Feeding the Muse: Roses, Armadillos & Publishing

dog with a pencil. isolated on white backgroundHow do you feed your muse? I’ve been head-down busy these days playing catch up on all the writer-icity that had been put on a back burner for far too long. My muse is hungry, screaming for attention, like an itch in that impossible-to-reach spot in the middle of your back. Once you finally start scratching it feels soooooooooo good you don’t want to ever stop.

I’m bad at promising to scratch the itch “as soon as…” (fill in the blank) which is why I’m so far behind. The truth is, the muse doesn’t care that we’re busy with real life, or that we only have 10 minutes to spare. The muse just acts hungrier and more demanding the longer we ignore her whispers, cries, screams for attention.

Sort of like a cat.

Cat, pen and blank open notepadA muse doesn’t care if we scribble on napkins, type with a keyboard, twitter or fritter our litter-ary time with print or Ebooks. She wakes us at 3 a.m. and demands to be fed, she sinks dagger claws into our heart and soul. The muse pushes that soggy nasty ball into our lap, urging us to throw-throw-throw with all our might, promising how good it will feel and to return that ball to our willing hand time after time after time.

She won’t relent until we give in to the urge. The urge to write. To create.

Some of y’all know that we have had as many as 700 rose bushes surrounding our home. Over the years, the roses have been attacked by grasshoppers, leaving nothing but Addams Family stems; bulldozed by armadillos so tender roots fried in Texas sun; and over-pruned, which killed or crippled the plant. We lost roses that had spectacular flowers and amazing pedigrees. Mostly we lost the hybrids, high maintenance specimens that were less able to tolerate the insults, and demanded more attention and care to produce blooms.

But the grasshopper-eaten roses with viable roots produced fresh, healthier growth. Even ‘dillo-dozed roses survived—with scars, to be sure, but still produced stellar blooms. Stay with me, folks, there’s a rose-thorn-sharp point to be made . . .

As an over-zealous pruner, I’ve learned to restrain my instincts and appreciate the thorny, hardened portions of established bushes. This was a hard lesson to learn. See, if they’re cut out completely, there’s no scaffolding to support fresh growth, and the blooms fall in the dirt and are trampled–and the whole bush becomes mulch.

After more than two decades of writing, I’m a prickly, hardened bitch-of-a-pet writer. I do not flinch at the “B” word, it’s a badge of honor in my world. I know when to show my teeth, and choose my battles wisely. So I have less patience for high-maintenance writers or circle-the-wagons “that’s the way we’ve always done it!” attitudes than in my youth. WARNING: Those grasshoppers are voracious and if your roots ain’t healthy, you’re toast.

Don’t let that fact scare you. I can say that now–you can’t seen the head-shaped dent in my office wall from having the pee scared outta me mild concern. Writing is writing, and readers are readers. Publishing has a healthy root system, and will survive armadillos, grasshoppers–and Ebooks, Audio-books, iPads, and whatever-comes-next-pads. It just needs to cut back on the fertilizer and prune judiciously.

Meanwhile, writers—and readers—support each other. Love a book or a writer—say so far and wide! Know a writer struggling with the effort of reinventing themselves? Shine a little color in that corner. That’s what sustains us through the dry spells, the never-ending deadlines, and rejections that nibble us raw. Mentoring each other keeps us sane–that’s the thorny protection that allows us to create our visions and bloom in our proper season.

I want to give a shout out to my colleague Deborah Barnes and her newest book Purr Prints of the Heart: A Cat’s Tale of Life, Death & Beyond. Take a look and see how her Muse inspired her.

Now then, listen–shhhhhh! Listen! Can you hear that?–put your hand over your heart, and you can almost feel the rumble!? No, it’s not the printer whirring…well, maybe it is. But listen closer—and you’ll hear symphony of blissful purrs, and the whist-whist-whist of happy wags–the sound of confident, tenacious, and oh-so-proud garden full of Muses.

Or maybe that’s tummies growling…So all you Creatives out there, the writers, the story tellers, the painters, the poets, the singers and musicians, and and and … Go feed your muse!

I love hearing from you, so please share comments and questions. Do you have an ASK AMY question you’d like answered–lick the banner, above. Be sure to visit my PetHealthyStore for paw-some products for your furry wonders! Stay up to date on all the latest just subscribe the blog, “like” me on Facebook, and get a FREE BOOK when you sign up for Pet Peeves newsletter. Stay up to date with the latest book give aways, kewl product offers, and appearances related to my THRILLERS WITH BITE!

Cat Health Featured on Discovery Channel

sitting  maine coon cat isolated on white

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Last week, I received this press release with a request that I share it today–and I’m such a huge fan of the AAFP and anything that will help our cats, that I’m delighted to share this news of a wonderful cat health feature on Discovery Channel. The American Association of Feline Practitioners also just confirmed their sponsorship of a Cat Writers’ Association “Cat Friendly” Award for the 2015 contest to encourage getting the word out about how to help cats get health care they need. Find out more about sponsorship ops here.)

Watching this upcoming TV segment is a fantastic opportunity to find out more about the work that AAFP does on behalf of cats and the people who love them. Hurray for Discovery Channel for making this possible!

Now then, if you love cats, read on–and then share with all the other kitty advocates.

Innovations Series, to Feature American Association of Feline Practitioners

Discovery Channel, April 20, 2015
DMG Productions explores the latest advancements in animal health

Hillsborough, NJ— The American Association of Feline Practitioners (AAFP) will be featured on an episode of Innovations with Ed Begley Jr., airing via The Discovery channel Monday, April 20, 2015 at 7:30 a.m. EST / PST.

The AAFP improves the health and welfare of cats by supporting high standards of practice, continuing education for veterinary professionals, and scientific investigation. Scroll down for a video sneak peek of the AAFP’s Discovery Channel debut!

In this segment, Innovations will educate viewers about the AAFP’s dedication to advancing the field of feline care through supporting veterinary professionals in elevating the standard of care for cats. The association also focuses on educating cat owners to increase their understanding of feline behavior, the value of veterinary care, and the need to actively participate in their cats’ individual healthcare plan. The AAFP’s Cat Friendly Practice® Program (CFP) designation is a major way the association is innovating the field of feline medicine.

Viewers will learn about the AAFP’s CFP designation, which is a program that provides the tools for veterinary professionals to integrate a feline perspective and embrace the standards needed to elevate care for cats. It equips practices with the tools, resources, and information to improve the treatment, handling, and overall healthcare of cats. The CFP program also focuses on reducing the stress of the veterinary visit for both cats and cat owners.

The AAFP’s Cat Friendly Practice Program is a groundbreaking program in veterinary medicine,”said Susan Little, DVM, DABVP (Feline), 2015 AAFP President. “The time is ripe for a program that helps veterinary practices do the best they can with their feline patients. The CFP program is about setting the standards of care, educating veterinary practices about what their feline patient’s need, about decreasing the stress of the veterinary visit, and it’s about making sure that once the cat is at the veterinary clinic they receive the best quality of care that’s appropriate to the cat.”

In addition, the segment will examine how the AAFP focuses on educating cat owners to increase their understanding of feline behavior, how to reduce the stress of the veterinary visit which actually starts at home before the cat even gets to the clinic, the value of routine veterinary care, and the need to actively participate in their cats’ individual healthcare plan.

“We are thrilled to be able to bring this important information to our viewers,” said Michele Nehls, Producer for the series. “Cat lovers around the world will be amazed by the cutting-edge feline-friendly advancements the AAFP’s Cat Friendly Practice program provides.”

The segment will air Monday, April 20, 2015 at 7:30 a.m. EST/PST via The Discovery Channel and be available to view immediately after at: http://www.catvets.com/cfp/ . Dates and times of additional broadcast airings of the episode are still TBD.

 

About The American Association of Feline Practitioners:
The American Association of Feline Practitioners (AAFP) improves the health and welfare of cats by supporting high standards of practice, continuing education and scientific investigation. The AAFP has a long-standing reputation and track record in the veterinary community for facilitating high standards of practice and publishes guidelines for practice excellence which are available to veterinarians at the AAFP website. Over the years, the AAFP has encouraged veterinarians to continuously re-evaluate preconceived notions of practice strategies in an effort to advance the quality of feline medicine practiced. The Cat Friendly Practice program is the newest effort created to improve the treatment, handling, and overall healthcare provided to cats. Its purpose is to equip veterinary practices with the tools, resources, and information to elevate the standard of care provided to cats. For more information or to find a Cat Friendly Practice by you, visit: www.catvets.com.

About Innovations and DMG Productions:
Innovations, hosted by award winning actor Ed Begley, Jr., is an information-based series geared toward educating the public on the latest breakthroughs in all areas of society. Featuring practical solutions and important issues facing consumers and professionals alike, Innovations focuses on cutting-edge advancements in everything from health and wellness to global business, renewable energy, and more. For more information visit: www.InnovationsTelevision.com, or contact Michele Nehls via phone at (866) 496-4065 x 822 or via email at: Ryann@InnovationsTelevision.com.

I love hearing from you, so please share comments and questions. Do you have an ASK AMY question you’d like answered–lick the banner, above. Be sure to visit my PetHealthyStore for paw-some products for your furry wonders! Stay up to date on all the latest just subscribe the blog, “like” me on Facebook, and get a FREE BOOK when you sign up for Pet Peeves newsletter. Stay up to date with the latest book give aways, kewl product offers, and appearances related to my THRILLERS WITH BITE!

5 Kinds of Dog Aggression: Get Tough on Dog Fighting

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April 8th is DOG FIGHTING AWARENESS DAY, and it’s a good time to review the 5 common kinds of dog aggression and what to do. According to the ASPCA, dog fighting happens all over the country and in all kinds of communities–rich, poor, middle class, it doesn’t matter, it’s there festering just beneath the surface. When fight rings are located, cases are built, offenders are prosecuted, and abuse survivors find loving homes. In 2014, the Department Of Justice prosecuted 10 federal dog fighting cases and secured the longest sentence (8 years) ever received in a federal dog fighting case. Learn more here.

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Image Courtesy of ASPCA

In an effort to stamp out this cruel “sport” (yes, that’s what proponents call it, can you imagine?!), the #GetTough on Dog Fighting campaign offers free information and ways for all animal lovers to get involved.

Hey, dog fighting isn’t just about one breed. It impacts ALL dog owners–and cat lovers, too, because dogs are trained to fight by “practicing” on other animal victims. Spectators even bring kids to the fights to introduce them to the sport. *wiping eyes* The thought makes me weep with anger. So my next novel SHOW AND TELL shines a light on this dirty practice.

Barking dog

5 Kinds of Dog Aggression

Here’s the deal. Aggression is a NORMAL part of being a dog, and while dog-on-dog aggression is more prevalent in some breeds, ALL dogs have the potential to fight and bite. Aggression can arise out of pain or health issues. Growly dogs believe they have a good reason to aggress (they often do!) whether owners agree or not.

Aggression can be complicated and require professional help, but here’s how to recognize 5 common types and learn how to keep the peace.

dogs playingPlay Aggression looks scary but dogs tell each other it’s just pretend by using gestures like the play bow (butt up, front down). Puppies learn to inhibit bites when they play with other dogs, and owners also can teach limits.

If the mouthing hurts, YELP like another puppy. Whimper and say, “You hurt me.” Immediately after you yelp, give the dog a 10-minute time out—no mouthing allowed—to teach him that hard bites make the fun stop.

Predatory Aggression includes stalking, chasing, catching and biting like in play, but predatory dogs won’t play bow—they’re deadly serious. Joggers, bicyclist, and moving cars and cries of young children, babies and smaller pets can trigger prey drive.

Predatory behavior may go away as the youngster grows up, but keep targets safe with strict supervision. Identify triggers (like joggers) and avoid them. Teach dogs to control natural impulses with obedience drills. A “happy” word the dog can’t resist (ball, cookie, ride) can often change the dog’s attitude and interrupts the behavior.

FearChihuahua_1541404_originalFear Aggression results when a dog can’t escape a scary situation. Caged, chained or cornered dogs often bite out of fear. Snarls, growls or bites make the scary “thing” go away, which rewards the dog so she’ll repeat the behavior. Reaching for the scared dog’s collar almost always prompts a bite, because a hand descending toward the head looks threatening.

Avoid petting on the top of the head. Instead, pet the dog’s sides or chest. Don’t stare, which can intensify intimidation. Play builds confidence, so teach “fetch” while avoiding tug-games that can encourage fear biting behavior. Use pheromone therapy such as Comfort Zone with DAP to help calm fears.

Territorial aggression typically involves herding and protection breeds. Dogs bark, lunge and growl at the fence or doorway, and are rewarded when the mailman, new dog, or your fiancé goes away. Conspire with visitors so the outcome changes.

Have the mailman toss treats to the dog, but without making eye contact or saying anything. Once the dog quiets to munch the treat, the mailman can say, “Good Rex!” and walk away. He should NOT walk away as long as the dog barks and lunges. If Rex ignores the treat and continues to bark and lunge, then YOU call the dog and reward him with a treat or toy for coming. The mailman leaves as the dog retreats—so essentially neither won.

Guarding Food, Toys, Furniture are all part of dominance aggression. These dogs often object to being restrained—as for nail trims—and the aggression can gets worse with punishment or confrontation. They’re often young intact male dogs who want to call the shots with people, but then tremble or seem to act “remorseful” afterwards. An argument over toys or mealtime that prompts a first instinctive snarl teaches the dog that aggression keeps others a safe distance from important resources.

Dominance aggression can be complicated and dangerous to solve and usually requires a professional. Neutering the dog and managing resources can help. If the dog protects toys, remove them so he has nothing to guard. Require the dog to “earn” privileges by paying with good behavior. For instance, ask him to “sit” (he sits), which earns him what he wants (attention/food bowl/open door/verbal praise). He should get NOTHING unless he earns it by responding in a positive way to your command.

Are dog fights a problem in your community? Have you ever had an issue with aggression in your dogs or in a dog that belongs to someone else? How did you handle it?

I love hearing from you, so please share comments and questions. Do you have an ASK AMY question you’d like answered–lick the banner, above. Be sure to visit my PetHealthyStore for paw-some products for your furry wonders! Stay up to date on all the latest just subscribe the blog, “like” me on Facebook, and get a FREE BOOK when you sign up for Pet Peeves newsletter. Stay up to date with the latest book give aways, kewl product offers, and appearances related to my THRILLERS WITH BITE!

Cat Falls? How Do Cats Land On Their Feet

British cat dancing breakdance

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Ever wonder how do cats land on their feet? How do they escape injury–or do they? Legends and myths sometimes arise out of a misunderstood truth, and kitty-correct four-paw landings are one such behavior.

Yes, cats have an uncanny ability to fall safely from sometimes death-defying heights and land on their feet, which perhaps gave birth to the “nine lives” legend. After all, if cats could fall from great distances and survive, they must have a spare life or two more than “normal” beings, right?

When I worked as a vet tech, though, we saw countless cases of cats injured from falls. I still wince thinking about the kitties with split palates and broken jaws or worse. Because those landings aren’t always soft!

When Seren was a kitten, she squeezed between the rails of our second-story landing, and slipped off to fall–and land–on the hardwood floor below. Yep, she did land on her feet–and thank the cat gods kittens bounce!

But do cats always land on their feet? And how do they do it?

How Cats Land On Their Feet

Paw-perfect landings result from the cat’s intricate balance sense. The vestibular organ deep inside the cat’s ears keeps kitty informed about which way is up or down, even if you try to confuse and make him dizzy first. In fact, people have done some crazy experiments, everything from blindfolding Kitty to putting cats in bags or boxes and spinning them around before “test dropping” to see if the the righting mechanism still works.

It does. This specialized organ also allows the cat to instantly determine acceleration as she falls.

The vestibular organ contains tiny fluid filled tubes and structures called the semicircular canals plus the utricle and saccule, each lined with millions of microscopic hairs. Fluid in the utricle and saccule also contain tiny particles of chalk that float and move with every motion. Whenever the cat’s head moves, the fluid is set in motion, and the floating chalk touches against the hairs. The hair movement, like teeny kitty antennae, relay information to the brain about body position, and speed of movement.

The balance mechanism can’t do it alone, though. Once partnered with the yoga-like muscle control of a Houdini master contortionist, the cat twists from side to side during a fall, to right herself.

Scared kittenDo Cats Ever Miss?

Ear infections can affect the cat’s balance so she misjudges height or positioning. Tiny kittens can be injured in falls that might not hurt an adult cat, so kitten-proofing balconies and keeping baby cats “grounded” can help keep them safe. Yes, I learned my lesson with Seren!

Falls from short distances—like from a child’s arms—may not allow enough time for the righting mechanism to work. Landing on her feet does not prevent Kitty from sustaining serious injuries during falls. In fact, because cats adore heights and often look for the tallest perch, fall injuries are not at all uncommon. When the weather turns warm, window-perching cats can be at increased risk.

High Rise Syndrome & Surviving Dangerous Falls

High rise syndrome refers to cats who fall great distances out of windows, balconies or open doors. Often the cat lounges on a favorite windowsill, and accidentally pushes window screens out and falls.

Falls from the first through fourth floors are least dangerous because the cat can “right” herself and doesn’t have time to reach top speed of 60 miles per hour—terminal velocity. She won’t fall any faster, no matter the distance. This speed is reached during any fall from higher than the fifth floor. However, these cats can still end up cracking their chin when they land.

Falls from the fifth through ninth floor are the most dangerous and result in the worst injuries. The cat falls with legs braced in front of him, and lands rigid. His legs hit first, then his head, and both can suffer terrible bone-shattering injury.

Cats survive falls from higher than nine stories with fewer injuries. Falls from these heights apparently allow the cat time to relax, empty the bladder and “parachute” the legs outward so that the wind catches the loose skin in the thighs and armpits and slows the fall sort of like a flying squirrel that glides. Landing spread-eagle allows the chest and abdomen to absorb most of the shock, rather than the head and legs. These falls can still cause bruised or ruptured internal organs.

Keep open windows and balconies off limits to cats. Remember that screens are designed to keep bugs out, not keep cats inside. So protect your cats and windows with secured screens or pet-safe barriers.

I love hearing from you, so please share comments and questions. Do you have an ASK AMY question you’d like answered–lick the banner, above. Be sure to visit my PetHealthyStore for paw-some products for your furry wonders! Stay up to date on all the latest just subscribe the blog, “like” me on Facebook, and get a FREE BOOK when you sign up for Pet Peeves newsletter. Stay up to date with the latest book give aways, kewl product offers, and appearances related to my THRILLERS WITH BITE!

Do You Speak Cat? Learn How in This Webinar

cute bald baby cat close up

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Hey there Sweet Peeps! Thanks to the great folks at Pet Healthy Store, I’ll present a fun AND FREE! webinar this Thursday April 2 (3:30 EDT).

SAY, WHAT? How Learning

“Cat-Speak” Solves Your Pet Peeves

This is based on the information from my ComPETability(Cats) book, and is so important I wanted to share these basics for free. You will learn:

  • 3 ways cats communicate.
  • How to “listen” to what your cat says.
  • Ways to purr-suade cats to behave.
  • Quick fixes for “bad” (aka NORMAL) behaviors.

THANKS FOR COMING! REPLAY SOON AT THIS LINK!

And yes…did you notice the neato-torpedo new COVER for the book? I am PURRRRRING over that!

NEW-CatCompet-lorez

I love hearing from you, so please share comments and questions. Do you have an ASK AMY question you’d like answered–lick the banner, above. Be sure to visit my PetHealthyStore for paw-some products for your furry wonders! Stay up to date on all the latest just subscribe the blog, “like” me on Facebook, and get a FREE BOOK when you sign up for Pet Peeves newsletter. Stay up to date with the latest book give aways, kewl product offers, and appearances related to my THRILLERS WITH BITE!