Friday, April 25, 2014

Review of the April 2014 BarkBox

Liam the pug with a toy

The best thing about this month's BarkBox is that it gave me the opportunity to take this absolutely hysterical picture. The whole thing is worth it, for me, because I got this shot.

But there's a lot of other great stuff in this month's box, too, and that deserves a mention. So here goes!

The toy comes from JW Pet (who also supplied last month's toy, which is still a big hit over here). It has a long bone for chewing, and in theory, I could stuff those colorful plastic rings with treats and the dogs would have to sort of work on them to get the treats out. I haven't done that, however, as my dogs seem to like the toy just the way it is. They can grab the rings with their claws, and that seems to make them happy enough.

If I did want to use treats in there, I could dip into our bag of Bistro Bites. These are tiny little treats made with buckwheat and chicken liver (so they're good for my grain-averse guys), and they're small enough to give out by the handful. I haven't tried them yet on the dogs, but they do look good.

We also got a special treat from Mr. Barksmith's that came in liquid form. I could have served it just like that, but I decided to freeze it and hand it out that way. I think that was a bit of a mistake, as Sinead didn't seem too interested in that treat when it was frozen. Liam was happy enough to eat her share, but she walked away from this particular treat, and that was a first.

Sinead the Boston terrier
"What else do you have?"
Thankfully, we had a bunch of cookies in our box from our new favorite producer, Etta Says. These duck treats are absolutely wonderful, and Sinead gobbled those right down while Liam ate her frozen treat portion. A win!

Finally, we also got dehydrated beef bladder treats from Barkworthies. I'll admit that handing these things out was a challenge, as bladders don't really top my list of must-eat treats, but the dogs pretty much adored these treats. I like them because they seemed to take the dogs a long time to eat. Liam can inhale most treats from the box in about 10 minutes or less, but this had him going for at least 30 minutes. I would think these would be really handy to keep around if I was entertaining visitors or working with a handyman or something and I needed to keep the dogs out of my way. I'll be shopping for them in the future.

Want to get your own BarkBox? Of course you do. Use my code for a discount.

Disclosure: Some product links in this post are “affiliate links.” If you click on them and make a purchase, I'll get a commission. Rest assured that I only recommend products that I believe provide real value. This disclosure comes in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”  

Friday, April 18, 2014

Puppy-proofing goes horribly wrong

Sinead the Boston terrier with a cut on her head

The raised garden beds in my backyard are a haven for all sorts of plants, including peas, lettuce and radish. They also seem to be irresistible to both Liam and Sinead, as they seem to love to hop in there and dig, dig, dig.

I don't use any kind of slug bait or other pesticides in the raised beds, and it's too early for me to put fertilizers on the plants (I'd probably burn them if I did), so it's theoretically safe for the dogs to play in there. But, I don't really want them eating some of the plants I'm trying to grow. Radishes, peppers and tomatoes aren't necessarily great foods for dogs to eat, and I'm really trying to grow them for my own table, thank you very much.

So my husband and I found some spare chicken wire in the shed, and we put it over the top of the raised beds. The dog watched us put that wire down, and they walked all around the perimeter, sniffing that wire.

But not 5 minutes later, Sinead ran right into that wire with the top of her head and walked away with a pretty nasty gash between the eyes. I know we got lucky here, as she could have scratched an eye with that wire, and she might have even put an eye out in the process. In the end, she didn't even need to go to the veterinarian (although I called, just to make sure).

But it got me to thinking: How dog-proofed can a yard really be? If I show her the enclosures I'm planning to build, and she has an opportunity to check them out, and she still walks away with a cut, how can I keep her safe?

Sinead the Boston terrier as a puppy

Right now, I'm trying to train her to respond to the word "slow." The theory is that I can holler at her when she's about to do something unsafe, like leap off the deck, carry a huge toy down the stairs, run past wire at high speed or any of the other things she likes to do that terrify me. If I can get her to slow down and think a little bit, maybe she won't be at an intense risk of getting hurt.

But I'm also hoping this is a puppy clumsy phase she'll grow out of. Maybe when she's older, she'll take things a little slower and she won't put her health in jeopardy. In the interim, however, I'm glad I have pet insurance for her. Looks like I might need it.

Friday, April 11, 2014

A remembrance of Rose: An extraordinary cat advocate

Eamon the cat on his couch

Thirteen years ago, I met an amazing, passionate cat rescuer. She was funny, fierce and more than a little intimidating, and she hadn't even hit puberty yet. Her name was Rose, and I just found out that she lost her life last year. I'm beyond sad, as I always thought Rose would do wonderful things with cats in her lifetime, and I think the way in which she handled her pets could be instrumental for almost everyone (including parents raising pet-crazed kids).

I met Rose through her father. We worked together, and we were sent out of town on business-related retreat and got to chatting on the long car ride. I started telling him about my cats, including one that had just died, and he asked if I'd be willing to take in another pet. Apparently, Rose had brought home a stray cat, and just a few weeks later, they discovered that said stray was pregnant.

I agreed to come and look at the kittens in a few weeks, and I remember wondering why my coworker was so excited about my interest in adoption. I think he said something about Rose being "nervous," but I wasn't really paying too much attention to that.

So I went and saw the kittens, and during my visit, I had close supervision from Rose. She wanted to know why I liked specific cats over others, how much experience I had with kittens and what had happened to all of my other pets. In time, I noticed that she was taking notes about everything I said. Turns out, Rose had done a lot of volunteering at the local animal shelter, and she was aware that many people adopt small kittens when they're fluffy and cute, and they abandon said kittens when they're older and deemed difficult. Rose was determined to do a forever placement, and even though she was just a kid, she wasn't afraid to fight for these little cats.

I've done quite a bit of foster work since that time, and each time I hold a little cat in my hands and conduct an interview with a prospective owner, I think about Rose. I'm always afraid to ask the tough questions, as I don't want to be impolite or pry too deeply, but I think about her bravery in questioning me, and how much courage it must have taken to stand up to a strange adult on behalf of a helpless kitten, and I try to do the same. It's hard, but she's always been an inspiration to me.

And she did a good placement with Eamon. He's living well into his senior years, and while he's definitely had some health challenges, he remains healthy, happy and pampered. He's never had to spend a night in a shelter, and he's never lived with anyone but me. She found him his forever home. She did it right.

I don't have children of my own, but if I did, I hope I could encourage them to be courageous like Rose. I hope I could push them to fight for what's right with the kittens, even if it seems inconvenient. I hope I could help them to make a difference.

Meanwhile, I'm just so sad that she's gone. We need more people like her.

Friday, April 4, 2014

Pet blogging: Do it for the right reasons (not for the money)

Liam the pug working on his pet blog

If this week's jobs report is any indication, things are looking up for writers all across the country. As a result, it's likely that fewer people will hit me up for advice on being a pet blogger, and I think that's a good thing.


Because many of the requests I get sound something like this: "I've seen your pet blog online, and I've decided that's what I want to do with my career. So tell me more about how I can make money at it."

I think that's the wrong way to approach pet blogging. In fact, I think if you're blogging about your animals simply because you want to make money at it, you're going into writing for all the wrong reasons. Sure, many people can and do make at least a little dough by writing about their pets on a regular basis. But there are a number of other really great benefits that can come from pet blogging, and overlooking them could be a huge mistake.

These are just a few of the reasons I keep blogging.

1. Increased exposure for your blogging skills. 

By writing about almost anything at all under your own name, you're promoting your skills and linking those skills to your name. When future employers look for information about you, they might be given search results that are simply loaded with the articles you've written about your pets. If you're a writer, that repository of work could help you to land a job. You might not get paid directly for your pet writing work, but that body of work could help you to get noticed as a writer.

2. Raised awareness about animal welfare issues. 

Most of my blog entries have to do with simple topics, like dental care, dog training or cat litter. These are the nuts and bolts of a day spent caring for small, furry animals. However, there are times when something important is taking place in the pet community, and sometimes, I feel like I have a unique perspective to share. I've written about breed-specific legislation and cat overpopulation on this blog, and I'm sure I'll come up with other important topics to blather on about in the future. Writing about these topics helps me feel as though I'm doing something to help animals that I don't own, and sometimes, that's an empowering feeling I don't get in the work I do for clients.

Sinead the Boston terrier working on a pet blog

3. Simple enjoyment of your pets. 

Blogging about your pets is fun. I love trying to grab the right photos, and throughout the week, I'm always trying to come up with new topics and new angles that might make an appearance on this blog. Writing about my pets helps me feel more connected to them, like I'm really documenting what makes them special and important, and I find that it's incredibly rewarding. Pet blogs should always be fun to read, and I think that only happens when the writer behind that blog is actually having a good time. Those who write for money might not approach the work with that kind of joy.

4. Connecting with other pet bloggers. 

I love getting comments on this blog (hint, hint), and I've had many readers send me followup questions via email. This, to me, is one of the main benefits of pet blogging. When you write about your pets, you might get connected to other pet lovers all around the world, and their stories are often inspiring and heartwarming. Participating in a chat room or pet forum can give you these benefits, too, but pet blogging is an easy way to dip a toe into the online world of animal lovers.

If you're not convinced and you really want to work as a pet blogger for the money, there are a number of articles out there that might give you some good pointers. But, I hope I've helped to encourage you to get started in your blogging career for reasons that have nothing to do with an immediate paycheck. It works for me, and I think it might work for you, too.