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 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
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!