Tuesday, March 21, 2023

Catching Up


I'm back, after a very long and unplanned hiatus. I just didn't have the heart to keep going after Pete passed away though I appreciate the condolences that were left in the comments. And then, when I had new inspiration to blog again (in the form of a new puppy!), I didn't have the energy. Because puppies, man.

Her name is Dixie. She's a German shepherd. She's two years old now, but still full of non-stop energy, although she's begun to calm down a bit. I'm very sorry you missed out on her puppy years, but training her and keeping up with her didn't leave a lot of capacity for non-essentials.

But here she is:

We got her in March of 2021, and if you think going from a senior dog to a puppy was a challenge, going from a Chihuahua to a German shepherd was complete culture shock. Like going from a Mini Cooper to a Ford F-150. We spent the first couple of months with her sleep deprived, utterly exhausted and dazed, wondering what on earth we'd gotten ourselves into. I don't know what we would have done if we hadn't discovered Robert Cabral. He has a free YouTube channel, which is how we discovered him. But we went ahead and sprung for his monthly membership site for full access to all his training videos, online community and weekly AMA sessions, and it was worth every penny. This is not a sponsored link -- just a very grateful and heartfelt endorsement. He helped us survive her puppyhood.

Needless to say, we learned a LOT, much of which I'll share in future posts.

2021 was a pretty big year for us in terms of animal acquisitions. In early September of that year we got ourselves 15 baby chicks -- one of which, sadly, only survived a couple of days. But the remaining 14 have since grown into 13 very productive hens and one rather obnoxious rooster. We brooded them in our bathtub for the first two weeks, and then moved them into a large cardboard bin in our warehouse after they outgrew the tub. All the while, we were racing the clock to build a coop from scratch out of scrap materials we had around the property. We finished in the nick of time, just as they were getting big enough to fly out of the bin.

Sadly, it wasn't all gain. We had some loss, too. Last summer, our kitty, Boudicca, passed away. She was a stray we took in way back in 2009, so we don't know how old she was, but we'd had her for 12 years. I wish I could say she passed peacefully of old age, but that wasn't the case. She had been coughing for a while, which she'd done before from swollen tonsils due to allergies, so we assumed it was that. When her appetite started to go as well, we took her for a check-up and found that her tonsils were normal. Nevertheless, they gave her a cortisone shot and told us to keep an eye on her and bring her back for tests if she didn't improve.

And then she did improve! That's what's so heartbreaking. The next day, she was getting stronger and her appetite was improving and it looked like she was going to recover and be fine. But then the next morning, she was vomiting violently and her back legs were no longer working. She vomited up a pine chip that we had apparently tracked in from the chicken coop, which she ate without us knowing. It turns out that pine sap is incredibly toxic to cats, and she was displaying all the symptoms of pine poisoning.

Of course, this happened on a Sunday. Our vet was closed and there are no emergency vets anywhere near where we live, and all the info I could find online was pretty much useless. All we could do was stay with her and keep her as comfortable as we could until she passed away in my arms.

Needless to say, it was completely heart wrenching. I think the worst part was, at least in terms of trying to find something that would help, all my searches for ways to help your pet pass away only turned up article after article written by moralizing vets who insisted that vet-administered euthanasia was the only humane way to help a dying cat. Okay, fine, Dr. Karen, but what about when you live in the middle of nowhere, your cat is dying painfully and unexpectedly and there's not a vet around for a hundred miles who can perform euthanasia? Then what are you supposed to do? Those articles were nothing but infuriating, and they added insult to injury.

At any rate, we were heartbroken to lose her, especially in such a manner. She was an excellent cat.

And thus ends our trip down pet memory lane. Currently, our little family is made up of just the two of us, Dixie, our two box turtles and the chickens. We have no plans to get another cat, but we'll gladly take one in if the Lord sends one our way -- all the best cats I've had were ones that just showed up in my life. Every now and then, we talk about getting another puppy to help keep Dixie entertained, but we're about to go through a major living transition, so that will likely be a while yet.

Now that we're all caught up, I'll be posting here with more pet-centric content along the useful/helpful info vein. And sometime soon I'll try to get my husband's help to shoot a video for all the folks who couldn't understand my DIY dog sling pictorial.

I'm glad to be back, and ready to get back to it!

Tuesday, February 16, 2021

Marketing to Pet Owners: All About Content Marketing and SEO for Your Pet Business

Marketing to Pet Owners: Content Marketing and SEO for Your Pet Business
Image by David Mark from Pixabay


I love content marketing. As someone who hates sales and marketing in general and who is also allergic to hustle culture, content marketing is not only the only form of marketing I tolerate well, but that I actually enjoy.

Why am I talking about content marketing on a pet blog?

Because if you have a pet business of any kind -- whether you're a veterinarian, a groomer, a dog trainer, a pet sitter, a pet food manufacturer, a maker and seller of cute pet accessories on Etsy, or even a pet blogger yourself -- how to market to dog owners and other types of pet parents is undoubtedly a problem you'll have to wrestle with at some point. And content marketing for your pet business is one of the most effective ways that you can reach people who are predisposed to be interested in the services, products or information you have to offer. 

Content Marketing for Pet Business

What do I mean by content marketing? It's simple, really -- content marketing simply means creating meaningful content that will appeal to potential customers and clients and attract them to your website. That's it.

Content marketing is a form of what's known as "pull" marketing -- a passive form of advertising that captures interest and pulls people in where they can become curious and learn more about what you have to offer. The opposite of this is "push" marketing, more aggressive forms of marketing such as ads and direct sales that push your products and services in front of people. When people say they hate marketing, they usually mean this second kind of "in your face" marketing. On the other hand, content marketing, if done correctly, doesn't feel like marketing or selling at all. It feels more like sharing -- because that's exactly what it is.

Backing up a bit, what do I mean by "meaningful" content? Something that will provide value for your potential customer -- typically, information that can help them solve a problem or answer a question they have. But meaningful can also simply mean entertaining. Preferably, your content will hit that sweet spot of being both informative and entertaining at the same time -- or if not exactly entertaining, at least engaging enough that it won't feel like a slog for your audience to get through.

Content marketing can take on myriad forms: an article, a blog post, a newsletter, an infographic, a YouTube video and a podcast are just a handful of the more common examples. That's one of the things I love most about this type of marketing -- whatever your personality, whether you're the most laconic of introverts or the most outgoing of extroverts or somewhere in between, there's a form of content marketing that will suit your energy level.

But whatever form your content marketing strategy takes, it needs one vital component to truly succeed.

SEO for Your Pet Content Marketing Strategy

However engaging, entertaining or informative your content may be, it won't matter if nobody sees it. That's where SEO comes in. You've probably heard of SEO, and you probably already know that it stands for Search Engine Optimization, but you might not know much beyond that. A true SEO expert could regale you with lengthy articles explaining algorithms and metrics and and other terms that would likely make your eyes glaze over, but you don't need to know all of that in order to effectively use SEO as part of your pet business content marketing strategy. All you need to know are a few best practices for SEO and how to implement them.

But first, a quick sidebar on why SEO is important, and why you don't want to blow it off or treat it like an afterthought: SEO is what makes it easy for people who are looking for the information you have to offer to find that information. Think of a search engine like a match maker that matches your desired audience with your content.

You posted an awesome recipe for gluten-free peanut butter dog treats? SEO will help get your recipe in front of people who are looking for awesome gluten-free dog treats. You created a video on how to teach puppies not to bite? SEO can help match your video with puppy parents who are tired of chewed up fingers. In short, SEO can help get more proverbial eyes on your content -- eyes belonging to people who are searching for the exact type of content you have to offer.

With that in mind, here are a few best practices that can make the difference between your content actually being seen or languishing in obscurity on page five of a web search:

1. Use key search terms in your content

2. Build external links back to your content

3. Create internal links between your content

Let's break these down.

Using Key Search Terms in Your Content

Key search terms, also known as key words or key phrases, are what tells search engines that your content is relevant to what someone is searching for. When you enter a word or phrase into a search engine, the search engine sends out robots to scour the internet for content that's highly relevant to that search term and then present that content in order of what is most likely to satisfy your search request. So if you want your article or video to show up on the first page when someone searches "how to trim my dog's nails," you need to include that phrase multiple times throughout your article.
But good SEO isn't a matter of cramming as many relevant search terms as you can think of into your content as many times as possible. That's called keyword stuffing, and it's a practice that can backfire, getting your content pushed way, way down in the rankings, or possibly de-listed from search listings altogether.

It's much more effective to focus on one or two highly relevant search terms, or at most three, and place them strategically throughout your content. Where to place your key words? Follow these rules:

1. In the title - the title of your article, blog post, YouTube video, etc. should contain your primary key phrase. So using the above example, you would title your content, "How to Trim My Dog's Nails." If that's not catchy enough for you, save your spice for after the key phrase: "How to Trim My Dog's Nails: Expert Tips for Safe and Stress-Free Nail Trimming at Home." Remember that an eye-catching title won't catch any eyes if it's too far down in the search rankings.

2. In the first paragraph - generally, it's a good idea to use both your primary and secondary key search phrases within the first 100 words of your written content. That goes for descriptions on YouTube videos and podcast episodes as well as articles and blog posts.

3. In section headings - when it comes to articles and blog posts, a bonus SEO tip is to use a format that's easy to read and easily skimmable. That means using short paragraphs and breaking your content up into sections with their own headings and subheadings. These section headings are a great place to highlight your key search terms.

4. In image file names, alt tags and title tags - When adding images to your content, most content management systems or blogging platforms will provide fields where you can enter or change the image file name as well as the alt and title tags. These are all great places to insert your primary target search term and give your SEO an extra boost.

5. In the URL of your post - Typically, your content management system will automatically do this for you when you include your key phrase in the title of your post. But if it doesn't, if possible, edit your content's URL to include your key phrase.

So how often should your key words appear in your content? Twice for each key phrase at a minimum. For longer content, such as articles longer than 800 words or so, aim for at least four times for your primary key phrase, not counting your title, URL and image tags. But try not to use it more than six times. You don't want to risk getting penalized for overdoing it.

Building External Links to Your Content

As essential as good keywords are, effective SEO for marketing to dog owners isn't built on keywords alone. External links -- links to your content from other blogs and websites, also known as back links -- will also help to make or break your search engine rankings. The higher quality the links -- that is, the more popular and trusted the websites linking back to your content -- the better. These external links act as votes of confidence that let those busy little search engine robots know your content can be trusted.

External links can be a bit of a road block when developing your content's SEO. After all, you don't have a lot of control over whether another blogger or content creator decides to link to your content. But it's not completely out of your control. Here are a few creative ways you can build back links to your content:

1. Write articles and guest posts for high-profile blogs that allow guest posters to include a byline or bio. Include a link in your byline to relevant content or a landing page on your own website.

2. Seek out interview opportunities. Become a go-to expert on YouTube shows and podcasts and ask the hosts to provide links to your content in the video description or show notes.

3. Sign up as an expert to Help a Reporter Out. Freelance writers and journalists use this service to find expert sources to quote in their articles, typically in exchange for full credit with a link back to your website.

4. Ask. It takes a little more courage, but there's no harm in approaching a blogger or content creator whose audience is similar to yours if they think their audience might be interested in your content. If they have content that's also relevant to your own audience, offer to return the favor. The key word here is relevant. Don't approach a blog that has nothing to do with the topic you're writing about and expect a positive response. You'll need to do a little research to find platforms that are a good match for your content.

5. Create your own. Articles you post to Medium.com, videos you post to YouTube, a separate blog you've got on a separate domain, and other platforms you operate external to the website or content you're promoting are all places where you can link back to your content and provide an SEO backlink boost.

Creating Internal Links Between Your Content

Internal links -- links between posts and pages on your own website or blog -- are much easier to achieve. As such, they don't carry the same weight as external back links, but they still help provide a shot of  positive "link juice" to your SEO, with the added benefit of encouraging people to spend more time on your content platform, getting to know more about you and what you have to offer (for an example of how to do this well, look no further than the next paragraph).

So there you have it -- a rundown of how content marketing and SEO can help attract new customers or clients to your pet business. Need help putting it all into practice? A content marketing writer such as myself can help you develop and implement a strategy that will target and appeal to your ideal customer. Click here to learn more about what I do and how I might be able to help.

Friday, January 8, 2021

Chewy's Customer Service is Beyond Next Level

When I started this blog and considered which affiliate programs I wanted to sign up for, Chewy's program seemed like a no-brainer. Not only were the terms better than Amazon, but Chewy has been our go-to source for our pets' food and medication for a couple of years now, and we've always been impressed with their customer service at every level, from their personalized communications to the care they take in packing and shipping.

But this week, Chewy blew me away with their personalized concern for their customers.

Recently, the managers of the affiliate program reached out to me about my lack of posting here, and I informed them about Pete's passing. I can only assume that this is how the company found out about it. A few days later, UPS dropped off a mystery package on our porch. When we opened it, we were stunned by what we found: a big bouquet of roses, vouchers for a case of wine, and a sweet note offering condolences for our loss, from our Chewy family.

I'm not actually sure whether this is because we're Chewy customers or because we're Chewy affiliate partners, but in either case, this is next-level customer service, and we were extremely touched by the care and concern this company showed for our loss. They've been good to Pete, and they've been good to us.

If you're not already getting your pet supplies from Chewy.com, click here to check them out and consider becoming a customer. That's an affiliate link, and if you use it to sign up as a new customer, we'll get a small referral bonus at no cost to you, and you'll start getting great prices on pet supplies along with awesome customer service from an awesome company who cares about its people and their pets.


Wednesday, January 6, 2021

Coping with the Grief of Pet Loss

It's been a long time here between updates, and there's a reason for that. I'm sad to say that Pete, our beloved Chihuahua, succumbed to his congestive heart failure in November, just a couple of days before Thanksgiving. As heartbroken as we are to lose him, we're also enormously thankful that he passed away peacefully in his sleep. As far as we can tell, his heart simply stopped in the middle of the night, while he was all cozy and tucked into bed beside me. It was exactly how we were praying he'd go when his time came, sparing him from suffering and sparing us from having to make a decision we didn't feel prepared to make.

Besides being an excellent pet sling model, Pete was the best little buddy anyone could ask for. He had enough personality for a dog a hundred times his size, and enough love to match. At the risk of offending those who take offense at those who love their dogs like children, he was our furry little surrogate son, our consolation for not being able to have human children. His death hit us hard. Six weeks later, our grief hasn't even begun to diminish. There are no words adequate to express how much we miss him. It's amazing, how vast and large a void such a tiny little pupper could leave behind.

As mentioned in the post linked above, we came close to losing him last summer. Putting him on spironolactone alongside his lasix gave him tremendous relief, although being on so much diuretic medication really sapped his energy. Even so, I believe it added a few months onto his life. I'd hoped it would be more, but I was also realistic enough to know it wouldn't be much more. With that said, we had gotten him to a point where we were able to taper off of the lasix and stop the spiro completely without any further breathing difficulties, a move that gave him back a lot of his pep and helped him feel better overall. The last day of his life was actually one of the best he'd had in a long time, which is why, in spite of all of his health issues, it came as a complete shock when we discovered him the following morning.

Grief is an emotion that I think a lot of people struggled with this past year, to varying degrees. It's never easy. Grieving the death of a beloved pet is never easy, and can be heightened by feeling like other people don't understand the bond you had with your furbaby or the full extent of your grief. In a year like 2020, when so many people are coping with the loss of human loved ones, many of whom didn't even get to say goodbye or hold proper funerals, these feelings can be compounded by guilt. Who am I to be so devastated by the loss of a dog when so many people are suffering such greater loss?

But it is what it is. Grief is grief, and pain is pain, and it's never healthy or helpful to compare our pain and grief to that of others, or to ask whether we have a right to feel it. Suppressing grief only makes it worse and can lead to depression. The only way out of grieving a loss is through -- you have to go through it, to let the hard feelings come, acknowledge them, and let them leave when they're good and ready.

Even in the best of times, even in the biggest of losses, I've always had a tendency to ignore my grief as much as possible. Not to suppress it, but to keep busy and distract myself from it -- a practice that never ends well. This time around, I'm giving my grief the time it needs, giving myself time to sit with it. Not to wallow in it, but simply to acknowledge it, and let myself feel what I feel without trying to distract myself from it. My husband is helping a lot with this, and just having him here, knowing that he loved Pete as much as I do, that he misses him as much as I do, that he understands what I'm feeling because he's feeling it too, is a big help.

I'd like to be able to provide some tips for coping with pet loss, but I'm still figuring this out. Even though this isn't exactly my first rodeo, so to speak, it's different with each pet. But here is a good article on Hills Pet about ways to cope with pet loss. And if you're dealing with other pets who are also grieving for their lost friend, here's an article I wrote on how the loss of a pet affects your other pets, and how to help them.

If you're struggling with the loss of a pet, I hope these help. And I hope it helps to know that you're not alone, and that your feelings are valid.

Rest in peace, sweet Pete.


Friday, October 9, 2020

How to Make a DIY Dog Sling Pet Carrier from an Old Shirt (No Sewing!)

When our Chihuahua was diagnosed with congestive heart failure, I needed a way to keep him close so I could help him if he ran into breathing problems, and also a way to keep him from dangerously overexerting himself or getting into something that would be bad for his condition. After all, if left to his own devices, a CHF diagnosis wasn't going to keep him from doing things like chasing the cat or licking spilled salt off the kitchen floor.

In short, I needed a dog sling. We had an old baby carrier that we sometimes used for hands-free carrying, and it worked in a pinch, but it wasn't ideal. After all, it was made for babies and toddlers, and at four pounds our little old pup was often in danger of falling through a leg hole, even when we lined it with his dog blanket.

One day, fed up with having to constantly catch him and stuff him back inside the carrier, I decided to get creative. After an hour or so of Googling and YouTubing and not finding anything quite right, and another hour or so brainstorming and mulling it over, the solution occurred to me: I could DIY a dog-sling out of an old long-sleeved t-shirt.

UPDATE (3/21/2023): If you can't follow the written instructions and pictorial, bear with me. I'll record a video as soon as I can find something to substitute for my late model.

How to DIY a No-Sew Dog Sling from an Old Shirt

DIY No-Sew Dog Sling from Old Shirt

DIY No-Sew Dog Sling from Old Shirt

DIY No-Sew Dog Sling from Old Shirt

DIY No-Sew Dog Sling from Old Shirt

These slings are great for tiny dogs with health or mobility issues requiring them to be carried a lot, for hands-free carrying in public places where it's not safe to let them walk, or for little dogs who simply like to be held a lot.

What You Need:

  • A long-sleeved shirt*
  • Scissors
  • A tiny dog (a cat will work in a pinch)
*A long-sleeved t-shirt or some kind of knit shirt works best. You can use a button-down, but in my experiments, stretchy fabric has proven to be the most comfortable for my pup and also works best to keep him safely contained. An old cardigan could also work. If you don't have something buried in your closet, you can usually pick one up at a thrift store for a few bucks.
Also, it really doesn't matter whether you use a v-neck or a crew-neck. I've used both, and both work fine.

I'm all out of old shirts myself, so for the illustrations below I had to use one that's already been converted. The cutting's already done and it's pretty stretched out. But still, you should get the idea.

Step One*:

*You can skip this step if you're using a button-down or cardigan that's already open on the front.

Lay the t-shirt out with the front facing up. Using your scissors, cut a straight line all the way down the center of the front of the shirt.

DIY No-Sew Dog Sling from Old Shirt
In case you can't tell, my "assistant" is standing over the center cut, wondering what I'm doing with his carrier and why he's not in it.

Step Two:

With the front of the shirt facing you, tie the sleeves over your left shoulder, making the knot nice and tight. When you're done, it should hang like a cross-body purse.
DIY No-Sew Dog Sling from Old Shirt

Step Three:

Now you've got two tails hanging down on each side. Grab the right-hand tail and pull it up through the space between you and the shirt/sling and let it hang down in front.
DIY No-Sew Dog Sling from Old Shirt

Step Four:

Take the bottom of the shirt and fold it up toward you, creating a large pocket.
DIY No-Sew Dog Sling from Old Shirt


Step Five:

Wrap the right-hand tail around the back of your waist and tie it and the left-hand tale together over your left hip. Tie a good, tight double knot.
DIY No-Sew Dog Sling from Old Shirt


Step Six:

Insert your dog. I do this by holding my little guy against my chest with my right hand and sliding him down into the sling while holding it open with my left hand. Be careful to make sure that the back of your sling--the part against your body--is high enough to keep your pup from falling out, and that he's not sliding down between the back of the sling and your body.


Once the dog is in, you might need to make some adjustments to make it comfortable for you both. Don't worry if it feels a little tight -- as long as you used a shirt with stretchy fabric, it will stretch out pretty quickly.

If your dog is anything like mine, they'll intuit what the sling is for and won't be able to contain their excitement to get inside it. (Your cat might be significantly less enthusiastic, but will no doubt learn to love it eventually. Maybe. Who really knows with cats.)

This DIY no-sew dog sling has been a lifesaver, and it's 100% Pete approved. The only drawback, if you can call it that, is that your dog might get addicted to being kept snug up against you and expect to be worn all the time. So maybe think twice if you're not prepared to become a full-time dog wearer.

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DIY No-Sew Dog Sling

Monday, October 5, 2020

Dog & Cat Shedding Seasons

When is shedding season for dogs and cats?
Photo by Chika Watanabe on Flickr - Creative Commons 2.0

It's that magical time of year -- that time when pet hair explodes all over your house and clothing. But isn't it fall? Shouldn't your dog or cat be growing hair for the winter instead of shedding it? What gives?

While many pets shed year round, some dog breeds, and cat breeds as well, have blowouts in both the spring and fall. If you're wondering when do dogs (or cats) shed the worst, and why, I break it all down for you in this recent Hill's Pet article: Dog & Cat Shedding Seasons and Cycles

Friday, October 2, 2020

October Chewy Finds - Halloween Edition

 Welcome to a new monthly feature on this blog called Chewy Finds -- fun and useful products and good deals I come across while perusing Chewy.com. These aren't reviews and recommendations or product endorsements so much as just me saying, "Hey, this looks neat!"

Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links. If you place an order through any of these links as a new Chewy customer, I'll get a small referral bonus, at no extra cost to you.

Planning to dress your pet up for tricks or treats? All of these pet Halloween costumes are great, but for some reason this Yoda dog costume cracks me up more than all the rest. This would be perfect for my Chihuahua. He's already got the ears for it.

Yoda dog costume

These Halloween Print dog and cat pajamas are seriously the cutest.

But they have a lot of competition from this Halloween pet hoodie:

If your dog needs something a little warmer, this ugly Halloween dog sweater might fit the bill:

My dog has a Halloween squeaky dog toy similar to this and he loses his mind over it every year.

Halloween candy's not safe for your dog, but this plush Halloween candy puzzle toy will help distract him from pouting and betting while the kids unwrap their treats.

These Nightmare Before Christmas dental dog treats are setting my NBC-loving heart all a-flutter.

So is this plush Zero dog toy. Can I have one for myself?

For a healthier dog treat, these Zuke's Mini Naturals Pumpkins treats look like a delicious option for your pup's trick-or-treat bag.

Help the neighborhood cats stay warm on chilly October nights by adding this Haunted Heated Cat House to your outdoor Halloween decorations.

Finally, cover all the bases with this Halloween Goody Box that's loaded with all kinds of treats that will make your dog sit up and do tricks.

Got a favorite? Tell us which one in the comments!

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