered.  I've even struggled to pick up a book and read.  I'm sorry.

I haven't kept my depression a secret on this blog.  I've even written about it (using some NSFW language - you've been warned!) multiple times on my other blog.  If you've experienced a depressive episode, you know how the past few weeks have been for me.  You're probably familiar with what I think of as "The Fog" - that feeling where you're walking through life like a zombie and everything is covered with that blurry film like in those allergy commercials.  It's hard to explain to someone who hasn't experienced it.  

It sucks.

"Why are you crying?!" my husband asks.

"I don't know," I sob ridiculously.  And the funny thing is, I really don't know!  I don't know why it's so hard to get out of bed or get into the shower.  I don't know why I forgot how to have fun, and I don't know how to snap out of this funk.

It's getting better, though, so don't worry - I promise there are upbeat posts in my future :)  The Fog is beginning to lift, and, hey, I am writing this post fully dressed, showered, and with makeup on, steps!

Thank you for being here <3

Monday, June 29, 2015

Therapy Dogs Visit the Library

In addition to blogging, volunteering, pet sitting, and substitute teaching, I am also director of our local public library.  (Yes, I wear many hats.  Though I am not nearly as busy as you might think.  I still have time for entirely too much Netflix.)  It's a fairly new job, though my mom is a librarian, so it's a familiar, comfortable environment for me.  One of the most enjoyable parts of being library director is planning fun programs to bring patrons in; this week will be our fourth session of the Summer Reading program for children.

This summer's theme is "Every Hero has a Story", and so far we have focused on superheroes, community heroes like policemen and firefighters, and, my favorite, animal heroes!  For this session, I really wanted to bring in someone with a therapy animal - I knew the kids would love it.  Well, I tracked down a lovely woman named Joyce, and she did me one better - she brought three therapy Shelties named Quick, Pete, and Eve!  I was a little nervous about this program.  I made sure to emphasize staying calm and relaxed, not grabbing for the dogs, and taking turns.  There was a bit of "I want to hold the dog, me!" and one fast movement that startled one of the pups, but overall they did very well.  The Shelties were gorgeous and SO turned out to be an awesome day!  

Joyce had a little presentation all planned out, with tricks and props and everything!  And I was proud of the kids, who came up with some great questions for her.  They also asked Joyce if she knew that dogs could "save people when they are drownding", which made me feel kind of proud since we had read a book earlier in the morning about a dog who did just that. :)  At the end of the session, I mentioned something about next week's program being "the last one" (our library does the program for 4 weeks at the beginning of summer), and one of the boys said, "The last one?!  NO!  Can't you make it go all summer?"  :)  Made the hard work all worth it!

This is Eve, who was by far the most petite of the trio!  She was also the most shy - Joyce explained that while she's wonderful with the elderly, kids are not Eve's favorite.  She did awesome, though...even with all these hands grabbing for her :)

Pete was all about the treats - and he used his sniffer on these tennis balls in a muffin tin... find the treats hidden under a few of them!

Our board president captured this awkward photo of me - I seem to be maniacally grinning about the fact that there's 3 dogs in my library.  I loved Eve so much - she sat beside me so prettily.  (And yes, my shirt does indeed say "Crazy Dog Lady".)

Quick was an expert - only two years old and starting his clicker training, he was on top of all his tricks!  Like sniffing out which box contained a small packet of cloves lightning-fast.  Quick also learned to put both front paws up onto a chair on command, though he had never done that particular trick before that day!

The kids colored, made animal masks, and created their own dog/cat art - I was quite proud of my rainbow French Bulldog collage ;)

Such beautiful and well-trained dogs - we loved having them!

And in keeping with the Sheltie theme today...

This beautiful girl is Prissy.  She is located at Underdog Rescue Minnesota and is 4 years old.  Prissy is sweet but very timid, particularly around strangers; however, she LOVES the outdoors and does great playing with other dogs.  Though she needs a bit of time to get used to someone, she is definitely worth getting to know :)  Please share Prissy's pretty mug on social media and help her find a forever home!

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

How to Human, According to Riley

Do you know how to Human?  Well, I do, and I can teach you!  It is very important that us dogs can Human, because one day we will take over.  (It's going to happen for sure.  Have you seen how they go Potty?  They collect it.  In a giant porcelain water bowl - what's up with that?!)  There are many ways for us to Human - sitting upright on the couch (best to save that for when They aren't home), getting to know the neighbors, giving Them meaningful looks when we want something...the list goes on.  But today I'm going to teach you the art of Human Sleep.

Step 1:  Wait until your Mom or Dad gets up to go to the bathroom.  This might take some patience.
Step 2:  When you hear the bathroom door shut, make your move!  Creep up to take the empty place they left behind.  Be careful to move slowly, or you'll wake up whoever else is in the bed!
Step 3:  Carefully place your head onto the pillow.  They will have left behind a warm spot, which can be quite nice.  But I myself prefer a cooler spot just to the side of where they were laying.
Step 4:  Fidget and kick until the blankets cover you to your liking.
Step 5:  When you hear Them coming back, quickly close your eyes and make a satisfied, sleepy sound.  I tend to go with the, "snort, Snort, SNORT, sigggghhhhhhh..."  It's an old favorite, and it never fails to win Mom and Dad over.
Step 6:  Enjoy your Human Sleep!  If you've followed the steps correctly, They won't want to disturb you from such a comfy position.  You might even get some scritches behind the ears if you're being extra cute and convincing!

Remember, this is only one part of learning how to Human - there's lots more to learn, but practice makes perfect!  So go ahead - steal Their pillows!  (Let's face it, they're basically just rectangle-shaped dog beds anyway.)

Does your dog know how to Human?

xoxo Love Riley

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

It's Taco Time!: (Mostly) Wordless Wednesday

Since I missed Tuesday's Tails this week, I'm featuring an adoptable animal today instead.

I mentioned Taco in one of last week's posts, but I figured I'd share his photos again since I can't believe he is still at the HSNI!  He is just about as awesome as a dog can get!  Why, you ask?

Reasons to Adopt Taco:

1.  Who doesn't love a "Pocket Pittie"?  
2.  Those eyes, though.
3.  Leash-walking skills that cannot be beat (seriously, we were impressed)
4.  He's a leaner - you know the type.  Taco loves to snuggle into your legs if you're standing near him!
5.  Sits pretty for treats
6.  SO well-mannered for only 2 years old
7.  Um, photogenic much?!
8.  His petite body makes him the perfect size for doggie clothing/accessories!  Somebody get this guy a bow-tie, stat!
9.  ...Did I mention those eyes?
10.  Taco's got lots of personality... As you can see from his photos!  Clockwise from top left:  Happy-go-lucky; focused/"Give me dat treat, human"; "I want to lick your face please"; mid-woof!

What do you think?  Which face of Taco's is your favorite?  (My personal fave is the bottom right - that little tongue sticking out!) :)

Please share Taco with your friends to help find him a forever home <3

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

"Designer Dogs"...or Mutts?

Edited to add:  Please don't be offended by my use of the word "mutt".  I don't mean to use it in a negative way whatsoever.  I say it the same way I refer to myself as a "crazy dog lady" - happily and with pride!

During the first few months of my venture into pet blogging, I was just starting to dip my toes into the community.  I hadn't yet made any connections with brands - in fact, I'm pretty sure I didn't yet know that was possible!  I was in the phase where I was desperate for blogging buddies and more pageviews.  A new friend had just posted about the differences between reputable and backyard breeders.  In response to the article, I posted a comment about how I had purchased a puppy from a breeder before knowing anything about rescue, and how I was "so thankful" that looking back, the breeder was a very reputable one.

"We bought a Mal-Shi, and the breeder was wonderful!" is what I think my comment said.  

Sigh.  You guys, I didn't know.  When I posted that comment last year, I had NO idea that deliberately breeding mixed-breed dogs was not a good thing.  But I was in for a rather rude awakening.  Let's just say there were some emails.  "A breeder who sells mutts for a living shouldn't call himself a breeder at all!" one woman hissed.  (Okay, it was an email, so I don't know if she actually hissed...but the tone was definitely a "hissing" one.)  "I don't know what a "Mal-Shi" is even supposed to be, but I certainly hope you didn't spend hundreds of dollars on a mixed breed!  That would be a huge error in judgment!" another email announced.

(Photo found here; this link actually promotes "hybrid" dogs, calling them healthier than purebreds and more hypoallergenic.  Please note that I do not agree with this.)

I was hurt.  I was unpleasantly surprised.  I didn't know.  That's all I could say.  

I was 20 years old, and my now-husband had just proposed to me.  We were young, and silly, and eager to start a little family.  We wanted a puppy to complete that picture.  I had never set foot inside an animal shelter, and I don't think I had ever even heard the words "puppy mill" or "backyard breeder."  A family friend had just bought what she called a "Yorkie-Poo," and I thought it was the cutest thing ever.  I didn't think about unhealthy genetic traits...I didn't think about the cost.  (Which was...a lot.  *Hides under chair in shame*)

I didn't think, period.

Oh goodness, it's a "Boxbulliehuahua"!  (Photo from here)

The truth is, designer breeds are just mutts (which, in my mind, is not a negative word - I love all dogs, mixed or purebred) with fancy names.  Reputable breeders focus on breeding purebred dogs and passing down only the best genetic traits.  They don't focus on putting an $800 price tag on a breed that ends in "Poo" or "Oodle".  You can read here about the original creator of the Labradoodle, who regrets what he did (beginning the designer breed craze) and says, "I released a Frankenstein."  Purposefully cross-breeding, in all honesty, is irresponsible - it opens the dog up to a myriad of possible future health issues.  

The designer dog craze is only made crazier due to celebrities and their adorable pups, like Ashley Tisdale here with her "Maltipoo" (Photo from here)

Her name is Bella.  Jared was allergic to her, and the breeder (who, I will say, was a very nice man) told us we could bring her back.  Instead, Bella now lives with Jared's parents, my in-laws, and is devoted to picking on her big brother and barking at the neighbor dog.  She is a great dog and is so loved, and for that reason, I don't regret what I did.  But I know it's something I would never do again.  Mixed breed dogs who are just as cute and cuddly can be found at a rescue or shelter; plus, instead of spending a fortune, you'll be saving a life.  

This is Bella.  Hell yeah, she's cute!  ...So are the mixed breed dogs at your local shelter.

What do you think about "designer breeds"?  I'd love to know.

If you'd like to read more about this topic, the following links are great sources:

Monday, June 8, 2015

BlogPaws 2015: What I Learned

1.  Time management is super important at a conference like BlogPaws.  Ice cream socials, networking with brands, keynote speakers, one-on-one meetings, Yappy Hours, meals, workshops, Pawject Runway, awards ceremonies, and TONS of socializing and networking - that is just a portion of the BlogPaws experience.  The conference was 3 days long, and I still found myself missing out on things I wanted to learn about and people I wanted to connect with.

We did manage to connect with The Honest Kitchen, who we love!

I made it to most of the things I wanted to attend:  the Nose-to-Nose Awards Ceremony, the Rescue & Shelter Workshop, and the Photography with your Smart Phone session.  But I missed out on tons of stuff, mostly because I have poor time management skills.  (The irony of there being a session about time management and organization...which I slept through...does not escape me.)  Part of our problem was also that we were trying to squeeze in some sightseeing and shopping in addition to the conference.  If you aren't great at keeping to a schedule, BlogPaws might be a bit tougher for you.  It's a lot, and it can be overwhelming - though I hear it gets much easier once you're no longer a newbie. :)

It was due to this BOOKSTORE OF MY DREAMS (called BookMan BookWoman) that we didn't make it to the Pawject Runway. :(  But I'm gonna be may have been worth it.  I could have lived there.

2.  Positivity is key when it comes to blogging about animal rescue.  The Rescue & Shelter Workshop, featuring speaker Caroline Golon, was incredibly inspiring.  Caroline has raised more than $80,000 for animals in need, just from making good use of her blogs and social media - how amazing is that?!  What she focused on most was the importance of making posts that could be depressing into happy ones.  For example, instead of saying, "Buddy needs a home right away!!!", post something like, "Watch adorable Buddy dance for treats!" and include cute photos or videos.  If people suspect something might make them feel sad or upset, chances are, they'll scroll right past your post.  But let's face it - nobody can pass up a cat video.

Silly outdoor photos like these are easier to look at than depressing photos of animals behind bars.  (P.S:  This is Taco, one of the cutest "Pocket Pitties" I've ever seen!  He's available for adoption at the HSNI!)

3.  The PhotoShop Express app (free for iPhone and Android!) can turn a good photo into a great one.  Let me start off by saying that Alana Grelyak, the presenter at the Photography with your Smart Phone session, is an awesome speaker.  This session could have easily been boring, but she made it super fun and even used some attendees' photos as examples.  I did not even realize that a free PhotoShop app existed for my Android, but it does...and it's basically life-changing.

I used my Android to take this photo of Oh My ShihTzu's Riley, then used Photoshop Express to make it even better!

4.  BlogPaws is a great place for not only meeting friends, potential brands to work with, and adorable animals...but also finding new blogs to follow!  When I was planning for the conference, I anticipated meeting lovely people, cuddling with pets I had only ever met through a screen, and maybe finding a few brands to work with on the blog.  (And of course, all of this happened!  I seriously don't know if you could find a nicer group of people - even my husband kept commenting on the kindness of everyone we met!)  What I didn't necessarily think about was how much new reading material I would get!  I love finding new blogs with interesting, fresh content, and I found tons in Nashville.  My list of daily reads gets longer by the day.  Some standouts:  Amanda and Wynston's Dog Mom Days, Rachael and Kevin's My Dog Likes, and the very sweet Tiffany's Diamond Dogs were all added to my list during the conference.

We also got to meet Chilly - isn't he handsome?

I had also not been aware of Alana Grelyak's YouTube channel and blog "Cat in the Fridge" before attending her photography session.  I thought I'd check it out because she said she focused mostly on special-needs kitties.  The blog is, of course, fantastic and has such a neat design.  Before I clicked over to her YouTube channel, silly me had the thought, "Well, once you've seen one cat video, you've seen them all, right?"  Wrong!  Her videos are absolutely amazing and HILARIOUS!  If you haven't watched before, I suggest you do it immediately!  Definitely worth the click!

5.  Pet bloggers can change the world.  I say this without exaggeration.  I was blown away by all the good that the conference did for animals in need.  There were booths set up specifically to showcase adoptable animals.  Still other booths donated food to a rescue with each purchase or donated all proceeds to a shelter.  Each Nose-to-Nose Award winner received $500 to the organization of their choice.  During a lunch, 2,000 pounds of food was donated to a local shelter. In all, more than $18,000 cash and over 27,000 pounds of food was donated to animal shelters.  I mean...these aren't small numbers, people!  I find this so inspiring, and I feel pretty special to be a part of it all.


BONUS:  What did my husband learn?  Jared came into this fully expecting to be bored.  He thought it would be "all about me" and he wouldn't be interested in the sessions.  He admits today that he could not have been more wrong.  Jared was just as inspired by the sessions as I was, and he especially loved some of the creative ideas tossed around during the Rescue Workshop - he is now determined to start drawing cartoons/comics in order to promote adoptable animals!  He also kissed more dogs on the lips than I did...but I kissed a ferret and he refused :)  PLUS we got two bags full of swag, so one of them was donated to our local shelter!  If you're on the fence about bringing your significant other to BlogPaws next year, definitely bring 'em along - it's a good time for everyone!  We already bought our tickets for 2016!  :)  Phoenix, here we come!  Will you be joining us there??

Of course we had to pose with the adorable Cesar pup!

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

BlogPaws 2015: (Mostly) Wordless Wednesday

Holy crap.  BlogPaws was so much fun, y'all.  (Can you hear my Nashville accent?!)  Lots of learning, lots of amazing people, and TONS of inspiration!  More pics to come...