Friday, January 30, 2015

2015 Books & Barks contest

It's hard to be cuter than Benny
I've long been an advocate of children reading to dogs in the classroom. I have always been an avid reader; my mother taught me to read long before I started school. For me, reading was - and is - fun. It's not just for information but for a wonderful escape. Someone who can't read is missing out on a lot. There are, however, children who have reading problems. No one is perfect - don't ask me about math! Making that child read aloud in class can be a nightmare for the child.  All eyes are on him or her and it feels like a very judgmental situation for the young student.

Enter dogs. Reading programs that include dogs started many years ago with dogs brought into the classroom.  Dogs don't judge, don't criticize. They just sit there, or lie there, happy to have the attention. They provide amazing support to young people just learning to read or develop their reading skills. 
GuyNoir is apparently helping choose a book
This marks the second year of the Books &Barks contest, created by Pets Best (, a nationwide insurance agency.  They invite Therapy Dog handlers and organizations, students and educators to submit inspirational stories about the effects of therapy dogs in reading programs. 

The winning school or library associated with the program will receive $1000. from Pets Best. Additionally, Pets Best will offer a $500 donation to the therapy dog handler's favorite animal-related non-profit charity.

Entries can be submitted here:

The submission deadline is February 15, 2015.

As an adult, I enjoy reading with a pet curled up near me. I can only imagine what it means to a child to have the comfort and encouragement that a Therapy Dog can provide.

Honey listens avidly as a child reads to her

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Watching Cat Videos and Saving Lives

Avi Photo Courtesy Eddie Pena

I'll bet you're wondering what watching videos and saving lives have in common. It's actually pretty simple, so simple that you'll wonder why you didn't think of it first. 

You're sitting at your computer. I know that because you're reading this. What are you going to do after you've read this blog post? Go back to work and wait for another break to surf the 'net again? Or are you going straight to surfing? If you're reading my blog it's a pretty good bet that somewhere along the way you're going to be watching cat videos. What would you think if every time you clicked on a site to watch a cute cat video, cat meme or cat photo it meant you were making a donation to cancer research, to help save lives? Pretty neat, isn't it? Here's the payoff (any pun intended), the site, Cats vs Cancer, exists. Point your browser to to find it.

Cinnamon Courtesy Jayne Lewis

I had an opportunity to interview Tom O'Connor, co-founder and CEO. His friend Eddie Pena, is co-founder and COO. 


We just launched about 7 weeks ago on December 1st, 2014.

I got the idea for the site two years ago when I realized how good the internet was getting at raising money for charity, after saw my wife, Amber, playing an app/game on her phone that donated money to fight world hunger for every few minutes you played. I instantly loved the idea of generating money for a good cause by simply entertaining someone for just a few minutes.

At the same time I'd been thinking about how adorable cat videos were really taking over the internet in such a funny way. Everyone was sharing them on social media, email, etc.

Then it hit me. Wouldn't be really great if you could raise money for a good cause simply by watching cat videos? 


We are an all-volunteer operation at the moment, so for now it doesn't cost too much to run the site. Eddie and I initially funded it with our own money, and now we are raising money through the google ads placed on the site, as well as direct donations.

Once we have a big enough audience, we can sell ads directly to companies, just like any other site. This is a big step because selling our own ads would generate a lot more for our charity partners!

Cat Courtesy of Karin Bundy


Right now we are changing the charities monthly. We research them on our own, and have been relying on people from other organizations who have years of non-profit experience to guide us in making our charity choices.


Nearly everyone I spoke to in the years leading up to our launch could tell me a story about how cancer had affected them in some way. Whether it was a close friend, or a family member, cancer wasn't something you I found people very far removed from. As far as funding research for cancer in pets, yes, we have discussed it and may do that at a later date.  


Thank you for the support. People always ask how they can help us....of course you can "donate meow" as we like to call it, and that really goes along way! But even more so we want you to come watch videos on the site, share content with friends, and come back often.

The more you visit, the more you help us in raising money for our charity partners.

Meet the co-founders here: I promise that you'll love their video. The Charity of The Month is also posted on the site so you'll know where the money is going.

On New Year's Eve, Superior Digital Displays, donated a 13-story billboard in Times Square to support the cause. Really. Here it is:

Cats vs Cancer lets you do something good while you're having fun. Who can resist that?

Friday, January 16, 2015

Are You Ready to Watch Incredible Dogs?

Agility Competition

If you're like me, you love to watch dogs doing things with their owners that make both happy. The human-animal bond is one of the most best "gifts" we have.

Freestyle Disc Dog

This weekend, specifically tomorrow, January 17th from 3 to 4 P.M. EST NBC television network will air the National Finals of The Purina Pro Plan Incredible Dog Challenge National Finals. Okay, that sounds repetitive but I'm excited because you know where I'm going to be tomorrow - glued to my television and whining because it's only on for an hour!

One of the dogs featured this year is a 2-year-old Belgian Malinois breaking the Diving Dog World Record with an amazing jump of 33 feet, 10 inches! Wow!

Dock Diving Dog

What you and I will see on television is the culmination of a year of a year of training and regional competitions. Of course most of the dogs have been trained for more than a year. There's something so special about finding the right dog sport for you and your dog, training together and building the human-animal bond while you meet like-minded owners and their dogs and develop new friendships.

Obviously, The Purina Pro Plan Incredible Dog Challenge National Finals will feature the top athletic dogs from all over the country. These wonderful dogs compete in every Olympic-style dog event including high-flying disc routines, head-to-head weave pole racing, large and small dog agility courses, Jack Russell Terrier hurdle races and one of the crowd's favorite competitions, dock diving. The dogs in dock diving take a running jump off a 49 ft. dock into a 19,000 gallon pool of water!

Fetch It!

This annual event is fun for competitors and viewers.

Get the popcorn popped and settle into your favorite chair in front of your TV, your dog settled in near you to watch The Purina Pro Plan Incredible Dog Challenge National Finals.

Airing on NBC TV, 3 to 4 p.m. EST, Saturday, January 17th. Check you local listings to confirm the time in your time zone  

Enjoy!  I know that I will!

Agility Weave Poles

Monday, January 12, 2015

Pet Blogger Challenge

Darlene & The Amazing Aimee
This marks the first year I've participated in The Pet Blogger Challenge, created 5 years ago by Amy Burkert of Go Pet Friendly ( for people who travel with their pets. It's a nice way for readers to get to know blogs and bloggers and for bloggers to get to know each other. 
Amy comes up with a list of questions each year, the bloggers who participate in this blog hop answer them, and the list of all bloggers who are participating is at the bottom of each blog so you can jump (hop?) from one to another. Perhaps even subscribe to the ones you'd like to remember to read again, whenever there's new content posted.
Vinny by Mary Slaney

1. How long have you been blogging? And, for anyone stopping by for the first time, please give us a quick description of what your blog is about.
I've been blogging for so many years that I really don't remember when I started! I used to maintain two blogs, the other was more eclectic but the blogging site was sold, the new one didn't suit me and I haven't found time to search for another site for the second blog. I'm a long-time, award-winning writer, journalist, author and a Certified Animal Behavior Consultant. A former member of Dog Writers Association of America, I am a founding member of Cat Writers Association. My passion for animals has led me to write several dog and cat books to help owners, thousands of articles for a wide range of publications, magazines and newspapers, and has spilled over into blogging. My goal is always to make life better for pets and their people. I write about dogs and cats with topics including health and welfare. I also do occasional book and product reviews and sometimes those include a give-away.
2. Tell us one thing that you accomplished on your blog during 2014 that made you proud.
There were several really helpful posts but my last post of the year would be my choice. It was The BEST Holiday Gift for Your Cat. The "gift" is an annual veterinary visit. I'm truly horrified by the fact that after the first year owners don't take their cat back to the veterinarian. Some can't get the cat into the carrier so I included ways to teach your cat that the carrier is a wonderful, safe place, as well as how to situate the carrier in the waiting room to remove any stress that might come from seeing strange cats and dogs, and there's so much more, including statistics that are positively eye-opening.
Fuzzy by Gary Rohde

3. What lessons have you learned this year – from other blogs, or through your own experience – that could help us all with our own blogs?
I've had one of my beliefs emphasized: we have to be true to ourselves. I come from a journalism background. Having written for so many magazines (articles, columns, etc.) I knew that you were paid for an article but if an article promoted a sponsor, I knew that was called an advertorial. It might look like editorial content but it was really a paid opinion. I may be the only blogger who doesn't charge for reviews and doesn't have sponsors. If I'm going to review a product I don't want my readers to wonder if I'm saying I liked it because I was paid by the company for my review. Frankly, I won't write a bad review, I will just ignore the product. I won't give it any publicity of any sort. Consumer Reports is free of advertising for exactly the same reason. How do I make money? Magazine and newspaper articles, Speaking Engagements, Behavior Consultations (cats and dogs). Would I be a spokesperson for a product? Yes, but ONLY if I believed in the product and used it. My readers would know up front that I was a spokesperson for that company. So far, that hasn't been an issue. For me it's a matter of my integrity. I write what I believe. It's really that simple for me. If someone wants to book me to speak or discuss endorsement opportunities, they can contact me through my website:
Elektra by Anthony James

4. What have you found to be the most successful way to bring traffic to your blog, other than by writing great content?
I utilize social networking. Each post goes out on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, LinkedIN and Google+  I also send each post to a mailing list with permission to forward.
5. What was your most popular blog post this year? Did it surprise you that it was your most popular?
It was the one of which I am most proud: The BEST Holiday Gift for Your Cat.
6. What was your favorite blog post to write this year?
I don't know if I'd call it my favorite because it wasn't fun, but it was the most important one. In October 2014 I revisited an important topic in Are Your Pets Covered? It was about the all-important issue of having someone to care for your pets if you are incapacitated or in the event of your death, what you need to have in your will and more to ensure that your cat or dog doesn't end up on the street or in a shelter, which is so often a death sentence. I want to help owners avoid that.
7. Has your policy on product reviews and/or giveaways changed this year?
No, it's still the same as described above. I'm not paid other than a sample to test or a review copy to read. I also have people who serve as product testers and I have the item sent to them for an honest review. Dog toys, for example, can come in different sizes so I'll ask someone with a dog the appropriate size for the toy. Sometimes the company will offer the item to a reader so I can run a contest, which is fun for everyone. One problem I've encountered is that people will enter and not check back to see if they have won. I usually have no way of tracking them down so I have to do another drawing of the remaining names.
If you do reviews, what do you find works best, and what doesn’t work at all?
I read books cover to cover. Some things are tested by my cat, some by friends' cats and since this is the first time I'm living without a dog, I have an assortment of friends with dogs of various sizes and shapes and I will ask them if they are willing to test and review a product. They keep the product, I run the review. They must include photos, of course.
Karma by Veronique Schejtman
8. What’s your best piece of advice for other bloggers?
Don't reprint old "facts."  Things change so be prepared to do some real research. If you're going to quote an expert, try to quote two or three experts so you're not relying on one opinion. Give your readers the most current information by the people who know best, not just your opinion. You're certainly entitled to your opinion and entitled to use it but if you're writing something serious about health or nutrition where you have a personal opinion but are not a professional in that field, I believe you owe it to your readers to give them more than one view by more than one expert. That's my journalism background speaking. 
9. What goals do you have for your blog in 2015?
I plan to bring the best information possible to my readers so they can make informed decisions and understand more about cats and dogs. Along the way I expect to do some fun things as well. I hope you'll join me for the journey!
10. If you could ask the pet blogging community for help with one challenge you’re having with your blog, what would it be?
Building more of an audience and gaining more attention for posts that I believe are helpful to dog and cat owners. How can I also point them towards my books which are chock full of useful information without it sounding like an ego trip?
Neezie, my "heart" dog

Friday, January 9, 2015

Pets New Year's Resolutions!

Most of us have long since stopped making New Year's Resolutions but that hasn't put a damper on it for our pets! Who said dogs and cats couldn't make New Year's Resolutions? Here are some from Pets Best Insurance Services LLC  Like us, our pets would like to improve their lives. Well, that's what we hope they want to do. So, with tongue planted firmly in cheek, here are some of their New Year's Resolutions:
Top Dog & Cat 2015 New Year Resolutions

For more information about the company that provided this information point your computer to:

There's no reason why you can't help your pets achieve their goals and have a wonderful 2015!

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

What Did You Get for The Holidays?

The Holiday are over, your dogs and cats have unwrapped an assortment of goodies including toys, sweaters for those in a cold climate, new leashes, harnesses, scratching posts, a myriad of goodies just made for our companions. But what did you get? Socks? Sweaters? Cologne or After Shave that makes you nauseous (been there)? While our dogs and cats can't shop for themselves, we can. Between opposable thumbs and credit cards, you just add a computer and you're good to go. You can get that one thing that you would love that could make life easier.

I tell you what I have and you're going to want one, too.  I have a KeySmart. If you're wondering what that is, you're probably not alone since it's such a new product. It's an ingenious little thing that you won't want to be without. If you're like me you have a collection of keys that are bulging in your pocket. It's not fun for anyone, man or woman, to deal with that clunky mess. KeySmart is a clever invention. It's not just a key holder but it holds them in one, small holder, rather like a Swiss Army Knife for keys, that slips into your pocket.

Imagine how handy this is when you're out walking the dog. Or going into the show ring with your dog or the cat ring with your cat. No bulging pocket, no jangling keys if you move them so they're not stabbing into you. Just a blissfully small holder into which all your keys fit. If you, like me, have an inordinate number, not to worry. You can get an extender to fit all of those keys neatly into the case.

They come in a myriad of colors. Mine is Red.  I really love it! You can have Black, Pink, Blue, Green, well, you get the idea. And there are add-ons if you want them, like a lanyard or a fob. The KeySmart itself is the size of a regular package of chewing gum. 

You can see the difference between your jumble of keys on a key chain and your keys held, well, smartly in a KeySmart. 

It's a terrifically handy thing to have and a great way to start getting organized in the New Year. It's a great gift to give yourself, family members, and friends. A special occasion or no occasion at all.  It would also make a super trophy to win at a dog or cat show or dog sport competition. It's a lot more useful than a plate. Yes, I have that, too. 

You can find KeySmart at their website with how-to videos and a wide range of KeySmarts, extenders, etc.  Just point your computer to: