Looking back on another year of dog blogging

Pet Blogger ChallengeThis is my first year participating in the Pet Blogger Challenge, a “blog hop” that’s hosted by Go Pet Friendly and Will My Dog Hate Me?

It’s nice to have the opportunity to reflect on why I keep a dog blog (short answer: because I’m crazy) and what I’m looking forward to in the coming year.

Without further ado, here are some answers to the challenge questions:

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.

I started this blog in May 2011, a year before we adopted Pyrrha, our first dog. I was driving my husband insane with my desperate need to talk about dogs all the time, and so I started a blog as an outlet for my year of concentrated canine research. This is still a blog that focuses on learning about and from dogs, specifically our two dogs, Pyrrha and Eden, who were adopted through Southeast German Shepherd Rescue.

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

I don’t know how to answer this question, honestly. I just feel grateful to have a community of readers who are always so encouraging and helpful when I have questions!

3. What about blogging has changed the most for you?

I feel more confident about expressing my opinion now than I did when I first started blogging about dogs. This clearly has to do with the fact that the more I actually live with dogs (instead of just reading about them), the more I actually learn.

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?

Ask people for advice! I think I started getting a readership simply because I desperately needed help, and people are usually willing to share their experiences and offer counsel when you ask for it. I’m still really grateful for that interaction on this blog, and I’ll keep asking questions!

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

Coming up with better, more searchable headlines. And using more photos! Everyone likes to look at photos, even if they’re just breezing over the text.

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 a ton. I have a Twitter account, which I’m using more regularly. I’m also on Instagram and Pinterest. I got off Facebook recently, though, and that was one of the best decisions of my young Internet life.

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

Comments are always a helpful gauge, along with site views. Posts that ask questions tend to get the most feedback.

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

When I feel a connection with the post, or feel like I have a similar experience to share, I am more likely to leave a comment.

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

Yes, both! I particularly enjoy reading and writing book reviews, and we’ve done a handful of product reviews (mostly food items, which the girls love). I’d love to have the chance to offer more giveaways.

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

Take the pups on a walk! This is not my full-time job, either, so I probably spend less time blogging than most “professional” pet bloggers. But it’s been easier to blog lately, having the craziness of adding a second dog to the household provide fodder for blog content.

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

Not yet! I’ve made this my main Internet outlet, pulling away from my personal blog some, and I’ve been happy with that decision. Dog people are so much nicer than normal people. 🙂

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

I’d love to improve my writing abilities and continue to build a community here.

SIDE NOTE: I got to see Bo again! Bo now lives in Florida with his mama, but he is the dog who taught me the most in the year that I was waiting to adopt Pyrrha. It was very special getting to see him; he is such a sweetheart. He is starting to get some white around his muzzle! Aww.

Reunited with Bo! Love that boy. #goldenretriever
Reunited with Bo!

Why do you blog about dogs? Are you participating in the challenge?

Review: Doggerel

Doggerel.

I was contacted by this book’s publisher–obviously, I think, because of this blog’s name–to review Doggerel: The Moving Memoirs of Rescue Dogs and Their Second Lives, in Poetry and Prose, by Angela Patmore.

The book contains photos and poems for 50 U.K. shelter dogs who were either recently rescued or in need of a home. The proceeds from the book go to the Association of Dogs’ and Cats’ Homes, a U.K. rescue organization.

Patmore, a former organizer for Scruffts, the U.K. dog show for mixed breeds, clearly has a lot of love for homeless dogs. She is, however, not a poet. I know that this book isn’t intending to achieve any high literary acclaim, but the poetry is so abysmal that it’s almost embarrassing to see it in print (e.g., “When dogs are indoor angels just/Their wings are made of light/But when you look up into the sky/Whole outdoor ones go sailing by/Invisiball to sight”). The photos were nice, however, and I always like reading about dogs who have been rescued; I’d just rather read about them in a format that wasn’t nonsensical verse.

The second half of the book is a how-to guide for U.K. residents who are planning to adopt a dog. There is a comprehensive directory of U.K. shelters and rescue organizations, and Patmore places particular focus on rescuing greyhounds, which I appreciated. She includes general statistics on the dismal state of dog adoptions in the United Kingdom and implores her readers to consider adoption.

The brief training recommendations made me wince. It’s more of the same, worn-out, disproved dominance theory stuff: Make sure your dog knows that you are the alpha, always eat before your dog–and the absurd recommendation that you should pretend to eat some of your dog’s kibble before you give it to him, just so he knows that you’re “in charge”! Wow. That’s a new one. To teach heeling, Patmore says, “If he pulls ahead, which is much more likely, give a jerk on his collar and say ‘Heel!'” All I could think about was that poor dog’s neck, not to mention his increasing lack of comprehension…

I wish I liked this book more, particularly since I was given a review copy. Overall, this may be a nice little book to hand off to adopters who walked out of your U.K. rescue organization with a new furry companion, but it’s not one that I would recommend to anyone who wants to learn anything about raising a rescue dog. The bad poetry, for me, obscured the meaningfulness of these dogs’ memoirs and almost served to cheapen their experiences, by reducing their complex histories to silly couplet rhymes and forced syntax. If you really want to learn about rescuing dogs, I’d direct your attention to PetFinder’s adoption book or Love Has No Age Limit, which provided far more valuable information in 50 pages than this book did in 186.