In 2009, I worked in a job I disliked. I lived in a town where I knew very few people. John toiled away morning, noon, and night in his lab, working on his PhD. I felt directionless and lonely.
The year before, I completed my MA in narrative nonfiction, and while the job I had was writing, it was draining, unfulfilling work in an industry I cared nothing about. I knew I needed to do something else, but I had no idea what. At that time, I poured my heart and soul into my dogs, Emmett and Lucas. I started therapy dog training with Emmett and made wonderful friends there. I started reactive dog training with Lucas and learned so much about him–and me.
I walked them every day and got to know the neighborhood. It was during one of those walks that it hit me: I needed to start a blog about them.
It felt like the perfect solution to give me a creative outlet, to allow me to write about the thing I was most passionate about–my dogs–and to provide me with something to work on that let me stretch my writing muscles in a way that my day job didn’t.
Of course, back in 2009, blogging wasn’t anything like it is today. No one had quite yet figured out that you could build a business around a blog, and the cottage industry of “how to build a blog” was still in its infancy.
Strangely, though, something happened: I received an email from an editor at a magazine. It said, essentially, “I was googling for people who write about dogs in your city, and I found your blog.” The editor wanted a piece written about a specific story in my town and found my blog, reached out, and I landed the gig. My first pet assignment! Then I went to BlogPaws and met two other editors who hired me for pet-related writing gigs, and it went on from there.
Now, almost 10 years later, I’m a full-time pet writer who runs this blog and thezerowastepet.com as supplements to my writing business.
DWAA has been around since 1935–a venerable organization dedicated to writers and editors who cover dogs. I’ve been a member for years and even spoke at the conference a couple years ago (the pic below!), but this is such a tremendous honor and opportunity.
Why am I sharing this news here? I know you’re all dog lovers–obsessed, like I am–but very few of you are dog bloggers. I think there’s a much bigger, much more important lesson here that I wanted to hit on:
Dogs give us something that no other relationship can. I’m sure you’ve met those people who are squarely in the “it’s just a dog” camp, and I imagine you, like I do, feel terribly sorry for those people not being open to that incredible human-animal bond. No, not everyone, even the most fervent dog lover, builds a career around a love of dogs. But everyone who loves dogs lives a fuller, happier life because of dogs.
They bring us more than companionship. They’re full of joy and light and life. Dogs live in the moment, the ultimate Zen masters. They forgive easily. They don’t dwell on or worry about the past or the future.
Dogs teach us how to be better people–if we’re open to the lessons.
Connecting this incredible, kind, vibrant, caring, compassionate community of animal lovers through this blog is something I’m proud of. Some of the most important people in my life I met through this space. I know all your dogs, and I celebrate their wins and mourn your losses as if we were next door neighbors.
Writing about dogs allows me to help dogs live better lives by providing information, education, and–yes–entertainment to their people. And I’m gobsmacked to be among the leadership of an organization that increases journalistic excellence among dog writers.
If you are a dog writer or blogger, I encourage you to check out DWAA! Join the membership, attend the annual banquet, jump into the discussion on social. My role officially starts February 2019, but if you’re interested or have questions, let me know how I can serve you now.
In the meantime, be open to the lessons. You never know where your dogs will take you… 10 years ago, I certainly couldn’t imagine Emmett and Lucas leading me here!