Archive for the ‘Pet Blogger Hop’ Category

Pet Blogger Challenge 2014

Thursday, January 9th, 2014

For the fourth year, pet bloggers are being challenged to think deeply about and speak honestly about their blog.  I love this challenge!  It is fun to share, and fun to learn about other blogs and get to know other writers!

Riley and James – Pet Blogger Challenge 2011

Riley and James – Pet Blogger Challenge 2012

Riley and James – Pet Blogger Challenge 2013

Thank you so much to Edie Jarolim of Will My Dog Hate Me and Amy Burkert of Go Pet Friendly for hosting this fun project!

Pet Blogger Challenge Jan. 10

Riley and James – Pet Blogger Challenge 2014

How long have you been blogging?

I have been blogging for a little over seven years.

Why did you start blogging?

I started blogging because my brother Dave told me I might like it.  You were right – thank you Dave!  At the time, I had to ask him what a blog was – I suspected it was one of those trendy, made up words.  I also did not know whether or not I liked writing, and it turns out I LOVE writing.  I can’t imagine NOT writing now.

Give us a quick description of what your blog is about.

Riley and James is named after my brother Dave’s and my Sister-I-Love Sara’s two giant dogs, Riley the Great Dane who is still doing great at age 9 and James the Mastiff who passed away at age 8.  The blog is not about those two awesome dogs – though it features Dave’s rendition of their cartoon likenesses (How cute are they??)

The main focus of Riley and James is the promotion of preventative care in pets from a veterinarian’s perspective, though if you stick around awhile, TANGENTS seem to be as big a theme as preventative care!  I like to write about my family, our own pets, gardening, Christmas, our annual purple tree, our community, my work, and whatever else is going on in our lives!  It often, but not always, is brought back around to pets!

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

This one is subtle and awesome, and the work of others, not me…which I absolutely love.  Last year I posted as one of my goals that one day soon every cat in Omaha would have a home.

Two years ago, I spent a day with Dr. Horn, one of the veterinarians at Nebraska Humane Society, spaying and neutering cats and dogs.  On a normal work day, I might have a surgery or two, or I might not.  We had dozens of patients that day!  The pace was exhilarating – I loved it.  But the thought of losing puppies and kittens-to-be through spaying every dog or cat – which is the right thing to do – I firmly believe it – just smashed me.

I told Dr. Horn at the end of that day that I supported Nebraska Humane Society 100%, but I knew my role was not to be on the front lines with her.  I said that I would end up curled on in a corner on the floor, and they would have to step over me, and it would just be a pain.  I would be no help.  I was being honest, but I felt like I was letting down our community, Dr. Horn, and the pets that needed me.

I saw Dr. Horn at Central Veterinary Conference this past fall.  She asked me if I remembered that day.  I said that I did.  She said that they had considered how difficult that had been for me, and had improved their technique of juvenile spay and neuter so much that they were able to spay and neuter 1.8 lb. pets whereas before their lowest weight cut off had been 2.0 lbs.  She said that that may not sound like a huge difference, but it meant they could adopt out altered foster kittens and puppies a full week earlier than they could before.  Which meant that they could place more puppies and kittens into foster homes that were now open.  Which meant that they could now house and bring to term many pregnant dogs and cats, whereas before they would need to spay them right as they came in because they just did not have the resources to care for so many newborn puppies and kittens.

Now they do.

They are now rescuing PRE-TERM puppies and kittens by taking in pregnant dogs and cats and waiting to spay them until after they give birth and then adopting out the mamas and all the babies.

I am so proud of our community.  I am so impressed by Dr. Horn and her team.

It is easy to say we should save all the puppies and kittens.  It is almost (but not quite) impossible to be the team that makes that happen.

All I did was cry about it.  And write about it.  The Nebraska Humane Society team took it from there.

In all seriousness, they saw my heart break – they saw a perspective of an outsider who loves baby animals as much as they do – and they brainstormed and worked and made it happen – they save the lives of entire litters all the while saving the lives of the REST of the homeless pets in our community.  I have always been a huge fan of rescuers overall and the Nebraska Humane Society in particular, but this story got to me more than most, and warmed my heart on a very personal level.

I will keep writing.  I will keep hoping for impossible things.  I will try to remember that filling the role that I do is important, while still admiring the awesomeness of and actions of the Rest of the Pet Lovers.

“Now if the foot should say, “Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,” it would not for that reason stop being part of the body.” 1 Corinthians 12:15

Whatever 2

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 have had less time to write this past year than before, but I am hoping that I will find more creative ways to fit in writing in 2014.

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

Write about what you love.  Post lots of pictures!  Don’t be afraid to go off topic sometimes – everyone will love getting to know the whole you.

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

How do you all find time to write such consistently great stuff?  That – tips on finding time in a busy life – would be so helpful at this stage!

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

I have not found a better way!

How much time to do you spend publicizing your blog — and do you think you should spend more or less time next year?

I post links on my personal Facebook page and Twitter page and send a link to my Dad.  Yes, I should probably spend more time on this!

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

Sometimes people will tell me in person what they thought of what I wrote, or send me an email.  I also can gauge how a post resonated by comments – though that is not a huge aspect of the blog.  I LOVE when other bloggers I admire or dvm360 pick up a post – That is such a huge compliment.

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

If I really feel strongly about a topic or have a thing to add that has not been said, I will sometimes comment.  I know bloggers’ love language is often comments : ) so I try to comment more  than I normally would – I am more a reader and mover-oner – even of blog posts I love (yours!)

Do you do product reviews and/or giveaways?  If so, what do you find works best, and what doesn’t work at all?

I very infrequently do product reviews, and those only if I have been asked directly.  I tell people who ask that if I do not absolutely love a product, I will not review it at all.  I review quite a few books here, just for fun, and have the same policy.  My Mom told me that if I can’t say anything nice not to say anything at all, so I try not to!  Great reviews are more fun to read, and people want to hear about products and books you loved, not ones you thought were just ok…or worse!

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

I am SUCH an introvert, that I need time alone or with my family to recharge.  Usually I will read or look through the internet or watch a movie.  If I am REALLY tired, I just need to sleep until I am caught up – not always possible to do all at once – but I always do my best work when I am fully rested!

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

I will often go several days or a few weeks without posting.  I try to go no more than a month.  If I have not written for a while, I can feel myself getting stressed and out of sorts.  I am not an every day writer – I SO admire those of you who are!  But I do need to write regularly to feel like I am at my best.

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

No!  I love it.

What goals do you have for your blog in 2014?

My 2014 goals I hope to accomplish through writing on Riley and James are the continued celebration of preventative care resulting in the eradication of illness and injury and death worldwide, a home for every Omaha cat, then a home for every cat and dog in the world and, as always, an end to puppy mills!

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Moe the Turtle

Friday, June 28th, 2013

“A vet Sharpie tattooed Moe long ago.  Now I can tell him from the rest of the turtles.”

“How many turtles do you have?” I asked.


I picked up Moe to examine him.

On the side of Moe’s shell was a heart and his name in my handwriting.



A Promise Kept

Friday, June 21st, 2013

I took her tiny furry head in my hands and put my forehead on hers.

“Honey, I promise to get you to heaven soon,” I said.

Together with her family and the rest of her medical team,

we gave up

(let go),

and I did.


Pet Blogger Challenge 2013

Thursday, January 10th, 2013

Pet Blogger Challenge Jan. 10

Thank you again to Amy of Go Pet Friendly for hosting this, the third annual Pet Blogger Challenge!

And Dr. Edie, I miss your Frankie stories and love your new blog, Freud’s Butcher!

Here are this year’s Pet Blogger Challenge questions, and my responses…

1. How long have you been blogging?  

I have been blogging here on Riley and James since September 2006, so a little over six years.

I have a comic (a blog of sorts I suppose) called “When I Grow Up, I Want to be a Vet.”

I have also blogged at Wagging Tail, dvm360, Life with Dogs,, Smart-Pet Guide and CareFRESH and done some guest blog posts.

I am helping start a professional blog in 2013 for the veterinary hospital for which I work, Gentle Doctor Animal Hospitals, which I am very excited about!

Provide a link to your post from last year’s Pet Blogger Challenge so we can refresh our memories.

Here is my Riley and James Pet Blogger Challenge post from last year:

Pet Blogger Challenge 2012

2. What do you consider the most important goals you set out in last year’s post?

The purpose statement of Riley and James is “To Promote Preventative Care of Pets in Order to Enrich the Lives of Pets and Their People.”  THAT is still the most important goal of this blog.

3. Have you made progress toward this goal, or have your goals changed over the past year?

I HAVE made progress toward that goal – more in Real Life lately than through the blog.  I started working at Gentle Doctor part time in September 2011 and moved to full time in May 2012, and that has taken up ALL of the time I used to spend writing!  I love my job and my coworkers and the clients and patients.  I miss writing as much as I used to, but it has definitely been a very positive change.

4. How often do you post?

Currently I am only posting a couple times a month.  Life got busy!

5. Has your opinion of blogging on a schedule or as the Spirit moves you changed?

Nope, I still do not blog on a schedule, but I love reading blogs of people who do post on a schedule, especially bloggers who post daily or even more often, and I admire their organizational skills!  I will post on a schedule for the hospital blog, and have for professional assignments, but it is fun to keep Riley and James low key.

If you don’t publish on a schedule, why not?

I think my attitude online mirrors how I deal with Real Life – I don’t talk much, but I will if I have an important thing to say, or a fun story, or a picture I want to show someone!

As far as sharing on a schedule, I do great sharing pet specific and general veterinary information with clients every 20 minutes all day, and I love it, but it exhausts me!

Likewise, I am capable of blogging on a rigid schedule, and working hard no matter how I am feeling, but it takes much more energy!  Still rewarding – both in Real Life interactions and online writing –  but a different feel.

How do you think your decision affects your audience? 

Without a schedule, it is probably difficult for readers to know when to check back.  I announce posts on facebook and twitter, and send an email to my Dad whenever I write something, so I know what I write is being read by people I care about :)

How do you know when a topic is “post-worthy?”

My loose and informal post-worthy tests:

  • Do I feel strongly about this?
  • Is this an important pet topic?
  • Do I have a different take on this topic (whether or not it is pet related) than others?
  • Is this a fun or pretty or cute picture? :)
 6. How much time do you spend writing your blog?
Each blog post takes me between two and twenty hours to write.  Medical posts take me the longest.  Picture and story posts take the shortest amount of time (unless they are “Short Stories” – Those actually take me longer to get under 50 words!)  Most of my time is spent revising rough drafts.  I don’t even count anymore, but I usually have over 20 rough drafts of each post.
How much time visiting other blogs?
I spend as much time as I can visiting other blogs, mostly about pets, but also about spiritual topics, gardening, and other things.  Many are written by friends, and those that aren’t written by friends are written by people I feel could become friends.  I love to read, and I love what you write!
Share your  tips for staying on top of it all.
Decide what you want from blogging.  It is very fun, but can become overwhelming.  You can’t read ALL the posts, or even ALL the blogs.  You can’t write ALL the things.  Sometimes you just have to link to excellent things others have written, or trust your readers to find what they need to learn more or save topics for another day.  If it is not fun, back up and figure out why, readjust and continue.  Most of blogging is self-imposed scheduling and direction, so be nice to yourself, and tweak things so it is fun.  It will shine through in your writing.

7. How do you measure the success of a post and of your blog in general (comments, shares, traffic)?  Do you look strictly at the numbers, or do you have a way of assessing the quality of those interactions?

I have not checked Riley and James statistics over a year, and have loved having this site as an escape of sorts.

When I return to blogging professionally as a part of my work, I will measure blog visits, interactions and learn how to measure return on investment somehow, maybe by new client visits?

Some aspects of blogging – affecting people’s attitudes towards pets, causing someone to think, making someone smile with a cute picture, shaping my reputation online, meeting and getting to know great people – are not measurable but are some of the most rewarding parts about blogging, so…short answer…I don’t know!

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

You guys post great stuff, you show up and support me, you send me fun projects and include me in fun group projects.  You love your own pets, you support other people and their pets and you rescue the pets who are not yet to their forever homes.  You are the best of the best and you already help me more than you could ever know.  So that.  THANK YOU.

9. What goals do you have for your blog in 2013?

This year, I would like to continue to promote preventative care of pets in order to enrich the lives of pets and their people.  Oh, and home every Omaha cat.  And also shut down puppy mills.

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Pet Blogger Challenge 2012

Tuesday, January 10th, 2012

That was this day??

Yes, I have been looking forward to the Pet Blogger Challenge since last year in a way, but consciously, since in was announced December 20, 2011.  Still, it snuck up on me.  So instead of folding laundry, I am doing this super fun project.  Because I love you.

A huge THANK YOU to Will My Dog Hate Me and Go Pet Friendly for hosting this second annual Pet Blogger Challenge!  The beautiful button is from This One Wild Life.

Pet Blogger Challenge Jan. 10

1. Provide a link to your post from last year’s Pet Blogger Challenge so we can refresh our memories.

Pet Blogger Challenge 2011

(I reposted my answers from 2011 at the end of this post too in case it is easier to read that way!)

2. What do you consider the most important goals you set out in last year’s post?

I still like my Purpose Statement:

To Promote Preventative Care of Pets in Order to Enrich the Lives of Pets and Their People

3. Have you made progress toward those goals, or have your goals changed over the past year?

Yes, I am still trying to promote preventative care of pets in order to enrich the lives of pets and their people in everything I write.  The methods and places I write have changed, but my goals are the same.

4. Has your opinion of blogging on a schedule or as the Spirit moves you changed? Which are you doing now? Do you still worry about lost traffic, momentum, etc?

I probably should not say this to a bunch of bloggers, but I lost the link to my stats :)

Since then I have found myself posting for fun or when I had something I wanted to say (which I did before, but I also became overly concerned with numbers, I thought.)  So though it would take one phone call or email to my super awesome webmaster, I have not looked at stats for several months, and do not plan to soon.  I have met incredible people through Riley and James, and though it is so fun to reach a large audience and track that, I love the individuals I have met even more.

5. Are you generating income from your blog? Has this changed since last year?

No, but what has changed is I have been invited to write a weekly article for Life with Dogs and invited to be on the Veterinary Economics Editorial Advisory Board and do a few other very fun, rewarding projects.

6. Have your likes and dislikes about blogging changed since last year?

I had planned to have a very “boring” 2011.  Our Piggy the Guinea Pig then Ebony Dog then Princess Gerbil all passed away early in the year while we were still reeling from losing Fuzzy and Wuzzy Rats in the fall of 2010.  So much of 2011 was spent processing my grief in the blog.  To ALL of you  I say loudly and sincerely, “THANK YOU!” for seeing me through this past year.

As I was writing about Ebony over and over and reconsidering my commitment not to use “colorful” language on this site and life was getting back to “normal” a bit, I decided I needed to quit my job – the second best decision I made all year – and I started working at Gentle Doctor – the BEST decision I made all year.  Also, Goodwill Youth Build was not able to maintain funding to keep my husband Russ on full time and so he left Goodwill and started working at Paul Davis Restoration about the same time I switched veterinary hospitals.

F* boring!  (*Forget boring!)  2011 laughed at my resolution to have a boring year.  Who’s laughing now 2011?  Our life is awesome!  I am happy.

7. Overall, are you pleased with the progress you made in 2011?

What?  Yes :)

8. How do you see your blog changing/growing in 2012?

Who knows??  I am hoping for a wonderful, full, rich year.  I do believe that can all be accomplished with no major life changes, and just steady, day-to-day contentment, you know, boring.


Now listen, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money.  Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow.  What is your life?  You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes.”  James 4:13-14

Oh yeah.  I had forgotten.  But also…

Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself.  Each day has enough trouble of its own.  Matthew 6:34

I do believe 2012 is in good hands, and we will see where the year takes us, huh?  So glad I have all of you to do that with!

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Thank you for your wise words Stan Parker!

Pet Blogger Challenge 2011

1. When did you begin your blog?

September 1, 2006

2. What was your original purpose for starting a blog?

My original purpose was to get pet preventative care information to pet lovers in a broader way than just one-on-one in the exam room, veterinarian to client (which I still think is super important!)

My brother Dave suggested that I publish a newsletter for our family and mutual friends.  I loved the idea!  I tried to talk him into helping me print, staple and deliver newsletters to our friends, and he talked me into putting all of the newsletters onto a website that he offered to design for me.  (Dave, you were right, this is much more fun!)

He and his wife Sara had a gorgeous Great Dane at the time, so we named the site after her, The Official Riley Fan Club.  He even made buttons and fan club cards – so cute!  They still have Riley and later adopted James, the wonderful English Mastiff, and the website became Riley and James.  I went from publishing kind of long, formal entries every other month, to my current practice of publishing about twice a week.


Riley and James and…Riley and James!

3. Is your current purpose the same?

Yes!  The methods have changed over the years, but the purpose of Riley and James is the same, to provide pet preventative care information to pet lovers.  I also want it to be a fun site, and to be able to share some of my own pets’ stories.  I recently came up with a Purpose Statement, at the recommendation of , and buried it in a .  I will repost it here, and then at the Website Update, maybe somewhere more prominent!

The Purpose of the Riley and James Website:

To Promote Preventative Care of Pets in Order to Enrich the Lives of Pets and Their People

4. Do you blog on a schedule or as the Spirit moves you?

At first, posts were every other month.  In 2010, I posted about twice a week.  Now I am trying to do that (way more fun, and I can post shorter, more random stuff) and I am trying to post on Mondays and Fridays, to give myself a schedule to follow.

5. Are you generating income from your blog?

No, but I hope I am making pet lovers think about important things, and providing good medical information, and that I am playing a part in pets living longer, healthier lives.

I do work for Carefresh, and have written for Veterinary Economicsand Firstline.  I do not think I would have met any of the wonderful people involved with those groups if I had not been writing online.

6. What do you like most about blogging in general and your blog in particular?

I know those of you who do not know me in person do not believe me (because you have told me so!) but I am an extreme introvert.  Unless I am completely comfortable in a group, I will always choose listening over talking.

With the blog, I am able to formulate my thoughts and get them out there, without worrying I will not be heard because my voice is too soft or I am not articulate enough.  I think I have valid things to say, especially when it comes to veterinary medicine and related topics, but I will not necessarily say them outloud in Real Life.  It is great to have this outlet.

7. What do you like least?

I really, really love everything about doing the Riley and James website and all of the writing and online interaction opportunities that have come from it.

8. How do you see your blog changing/growing in 2011?

I hope to become a better writer, take cuter pictures (That will be hard to do without Fuzzy and Wuzzy), make a dent in the puppy mill and cat overpopulation problems, connect in more ways with the pet community at large…I just think it is going to be a really great year, and I am excited to see it unfold.

Oh!  Also, Dave is updating the website this year! If you know Dave Nelson, or his company, Secret Penguin, you know he does incredible work!  Check back soon for the great updates!  I will keep you posted.


Happy New Year!

Sunday, January 1st, 2012

Happy New Year!

2011 was not the boring year I wished for at this time last year, but other than losing Ebony Dog, it was a very, very good year filled with family, pets, friends, new jobs, new challenges and new projects.  I would not trade this past year for anything, but I would like my dog back.

Goodbye 2011.  Thank you for all of the new amazing things you brought to our lives.

New friends

Since this is a pet blog, I will say..I really like my new friend Maya the Boston Terrier.  And her Dad.  He is great.  Also, I love Lucy Dog, who is Russ’ parents’ new puppy.

I have new friends at work who are wonderful.  I kept all of my preexisting friends too.  They are also awesome.

I have met many wonderful people through blogging and twitter.  Hi internet friends!  I love you as much as I love my Real Life friends.  It is so good to know you.

New memories

I have loved all the time I have gotten to spend with family and friends this past year.

The Nelsons went to Colorado as a family, and I got to spend a lot of time with the very small Nelsons.

We got to go to our friends’ wedding in New York, where I had never been before.

New jobs

Both Russ and I started new jobs this fall!  We both love our new jobs and the people there very much.  OK, I don’t think Russ would say he “loves” his coworkers, because he is a guy.  But he does like them very much.  And I, of course, would not hesitate to say…I LOVE everyone at Gentle Doctor!!  And all of you who have come with me.

New projects

I started writing a weekly post with Life with Dogs this past summer.  It has been such a fun project.

I met Kristi and Jessica.  I got to eat lunch with them in Kansas City.  So fun!  They asked me to serve on the Editorial Advisory Board of Veterinary Economics.  I am SO excited about that!

This year, I did Blogathon 2011 again with Dr. V and other Awesomes, and was also joined by a bunch of Omaha Greats (including my two daughters) to raise money for Nebraska Humane Society.  That is a whole new level of Blogathon fun.  What a great group of people.

Hello 2012.  It is nice to meet you :)

Lemme work on articulating my thoughts and I will post a series of “New Year” posts this next week or so.  I am one of the few nerds who LOVES New Year’s Resolutions.  I make them and break them every year!  I reach higher than I can possibly attain, and set goals that I have absolutely no control over.

Remember last year when I resolved to end puppy mills?  And to have a boring year?  And to lose no pets?  I have similar goals in mind this year!  As a kid, one year I wrote a list that was longer than I was!  So do not feel bad if you do not like New Year’s Resolutions.  Most people don’t.  I am just a little off.  In a good way.

I hope 2012 is the best year yet for you and your pets!  I wish you every possible blessing of the New Year and will look forward to sharing it with you!

The Saturday Pet Blogger Hop

Dixie Pix

Friday, December 16th, 2011

These are pictures of a gorgeous and very sweet dog who comes into Gentle Doctor.  I just love her.  Her name is Dixie.  Her Mom asked what this article would be about, so she could add any needed information, and I said “Um…that!”

Michelle, I will add any bio information about the beautiful and sweet Dixie that you would like!  Thank you for sharing your wonderful Dixie Dog with us…and now everyone :)

Isn’t she cute??  You can’t tell really well from my pictures here, but Dixie has gorgeous blue eyes too.  If you have a pet you would like featured on Riley and James, please let me know and I will post their picture and story.  As you know, I am a sucker for a cute face :)

Thanks Michelle!  And thanks Dixie…for being cute!

The Saturday Pet Blogger Hop


Holiday Safety and Purple Trees

Monday, December 5th, 2011

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays!

We have our second purple flocked Christmas tree up in our (much too small for such an obnoxiously large tree) living room.  Our first was in 2009.  Last year I told Russ “I never want to not have a purple tree again.”  So we went back to Cirian’s Garden Center in midtown Omaha this weekwhich is equally awesome for gardening stuff as it is for brightly flocked Christmas trees, and a really nice group of people – and got our tree.

The guy told us to get a Scotch Pine because it would look “more natural.”  I said, “We are kind of going for the opposite of natural.”  Ha!  But we did, and it is gorgeous.  Here is my first pic, more to come…

Max has NEVER cared about a tree, Christmas or otherwise!  He LOVES this year’s Christmas tree!

This week’s Life with Dog’s article is on Holiday Safety.  It has a picture of our three dogs by the 2009 purple tree and lots of other dog pictures that were fun to gather…

Holiday Safety

Thank you Amanda Jean for encouraging me to write that one!  You are right, holiday safety is NOT boring.  It is super important.

Here is a link to all of the other articles I have written so far on Life with Dogs…

Articles on Life with Dogs

Coming Soon…

More Purple Tree Pictures (I know, I know!  If it is not a healthy obsession, it is at the least a harmless one. :))

Preschool Sunday School Craft 2011 – Peanut Baby Jesus

Oh, and more pet stuff :)

Have a wonderful holiday season!

Unconditional Love?

Saturday, September 17th, 2011

Please welcome one of my very favorite people and pet bloggers, Jana Rade!  Jana has a great blog, Dawg Business, inspired by her gorgeous Rottweiler, Jasmine.  Those of you who know Jana need no introduction, and those of you who do not NEED to visit her blog!  It is full of great stories and information.

This is a response to a post by another of my Favorite People, Edie Jarolim, who wrote on her also excellent blog, Will My Dog Hate Me? about Frankie and his unconditional love.

What do you say?  Does your dog love you unconditionally?  Is it crucial that he or she does?  Is anyone going to put in a good word for the cats? Would they care if we did or not??

Thank you so much Jana!  Great post!  And I will never, ever get tired of the gorgeous pictures of Jasmine!

Unconditional Love or Not?

Do dogs truly care about us or is it just a myth?  Does their meal take priority over our immediate needs?

In her article What’s Unconditional Love Got To Do With It? Edie Jarolim wrote, “While Frankie is eating, for example, I could be lying on the floor bleeding and not get any attention until he’s done.”

OK, I agree with Edie that nothing in this world is unconditional. I think that the question really is how much we really matter to our dogs.  Do they care about us more than about themselves?

Unlike cats, dogs are social animals and are programmed to care about the members of their social group.  They are genetically predisposed to care.  Is it just a question of survival or does it go deeper?

I believe, that like humans, each dog is an individual and any generalization will take us only so far.  The first time we met Jasmine, she immediately stole our hearts, and not just because she was unbearably cute.  The puppies were on a porch, contained in a kiddy pool.  The walls of the pool however weren’t high enough to prevent them from climbing over in order to come and check us out. All except one, the runt of the litter, who was too small to conquer the giant wall.  As the other puppies noticed that their little brother could not make it on his own, they returned to his rescue…some pushing, some pulling, until they got their little buddy out of there.  They cared.

Jasmine is eight years old now and she never stopped caring.  Every time somebody is in trouble, she’s in there like a dirty shirt.  Be that a member of her human family, her house mate, her friend or a complete stranger.

She’s there every time hubby hurts himself doing one silly thing or another, and it happens often enough.  She’s there every time we pull out the nail clippers and her house mate JD runs hiding under the desk.  She’s there every time somebody is really sad.  She’s there every time I sneeze—OK, that one I can’t figure out because nobody else’s sneezing means anything but mine does.

One time we were out swimming and throwing a tennis ball for Jasmine to fetch.  There were other dogs and other tennis balls there also.  Jasmine was swimming to get her ball when one of the other dogs breathed in some water and started coughing.  Jasmine immediately turned around and started swimming towards him.  OK, I have no idea whether she had a plan what she was going to do when she got there, but she was on her way.  Luckily the dog recovered.  Only when she saw he was going to be fine, she turned back after her ball.

When we were on a walk with one of her occasional buddies, we met a lab who started picking on him.  Jasmine was right there to defend him, even though they met each other only from time to time.

When hubby’s colleague got fired and was all distraught, she came and sat beside her until she calmed down.

Hubby used to like tickling me but he cannot do that any more.  Because all it takes is one yelp from me and Jasmine is right there, “whatcha doing?”

The signs of distress might be obvious or subtle, she will pick up on them and she will be there.  And yes, she’ll be there even if she was eating, digging or doing anything else of importance.  If I’m taking a shower and stay in the bathroom longer than usual after the water stops running, she’ll be there.

One thing I know for sure, she cares. And I know that she cares more about others than her meal, treat, dig or interesting smell. I know, because she shows it all the time.

I know that we mean more to her than food or fun.

I know that if I was lying on the floor bleeding, she’d be there.

On Becoming a Small Animal Vet, Two Short Stories

Saturday, July 23rd, 2011


I decided to be a small animal veterinarian when I was nine years old because I liked pets.


My friend Jerry started his veterinary career as a large animal vet.  One spring, he preg checked a herd of his friend’s cattle.  Not one of them was pregnant.  The next day, his friend killed himself.  Jerry has practiced only small animal medicine ever since.