Thursday, October 29, 2015

Halloween prep for dogs: One spooktacular thing your pets need

Liam the pug surrounded by Halloween decorations
Quick: Name one thing your dogs will need in order to celebrate the Halloween holiday in style and safety.

If you mentioned Benadryl, quiet music and a the number of an emergency veterinarian, give yourself high marks for trying.

But there's one other thing your dogs absolutely, positively need for the weekend to come. Proper identification.

Halloween provides dogs with all sorts of opportunities for homelessness. They could run out the door when little trick-or-treaters come by, or they could bolt out of your arms when they're accosted by little kids in terrifying costumes.

And a dog lost in the dark could be a dog harmed in all sorts of ways.

Sinead the Boston terrier and her Halloween decorations
 If you're like me, you might take off your dog's collars from time to time. Sinead isn't wearing hers here, for example. Her skin is very sensitive, and sometimes, collars make her itch and scratch. So when she's inside with me, she has her collar off.

But, she is still protected. Sinead has a microchip beneath her fur, and all of the information on that chip is current (I just checked this week). If she slips out without her collar, or her collar gets lost in the shuffle during an escape attempt, I know I'll be reunited with her in no time.

So go ahead: Enjoy your Halloween celebrations. But just make sure your dogs are protected. They need you.

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Wordless Wednesday: The elusive pugerfly!

Pug dressed as butterfly
It's a bird! It's a plane! Nope, it's the elusive pugerfly! It comes out just once or twice per year, when there are cookies a-plenty and people cracy enough to hand them out.

And before you ask: Yes, that baffled look is part of the costume. It's something Liam has mastered.

Pug in red butterfly wings

He probably knows that his mother is crazy, which is why he was willing to put down his Nylabone keys and pose for a few shots. But his patience wore thin pretty quickly. Once he started looking at me like this, I knew we were done.

Pug looking baffled in butterfly wings
Confession time: This is not a costume made for dogs. This is a human getup. And I wore it to a party the night before. I even threw in some antennae for extra realism.

Person wearing butterfly wings

Since I had them lying around, I thought I'd let Liam have a crack at them. As always, I am humbled by his patience. And I plan to pay it back with plenty of pugerfly cookies.

Thanks for looking! And remember to leave me a comment, so I know you were here. And do check out the other sites in this awesome BlogPaws Wordless Wednesday hop!

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Yoplait yogurt fan? Do this to save wildlife from cup suffocation

Sinead and her wildlife toys
Most dog and cat lovers are also secret wildlife lovers. I know I am. I feed chichadees and nuthatches, tend to hummingbirds, and get help for the abandoned squirrels and bats that sometimes wind up in my Oregon yard. These little critters may not be my pets, but they certainly seem like my responsibility.

And sadly, that means I've had to modify the way I snack in the afternoons.

At one point, when the 3pm munchies hit, I would head to the kitchen for a Yoplait yogurt treat. The snacks are low in calories, high in calcium and they taste pretty darn good. Plus, Liam and Sinead could have a lick or two, too.

But then I started seeing videos like this.

This little skunk has his head trapped inside of a Yoplait yogurt cup, and no matter how much he might try to get the thing off, it's fixed tight.

These women tried all sorts of things to get that cup off the poor skunk's head. It looks like they cut the cup several times, and they couldn't free the little guy until one women picked up the cup and shook the poor skunk until he was wrenched free.

Sadly, this isn't a lone skunk. Many other skunks get caught in cups like this, and squirrels can deal with the same issue. According to the Huffington post, this has been going on since the 1990s, and efforts to curb the problem just aren't working.

Case in point: If you look closely at the side of a Yoplait cup, you'll a few tiny words about crushing the cup after use to "protect wildlife." This seems like a reasonable suggestion, but it's printed in absolutely infinitesimal type. I'd been eating Yoplait for years, and I never saw this sentence until other bloggers urged me to look for it. My search took about 3 minutes. Type that small isn't likely to change anyone's habits.

And the manufacturer suggests that there's a lip to the cups that critters can use to free their heads. Apparently, that lip has been been in place for years. But the skunk in the video I've linked to here clearly isn't benefiting from that lip. He's still stuck, and he still needs help.

So there are a few options here. You can refuse to buy Yoplait, due to this issue. Or, you can make it your mission to cut or crush the cups after you use them. And, should you feel compelled, you can sign this petition, attempting to compel Yoplait to change the cup design.

Me? I've switched to cheese sticks. Same benefits plus happier wildlife.

What will you do?

I'm sharing this post as part of the Pet Parade Blog Hop!

Be sure to visit some of the other posts linked here. And leave me a comment, too! I'd love to hear from you.

Monday, October 26, 2015

Furminator review: A brush to keep your cat's coat sleek and glossy

Troy the cat in his bow tie
Let's face it: Senior cats like Troy don't always wake up looking clean, dapper and ready for prime time. Arthritis and general muscle wasting can impede their grooming skills, and when the seasons change, these cats can't get rid of stray undercoats and entangled top coats. Even with bow ties, old cats can sometimes look a little less than dapper.

Enter the FURminator.

As part of my BlogPaws swag bag, I was given the option to review the latest-and-greatest FURminator brush. It's a Comfort Edge deShedding Tool, and it works great. Here's what Troy and I discovered.

Troy the cat and his Furminator brush

This FURminator brush has very tiny teeth, placed very close together, on a brush with an ergonomic handle. The brush itself is a little heavy, so I had to be careful when placing it on Troy's body. If I wasn't paying attention and let gravity do the trick, I ended up harming him when I sat the brush down. So care is required. But, that ergonomic handle makes control a snap. The brush fit beautifully within the palm of my hand, with no slipping or shifting, so I felt like I had mastery of it in just a few minutes.

Unlike other brushes that tend to skim the surface of the fur, this brush is made to dig deep. It's specifically made for undercoat removal, and not all cats have a thick undercoat. In fact, out of all of my cats, only Troy and Jasper got any benefit. The teeth were too short for Lucy's long hair, and Maggie and Popoki just don't have undercoats to pull (or they have sleek coats that slide through the brush... I'm not sure what is going on).

But Troy certainly does have an undercoat. This is what I pulled from him after about 5 minutes of brushing.

Troy's cat hair next to the Furminator

That's a lot of hair! And notice the reddish tinge to it? That's his undercoat. Fascinating, right?

Troy simply cannot get this hair off without help, and all of the other brushes I've tried just didn't pull loose hair like this. In fact, this is the first and only brush I've ever used with any success on my geriatric guy.

So color me converted. With some caveats.

Again, this is not a brush that will work on all cats. If your kitty does not have a thick undercoat, this brush won't give you big results. And it is a little heavy, so if your cats are sensitive about grooming tools, they may not appreciate this particular product.

But there's no doubt that this tool made Troy ready for his closeup.

Troy the cat in his bow tie

And there's no doubt we'll be using it again.

You can find a FURminator of your own just like this on Amazon. Or visit your local pet shop and ask for a demonstration. You could have the same success I did!

Disclaimer: 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.” And this is not a sponsored post. I received a brush to try, without any other compensation. All thoughts and opinions are my own. 

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Sunday Selfie: Sleepy kitty on a fall day

Maggie in a sunny cat selfie
Pretty Maggie here has been very busy these last few days. She has a new cat (Popoki) to whip into shape, she has dogs to corral and the all-important naps to take. But, I managed to convince her to set aside some time for today's blog hop, sponsored by The Cat on My Head. Turns out, she has one more task to complete: She needs to work on her photography skills.

Maggie looking pensive in her cat selfie
Nice pose, but too much sun behind you!
Maggie looking at the camera for her cat selfie
Better with the sun, but you look a little startled.
Black and white cat posing for a photo
Maybe you should just let your minions do it. See how nice?
Thanks for looking! And be sure to leave me a comment. I love to hear from readers!

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Are pugs huggers? Not always

Liam delivering his version of a hug
One of my very wonderful neighbors greets me during my morning dog walks with, "I need a pug hug!" She has run down the driveway to get her hug, and this week, she took the hugging thing to a whole new level when she almost ran us down with her car in order to get a hug.

I don't quite know how to tell her this, but Liam isn't much on the hugging thing.

Like a lot of pugs, Liam enjoys spending time with his people. His comfort zone ends about a foot away from my body, so he is almost always touching me in some way throughout the day. And he loves to be petted, by friend and foe alike.

But the cuddling thing is out of the question. Try to pick him up, and he'll squirm right out of your hands like a tiny, wriggling, fur-covered fish. And four-on-the-floor hugs aren't much better. Most of the time, he whirls away from those, too.

So I was a little stumped by today's blog hop.

You see, some wonderful bloggers at The Three Little Pugs are going through a very difficult time right now, and we've been asked to share a hug with them. I so, so wanted to do this, as I think pugs can be a great comfort to people in need. Liam's snorting and wuffling always comforts me.

But how can I deliver a hug that doesn't end up looking like this? (Note the howl.)

Pug hug turns into pug torture

Yeah, that's not very comforting at all.

So instead, we send our hugs with flowers. The sentiment is the same. We are so hoping that things will turn for the better for our blogging friends. But the hug thing? We're out.

See the others who have joined the hug-fest here. And do add your blog, if you can. The more hugs we can send to this family, the better!

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Wordless Wednesday: Sinead puts herself to bed

Sinead resting in her dog bed

The temperatures are dipping down into the 40s at night, so I've plugged Sinead's dog bed in and pulled the fleece blankets out of storage. She snuggles right down for the night without fail when she has all of that warmth around her.

But last night, she thought bedtime came a little too late, so she put herself to bed.

Sinead put herself to bed with a fleece blanket
"Yes, I tucked myself in. I didn't know how late you'd stay up!"
Sinead yawning before sleeping in her dog bed
"Boy, am I tired! I'm ready to hit the sack."

Sinead falling asleep in her dog bed
"Now, if you'll turn off the lights, I'll nod off."
Sinead waking up in her dog bed
"Can I get a good-night kiss?"
Thanks for looking! And do leave a comment so I'll know you were here. I love hearing from everyone. And check out some of the other blogs in this week's hop!

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Shy cat introduction dos and don'ts

Shy cat Popoki held in place with a hand

Pretty Popoki the exotic shorthair cat has been part of this household for close to a month now, and she has completely recovered from her cold. That means she is ready to start meeting and greeting the other residents of this household.

But, like many shy cats, Popoki seems either baffled or terrified by the other animals that live here. Her introduction needs to follow a very specific set of instructions, so I can ensure that she integrates without causing any tension and/or fighting.

So here are a few dos and don'ts I'm following.

Do: Create a safe space. 

If I plopped Popoki down in the middle of a room and hoped for the best, she would probably panic. And a cat that panics tends to run, which leads to chasing, which leads to fighting.... You can see how that whole thing would play out.

Popoki the shy cat in her safe space behind the gate
Can you see Popoki? (Hint: She's by the scratcher!)
A safe space allows her to get comfortable within the house, so she is less likely to panic and cause that nasty chain reaction.

Don't: Make the rest of the house invisible. 

If I kept the door to Popoki's safe room closed, she would be quite comfortable in there and never venture out into the rest of the house at all. So her door needs to be both secure and see-through. I want her to know that her world expands beyond the walls of her room. A baby gate works well for this purpose, but Liam's dog crate works pretty well, too.

Do: Lavish attention. 

Popoki may be shy, and I may have to do some coaxing before she'll appear for attention. But, all that work is worth it. Within a few minutes of attention and cuddles, she turns into a purring machine. She enjoys focused attention, even if she's not confident enough to ask for it.

Shy cats can be affectionate
A snuggle selfie.

And to make those attention sessions part of her introduction process, I am petting the other cats before I pet her, and then I pet the other cats when I'm done with her, too. That scent intermingling helps everyone to get acquainted.

Don't: Allow for uncontrolled interactions. 

Popoki is super shy, but many of the other resident cats are not. Maggie, for example, has been eager to eat Popoki's food, play with her toys, sleep in her bed and otherwise make herself known to the newbie. Maggie is not aggressive and she certainly means no harm. But this sort of behavior can seem threatening and/or terrifying if you are shy.

I allow interactions on either side of a barrier. Like this. Popoki is relaxed and in the middle of the room, and Maggie is right up by the gate.

Shy cat and bold cat separated by a gate

I even encourage visits like this with treats and brushing and toys. As long as everyone is relaxed, everything is fine.

But I make sure that there are no nose-to-nose or paw-to-paw visits unless I am right there. I don't want any fighting.

Do: Be patient.

While adopting a shy cat can be incredibly rewarding, especially when you know that the newbie and your residents will be BFFs, shy cats integrate at a glacial pace. They need to investigate everything before they decide to interact, and that means introductions move like molasses. It's not something that can be rushed. Just embrace the progress as you see it.

So that's it! If I missed any tips you have used with your shy residents, drop me a note in the comments! I'd love to hear your hacks.

Monday, October 19, 2015

October 2015 BarkBox review: Halloween tricks and treats for dogs

Liam the pug posing with his dog toy from BarkBox

It's the middle of the month, and you know what that means: It's BarkBox time! Liam and Sinead have been long-time pupscribers to this monthly service, and I typically write up a few notes about what they like and didn't like about their shipments. I don't get any kind of compensation for these reviews; I just like the products, so I write about them!

So with that disclaimer out of the way, let's see what we got!

Aussie Naturals Villain's Salmon Half Cigar

This treat is made out of sockeye salmon skin, and it's shaped a little like a cigar. Apparently, we're supposed to think about criminals smoking when our dogs eat these things.... But I have a feeling my dogs won't be walking around with this clamped between their teeth. Instead, they're likely to just gobble the stuff down. Liam and Sinead absolutely love fish (including this competing brand of fish treats we tried a few months ago).

I haven't handed out this particular salmon cigar, as I don't want my furniture to smell of fish. I'm just waiting for a sunny day, so I can give it to the dogs to enjoy outside. Hoping that comes soon!

BarkMade Peek a Boo Hoo 

This is a two-part toy, but both pieces are large enough to merit standalone descriptions. The first part is this huge, black-and-purple witch hat, complete with curled tip. There's a crinkle material in the brim, so this is satisfying for the dogs to chew on, and there's a squeak to the tip that they like. Plus, this makes an excellent prop for photo shoots. See?

Sinead poses in her witch hat from BarkBox

I tried it with Maggie, too, but it wasn't quite as successful.

Maggie the cat in the hat from BarkBox

Maggie has been using this toy in order to hide other toys, and I've caught her tunneling inside of it from time to time, too. So while she might not like to wear this thing, she does seem to enjoy playing with it.

Maggie has the right idea, as this hat was packed with something when we got it. A medium-sized, fuzzy, adorable owl was scrunched down inside. Liam and Sinead love fuzzy toys like this, and they have both spent quite a bit of time gnawing on this owl's wings and eyebrows. So far, it's stood up to the abuse, but I'll be watching it closely for signs of distress.

Liam and Sinead and the owl dog toy

Bocce's Bakery Chicken Treats

Nothing wraps up a heavy-duty play session like a satisfying cookie, and these treats from Bocce's Bakery are just the ticket. They're made of all-natural ingredients, and they have a lovely scent of rosemary that I really enjoy. These cookies also break apart quickly, which makes dosing nice. I don't like Sinead to eat huge cookies, so I appreciate breakable treats.

Etta Says PB Go Treats

We're Etta Says lovers from way back, and I really like these snacks. I've been using treats to motivate the dogs on my walks, and these snacks are packed inside of a very small, sealable tube. That makes carrying them a snap, and the treats are small enough to hand out while walking without needing chew breaks. Liam and Sinead seem to really like the taste, too.

So that's it for this month! If you'd like to try your own BarkBox, use my affiliate link for a price break (and I'll get a little gift, too!). If you'd like to see reviews of previous BarkBox offerings, click here or here or here or here or here or here.

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.”

Sunday, October 18, 2015

Sunday Selfie: Troy the cat in the doghouse

Troy the cat is in the cat scratcher doghouse

Troy is spending this Sunday in the doghouse, both literally and figuratively. It seems this old guy has quite a bit of spunk left in him, and he's decided to demonstrate that all at once.

First, he's decided to take a few swats at resident blind cat, Lucy, which she finds terribly baffling. Troy sneaks up on her when she's sleeping, and then unleashes his fury. So we're back to reintroducing him to her in a controlled manner.

And then this happened.

Troy the cat wants a bit of ham

See that focus? The hubby is carving up some ham, and Troy decided that he really needed some. And he wasn't going to take no for an answer.

Cat is waving for attention and hoping for ham
"Hey, see my down here? See?"
Black cat Troy asking for ham
"I'm still here? See me?"
Of course, he didn't get any bites. But he did get a few treats as compensation.

These photos are part of the Sunday Selfies series, which I love. I'm so happy that this is a weekly tradition.

Be sure to check out some of the other blog entries in this series. Good stuff this week!

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Beginner SEO tips for pet bloggers: How to keyword pet photos

Liam the pug with his camera learning SEO tips

A pet blog would not be complete without adorable photos. We all know that, so as pet bloggers, we cram our posts with photographs. The images are absolutely vital to our success.

But here's the thing: Google is a search engine that can read words, not images (at the moment). That means all of the cute pug photos I take and all of the amazing Boston terrier photography I color correct and perfect is completely hidden to Google.

And that could mean that my posts don't get the SEO boost they need. A post filled with photos and no text could be almost invisible to Google, and it will never show up in search results.

So what's the answer? Image keywording. By putting in a few key terms that describe what your photo is about, you can help the Google spiders to find your entries and put them up in search results at the proper time.

There are three ways to do this.

1. Rename your images. 

Your digital camera probably uses numeric terms as a naming convention. Mine does. So this photo of Liam with his camera comes with the decidedly uninteresting name of "IMG_6209."

That tells Google nothing.

Renaming the image to something like "Pug_SEO_camera" allows me to smash a keyword in front of the spider, and it gives Google a hint about what my photo shows.

2. Fill in the "title text" box. 

This little box is designed to show up when people hover over your photo or when your photo won't load. So it's a great thing to fill in if you have a lot of photographs and you're not sure that all of them will come up in a browser right away. And, it's another great place for a keyword.

3. Fill in the "alt text" box. 

This bit of code is made for people who have visual impairments. They (obviously) will not see the photos on your blog, but they might like to know what the photos are all about. Filling in the text in this box is a helpful way to allow them to benefit from their blog visits, and it's another keyword opportunity for you.

How to keyword those photos

Now you know what you should put in those boxes. Let's show you how.

In WordPress, you get a tiny dialogue box every time you enter a photograph on the page. Usually, it's off to the right of the screen you get when you've chosen a photo to upload. It looks like this.
See the "Alt Text" and "Description" boxes? That's what you'll fill in with your clever keywords.

Blogger is a little different, and for a long time, I thought you simply could not keyword photos you pop up with this site. Turns out, there is a workaround. Here's a step-by-step:
  1. Upload your photograph. 
  2. Click on the photograph on your page. 
  3. Click on "Properties". (It's all the way to the right, next to the word "Remove.")
You'll get a dialogue that looks like this.

This is what a Blogger image properties box looks like
You have the two options you need, right there. (And this is my dialogue box for the top image, BTW. You can see that I practice what I preach!)

So that's it!

And for the moment, that concludes my SEO series. If you missed the earlier entries, you'll find them here and here and here. And if you have any burning SEO questions you'd love to get answered, leave me a comment! Maybe I'll bring this series back in the future.

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Wordless Wednesday: Don't touch my dog toy!

Sinead and her Boston terrier dog toy
To you and I, this might look like a regular, round, orange dog toy. But to Sinead, this is a prized possession worth more than gold. She spends at least part of every evening licking, gnawing on, fetching or carrying this toy.

Maybe it's because the toy is about the size of her head, so it's easy to manipulate.

Sinead looks a little like her dog toy when they are both in profile

Or maybe she sees some sort of family resemblance (especially around the teeth).

Boston terrier loves her dog toy

It could be, however, that she likes the texture of this thing. It compresses nicely between her teeth, and chewing on it seems to soothe her.

Sinead the Boston terrier and her dog toy
The sad thing is that I have no idea where this dog toy came from, and while I've searched high and low, I can't find a replacement for it. So if Sinead gets too crazy about chewing this ball, I have no backup plan.

Any ideas? If you readers have this same dog toy, tell me where you got it! You'll be Sinead's hero.

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Shy cats need love, too: How to see past shelter fear (and why)

Popoki is a former shelter cat
Popoki has been a formal member of this family for just a few days, and she's already been in this blog many times. I can't resist photographing her pretty face and gorgeous eyes, and it continues to amaze me that a pretty and purebred cat like her ended up in a shelter situation. I am determined to point out that really gorgeous cats end up in shelters all across the country. If I can influence even one person to choose a shelter cat over a purebred kitten, I will have done my job.

But, I'm not telling the full story of Popoki. And today, I thought I might explain just why this beautiful girl needed to be rescued from the shelter.

You see, even though Popoki is gorgeous, she didn't show well in the shelter. In fact, this is what she looked like when I met her.

Popoki the shelter cat hiding in her kennel

See how she's wedged in the back corner? She's even trying to cover up with the kennel covering, so she'll be harder to see.

Popoki was an incredibly shy, very withdrawn, very stressed kitty in the shelter. And there are a lot of cats just like this that don't put their sales techniques to the test when they hit the shelter floor. They cower and they hide and they tremble. And when they get home, they do this.

Popoki is so shy she hides in the closet

Yup, she's hiding in the closet. And when I took her in for her formal adoption, she looked like this.

Popoki the shy cat hiding in her kennel

She's terrified.

Shy cats like this have a very hard time winning over adopters in the shelter. And if they do get chosen, they often get returned to the shelter, because they don't come out of their shells very easily. They hide and they lurk and they resist attention. They just don't know how to integrate into a family.

Adopting a cat like this involves patience. These cats can't be forced to interact with their new families. They need to make the choice to do so, and families need to make the choice to interact very pleasant. I've managed to turn the corner with Popoki this week by using string cheese, a grooming brush and a laser toy. The combination of food, play and physical affection has allowed her to open up just a little bit, so the amount of time she spends hiding in the closet is going down every day. Her life is already getting better.

But there are many other cats out there just like her that need the same treatment. Cats like this guy: BJ.

Shy adoptable black cat

This pretty all-black cat is in the same shelter that housed Popoki. And he is also very shy. He tends to hide in the back of his kennel, and he isn't always receptive to petting sessions from people he hasn't met before. He lurks and lingers and needs time to check things out. But once he knows his people, he is one of the most affectionate and loving cats out there.

BJ is almost 12 years old, and right now, he comes with a waived adoption fee. He comes with about $100 in medical care already done (including a microchip and vaccines), and a family can take him home for free. I just hope someone sees past his shyness and chooses him, and then doubles down on that choice with a slow home introduction.

If Popoki deserves that, doesn't everyone?

Making that happen means walking slowly through the shelter. If you can, try to seek out the cats in the back of their cages. Look for the lurkers. If you spot them, take your introductions slowly. Let the cat do some sniffing, and then let the cat decide to come forward for affection. If that happens, take the cat to a private visitation room for a more focused introduction, away from the noise of the shelter floor. And then imagine what this cat just might be like, with your help and patience. It might take a little imagination, but you could be saving a life.

Why not give it a try?

To see more adoptable pets, check out the other posts in this Blog Paws hop!