I was tagged by the most wonderful Maggie Marton of Oh My Dog! blog. Maggie is a professional writer so I was really interested to learn more about her writing process. It’s always nice when you can learn from the best. If you get a chance go on over and read about her writing process.
Unlike Maggie, I am not a professional writer. (Oh, I write communications and project plans for work, but that is quite different from writing for a blog.) However, I do write and I love doing so. My hope is to write a book some day, but that will require a lot more discipline than I have right now. :)
For this tour, I have three questions to answer:
Question #1: What are you working on?
In all honesty? Nothing. Nothing at all.
Like Maggie, when it comes to my blog I am more of a fly by the seat of my pants kind of gal. I used to be much more disciplined, but as my life has gotten crazier (is 4 dogs crazy enough for you?), I have found it much more difficult to plan ahead and get things done before the week begins. Thus, I usually end up writing a blog post at 9 or 10 pm and publishing it around 11 pm and editing it a couple times after publishing it. I know. Not exactly the best way to manage a blog, but there it is in all its messy glory.
I should mention that I also have about 43 drafts sitting in my drafts folder just waiting for my mind to formulate the words. When everything clicks into place, I write.
Question #2: Why do you write what you do?
Hmmm… That is truly a tough question. My writing has changed over the years so I can’t really say that there is one “why” to my writing. I started writing about Daisy, my first puppy mill dog, to document her progress, but when I started my pet sitting business I needed a blog that would allow me to share information with my clients. I kept it much more light-hearted in those days.
Now I try to write a little bit for myself, a little for you and little bit for fun. I write about what fires me up. but I also write about what I think most people would want to know if they had the good fortune to be exposed to a wealth of dog training knowledge via their friends (as I do). I want people to have a chance to learn more about their dogs and about dog body language. The one thing I don’t want to be is a blogger who just rants, What’s the fun in that? Who wants to read a rant every single day? Not me. That’s why I add in photography and Favorite Friday videos. I want others to have fun too.
I write about what I am passionate about. It allows me to let a little bit of my creativity out.
Question #3: How does your writing process work?
As I mentioned above, my writing process right now is pretty disorganized. I have the 43 drafts available if choose to use them, but I also save a whole series of stories, studies, news reports and training information in my Blog Topics folder. If I am feeling a little unmotivated or not sure about what I want to write, I go to my folder and peruse it for an idea or story I want to share. Usually, they are an impetus for me to write about a related topic.
I also keep a series of folders filled with YouTube videos I can go to whenever I need one. I even have them organized by category!
Sometimes I write a post in one shot, and publish right away, and other times I start the post and save it as a draft to be finished later. For example, my blog post Are we rescuing? Or, are we passing the buck? sat in my drafts folder for over a month before I actually finished it. Sometimes my mind just needs time to roll the idea around before I can write it. When I do create a draft, I will often include the links (and videos) that inspired me in case I want to refer to them in the post.
So now that I have shared a little about me and my wiring process, here are a few other people I would like to tag for this tour. They have two weeks to answer the same questions. I can’t wait to hear how they approach their own writing process:
Notes from an Endless Sea by Eleanore MacDonald – I love the way Eleanore writes. Her words flow like water and have a beauty that is indescribable. She draws you in like a friend and confidante and leaves you wanting more. I always feel richer for having read her blog.
Will My Dog Hate me by Edie Jarolim – Edie is a professional writer and someone I admire very much. I often wish I could write like her. She can make any story sound interesting and often does. Reading her Labor Day post about her mom was wonderful and interesting and enlightening. I would love to pick her brain if I could. This is my chance.
Back Alley Soapbox by Jen K – Jen hasn’t written since early July, but I am hoping she will do this one. She is always a fun read and I love her perspective on things. She is a knowledgeable dog person and loves the outdoors and her two big black Newfies, Moses and Alma. I enjoy her writing. I hope she will share her perspective on her own writing process.
When I first started in blogging in October of 2008, it was to document Daisy’s progress as a former puppy mill breeding dog. That was it. I knew practically nothing about blogging, so documenting Daisy’s progress seemed like an easy task when it came to blogging. No muss. No fuss.
But as I started moving forward with my pet sitting business, I realized I needed someplace to share pet-related information and pet products with my clients. Daisy the Wonder Dog just wasn’t the place to share that information. I needed some other vehicle to do that. And just like that, No Dog About It was created.
I never could have guessed that it would turn into my main blog or that I would still be blogging 5 years later. It may have started out as a place to share information with my clients, but it has become so much more than that. It has become my soapbox, a place to share my feelings and experiences, and a community of some pretty amazing people who share and support and give back in ways I never imagined. I never expected that. I never expected it to hit more than a few people at the most.
As a blogger, it’s easy for me to pretend that no one is reading what I write. Oh I could look at my numbers and disprove that very easily, but I like pretending that I am this anonymous writer who can share her thoughts, feelings and experienced without the exposure and scrutiny of a normal writer. I like that I can, in some sense, be anonymous. I don’t have to share pictures of myself or anything else I felt was too private to share. I thought remaining private in a social-media driven world where privacy is almost impossible was a good thing.
Then a friend of mine shared a recent conversation she had had with someone who wasn’t a blogger. What he said struck a chord with me and several of my blogging friends, he said “People want to imagine themselves and their pets out doing the things you’re doing with your dogs. If you put yourself in the pictures, they can see themselves in your place.”
Interesting. I hadn’t thought of that before. I guess I just assumed seeing my dogs and reading my words were enough. Maybe I was being too protective of my privacy. Maybe my own issues with my body image didn’t matter as much to my readers as it did to me. In speaking with my fellow bloggers, I discovered that I wasn’t alone. We were all grappling with this. How much to share? How much to keep private? Why were we afraid to share pictures of ourselves and our pets?
What if we changed that? What if we decided to challenge ourselves and share more?
As my friend Kristine said, “the more we can put ourselves out there and authentically be ourselves, the more we give others the permission to do the same.”
So in honor of being more authentic with you and with ourselves, the “Meet the Bloggers” blog hop was created. On December 18th, bloggers will have the chance to challenge themselves by sharing more about themselves. There are a few specific requirements (see below), but in the end you will be able to learn more about these bloggers and hopefully, feel a little more connected to the people behind the words, including myself.
So what are the rules for bloggers?
1. Join us for the hop on December 18. (A Linky list will go live that day, so make sure to add your post. If you want to add the Linky code to your post, you can find it here.)
2. Grab the badge that best describes you (options and code can be grabbed here).
3. Your post must include a current photo of you (with or without a furry friend).(Need a little help on taking a good self-portrait? My friend Kristine Tonks shared this great little post on how to take a good one.)
4. Answer at least five (or more, if you’d like!) of the questions below:
- What’s your favorite non-animal related book?
- What’s your favorite non-animal related movie?
- What’s your favorite non-animal related food?
- Who’s your favorite actor?
- What’s one thing you have to do every day?
- What makes you feel fabulous?
- What do you wish you were more skilled at?
- What’s your favorite holiday?
- Favorite meal?
- What do you like to do in your free time?
- What one word would people who know you use to describe you?
- If your pets could talk, what one word would THEY use to describe you? What is one thing you’ve done that you’re most proud of?
- How is your pet most like you?
- What can your body do for you that makes you most proud?
- If you could change one thing about your life what would it be?
- Other than blogging, what are three things you do that bring you joy?
- What’s one thing you could do to be more kind to yourself?
- What drives you nuts about your pets? What melts your heart?
- If you didn’t have your current pets, what pets would you choose to have?
Then you, the reader, can hop around from blog to blog learning as much as or as little as you want about your favorite bloggers.
The hosts for this blog hop are Go Pet Friendly, I Still Want More Puppies, Kol's Notes, No Dog ABout It, The Daily Dog Blog, My Brown Newfies, CindyLu's Muse, Life With Desmond, Bringing Up Bella, Heart Like a Dog, Rescued Insanity, Peggy Frezon and NepaPets.
This week I’m combining two of my regular features (well okay, ONE of my regular features and one of my OLD ones) – Wordless Wednesday and Wednesday Winners.
In the Wordless Wednesday portion of this post, I am featuring a photo from Patrick Nau Photography. As always, feel free to add a caption! (You can see more of Patrick’s photos below.)
In the Wednesday Winners portion of this post I am featuring Patrick Nau himself. Patrick has been photographing people for 25 years, and people with their pets pets for over 5 years. His photographs are so good that they actually look like paintings. He is a phenomenal photographer, a genuinely nice person, and the official photographer for Mel’s Pet Pals clients! Check out my interview with him below.
How did you get started photographing people and their pets? What motivated you?
I have photographed families with their dogs in a park setting for many years. However, about 6 years ago things changed dramatically when I decided to get into pet photography after reading a story about a pet photographer and seeing his work in one of the professional magazines I receive . The work was shockingly bad and the photographer thought he was great. I got mad and said to myself–I could do better than that. I realized I needed to practice [on several pets] and worked out and arrangement with the vetinarian across the street to photograph her employees with their pet(s). When I was done with that project, I was ready to be a pet photographer.
What are you looking for when you photograph a person’s pet?
The things I look for when photographing dogs are to show (depending on the breed) the cuteness, beauty, dignity, strength, nobility and any other striking feature or reaction, the dog shows that is most complimentary to itself.
How do you know when you’ve gotten that “perfect” shot?
With many dogs it is easy to take great shots–they pose really well and it is easy for me to take nice portraits of them. When it is more of a challenge–that is when there are multiples dogs or if they are high strung, energetic and so on, I use all my bag of tricks and always work so that I can get short blocks of time where everything is just right and I can take a whole series of portraits I like.
What do you find most challenging about photographing pets?
To be honest the most challeng thing about pet photography is when a dog is poorly trained and the owner is really not in charge of his or her dog. This does not happen often but can certainly make for a challenging session.
What are some tips you can give people to better prepare for a photography session with a photographer like yourself? (Are there things they can do to before their appointment to better prepare their pet?)
There are things that owners can do to prepare for a session ahead of time. Dogs that are very active and energetic should be walked or run beforehand to use up some of that boundless energy. A visit to the groomer before the session is always a plus.
Do you have a funny story about photographing a pet?
When I photographed the first vet clinic employee with her dog, I couldn’ find my preparation list ahead of time. I rushed the session and knew we probably did not have many good pictures. The dog was scared and the owner struggled.
After we were done and doing the paper work in my front lobby –she screamed “Oh No!” as the dog went #2 right in the middle of the room. I told her not to worry as that was a fiiting response from her dog regarding the session. Later on I found the list–the first thing on it–give the dog plenty of time to explore and get comfortable BEFORE you start the session!
Okay. Now for the tough question… Which is more difficult? Photographing people or pets?
Which is easier to photograph–dogs or kids? Well, for the most part I would have to say DOGS!
Here are some other great photos taken by Patrick Nau:
By the way, Patrick has a great “Getting Started” page on his website that tells people how to have a successful portrait session. Really helpful information!
I have been wanting to interview Debbie Jacobs (from FearfulDogs.com) for some time now. Her dedication to helping fearful dogs and their owners makes her not only an interesting person but also a great one. But, I think she is a great resource for ANY dog owner. That’s why I wanted to highlight her on my blog. Read on to learn more about Debbie Jacobs and fearful dogs.
Debbie Jacobs CPDT-KA, CAP2, is the author of “A Guide To Living With & Training A Fearful Dog”, which was a finalist in the 2008 Dog Writers Association of America’s annual writing competition. This popular Ebook is now also available in hard copy.
She lives in Vermont with her husband and 4 dogs and created the fearfuldogs.com website to help owners and trainers learn about the most effective and humane ways to work with fearful dogs. She met her fearful dog Sunny, the inspiration for the fearfuldogs website at the Humane Society of Louisiana’s Camp Katrina after the hurricanes of 2005.
Debbie – Thanks so much for agreeing to this interview. To start with…
What is a fearful dog?
Good question. Plenty of dogs are afraid of some things, some of the time. Being afraid helps keep animals alive. Zebras wouldn’t last long if they weren’t afraid of being eaten by lions. I use ‘fearful dog’ to describe dogs that suffer from anxiety related disorders or phobias.
What causes a dog to be fearful?
Certain medical conditions can cause dogs to behave fearfully. It is important to rule these out. Pain or injury can cause a dog to behave in a fearful way. If your back hurts when people pick you up, you might start acting afraid when you are going to be picked up. If your hips hurt you might try to avoid going up stairs.
A genetic predisposition can cause a dog to be fearful. Anyone who has raised children can attest to the fact that personalities in children can be observed from very young ages. Some kids rush right in, while others hang back. Dogs can be the same way. Since we cannot test for this and since many of us get our dogs as adults, we will never know if this is why our dog is fearful, shy or anxious.
Trauma and abuse can cause a dog to become fearful. Most people assume that a dog that behaves in a fearful way was beaten, hurt or abused. That well may have been the case but one of the leading causes of fear based behaviors in dogs is the following- The lack of adequate and appropriate socialization when the dog was a pup. There is a window of opportunity during which puppies need to be exposed, safely, to novel objects, situations, new people, sounds and experiences. If this doesn’t happen, there is no going back and ‘fixing’ it.
Are there certain characteristics or behaviors people are more likely to see in a fearful dog?
Most people can identify when dogs are afraid if they cower, hide or run away. These are ‘big’ behaviors that are easy to notice. There are many other ‘smaller’ more subtle behaviors that dogs perform which indicate varying degrees of fear or discomfit. A dog might yawn, lick their lips, lower their head, turn their head, tuck their tail, squint or close their eyes, freeze, pant, drool, shed, sweat from their paws, pee or roll over. A dog behaving in an overt aggressive manner is often afraid. When we see aggression in dogs it can be scary to us and we are less inclined to empathize with the dog. Most dogs go through a series of attempts to make whatever scares them go away or leave them alone, When it doesn’t work they may begin to escalate toward a more aggressive response. This is not an attempt to ‘dominate’ their owner, a stranger or other dog, it’s how a dog says, “Really, I mean it, back off.”
How does a fearful dog’s behavior differ from a “normal” dog?
In some cases a fearful dog can behave like other dogs that are not fearful. If a dog is not exposed to the things that scare them, they may be happy and confident. It is only around these things that their fear based behavioral responses are seen. Dogs without problematic anxiety or fear, typically recover quickly from being scared or startled. A fearful dog may need a longer time to recover from a scary episode. Fearful dogs’ behavior will often get worse, rather than better the more they are exposed to things that scare them.
You help a lot of people with fearful dogs, what are some of the common issues you come across?
Common issues for the dogs include; fear of people, other dogs or novelty (sudden changes in their environment)
Common issues for owners include; a lack of understanding of how to handle dogs that are afraid. They usually don’t realize the time, energy and patience their dog is going to require in order to develop more confidence.
What are some common mistakes people make when working with their fearful dog (i.e., one they adopted)?
In general most owners put too much pressure on their dogs without understanding how counter conditioning and desensitization are used. They try to change their dog’s behavior rather than try to change their dog’s emotional response. Change the emotion and the behavior usually changes along with it. People often want and need their dog to behave a certain way and use force or coercion to get these behaviors from their dog. Dogs are punished, corrected, yelled at and generally scared, in the name of ‘training’.
So what are some basic things an owner can do to help/work with a fearful dog?
Understanding triggers, thresholds, counter conditioning and desensitization provides the foundation for the work with do with our fearful dogs. To begin with, stop putting your dog in situations in which the dog is afraid. A dog will not learn to feel good about something or someone until they stop being scared by it. Each fearful response just makes it more likely that that response will be repeated in the future. Our fearful dogs’ brains have become very good at being scared and easily startled. We need to stop having them practice that. Keep your dog in situations in which the dog feels safe and never feels the need to run or resort to aggressive behavior to protect themselves. Only when you understand how rewards are used to change how our dogs feel should you begin to expose your dogs to its triggers. Figure out what rocks your dog’s world. What do they love to do, what makes them feel great? Give them as many opportunities during the day to experience these activities. Building a positive, trusting relationship with your dog is also key. Few of us would want to hang out with someone who always made us do things that scared us. Why would our dogs?
What videos/blog posts/etc (from your website) would you recommend a new fearful dog owner check out?
Owners should visit fearfuldogs.com and click through the site. There’s lots of information and resources. The first step to changing our fearful dogs’ brains usually includes changing ours.
My many thanks to Debbie Jacobs for this interview!
As an added note, I would also recommend you check out Debbie’s blog. She not only shares some great food for thought (applicable to all dog owners), but also some additional info for owners with fearful dogs. It’s also a great place to meet other people with fearful dogs. We’ve created a nice little community of support there which has been greatly helpful to so many people, including ,myself.
Recently Amy Burkert from Go Pet Friendly and Edie Jarolim from Will My Dog Hate Me shared how sometimes they feel bullied by their blogs (you can read them here and here). Truthfully, the need to constantly “feed the beast” can be a challenge at times. I think many of us feel the pressure to offer new and interesting content to our readers on a consistent basis to keep them interested and engaged. I know I’ve certainly felt that way at times.
It was out of this discussion that The Pet Blogger Challenge! was born.
What is The Pet Blogger Challenge? It’s a challenge for pet bloggers across the blogsphere to share what they’ve done with their blogs (take a look back) and share where they want to go with them moving forward.
They even came up with a list of questions!
So without further ado, here are my responses. Let me know what you think.
1. When did you begin your blog?
2. What was your original purpose for starting a blog?
I began my first blog (Daisy the Wonder Dog and How She Found Her Inner Lab) in October 2008 after attending a seminar given by Mr. Social Media himself, David Meerman Scott. What I heard him say inspired me to use social media as a way to build my business, but it also made me want to start a blog as a way to catalog my puppy mill dog, Daisy, and her progress from a cowering and fearful dog to a Lab that enjoyed life. (I had no idea what I was doing when I started!)
Over time, I realized that Daisy’s blog was fun, if not a little emotionally challenging at times, but it did not allow me to address those issues or topics that might be of interest to my pet sitting and dog walking clients. So, in February 2009 I started No Dog About It Blog as a way to encompass those topics as well as a few topics that I have an interest in like animal welfare, puppy mills, etc.
3. Is your current purpose the same? If not, what’s different?
Unfortunately, I haven’t written as much in Daisy’s blog as I would like, but the purpose is still the same.
For No Dog About It Blog, I’d have to say No. Somewhere along the way, I started to focus on more of the issues that interested me and less on those things that might interest my clients. I had actually begun revisting what I wanted my blog to be about when this challenge came up. This year, I plan to blog more about those things that might be of help or interest to my clients and less on those issues that just interest me. I will still blog about some of the issues I care about, but I also want to be a resource for my clients. I believe my blog can fill both purposes.
4. Do you blog on a schedule or as the spirit moves you? If the former, how often — and what techniques do you use to stick to it? If the latter, do you worry about… well, whatever you might worry about (e.g. losing traffic, losing momentum)?
I do have a schedule for some items, like Wordless Wednesday or Wednesday Winners and Favorite Video Friday, but often I just blog when the spirit moves me or when a topic gets stuck in my brain. Sometimes, I just stumble upon something of interest, and like a dog with a bone, I just can’t let it go until I blog about it. To be honest though, I do feel like I have to blog about something at least 3 times a week even though I don’t have it scheduled in my calendar, I do have it scheduled in my brain.
5. Are you generating income from your blog? If so, how (e.g. sponsor ads, affiliate relationships, spokesperson opportunities)? If not currently, do you hope to in the future — and how?
I do not currently generate income from my blog (hard to do when hosted on WordPress’ site), but I would like to in the future.
6. What do you like most about blogging in general and your blog in particular (bragging is good!)?
Being a creative person, I enjoy blogging because it allows me to express myself. It gives me a voice. It also means I get to learn from others and learn about their own experiences. I love that!
Now for the bragging part – What I have tried to do with my blog is make it both fun and informative (being serious all of the time can be pretty boring dontcha think?), and I think I have done that. I also like it when I am able to write something that resonates with people. It’s really rewarding when someone takes the time to add their own experiences or thoughts and then shares it with others.
7. What do you like least?
Two things: 1) Trying to meet the deadlines I have imposed on myself for the Wednesday and Friday items and 2) feeling like I need to post at least 3 times a week to keep people interested.
8. How do you see your blog changing or growing in 2011?
In 2011, I intent to focus a little more on topics and issues that I think would interest my clients. I’ll do a few more product reviews, interviews and share information on pet healthcare and health issues for both dogs and cats. I also hope to migrate my blog to my website and host it myself.
I don’t know about you, but I am often fascinated by people’s stories. How they ended up doing what they are doing. What motivates them. Who they admire. Places they’ve traveled.
That’s why I was so pleased when Mary Haight of Dancing Dog Blog agreed to do an interview. She has a passion for animals that I can appreciate and she often takes up their case on their behalf. She also does a great job keeping people informed of the most current news, product reviews and is always searching for the facts behind each story. If you’re not following her blog, you should be. I always learn something new when I read her posts and I am sure you will too.
What made you choose to blog about animals and animal-related topics?
I’ve been an animal lover since I was a child. We always had cats in the house growing up and I started riding horses and got my first dog in my twenties. Later I had been involved in not-for-profit work on food safety issues and was passionate about it, but there wasn’t a lot of good news to report in that niche. I’m not a scientist schooled in public health, or a nutritionist, and felt if you don’t make the basis of what you write what you truly know, blogging becomes unsustainable.
With animals, I had the passion to sustain authenticity over time, and I have been involved in that sector for more than a decade. Blogging about animals allowed me to explore topics that would broaden the readership and provide me with opportunities to see another side of life with dogs.
I have also been an officer on the board of Lake Shore Animal Shelter Chicago’s oldest no-kill shelter, for nearly 13 years.
So, how did you get started blogging? What motivated you to start?
A friend of mine who knew I had a lot to say on animal welfare issues told me I should start a blog, but I wasn’t truly motivated to start blogging until something happened at Animal Care and Control in Indiana (ACC).
A request came to shelters in Chicago announcing that ACC was moving into a new facility and had approximately 100 animals they would not be taking to their new place. They informed the shelters in Chicago that if they would like to save them they were welcome to come and get them. Obviously this type of communication wasn’t the best given animals’ lives were at stake. A blog was born.
What topics or issues tend to get your juices flowing when it comes to blogging?
I like to tackle issues. Breed-specific legislation, mandatory spay/neuter, puppy mills, pet shops, pet food problems and internet puppy sales are all related to putting a stop to animal cruelty.
But, most people just want to have fun with their dogs, so I cover ground there too with reports and clips from dog shows and trials, stage and movie reviews. I also offer interviews with trainers and other professionals. And, I like to put together useful information in the tabs section of my blog like: how to figure out if pet insurance is for you, how to choose a boarding/daycare facility, dog play and games, pet friendly hotels, dog allergies, pet beds, and even dog food recipes.
What is the most rewarding aspect of being an animal advocate/pet blogger?
Giving animals a voice. Getting the message out. Giving people information they want or need to help them strengthen their relationship with their furry ones and offering helpful information to people on the edge of giving up their animals. Having other bloggers talk about something you wrote that you feel is important for people to know, and then having their readers see it and share it. Word gets out and animals needing help get it.
It’s also rewarding when you get a variety of responses to whatever was written, especially when you see new people speaking up and coming back to do it again. And it’s wonderful how you can feel as if the people who read and comment regularly are more like friends than strangers, even – or maybe especially – if you disagree. I think the pet niche must have the best people in it – there’s so much great camaraderie here!
Favorite blogging moment or experience?
I wrote “Giving Pet Shops and Puppy Mills the Boot” and followed up with an email interview with Best Friends Animal Society Elizabeth Oreck, National Campaign Manager of Puppies Aren’t Products, and several of my favorite bloggers wrote about it or mentioned it in a recap. I was grateful for that and for the response it elicited in the comments section. I even had a great conversation in the comments area with a journalist I respect. The follow-up helped clear up a lot of misunderstandings some in the sheltering community had. I felt lucky and happy with what I was doing.
What did you do prior to blogging?
I had just come off a ten-year stint caring for my mother. I sold the house in August of 2008, moved to another area, and started the blog toward the end of that year. Prior to that, I was president of a manufacturing firm.
Do you have other blogs you follow that are not animal or pet-related?
Sure! Here’s a few: The New York Times, Huffington Post, ScienceDaily, Food Politics, Environmental Working Group, OrganicHatSEO, treehugger, Problogger, Rubin Museum of Art (check out the art from the Himalayas and if they still have slides, Carl Jung’s “Red Book”), Zen Habits, Damian Calvo (filmmaker)