Pet Blogger Challenge 2014

This is our second year participating in the annual Pet Blogger Challenge hosted by Go Pet Friendly.com and Will My Dog Hate Meas a fun way to explore how things have gone in the past year with wandering through the blog world so…here it goes!

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1. How long have you been blogging? Please tell us why you started blogging, and, for anyone stopping by for the first time, give us a quick description of what your blog is about.

Since May 2011.  I started blogging mostly to talk about my dogs, dog sports, everything related to the American Pit Bull Terrier and all other dog related madness.  The insanity has grown leaps and bounds from there!

2. Name one thing about your blog, or one blogging goal that you accomplished during 2013, that made you most proud.

I created a Facebook page and Twitter account for the blog and am just shy of my goal of 10,000 hits on my blog with 8,463 hits as of the time for writing this blog entry.  I honestly never expected it but I’m pretty darn thrilled since I’m not a big time blog.

3. When you look at the post you wrote for last year’s Pet Blogger Challenge, or just think back over the past year, what about blogging has changed the most for you?

I’ve expanded a lot.  I started doing Shelter Dog Saturday posts because of visiting two local shelters (currently on hiatus due to health constraints sadly but I’ll be back!).  It got me back into the swing of things in the rescue community and gave me a way to give back – especially considering a lot of what I do people thing as only for “show dogs”.

4. What lessons have you learned this year – from other blogs, or through your own experience – that could help us all with our own sites?

Never give up.  You may think your writing will never reach others or do a world of good but it can and it does.  Your posts may not appeal to every single person but there will be even that one person who reads your blog and says, “Crap!  That was a really good idea!” and it helps them in their lives – even in a small portion.

If you could ask the pet blogging community for help with one challenge you’re having with your blog, what would it be?

Asking for help has always been hard for me to do but I would love to know how other bloggers get sponsors and products to review (we’ve only done one sponsored one thus far thanks to the awesome folks at BlogPaws).

I’d also love to get more involved in social media – specifically Twitter.  I absolutely suck at Twitter.

5. What have you found to be the best ways to bring more traffic to your blog, other than by writing great content?

Facebook.  Adding a home location on Facebook has allowed my blog entries to be shared more readily and reached a wider audience.  I’m grateful for that especially for the shelter dogs I’ve featured who have been able to be adopted because of that on the Shelter Dog Saturday feature.

6. How much time to do you spend publicizing your blog, and do you think you should spend more or less in the coming year?

Not as much as I should.  I share each post on Facebook and Twitter but I really probably should get more involved in it.  I’m getting more involved in blogging communities but it’s hard to keep up with – especially with seven active dogs (even the seniors who need to relax some times!).

7. How do you gauge whether or not what you’re writing is appealing to your audience?

I watch the stats constantly and love reading the comments I get too.

I tend to write a lot about what appeals to me and it may not always appeal to every reader.  Since the main goal I had for this blog when I started was just to share my dogs and my love of dogs with the world, it’s gone pretty well.  Some people enjoy a topic and others don’t.  It doesn’t make for continual growth but I’m okay wit that!

How do you know when it’s time to let go of a feature or theme that you’ve been writing about for a while?

When it becomes work.  My blog is my escape time and if it becomes no fun anymore, it’s time to step back and take a break.  I’ve gone a few weeks where I just didn’t have the urge to write and so I didn’t.  The only thing that has taken a hiatus for something other than it becoming work was my Shelter Dog Saturday feature and that was because I wasn’t able to make it out to the shelters to photograph and get to know the dogs since I would rather focus on local dogs who need a place to go.

8. When you’re visiting other blogs, what inspires you to comment on a post rather than just reading and moving on?

Since most of the blogs I follow are typically pet related, it tends to be something I am interested or passionate about.  I try and share words of encouragement when I can, offer a friendly piece of advice or even share a bit of experience.

9. Do you do product reviews and/or giveaways?

If so, what do you find works best, and what doesn’t work at all?

If not, is this something you’d like to do more of? What hurdle is getting in your way?

I love doing reviews.  I love letting my readers get a perspective on a product that they may not have had originally.  I personally love reading the reviews and discussions on products as well because then I may have the urge to try that product too!

I had one product giveaway in conjunction with one and it was a bit stressful.  I decided to look into other ways of doing them for the next one I’m able to do.

10. When writer’s block strikes and you’re feeling dog-tired, how do you recharge?

I take a break and do stuff off the blog – typically with the dogs.  It’s usually a few days but I’ve gone a couple of weeks before.  It’s not always easy because I tend to want to write down an idea or something on my tablet, scrap piece of paper or my phone but it definitely allows for time to rejuvenate and get those blog juices going again.

11. Have you ever taken a break from your blog? How did that go?

Yes!  It wasn’t very long.  I usually just get burned out since we’ve got seven dogs in our house (one of them being a very naughty puppy!), a full time job, lots of volunteering with local shelters and animal rescue groups and other dog-related activities and clubs along with the blog.  Sometimes you just need a break!

Have you ever thought about quitting your blog altogether? What makes you stay?

No way!  I enjoy blogging and I enjoy reading other blogs.  They inspire me to look at myself and gives me an opportunity to possibly try something new and exciting with the hoard.  Heaven knows I need all the help I can get!

12. What goals do you have for your blog in 2014?

I’d love to get the blog paying for itself so I can put the money I spend on it toward other fun things to do with the dogs.  I would also like to get more involved in the blogging community and learn ways to improve my blog and offer new things to new and old readers alike that can be beneficial while still maintaining that sense of personal identity that I originally started with.

And that’s it for my 2014 Pet Blogger Challenge!  I’m grateful to have found it last year and I hope for many more successes and additions to the roster next year.  I would like to give a major shout out to everyone who helped me improve my blog and gave me some awesome ideas and, yes, even criticism on how to fix issues I was having to create a better experience.  Here is to a bright and wonderful year!

Polar Vortex: The Stuck Inside Blues

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It’s winter here in Michigan.  It’s expected to be cold, snowy and blustery but the last few days have been absolutely arctic with temperatures hitting 30+ degrees below zero with the wind chill.  According to a few articles I’ve been reading, this has been one of the coldest Artic outbreaks in two decades for Midwest, South and East Coast.  These cold temperatures have been brutal for animals that do not live in homes and there have been cries across Facebook and other social media sites in an effort to rally to help provide sufficient shelter, warmth and care for those animals whose owners cannot afford or are unwilling to bring their animals into their homes – even for a few days while this winter anomaly runs its course.

We have been, of course, stuck in the house predominantly.  The dogs have been miserable being unable to be outside and actually doing things.  Their frustration is almost tangible – especially when they are racing back to the house bouncing from foot to foot from frigid snow balls between their pads because of the unbearable temperatures causing the normally minor annoyance to become acutely painful.  They’ve been limited to treadmill time and basic and trick training in the house for the last week and we’re all counting down the time until this frigid weather breaks – hopefully in time for the snow pull this weekend!

If you’re stuck inside like I am, there are many, many things you can do to keep yourself and your dogs entertained without venturing out into the cold.  Here are a few examples:

  • Frozen Kongs – Use your favorite Kong recipes and then toss them in the freezer until frozen solid.  For many dogs, this will allow them time to work them out.  The quicker thinking the dog, the more complicated the layering in the Kong should be.
  • Puzzle Toys – Nina Ottosson makes some absolutely AMAZING puzzle toys but those aren’t the only variety out there.  The old standby of a Buster Cube is around as well as the Tug-A-Jug and other awesome, food dispensing toys.
  • Nosework GamesHiding food in boxes (shoe boxes, postal boxes recycled from the holidays, etc.) can get your pooch thinking and is a good ground breaking tool if you ever intend to get into K9 Nosework competitions.
  • Obedience Refresher – Work on basic obedience cues with nice, high value treats.  Keeping your dog on par with their commands means an easier to live with companion who isn’t a total pest when company comes to call.
  • Relationship Games – Play games like hide and seek that build and strengthen the bond between dog and owner.  These games also have a hidden capacity to reinforce good obedience and manners as well.

Frozentozen 2013: Workin’ in the Snow

ryker-frozentozen2013-8739On Sunday, we went out to watch the afternoon pull for the World Wide Weight Pull Organization (W3PO).  I honestly didn’t go with the intention of doing anything but watching a bunch of good pullers have fun on a really challenging surface but little did I know that I would be poked and prodded until I actually caved and agreed to let old man Ryker have some fun on the snow pad.

For anyone who’s ever pulled on snow, they know that if the conditions on the pad (snow track) aren’t absolutely perfect in both weather and actual track conditions, it can be a puller’s worst nightmare because of the difficulty of that particular surface.  Ryker has always excelled on snow because he learned early on what it took to break the sled when it started to freeze to the track but it has been many years (January 2011 was the last time we did snow) and I never thought we would see the surface again so all of those habits for breaking the sled free have long since been broken because they are unsuitable for wheeled or rail tracks.  Thankfully, the harder it got, the more pissed off he got and the harder he tried to beat that cart…until he couldn’t any longer.

It was, by far, one of the sloppiest days because the temperature sat at forty-something degreesryker-frozentozen2013-8722 all day and made the track slushy until the sun started to fall – then it froze and fast.  One by one, dogs bowed out – unable and unwilling to work against the fast freezing track with its ever increasing difficulty level.  Ryker was one of three remaining pullers at the end with the other two being a Greater Swiss Mountain Dog named Royce who weighed in at 115 pounds and a Newfoundland weighing much more.  It was an honor to be in the last three pulling – especially with both dogs weighing well over double the forty-six pounds that Ryker weighed in at.

In the end, Ryker bowed out at 28.97 times his body weight.  This translated to 1,333 pounds on a slushy, difficult track.  He fell short of the Most Weight Pulled per Pound (which is based on the percentage of weight pulled versus the gross weight) that was a little over 32 times the dog’s body weight which was done by a nineteen pound Basenji named Roxie that pulled that one off!   It was, none the less, a very impressive day.  There were many dogs who pulled well into ryker-frozentozen2013-8779the 20x range – including the relatively new pulling dog, Royce, who at only two years old shows a LOT of very good promise.

We are aiming to hit the W3PO’s next snow pull the weekend of January 11th in Luna Pier, Michigan.  This relatively new organization has given us bubbling new hope for the sport that we adore with the camaraderie that was ever present at the Michigan United Kennel Club (UKC) pulls prior to the big alteration of their weight pull program to dissolve the actual competitive aspect of weight pull.  We highly recommend anyone looking to get into the sport check out the group’s new page on Facebook or check out an upcoming event and be prepared to have some fun with your dog.

Product Review: Mad Dog Metalworks

mdmtags-december2013-7777Having an ID tag on your dog is one of the most basic and most important aspects of responsible pet ownership.  You can always go to your local chain pet supplier and get one of their generic tags with your name, address and phone number.  It’ll look like every other dog’s on the block.  It’ll still serve its purpose but the question is for how long?  Most mass produced tags don’t have a long lived life and tend to warp or get destroyed fairly quickly (especially with incredibly active dogs!).  I have found, thankfully, that there is a better alternative out there when it comes to both durability and purpose in an ID tag with a fashionable flare through one company – Mad Dog Metalworks.

We ordered our original tags quite some time ago (we’re talking years here) from Mad Dog Metalworks because we wanted a less expensive tag than some of the hand stamped tag makers out there with the same durability and customization options.  We definitely got that and then some when we got our product (which was a little lengthy of a wait due to a MASSIVE sale that was running in tandem when we bought ours).  These tags have held up against a dog562822_10151117470874828_244813446_n who hates tags and likes to chew on them (Mika) and dogs who literally drag them through the mud and muck or running them over objects that would have gouged and damaged lesser tags.

Despite the abuse the original five have put their tags through, they have held up.  They may be a little worse for the wear, have pits and a few gashes in them but they’ve held up and are still legible and gorgeous and they were worth every penny that was spent on them – which is actually only about half of many other tag makers at about $20 for the Rockstar tag which we are featuring in this blog (prices vary for other tags).

So, if you’re looking for some custom bling while doing your part as a responsible pet owner make sure you check out Mad Dog Metalworks on Facebook or at their Etsy store.  Be sure to tell them that the Work-A-Bull crew sent you while you’re at it and check out their other awesome products while you’re there!

Happy 6th Birthday, Lyric!

lyricdirty-june2013-5572Six, long years ago a little black puppy was born in Snohomish, WA.  She was the tiniest and most adorable looking wiggle worm imaginable.  I knew by two weeks old she was to come home to me.  It was a grueling 10 week wait until my little Star Puppy, Lyric, was finally home.  Finally to be forever with me until time took her naughty self from me. The last six years have had their ups and downs.  The trials and tribulations we went through were nothing short of the amazing when we finally succeeded – especially in weight pull.

Lyric, you’ve given me your all – complete with a myriad of faults – and you’ve shown me what heart is.  I truly don’t deserve the absolute adoration and love you bestow upon me daily with unfailing loyalty and devotion.  You’ve not been an easy dog to live with but you’ve made the most of every moment we’ve had together.  I am so proud to call you MY dog and will be blessed for years to come with your antics lighting up my life for a very long time to come.

Here is to many, many more my little Tater Tot.  Happy 6th birthday, Lyric.  Let’s rock this world some more.