Recently I had the opportunity to share with a local group how I became a pet writer. Then, I got a number of “what was your path?” questions at BlogPaws, so I thought I’d share the text of my speech in the hopes of answering that question–sort of. Here, an excerpt from that talk: “It all started with a dog.”
There are many things you can only get from hindsight. One of those things is the ability to pinpoint the exact moment your life changed – at the time, of course, you have no idea what’s coming, but looking back, you see it. For me, that exact moment was July 5, 2006.
I am a card-carrying crazy dog lady. Now, I grew up with dogs, we always had one or two around the house, but it wasn’t until I adopted Emmett that July day that I began the journey that turned me certifiably crazy.
In 2006, my husband John and I bought a condo in an “up and coming” neighborhood in DC. At the time it had not “come up” yet. When our neighbor knocked on our door one night to tell us that the police were called for a break-in in our building, we decided to get a dog. A big one.
And Emmett is big. He’s thick and stocky and definitely cuts an imposing figure. Which is good because a guard dog he is not. Emmett is a big, mushy pile of love. In fact, just the other day, there’s construction going on by our house, and a worker popped his head over the fence and said “Hey there, big fella.” Dear Emmett, while most dogs would have a conniption over the intrusion, he flicked his tail but didn’t bother getting up from his sun spot.
We quickly realized, despite his loviness, Emmett did afford us a huge amount of protection because of his appearance – Emmett is a pit bull mix, though his breed truly never occurred to me until several oddball comments like “if you and your husband have kids, you’ll have him put down, right” and “he seems sweet, but I wouldn’t trust him.”
All this slander! Toward my baby! It made me sad and angry. So, I found myself advocating for him constantly, encouraging people to pet him, learning everything I could about pit bulls and dog bites and dog training – learning ways to make sure that he was an ambassador for his breed. Ultimately he got certified as a working therapy dog, and we worked with kids at a mental health facility who were recovering from abuse and neglect.
Emmett had separation anxiety though, so–in our infinite wisdom–we adopted another dog to be Emmett’s buddy. Lucas, a shepherd mix was the most fearful dog I’ve ever seen. He hid under the table when the TV was on, and tried to flee from bikes and strollers and plastic bags, and he hated – HATED – other dogs. So, just as I did for Emmett, I threw myself into researching everything I could to help him – I combed through piles of animal behavior articles and books, trying to learn about fear and reactivity and behavioral modification strategies. I enrolled in every training class that I could, and we slowly chipped away at his fear.
When we moved to Indiana in 2008, I was working from home and, combined with a new place where I had no friends, I had gobs of time on my hand. I spent hours poking around the internet and decided the best thing for me–to try to infuse some creativity into my day and to give me something fun to do–was to start a blog. I struggled with what to write about for a while, then I realized the answer was asleep at my feet.
So, in 2009, OhMyDogBlog.com was born.
It was the perfect creative outlet. I had spent the previous 3 years devoting every minute of my spare time to learning about animal behavior and dog training, pit bulls, pet products, the works. This was my chance to put my creative energy into a project that I was passionate about.
I spent a year working on the blog, learning all the technical aspects, figuring out this newish thing called social media. I got involved with the local humane association and a pit bull advocacy group out of Indianapolis. There was no shortage of things to write about.
And then, in early 2010, I got laid off from my marketing job. I spent some time poking around for jobs in Bloomington, not really finding anything that excited me, and finally I realized – I can do this on my own. So I launched my freelance business, spent months toiling away trying to get clients and projects and, honestly, I let the blog slip a bit. But before all that, I had already registered for a pet industry social media conference called BlogPaws. So, I attended the conference, met some wonderful people and renewed blogging energy. A little while later I got a call from one of those new friends – she had just taken the job of EIC of a pet industry trade magazine, and would I be interested in writing their dog products and trends column?
From that conference, then from my ongoing gig with that trade mag, I started to get pet industry work. Manufacturers started hiring me to write blog posts for their corporate blogs. I placed magazine pieces about pets. I wrote a dog training book. I started going to more conferences and tradeshows and connecting with PR reps and product developers.
Meanwhile, we added another pit mix, Cooper, to the herd who has a tremendous range of health and behavioral problems – the one example that, I think, sums Cooper up is that he’s allergic to dog food. We added a cat, Newt, because it wasn’t crazy enough already.
All of that fueled the blog. And then I got to speak at the 2015 BlogPaws.
I am one of the lucky few who gets to do what I really, truly love every single day, and I’m excited for this chance to grow.
It’s funny how it came full circle: From adopting Emmett that July day to being here and finding my passion.
It all started with a dog.