On milestones

This post is {technically} the 1,000th post on my little blog!

I say {technically} because, well, technically there were a whole bunch more before I had a backup system in place. And, as usually happens when there’s no backup system in place, I lost a whole bunch of posts–some in draft form, some published–during a bizarre WordPress glitch a couple years ago.

But, for today’s purposes, it’s the 1,000th post!

Woot!

Today is also three months since we lost Lukey. Three months. It feels like forever and an instant. I miss him. Oh, man, do I miss him. Sure, the sadness is less acute, less crushing, with each passing day, but it’s still there, a constant, dull ache reminding me how different our lives are without him.

Today also, if all goes according to plan, will mark for me three cancer-free years. I’ve been running to and from checkups and appointments and CT scans all week, and today’s the last one, the big one with the oncologist who looks at all that data and declares if there’s evidence or no evidence of disease. Again, forever and an instant.

Time is funny like that.

Other milestones:

While I was out of town, Newt decided to snuggle Emmett. Neither of them are snugglers. It was a rare, brief moment but a major milestone.

I go out of town, and this happens! #notfair #missingmyfamily

A photo posted by Maggie Marton (@maggiemarton) on

Speaking of Emmett, I’ve mentioned in passing a couple times that his hearing is going. In a weird way, something I need to dig into deeper, it’s profoundly altering his relationship with Cooper. I know I’m prone to exaggeration, but this is truly profound. Until recently… maybe when we lost Lukey? maybe we didn’t notice Emmett’s hearing loss because we were so focused on Lucas?… Emmett always treated Cooper like an obnoxious baby brother. If he needed to be knocked down a peg or two, Emmett would knock him down. Now, with Emmett’s hearing swiftly declining, he’s looking to Cooper for guidance. Noticeably. I call them to come in from the yard; Cooper dashes at top speed toward the door; Emmett watches Cooper, then follows suit. I ask them to go to their mats for dinner; Emmett doesn’t move; he watches Cooper go to his mat; Emmett gets up and goes to his mat. He even doesn’t seem to hear the garage door anymore, so if one of us gets home, Cooper hears the door and rushes to the back with Emmett dashing over a few seconds later.

It’s been a dramatic shift, a major milestone in their relationship.

You guys know me: I overthink nearly everything. There’s something about milestones that kicks my overthinking into overdrive. These ones, each in its own way, opened up entirely new channels to overthink.

After 1,000 posts, am I on course? Do I need to make any changes? What, at this stage in grieving our loss, do I need to do to keep moving forward? I’ve been collecting bits for a scrapbook; am I closer to being able to actually make the dang thing? How are their changing relationships affecting how we manage them and their behavior?

So many milestones, all at once.

Any milestones for you lately? Do you tend to overthink big moments like this? Or are you more dog-like than I and busy living in the moment?

2016 Pet Blogger Challenge

Where does the time go? Somehow it’s time for the SIXTH annual pet blogger challenge, hosted by the wonderful people (plus Ty and Buster!) at GoPetFriendly.com.

Join the Pet Blogger Challenge Jan 9th, 10th and 11th

Hard to believe, but I participated in 2011 (baby Cooper appeared in that one!), 2013, 2014, and 2015. (I missed 2012 because it was the same day as one of my surgeries, but I would’ve participated otherwise!)

I’m excited and also nervous to think through all these responses. Frankly, 2015 was a shit storm. Beginning to end. You all know Lukey’s journey–diagnosis to amputation to loss of my big yellow dog in eight months–and there’s been so much else going on that I haven’t shared here. So, who knows what’s going to come out as I dive into all this introspection:

1. How long have you been blogging? And, for anyone who is visiting for the first time, please give a quick description of the subject of your blog.

I started this blog in May 2009. I posted twice that month then got really up and running the first week of June, but due to an error on my part (I’m still not sure what I did, btw) those May posts are lost in the internet ether. Anyway, my blog is obsessed with dogs, anything dog-related, which I tell in the context of my pups. There’s also a good bit of cat that creeps in, featuring miss Newt, and I hope to grow cat content in the coming year.

2. What is the one thing that you accomplished during 2015, either on your blog or because of it, that made you most proud?

At the tail end of the year, within the last week of December, I signed on to manage the BlogPaws blog. It’s a contract gig in the community I love that I never would’ve gotten without this space. I can’t exactly say I’m making my living with my blog, but I’m at a place now where I’m making a living–BlogPaws, Pet Age Magazine, etc.–because of my blog. That’s pretty darn cool.

3. Which of your blog posts was your favorite this year and why? (Please include a link.)

Pass. I can’t look through my 2015 archives without falling apart (yet).

4. A common theme from last year’s challenge was that many of us wanted to increase the size of our audiences. Whether or not we intend to monetize our blogs, it seems we’d all like to reach more people. It feels good to know that we’re connecting with others, sharing a laugh or supporting a cause, and it’s motivating to see those numbers grow! What is one thing you’ve done in the past year that has brought more traffic to your blog?

So, I don’t think anyone starts a blog with the hope that no one reads it, right? You blog because you have something to say, and you want people to hear you say it. Thing is, there are lots of people talking. One thing I strove for in 2015 was to strip away any writing that was for someone else. I think because it was such an emotional, stressful, chaotic year, it was easier to do that naturally. I didn’t have time to think about an “audience” and what they’d want. I know I still held back in some places, so I’ll work on that, where appropriate. But, despite posting half as many times in 2015 as I did in 2014, my traffic didn’t wane. It held steady. I believe it was because of how I was writing, not what I was writing. Because it was fewer posts but the same traffic, I’m calling that growth!

5. Which of your blog posts got the most traffic this year? Why do you think it was so popular? (Please include a link.)

Miles above the rest: Boredom Busters: 5 Ways to Exercise Your Dog Indoors. Being totally honest… this isn’t that great of a post. It’s on my lists of posts that NEED to be updated. Just look at that photography. Shudder. But, a Facebook page with more than half a million likes shared it. It’s been shared on Facebook 2,000 times. Gulp. Lesson here? Don’t post something that isn’t polished because you just never know. (Of course, I have NOT learned that lesson and continue to post unpolished pieces… but YOU can learn from my mistakes!)

6. What is one blog that you read religiously – other than your own – and what makes you such a devoted reader? (Please include a link.)

One?! Holy moly. Truth: I have a Feedly feed set up with 60+ pet-related blogs, and my Bloglovin’ feed has a couple dozen non-pet-related blogs. I lurve blogs. I’m not great at commenting (sorry) because I have so many to read!

Picking just one is painful, but I gotta say that I will never, ever, EVER miss a single post from oh melvin (and yo jake). For one thing, our stories have had many parallels. For another, she writes how I feel but can never articulate. That’s invaluable. Plus, I’m completely obsessed with how beautiful her house is in the background of all her wonderful pics. If you haven’t read her blog, go read it right now. It’s way better than this post, so please click away and go binge read! 🙂

7. What resources do you rely on to enhance your technical, writing, photography, social media, or other skills that improve your blog?

Other blogs, fo’ sho’. Also, I desperately need to take a photography course (and/or get a camera) because, no joke, my photography is awful. My phone tries its best, but its best isn’t good enough. I’m a fan of in-person learning, so I love conferences like BlogPaws. I’m also a huge reader but haven’t spent much time searching out blogging book resources. If you have any recommendations, I’d love for you to share!

8. What is the best piece of advice you can offer other bloggers?

Do not try to be anything but you. In Facebook groups and webinars and casual conversation, I hear people lament again and again: There are too many pet bloggers. I’ll never build an audience because they’re spread too thin. Everyone’s doing the same thing. I’ll never stand out. Not with that attitude you won’t! There’s room for all of us IF everyone is writing in their own unique voice. There’s the rub. If you’re trying to be all things to all people or write how you think your prospective audience would want you to write, you’ll never be genuine, never authentic, and never successful. End of story. There’s room for every single unique voice, so don’t try to sound like anyone or everyone else. Aside: You’re not for everyone, and that’s okay. When you harness your voice and your style and you learn how to express who you are, some people will leave. And that’s perfectly fine.

9. What is your vision for your blog in 2016? Do you have specific goals?

I’m a goal-oriented person. I like to work towards something. This year, though, I’m sort of making my goal a non-goal. I want to re-focus on the writing.

Sure, making money matters, but forgive my tangent for a second: Brands work with bloggers because they know that bloggers have developed a trusting relationship with their readers. That’s valuable to a brand trying to sell something. Bloggers who treat sponsored posts as if they’re doing the brands a favor? That’s going to fall by the wayside (in that those bloggers won’t get the paid work), says my crystal ball of blogging future. Brands won’t hire those folks because they’re not earning the engagement that brands need. It’s natural growth and evolution because, don’t forget, this is still a relatively new industry. That said, if sponsored posts or campaign opportunities come my way–and I hope they do because otherwise this is an expensive hobby–I’m only taking opportunities with brands who are okay with storytelling rather than straight product reviews. Those are boring, and they’re not doing any of us (me or the brand or my dear readers) a favor because people just don’t read them.

I guess, overall, storytelling is my vision for the blog. It’s where my strengths lie, I think, and what I’d like to develop further.

10. You have the attention of the pet blogging community – is there one blogging challenge you’d like help with, or one aspect of your blog that you’d like input on?

What is the sweet spot for posting? Sometimes I’ll go a week without opening Feedly, and some blogs will have like 14 posts that there’s no way I can get through. Other blogs go weeks without posting, and I start to miss them! In a weird way, I’m trying to figure out my minimum number of posts per week to stay relevant… I want to cut back because I want to chip away at a book(!!)… but I don’t want to lose momentum either.

Holy cow. If you made it all the way to the end, thank you. Big time. In the past, I’ve spent a week or so combing through the other posts shared in the challenge, and I plan to do the same this year. I’ve learned so much by reading through others’ responses! Really looking forward to reading yours!

Thanks to GoPetFriendly.com for hosting this again!

Hugs to you all for getting to this point! And for just being awesome! 🙂

Ch-ch-changes!

I see you!
I see you!

It sounds like such a cliche. Well, actually, it is a cliche. But here it is: Cancer changes you. Maybe it’s something about facing your own mortality (because, really, don’t we all feel invincible?) or maybe it’s just the perspective you gain from sorting important from trival. But something changes.

Now that I’m feeling like myself again, emerging from the fog of the last year, combined with a total reexamining and realigning of my priorities, I’m itching for change, for adventure. Perfect timing to move to a new part of the country, right?

I’m also taking a look around here, blowing the cobwebs off of some unused sections of this website, tweaking a few things here, deleting a few things there…

This site went live May 5, 2009! Four years of writing about all things dog. Can you believe it? My obsession with dogs hasn’t waned in that time… if anything, it’s grown!

So, putting those thoughts together led me to an overhaul to OhMyDog!

A few things:

First, I launched a whole new design! I’m still making a few behind-the-scenes tweaks, but I’m loving the direction. This is a precursor to someday getting a custom site, of course! What do you think?

Next, you have probably noticed that, on occasion, I post a Sponsored Post. These are posts that I charge for, and I’ve used that money to pay for the hosting and registration of this site. However, in trying to align more closely with my core values, I’ve decided to do two things to change the Sponsored Posts:

  1. raise my rates (!!) because
  2. those sponsored posts are going to pay for the sponsorship on an adoptable pit bull every month.

I haven’t picked specific dogs yet, or even specific shelters, so if you have suggestions please share! Most likely I’m going to start with the three different rescues where my boys all came from, but I’d love to hear other ideas. And, of course, I’ll be sharing the profile of the adoptable dog each month.

Also, what are you guys doing about the phase-out of Google Reader? I switched to Feedly, which transitioned super easily. However, if that’s not for you, I added in a few things that’ll make it easier to keep up with OMD! You can click on the RSS subscription button (upper right orange radio icon) or subscribe via email (the box right below the social icons on the right side). I wanted to make sure all that functionality was in place before Reader bites the dust… Incidentally, am I the only one who was horrified by that news?! I love Reader! Sigh…

And, finally, and this is the most important, I need to thank you. I can’t ever, ever, EVER express how much your comments, emails, FB messages, tweets, and good wishes have meant to me over this last year. Seriously. The community that we have is precious, thoughtful, vibrant, funny, and good. How lucky am I that I get to chat with you guys here, on social media, and – on those very lucky, very special occasions – in person?! You are fabulous, each and every one of you, and your dogs are so lucky to have you!

So, from the bottom of my heart: Thank you. 

On blogs and dogs

Earlier this week, my blog crashed.

Unrelated sort of, but in this pic, Cady looks crashed!

When I realized what was going on, cold, icy panic took over. I submitted help tickets, waited on hold for customer service, and – of course – tweeted my anxiety. The only thought that kept reverberating was: What if all my content is gone?

Obviously it all worked out. But there was a huge lesson in this: Save and backup, then save and backup some more! Had I lost everything on here, I would’ve been crushed, especially since my one-year blogiversary is right around the corner (June 1!!).

So to all you bloggers: Make sure you have a backup system in place! Learn from my mistakes! 🙂

On another note, TGIF! I hope you all have fun weekend plans with your dogs! Looking for some inspiration? Check out GoPetFriendly.com for pet-friendly activities in your town. We have company in town this weekend, which is just as exciting as can be for Emmett and Lucas. They love nothing more than having new sets of hands around the house that are more than willing to give them pats and rubs.

We’re also going to hit the farmer’s market tomorrow, which is pet-friendly (except in the areas where food is sold) and a great place to work on socialization. And then, finally, you all have inspired me tremendously with the city dogs vs. suburban dogs discussion. Looking back, I’ve realized that the boys have gone fewer and fewer places lately. So if the weather holds, we’re going to drive (yeah, drive… gotta love the ‘burbs) to Indiana University’s campus, park at one end, then walk to the other end of campus to sit outside at Starbucks to people and dog watch! Then a nice jaunt back to the car, and Emmett and Lucas will be two happy, tired dogs!

What are you and your dogs doing this weekend? Any fun plans, activities, or destinations?