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Ask Amy Shojai: Choosing Safe Dog T...
Ask Amy Shojai: Choosing Safe Dog Toys
Do Pets See In Color?

Do Pets See In Color?

I love this question. What do you think? Today’s Ask Amy topic is Do dogs see in color? What about cats and dogs, do they see things differently?

Do pets see color

Is it the color? Or something else that determines “favorites.”

How do you know? What colors can dogs see? What about your pets, do they have favorites or can you tell?

 

do dogs see colorMagical-Dawg never had a color preference, nor did Seren-kitty. They both had have preferences for texture of toys, though…or in Seren’s case, texture of a sleeping spot, LOL! I tend to choose deep blue colors for the kitty because it looks so good with her eyes.

Shadow-Pup and Karma-Kat also don’t seem to care about color, but they do have their favorite toys. I tend to choose halters and leash color based on what looks good on them, but I choose toys based on what I believe THEY can see best.

Do you have color preferences for your pets’ toys? Does it matter to them? What have I missed in the video, do tell!

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I love hearing from you, so please share comments and questions. Do you have an ASK AMY question you’d like answered? Do you have a new kitten and need answers? Stay up to date on all the latest just subscribe the blog, “like” me on Facebook, and sign up for Pet Peeves newsletter. Stay up to date with the latest book give aways and appearances related to my September Day pet-centric THRILLERS WITH BITE!

Carbon Monoxide Danger for You and Your Pets

Carbon Monoxide Danger for You and Your Pets

Cat and Dog together holding blank cardboard sign to enter your message onto

There’s a major disconnect for me today. While much of the East is dealing with a major blizzard, the past week in N. Texas boasted 60s or even 70-degree sunny days. But that’s predicted to change later today. Deja vu, because this time last year, a similar cold front shut down the whole area for more than a week. But what does that have to do with carbon monoxide danger? It affects you, and your pets, especially during cold weather when we try to keep pets warm.

red Dog and white cat carbon monoxide

CARBON MONOXIDE, THE INVISIBLE POISON!

I hope y’all have taken safety steps to prevent carbon monoxide poisoning–yep, it affects pets, too. Last week, our alarm system gas detector went off–WOOOOP-WOOOOP-WOOOOOP! The pets hated that, and it scared the whey out of me, too. It turns out our detectors were outdated, there was no leak by the water heaters (whew!), and once they were replaced we felt safe again.

You can get carbon monoxide detectors at local home products stores, like this First Alert detector with over 25,000 reviews. But many years ago, my brother’s pet bird, Gumby, saved the family’s life when symptoms alerted them to the danger. When Gumby began falling off his perch, they knew birdy fainting spells were not normal and sought veterinary help. The diagnosis was carbon monoxide poisoning, traced to a malfunctioning heater that could have put the whole family to sleep—permanently.

WHAT IS CARBON MONOXIDE

Carbon monoxide is an odorless, colorless, tasteless gas. It’s a natural by-product of fuel combustion present in car exhaust and improperly vented furnaces, space heaters, water heaters, fireplaces, and tobacco smoke. It can quickly kill people as well as their pets. Children and pets have died in as little as 15 minutes inside running cars while parents shoveled snow outside the vehicle, unaware of the blocked tailpipe.

The gas causes the same symptoms in dogs and cats as in their owners. However, carbon monoxide is lighter than air, so pets that live at human knee level may not show symptoms as quickly as their owners. Birds are particularly susceptible and like Gumby, may be the first to show signs.

carbon monoxide magic karma fireplace

An improperly vented fireplace can cause carbon monoxide poisoning affecting you, and your best friends. Magic and Karma loved hanging out together!

HOW CARBON MONOXIDE POISONS

Here’s what happens. When inhaled, the lungs absorb carbon monoxide, and it spills into the bloodstream. There it binds with hemoglobin, the oxygen-transporting component of blood. This blocks the hemoglobin from using or carrying oxygen at all, which affects all areas of the body including the brain. The gas creates a kind of chemical suffocation.

The most common symptom of human carbon monoxide poisoning (low doses) in otherwise healthy people is fatigue that clears up when you leave the house. In heart patients, it can cause chest pains. Higher concentrations cause headache, confusion and disorientation, and flu-like symptoms with vomiting. Ultimately, the poison victim falls into a coma. When the victim is asleep during exposure to the poison, the dog, cat, bird or the person may never wake up.

We don’t know if poisoned pets suffer headaches because they can’t tell us about this early sign. But they do act confused, lethargic, and drunk in the same way as human victims. A distinctive sign common to both people and pets are bright cherry-red gums in the mouth.

HOW TO CURE CARBON MONOXIDE POISONING

The body can only get rid of the poison bound to the hemoglobin by breathing it out, or by replacing the poisoned hemoglobin with new. The liver and spleen replace hemoglobin about every ten to fifteen days. When only a small amount of the blood is affected, the victim recovers without treatment as long as no more poison is inhaled.

But high levels of blood saturation will kill the person or pet unless emergency treatment is given. Twenty-five percent saturation level is considered dangerous for people. Usually, though, both people and pets should be treated when the carbon monoxide saturation level is ten percent or higher. Smokers will be more susceptible because they already have an elevated level of carbon monoxide in their bloodstream. In other words, if one family member smokes, he or she may suffer symptoms sooner than other non-smoking family members.

Administering high concentrations of oxygen is the treatment of choice. That increases the amount of gas that is breathed out. Many hours of oxygen therapy may be required. In some cases, ventilation may be necessary.

PREVENTING CARBON MONOXIDE POISONING!

To protect yourself and your pets from carbon monoxide poisoning, get your heating units inspected every year before you start using them. Carbon monoxide detectors are also available to be installed as a warning system.

If you notice any change in your pet’s behavior or your own health that coincides with cold weather or the furnace coming on, don’t automatically assume it’s the flu. Consult with medical specialists for both your pets and for yourself.

Refer to this roundup article with details about five important pet poison issues!

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I love hearing from you, so please share comments and questions. Do you have an ASK AMY question you’d like answered? Do you have a new kitten and need answers?  Stay up to date on all the latest just subscribe the blog, “like” me on Facebook, and sign up for Pet Peeves newsletter. Stay up to date with the latest book giveaways and appearances related to my September Day pet-centric THRILLERS WITH BITE!

How To Give Pets As Gifts

How To Give Pets As Gifts

Giving pets as gifts prompts discussions every time the subject comes up. Most recently, we got our “gift puppy” and “gift kitten” when they adopted us, and we’re so glad Karma-Kat and Shadow-Pup are part of our holidays. But for many folks, this year means a new puppy or new kitten for Christmas. Learn how to gift pets–and please share your experiences in the comments!

puppy with ribbon

Pictures courtesy of Deposit Photos

The professionals used to say that the holidays were a TERRIBLE time to get a new pet–that impulse adoptions could leave the cat or dog without a home after the cute-holiday-thrills wore off. More recently, though, the ASPCA conducted some surveys and discovered that when done properly, these adoptions can be lasting, loving adoptions. So I had to re-think my advice.

Holidays tend to be hectic times when normal routines go out the window. Whether a baby, adult or senior rescue cat or dog, new animals need the stability of knowing what to expect. In fact, some holiday schedules may allow you to be home more during this time to help the new kitty or pooch adjust.

Holiday pets take more work, true. But just think: you’re not only giving the pet to a person—you’re giving a special human to a waiting cat or dog, a fur-kid hungry for a loving, permanent home. Happy holidays, indeed!

Everyone who adores puppies and kittens wants to share the furry love affair but not everyone is ready to receive puppies as gifts. Maybe the recipient will appreciate your thoughtfulness. But don’t gamble with a pet’s life.

Sure, Grandma is lonely and needs a wagging lap-warmer to keep her company. But she may have other plans, such as visits to the grandkids. Will the new kitten climb the Christmas tree and land in kitty jail? A puppy that eats Aunt Ethel’s hat collection will cost you favorite nephew status. A busy new parent may want a pup or kitten for their kids, but have other demands that take priority.

small cute kittenGiving Puppies and Kittens As Gifts

Before you put a bow around his neck, ask yourself these questions. Will the new owner have the time, ability, and funds to care for the dog or cat over the next 10 to 20 years? Is their space better suited for a Chihuahua, Persian or Great Dane? Do they already have a fenced yard? Will Uncle Jim’s knees keep up when hunting with that Pointer pup? Does your mom really want to chase Junior Cat off the mantel every day?

Children delight in pets as gifts but living things can’t be shoved under the bed and forgotten when the latest must-have-kid-gadget has more appeal. Remember—even if Fluffy is for the kids, the ADULT ultimately holds responsibility for the well-being of the pet. Will the child’s parents have the time to spend on one-on-one attention a new pet needs, and deserves? Be sure that the recipient truly wants and is ready for a puppy or kitten.

pet proof holidays to keep pets safe

Be sure to PET PROOF your decorations for the new baby!

I Want A Puppy/Kitten!

What if the kids, your spouse, Aunt Ethel, or a best friend have made it clear they want a furry wonder, are prepared for the responsibility and feel ready RIGHT NOW for a furry loved one in their life? You’re sure, and so are they. What can you do?

The time, the place, the person, and the pet must be right for love to bloom into a lifetime commitment. The selection should be made by the person who will live with, care for, and hopefully fall in love with the baby for the next decade or more. You still want the recipient to make this important choice, so give them that gift. Here’s 6 tips for giving pets as gifts.

6 Steps for Giving Pets As Gifts

  • Plot With Professionals. Contact the professional breeder, shelter, and/or rescue organization and explain the situation. Ask them to conspire with you—arrange to pay a deposit, or fund the purchase FOR the recipient, with the puppy or kitten to be chosen later. Perhaps also pre-pay puppy clicker training classes for the new family member, or fund the cost of the kitten’s first veterinary visit.
  • Avoid Puppy Mills. Those cute babies sold in some retail environments are born and raised in horrendous conditions. The ASPCA urges you to know what you’re getting, and pledge to avoid supporting that awful system.
  • Go Shopping. Create a “puppy or kitty care package” for the big day. Fill a puppy bed with treats, food, training and grooming equipmenthow to give pets as gifts and lots—lots!—of appropriate toys. Don’t forget to include a book or two about the pet’s breed, training or behavior tips, or other fun information.
  • Get Creative. Why not make a “gift certificate” that details this special surprise, and have that ready to present on the big day. Perhaps it could be packaged inside a pet carrier, or in an envelope attached to the collar of a stuffed St. Bernard or Siamese Cat toy.
  • dog life coverTake Your Time. Holidays can be hectic when normal routines go out the window. New puppies and kittens–even newbie adult pets–need the stability of knowing what to expect. But you can “gift” with the certificate on the special day, and the recipient can choose the best time to bring the pet home. Hopefully you also have the fun of accompanying the person later, when they choose their own furry wonder.
  • Keep Them Safe. Be sure to “pet proof” your holidays.

When you do it right, gifting with a pet can be magic. You’re not only giving the pet to a person—you’re giving a special human to a waiting fur-kid.

Have you ever given–or received–a pet as a gift? How did you prepare? What was the result? Please share! I’d love to hear your experiences.

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I love hearing from you, so please share comments and questions. Do you have an ASK AMY question you’d like answered? Do you have a new kitten and need answers? Stay up to date on all the latest just subscribe the blog, “like” me on Facebook, and sign up for Pet Peeves newsletter. Stay up to date with the latest book give aways and appearances related to my September Day pet-centric THRILLERS WITH BITE!

Matchmaking Tips for Cats & Dogs & Introducing Pets

Matchmaking Tips for Cats & Dogs & Introducing Pets

Do you know how to introduce dogs to cats? Or how to choose the right pet for your existing pet home? This past week’s behavior consults included a family with two cats wanting to introduce a young German Shepherd to their life. The couple has had lots of dog and cat experience but wanted specific tips to smooth the transition and keep their kitties happy and safe.

Image courtesy of DepositPhotos.com

Image courtesy of DepositPhotos.com

I applaud anyone willing to take these steps! It reminded me of years ago, when we introduced our eight-week-old eleven-pound Magical-Dawg to nine-year-old seven-pound Seren-Kitty. Every pet home has a different dynamic, and even previously dog-friendly cats may not take kindly to a new (scary-smelling-acting) stranger pooch. Here are some considerations when choosing a new furry love to join your existing pet family.

CATS & DOGS MATCHMAKING TIPS

Easy-going dog breeds that don’t view smaller critters as LUNCH! make the best doggy friends for cats. You can also predict some behaviors with puppy temperament tests.

A dog already socialized to a cat is best. Learn more about puppy development and socialization in this post. Adult cats that have already lived with and been socialized to dogs also help speed up the introduction process. Kittens that are clueless may be more accepting of a new dog friend, especially if they’ve seen Mom-Cat be friendly with those weird-smelling bark machines. Learn more about kitten development here, and also choosing kittens in this post.

Be aware that dogs’ and cats’ body language can mean contradictory things, so YOU need to interpret for them. Wagging dog tails invite you closer, but wagging cat tails warn you away. Just be sure your dog doesn’t get a face full of claws for being too nosy–that’s a terrible way to start a relationship.

Both pets need to be healthy. Cats need preventive care just like dogs do, and kitties that feel under the weather from illness or being spayed/neutered need time to recover before meeting the dog.

Savvy dog folks know that dog-to-dog intros work best on neutral territory–that’s outside your home, perhaps at a park. But cat intros for safety reasons need to happen INSIDE the house, so there are some clear differences in setting up the steps. You’ll find lots more details and how-to help for dealing with cat-dog challenges in my ComPETability(Cats-Dogs) book, but here are tips for getting started to build your very own peaceable kingdom between cats and dogs.

Read for more details about introducing cats to cats, refer to this post.

NEW-CatDogCompet-lorezHOW TO INTRODUCE CATS TO DOGS

  • Sequester the new pet in a single room with all the necessary accouterments (bed, litter box, chew toys, etc). Choose a room with a door that shuts completely, such as a second bedroom. Isolating the new pet tells your resident pets that only a small portion of the house has been invaded, not all the territory. Isolate the new pet in this one room for at least a week.
  • Expect cats to posture or hiss and dogs to sniff, whine, growl or bark on each side of the closed door. Feel encouraged once the barking and hissing fade, the canine “play-bows” at the door, or the pair play patty-cake-paws under the door.
  • After the new pet has been in the room alone for a few days, and any hisses or growls have faded, bring out something the new pet has scented. Choose something like a plate of food where she just ate. Allow your dog to smell it. THAT’LL bring on the wags!
  • Next, allow your new pet to explore the rest of the house while the resident dog stays outside in the yard. Alternately, have the resident cats wait in the vacated doggy isolation room to become more familiar with his strange smells, while the new dog sniffs around the rest of the house.
  • Install a baby gate in the isolation room so the pair can meet at their own speed but through the safety of the barrier.
  • Once the new pet feels comfortable navigating your house and meeting the other pet through the baby gate, prepare for whisker-to-whisker meetings. Avoid fanfare. Put the dog on a leash and then open the baby gate and watch what happens. Keep the pets away from halls, doorways or other closely confined spaces during initial meetings. An open room with lots of space reduces tension and gives the cat places to escape and you more control. The leash controls doggy lunges just in case.
  • Feed both pets during this initial meeting, on opposite ends of a room to distract them and also help them associate FOOD with each others’ presence. Peanut butter treats work well for dogs, and a stinky canned cat food for cats. Make these treats only available when the other animal is nearby to associate each other with good stuff.
  • Alternatively, engage them in play. Whoever your dog feels closest to should interact with the cat, so Rex sees YOU accept the kitty and will be more willing to follow his beloved owner’s example. Please be aware–unlike dogs, cats play SILENTLY, so if your cat vocalizes during interaction with the dog, the kitty isn’t happy. Separate them and try again later.
  • Continue to segregate the new pet in her safe room whenever you cannot directly supervise the pair. Most cats can jump over or can squeeze through the baby gate and regulate interactions. Continue to offer more planned meetings for another week, monitoring the dog until he can control himself and respects the cat even when off-leash.

REALISTIC GOALS FOR CAT AND DOG INTRODUCTIONS

Some pets become fast friends very quickly. Others dislike each other and always require supervision. Usually, pets learn to tolerate each other, especially if you’ve followed the match-making tips previously mentioned.

MagicMeetsSeren

It took time, but eventually with some very-yummy-cat-treats Seren deigned to come within sight of the Magical-Pup. Image Copr. Amy Shojai, CABC

We began introductions six months before Magic even arrived, We installed a dog crate and pet gates in the kitchen, and moved the litter box to a safe place. After the puppy arrived, we took it slow. It took Seren three months to come downstairs when Magic was awake in the kitchen, but she finally got curious and peeked under the blanket that covered the baby gate. It took her another three months to feel comfortable enough to tell him off.

Seren never cared for Magic. She finally learned to tolerate him, mostly because we made sure the dog knew the CAT ruled and could do no wrong. As she got older, and couldn’t run as fast, she allowed him closer and he always respected her hisses to back off.

Magic-Karma

Magic alerted me that Karma-the-Stray needed our help, so it’s only natural they’re best buddies. Image Copr. Amy Shojai, CABC

MAGIC ADOPTS A CAT

When Karma came home, it was love at first sight between the kitten and German Shepherd. Magic finally had a cat that would (SWOON!) let him sniff kitty tail! The introduction that took six-nine months with Magic and Seren only lasted three days between these best friends. Karma-Kat had already met dogs in his previous life, and loved them.

After Magic left this world, we adopted Bravo-Dawg as much to satisfy Karma’s yearning for a dog friend as our own. He looked very different, and introductions took about two weeks before Karma decided to adopt Bravo-Dawg as his new best friend. Because of the great size difference (Bravo 120 pounds, and Karma 12 pounds), we supervised constantly.

INTRODUCING CATS TO DOGS

Then Shadow-Pup arrived, and we needed to introduce him to both Bravo and to Karma. The puppy clearly had been around other dogs and gave Bravo all the right puppy-subordinate signals. They became friends within the week–still supervised, again because of the size difference, and Bravo’s potential pain issues from his cancer.

Shadow had the benefit of watching Bravo’s behavior with Karma, and the cat knew exactly how to handle the pup. Today the pair play chase, “bitey-face” wrestling games, and adore each other. We’re fortunate but I don’t take it for granted and we constantly monitor and reinforce good behavior. Read more about Bravo, Shadow, and Karma intros in this fun post with pictures.

So what are you waiting for? Maybe another pet needs you–and your dog wants a kitty friend of his very own, or your cat would love to have a dog to snuggle (or tell off!). Take it from Magic, Bravo, Shadow, and Karma–as long as you introduce them right, a cat and dog can be best friends.

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I love hearing from you, so please share comments and questions. Do you have an ASK AMY question you’d like answered? Do you have a new kitten and need answers? NOTE: Some links to books or other products may be to affiliates, from which I may earn a small percentage of sales, but I recommend nothing unless I feel it would benefit readers. Stay up to date on all the latest just subscribe the blog, “like” me on Facebook, and sign up for Pet Peeves newsletter. Stay up to date with the latest book giveaways and appearances related to my September Day pet-centric THRILLERS WITH BITE!

Pets Home Alone? Relieve Back to School Angst

Are your pets home alone, now that the kids have gone back to school? How can you ease the transition?

pets home alone

Dogs need their family–and miss us when the routine changes after school starts. Image Copr. MelissaMethamphetamine/Flickr

What do you do when the kiddos return to school? Breathe a sigh of relief? Miss them desperately? All of the above? My in-box is FILLED with all kinds of back-to-school offers for kid clothing, electronics, cameras, and more.

Back to School & Home Alone Pets

What about the pets? For many cats and dogs, the summer vacation (or recent “virtual learning”) means more time spent with their beloved “human-pups” playing and training, and having a wonderful time together. If you got a NEW baby dog or kitty this past summer, the 24/7 time together may be all they’ve ever known.

So what happens when school starts? And if you have a child leaving for college, that can REALLY put the pet’s tail in a twist. Several years ago, when I quit writing (for a while) and taught school for a little over a semester, Magical-Dawg and I both suffered separation anxiety!

Separation Anxiety in Dogs & Cats

Separation behaviors are not unusual when routine changes. These affect dogs more readily than cats. Cats with separation anxiety may end up pooping on your bed…but dogs may try to go through doors, walls or even windows and really hurt themselves. You can find a detailed article on dealing with doggy separation behaviors here.

Providing good alternative behaviors helps enormously. If you know the routine will change, start transitioning pets now. Use products like Adaptil for dogs or Feliway to soothe dog and cat angst, and provide some puzzle toys or cat trees to keep claws and teeth occupied. You can also teach your cats and dogs tricks to help keep them occupied, using clicker training. Check out the newest ASK AMY (below) for more ideas.

What have I missed? Do your dogs and cats get all stressed when school starts? How do you manage? Please share!

For more recommended pet products, visit my Amazon list recommendations here!

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I love hearing from you, so please share comments and questions. Do you have an ASK AMY question you’d like answered? Do you have a new kitten and need answers? NOTE: Some links to books or other products may be to affiliates, from which I may earn a small percentage of sales, but I recommend nothing unless I feel it would benefit readers. Stay up to date on all the latest just subscribe the blog, “like” me on Facebook, and sign up for Pet Peeves newsletter. Stay up to date with the latest book giveaways and appearances related to my September Day pet-centric THRILLERS WITH BITE!

Dream Big, Be You: What Do You Want To Be?

Dream Big, Be You: What Do You Want To Be?

I didn’t start out to be a writer, so how the @#$%^&*! did I end up here? I just heard from the Cat Writers’ Association that my fiction book HIT AND RUN just won a Certificate of Excellence Award, with consideration for a Muse Medallion. I always wanted to write fiction, but it only happened when forced to reinvent myself and dream big. What do you want to be when you grow up? What do you want to be remembered for? What will your legacy be?

what do you want to beThe Accidental Writer

I’ve written about my journey several times and have blogged off and on for 20+ years. But the blog only gained traction about ten years ago when I took an Email course on branding and social media from Kristen Lamb (read her blog!). She asked lots of “thoughty” questions:

What do you (want to) write? What are your interests, besides the writing topics—because we are so much more than (fill-in-the-blank). Who do people “see” when they look at you? Is that the BRAND you desire to create? It must be the real you—pretend won’t cut it. People see through the phony-isity of such things. As an actor, someone able to put on a persona for different people or events, that struck a chord with me.

Taking Off the Mask, Being YOU

Okay, she didn’t use those words, but you get my drift. I had an acting coach tell me the same thing, and I wrote about it in another blog, that you are enough. Bring YOU to the table—that’s enough.

And that’s scary! Dang. And it leads me to another question–what did YOU want to be when you grew up? Kids seem to know and show even in the games they play what path they’ll take through life. Me? I wanted to be an actor because they were glamorous, people liked them, and they never laughed too loud or were at a loss for words. I could be whoever I wanted, and if folks rolled their eyes, it wasn’t about me, but the persona. Being real, though–EEEK! Then if they don’t like you (or your work), what then?

writing advice what do you want to be

“I own this content!”

What Do You Want to Be…?

As a kid, my brothers and I put on plays in the basement, and directed marathon “let’s pretend” soap operas. The recurring kid, horses, dogs, and cat characters and stories were so real, they had us in tears—and made my folks roll their eyes.

I never played with dolls, much to the dismay of my grandmother. Nope, it was stuffed animals and best-bud pretend pets who could “really talk!” Mom always said, “When Amy grows up she won’t have babies, she’ll have puppy-dogs and kitty-cats.”

Mom knew.

Write Your Passion—Be YOU, Not Someone Else’s Idea

Early in my writing career, people constantly questioned why I didn’t write about more important topics, like starving children or world peace? And was cautioned, “You’ll never make a living writing about just pets!” Thpbpbpbpbpbpbpb! (insert raspberry sound effects!)

I write about pets because that’s me. It’s what and who I am, and I am enough. No, it’s not ALL that I am, but it’s a big part. I’m not on Broadway–yet! But all my stage and tv experience serves the pet writing causes. I listened to my furry muses. And I have the bling ready for when the big moment comes.

publishing tips

Writing about dogs (and cats) is serious business.

Becoming My Best Self

Something unexpected happened along the path to becoming Amy. I’m no longer at a loss for words—and instead I have to work at NOT jumping into every conversation. The animals taught me that. I don’t need to bark, howl, wag my tail (no wise cracks!) or hiss all the time to get ahead. I’ve never found being a “whisperer” to be particularly effective.

I’ve learned to be a pet “listener.” If you listen with your eyes and your heart, animals tell you what they’re thinking and why they’re acting in certain ways. Works with humans, too.

When I was a kid, I wanted to wear sparkles, tell stories with happy endings, and have bestest-bud animal friends who really talk. As an adult, when a career on the stage seemed out of reach, I turned to writing as a creative outlet, and it turned into an extraordinarily rewarding career. What did you want to be when you were a kid? Are you there yet?

what do you want to be remembered forWhen I Grow Up…

I always wanted to write fiction but at first, only made headway with nonfiction. My childhood dream came true only happened when I lost my grownup nonfiction writing career ten years ago and gave up writing to teach high school choir.

For the first time in years, I had nothing to prove and nothing to lose. So I wrote the novel I’d always wanted to READ in twenty-minute increments: before work, on lunch breaks, and after classes.

I don’t have two-legged kids. My legacy will be my written works, and I hope I will be remembered for helping cats and dogs and those who love them. And now and then, helping fellow writers with tips that helped me, like this webinar on beating writer’s block.

And today, my peers have honored my fifth book, HIT AND RUN, (complete with puppy-dog and kitty-cat characters), something I never could have predicted.

What do you want to be? There’s still time!

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I love hearing from you, so please share comments and questions. Do you have an ASK AMY question you’d like answered? Do you have a new kitten and need answers? NOTE: Some links to books or other products may be to affiliates, from which I may earn a small percentage of sales, but I do not recommend anything unless I feel it would benefit readers. Stay up to date on all the latest just subscribe the blog, “like” me on Facebook, and sign up for Pet Peeves newsletter. Stay up to date with the latest book give aways and appearances related to my September Day pet-centric THRILLERS WITH BITE!

 

You. Are. Enough! How to Handle Rejection

You. Are. Enough! How to Handle Rejection

I’m feeling philosophical today, after a disappointing experience a few weeks ago. Doesn’t matter what that might be (plenty disappointments come along, that’s life). But I also feel guilty for feeling bad–cuz I’m way more fortunate than many. So I’m revisiting how to handle rejection and deal with criticism.

The creative mind of authors, actors, musicians, and artists takes criticism and rejection so personally, a perceived sneer can quash the muse. I’m an author, actor, playwright, songwriter, musician, and artist, so maybe I got hit with a multiple-dose of sensitivity. Dang gene pool . . .

Those who read this blog know I first started submitting my writing to magazines. I could have papered the walls with all the rejection letters. My husband complained about the cost of snail-mail until finally I won the attention of an agent. Boy, did I build up calluses from all the rejections and criticisms to find the agent, and later, to weather publishing slings and arrows. Since switching to independent publishing, I pay editors for criticism (how twisted is that?!). Everyone needs critical feedback to improve, and keep pushing ahead.

Rejection never ends. I get to publish what I want now from nonfiction to thrillers, to plays. Maybe because of that, I’m a bit out of practice with how to handle rejection. But each time I bravely step out of my self-protective cocoon to take a chance on FILL-IN-THE-BLANK, criticism rolls in.

Bad reviews from readers? Check. Rejected for a role? Checkity-check. Emails ignored? Check-erooonie. Not invited to XYZ event with colleagues? Checkisity. Offhand comment from stranger–or a friend? Checkmate.

*whimper* THEY HATE ME!

how to handle rejection how to deal with criticismRejection Hurts, But Comes With the Territory

I suspect you’re like me, whether you’ve published, performed, created for years or just recently dipped toes into the creative abyss. Dozens of great reviews or performing a fun role leave me with a temporary glow. But it only takes one blistering comment to negate all the positives.

And we LOOK for those negatives, don’t we? The reader who posts a modest review must not have liked the book all that well. The director who cast someone else, the audience that didn’t whistle and guffaw, the show that failed to sell out–they all must hate us! If the artwork failed to sell, art critics and customers hated the artist. How dare we aspire to create something others might appreciate…what were we thinking?

Many artists can’t separate our creativity from personal worth and identity. Outsiders appreciate (or reject) our “gift” as a product, a separate “thing” apart from the creator. Rejection fosters feelings of inadequacy and unworthiness.

I think. Hope. Hell, maybe they really do HATE ME! I’m gonna go eat worms and die.

Nothing’s Personal—Just Feels That Way

It must be in the definition of “artist” to question our own talent and worthiness, even without help from outsiders. Self sabotage destroys more careers than anyone can measure. Because it’s safest to do nothing—pull all the books from the shelves, never write again, put the cello in the case and close the door to theatre. To try and fail feels so painful, we’d rather close ourselves off and stop trying than risk the hurt. Again.

So how many of y’all have shut down the laptop, put away the viola, thrown out paints, or given up thespian aspirations? I’ve made that “decision” dozens of times. Tempting to do so again with the latest hurt.

But it never stuck. Because this is who I am. It’s what I do.

Learning To Be Vulnerable

Years ago I attended an audition workshop with the brilliant Del Shores, who noted that many people have !!@#$%^! -loads of baggage. Nobody gets out of life without some bumps, bruises, and the scars can be visible, deep inside, or both.

Successful performers (and writers also ARE performers!) learn to tap-dance into this wealth of virtual crappiocca, use it to create memorable damaged characters on stage, screen, canvas, music scores—and in our books, essays and other writing. Unblemished, perfect paintings, book characters, photos and music are freakin’ BORING!

how to deal with criticismPerfect People, Perfect Pets = BORING!

In dog and cat behavior (another of my worlds), the perfect pet is a stuffed toy that has no potty accidents, no cost to feed, no need to walk in the rain, and no chewed up shoes or clawed sofas. But real pets also have baggage, seen and unseen—baggage is normal, folks. It’s what makes them special, rather than cookie-cutter same-old-thing. The old days of “punish the bad” have shifted to “reward the good.”

I counsel clients to ignore the bad, and instead catch their pet in the act…of doing something good, and then rewarding with praise, treat, a ball or whatever floats the pet’s boat. We’ve learned that constant brow-beating or (heaven forbid!) actual beating causes pets to shut down.

It shuts down people, too, and it flat-out murders the creative process. Here are some tips to deal with writer’s block.

What floats your boat? How do you reward yourself? You are worthy, ya know! Lift yourself up, stop beating yourself up, and do the same for others. Helping others feeds your own muse!

You Are Enough

Del Shores is fond of saying, “You are enough,” to his actors. No extra bells and whistles required. It applies to all creative people. Lessons learned—and I hope these tips help you, too:

  1. Let yourself grieve the rejection. It hurts. Acknowledge that.
  2. We’re all damaged goods. No blame, we just are what we are. Creatives use that part of ourselves. Mine the gold and let it resonate in your work.
  3. Ignore the bad. Reward the good. Wear the scars as badges of learning and courage.
  4. Wait. Reflect. Breathe. Breathe again. I promise, time heals. Look outside the “door closed” moment for the “open window” that appears. It’s there, if you really look.
  5. Keep challenging yourself. If you get push back, that’s good. Nobody ever succeeded by fading into the woodwork.
  6. You. Are. Enough.

It’ll take practice for me to believe that. But I’m getting better. How about you?

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I love hearing from you, so please share comments and questions. Do you have an ASK AMY question you’d like answered? Do you have a new kitten and need answers?  Stay up to date on all the latest just subscribe the blog, “like” me on Facebook, and sign up for Pet Peeves newsletter. Stay up to date with the latest book give aways and appearances related to my September Day pet-centric THRILLERS WITH BITE!

Celebrating Old Dogs: What Is Old?

Celebrating Old Dogs: What Is Old?

Each November, we celebrate old dogs during their “official” month. But when is your dog considered old? We love our senior citizen dogs for the special joy they bring every day. But once a year, we celebrate old dogs during November Adopt A Senior Pet Month. Here are 8 reasons to consider adopting a senior pet.

I’ve already posted about celebrating old cats. It’s time to give equal time to old dogs. I’ve written about how to care for an elderly dog before, but this post addresses how to know when your canine friends become old dogs.

I’ve updated some of the information from when it first published back when my Magical-Dawg and Seren-Kitty were still around.

old dogs

Magic was just over eleven years old when he passed away, and my first GSD lived to thirteen and a half. One is middle-aged and the other considered geriatric, and a lot of it has to do with the size of the pet. When our furry friends reach a “certain age” it becomes much more important to stay on top of changes, and just keep ’em comfy during their golden years.

My first GSD (below) launched my pet-writing career. He waited until we got home from work, and died with us beside him, on Halloween night. I still miss him.

old dogs

How Old are Old Dogs?

What is considered “old?” There are individual differences between pets, just as there are for people. While one person may act, look and feel “old” at fifty-five, another fifty-five-year-old remains active with a youthful attitude and appearance. Aging is influenced by a combination of genetics, environment, and health care over a lifetime. The oldest dog on record was an Australian Cattle Dog who lived for twenty-nine years and five months.

A good definition of old age for an animal is the last 25 percent of her life. However, we can’t accurately predict what an individual pet’s lifespan will be, so pinpointing when old age begins is tough. Ask the breeder about the lifespan of your pet’s parents and grandparents. That’s a good predictor of how long you could expect your cat or dog to live. Mixed-ancestry pets are more difficult to predict, but you can make a few generalities.

old dog

How to Predict Old Dogs Lifespan

In the past fifty years, the average lifespan of small dogs like the Maltese above, has tripled. They used to live to be only six or seven years old, but today it’s not unusual for your Chihuahua to live into late teens or early twenties. With an average potential lifespan of fifteen to seventeen years, the onset of old age—when a little dog becomes “senior”—would be about age eleven to thirteen.

Even large-breed dogs, which age more quickly, commonly reach ten to thirteen years of age—double the lifespan of the past few decades. They would, therefore, be considered old starting at about seven years.

Giant breed dogs (those weighing over eighty pounds or so) tend to age more quickly than smaller pets. Great Danes, for example, are considered “senior” at age five, and typically live only seven to nine years. There are exceptions, of course, with some very large dogs living healthy, happy lives well into their teens. Though he’s no longer a puppy, Bravo (below) weighs just over 100 pounds (he lost 20 pounds when he lost his leg to cancer). As a “giant” breed, we tried to keep him happy and healthy as long as possible. Although his chemo treatment slowed his disease we cherished every day as a win!

bullmastiff puppy

Old Dogs & Youthful Doggedness?

So you have an old fogey doggy–how do you keep him youthful? What happens when that go-go-go puppy attitude turns into a yen for snoozing the day away? Dogs can become frustrated when their youthful abilities fade away and they’re no longer able to leap tall buildings–or onto sofas–with a single bound, or chase the Frisbee and catch it without effort. They may suffer from brain aging, but you can reverse or slow senility with these tips.

old dogs

I have one word for you: ACCOMMODATION.

Enrich the dog’s environment and make accommodations for his new skill set. Agility dogs can still perform all those tricks of fetch and vault, just lower the bar a bit. For blind dogs, put a bell inside the ball or scent with liverwurst so his nose knows where to find it. For deaf dogs, you can use hand signals and replace the clicker with a flashlight beam flicking on and off.

I have a boatload of more tips and advice in the book Complete Care for Your Aging Dog.

What about your old dogs–what games do they love? Have you made accommodations for their aging abilities? Please share!

I love hearing from you, so please share comments and questions. 

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I love hearing from you, so please share comments and questions. Do you have an ASK AMY question you’d like answered? Do you have a new kitten and need answers? Stay up to date on all the latest just subscribe the blog, “like” me on Facebook, and sign up for Pet Peeves newsletter. Stay up to date with the latest book give aways and appearances related to my September Day pet-centric THRILLERS WITH BITE!

 

Dog Allergies & Soothing Itchy Dogs

Dog Allergies & Soothing Itchy Dogs

Spring is the SNEEZE season for humans, complete with runny eyes and sinus issues.(Learn about dealing with pet allergies here).  For dog allergies, itchy skin is the more common sign of discomfort. And it can hit in the fall, too. Just ask my Bravo-Dawg, now trying to balance with only three legs to scratch his itchies.

Bravo (and the other furries) get monthly parasite preventive meds, so it surprised us when he began incessantly scratching and chewing last week. We live on 13 acres, and we speculated the long grass in the field led to irritations and bug bites. But even after mowing, his itchiness continued with head and back scabs, and foot licking. Benadryl helped, but after Bravo’s cancer journey and chemo treatments, we wanted to be careful with giving him anything.

Yesterday, the vet diagnosed allergies–as if Bravo didn’t have enough challenges! Dr. Clay noted he’s at the age when allergies can develop (about 1 in 3 dogs suffer). He also noted that Benadryl is one of the safest and effective meds, and recommended we up the dose (dogs get a much higher dose than people). He weighs 101 lbs, so Bravo gets up to 100 mgs three times a day–and the itch has abated. But what about other kinds of allergies?

dog allergies

dog allergies

I’ve been told by some veterinarians that West Highland White Terriers “put their kids through college…” because of the allergy issues the breed is prone to. Image Copr. Amy Shojai

It’s less common, but runny eyes also may develop–and of course, my Magical-Dawg had to be one of these unusual cases. His eyes began watering back in January, and combined with his acral lick foot itchies, he was miserable. Thankfully, he didn’t suffer from the all-over itchy skin, hair loss, and worse that our first shepherd suffered. But here in North Texas (and other parts of the country), it’s helpful to understand dog allergies and how to soothe our itchy dogs.

This is simply an overview of the kinds of allergies. For more details, you’ll want your veterinarian to diagnose your dog, and explain what’s needed to help your pet. You can also find more details about pet allergies in my DOG FACTS book.

DOG ALLERGIES CAUSES & CURES

Pets suffer from the same kinds of allergies that people do. Food allergies (probably the least common in dogs) happen when dogs react to certain proteins in the food. Major culprits are meats like beef or chicken–and even lamb, if the dog has eaten it before and become “sensitized.” It can be complicated.

Food Allergies

How do you cure dog food allergies? Well, you don’t…but you can manage them. The first step is diagnosing exactly WHAT causes the reaction and only a veterinarian can do that. See, commercial foods contain a smorgasbord of ingredients, some in tiny amounts, and while you MAY find one your dog tolerates more than others, switching around can be hit-or-miss. It also may confuse things when you’ve then exposed the dog to bunches more potential culprits and reduced the “safe” alternatives that he’s never before tasted.

Flea Allergies

Flea allergy is the most common of all. Dogs (and cats) sensitive to the flea saliva can itch all over after a single bite from one of these tiny vampires. Flea allergy also is one of the most easily managed, usually through one of the modern safe flea prevention products. I use Revolution (from the vet) on Magical-Dawg because it takes care of heartworms, fleas and a number of internal parasites, too.

dog allergies

Fleas are more than itchy aggravations and spread tapeworms as well as cause skin disease.

Inhaled Allergies

Atopy–or inhaled allergies–can be due to pollens, molds, and even dander. Hay fever in people that makes us sneeze instead causes itching in pets. That’s what our first shepherd developed. After we moved from the Ohio Valley region (and its airborne fungus and other “schtuff”) and were in Texas, his health drastically improved. Dogs with inhalent allergies often have itchy ears, too, and may develop ear infections.

Could a dog be allergic to himself, or to the cat? Theoretically, that’s possible! But more typically it’s the springtime/summer allergens that drive pets nuts. Wintertime when the furnace comes on for the first time can stir up household dust and set them off again.

Atopy can be the toughest control. It’s seasonal so the signs can lessen during the winter. Dogs absorb grass and dust allergens through the toe webbing in their foot pads, so simply rinsing off poochie feet after the dog’s been outside can help enormously. Also, dogs (and cats) are furry dust mops that collect and carry allergens in their coat–so rinsing ’em off weekly also helps.

Get all the dog allergy facts!

Natural Cures for Dog Allergies

There’s a difference between HOLISTIC veterinary medicine and HOMEOPATHY (click this link for some details). For example, omega-3 fatty acids are a holistic/natural treatment that aid skin health and also have some anti-itch properties–so does bathing the pet in an oatmeal-based anti-itch shampoo. A flea comb to get rid of fleas is about as natural as you can get! Homeopathic medications attempt to “wake up” the pet’s own body to deal with and manage the health challenge.

Some dogs benefit from allergy medications like antihistamines. Magic’s runny eyes resolved once we began giving him Benadryl, recommended by our veterinarian. Please check with your pet’s practitioner for proper dosage and what’s safe for your fur kids. And for atopic dogs, simply rinsing them off with water (even just their paws) can help.

Here are some videos that offer some more comments and discussion (yes, they’re a couple year’s old!). There’s also info on OTC treatments for pets. For folks reading the blog, what has worked for your itchy dog? Any further tips you can share? Do tell!

 

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I love hearing from you, so please share comments and questions. Do you have an ASK AMY question you’d like answered? Do you have a new kitten and need answers? NOTE: Some links to books or other products may be to affiliates, from which I may earn a small percentage of sales, but I do not recommend anything unless I feel it would benefit readers. Stay up to date on all the latest just subscribe the blog, “like” me on Facebook, and sign up for Pet Peeves newsletter. Stay up to date with the latest book giveaways and appearances related to my September Day pet-centric THRILLERS WITH BITE!

It’s National Holistic Pet Day! But What Is Holistic Pet Care?

It’s National Holistic Pet Day! But What Is Holistic Pet Care?

Have you ever considered holistic medicine for your pets? There are many questions about what is holistic pet care. Is it the same thing as what your regular vet offers? There are many names for offering traditional medicine for pets. Some call it alternative medicine or natural healing. But are there specific definitions, and is holistic pet care a good choice for your cats and dogs? August 30 is National Holistic Pet Day, so it’s a good time to revisit asking these questions.

PupInGreen-D-Garding

This gorgeous pup has fun in the “natural” undergrowth…but poison mushrooms are natural, too! Image Copr. D. Garding/Flickr

WHAT IS HOLISTIC PET CARE?

Is natural veterinary medicine that different than a conventional approach? Many pet products companies have joined the “natural” revolution including offering herbs for pets, but is this because they truly feel that’s better for our cats and dogs–or is it simply a marketing ploy? And how can pet parents decide what’s best for their cats and dogs, and see through all the hand-waving hype?

I write about holistic care in both of my CAT FACTS and DOG FACTS books but never would have done so before researching a much earlier work. New Choices in Natural Healing for Dogs & Cats is available in all print & Ebook formats, including hardcover.

You can even get the audio version for FREE with a trial membership to Audible at this link.

holistic pet

NATURAL HEALING FOR DOGS & CATS

Before researching the book New Choices in Natural Healing for Dogs & Cats, I really didn’t know a lot–or think very much of–the “natural” wave of pet care since I’m a prove-it-to-me-with-science kind of person. But after interviewing dozens and dozens of scientific-type researchers and veterinarians who embraced some or all of these new-but-old-fashioned modalities (more than 70 for the book!), I not only learned a lot but began to respect the alternative viewpoint.

As with any trend, though, there are those who take advantage and dish up quackery alongside the quality options, so it’s still very much up to us to “vet” our pet care. The same is true for conventional medicine, too. There’s a reason they call it the PRACTICE of medicine–it is as much an art as a science, and what’s the best choice for my animal companions may be the wrong one for yours.

Conventional vs Holistic Pet Care: What’s the Difference?

Veterinarians provide the latest in terms of advanced diagnostic technology, cutting-edge drugs and surgery but many pet parents—and veterinarians—also embrace holistic medicine they feel is more natural. While traditional “western” medicine can’t be beat for addressing first aid and emergencies like broken legs and acute or critical health issues, holistic approaches may work better to prevent and treat chronic health challenges.

Here’s a broad example that compares “conventional” treatment to a holistic medicine approach. In mainstream western medicine, a drug can be given to stop the puppy’s diarrhea. But that’s like putting a cork in a bottle and may stop the symptoms without getting rid of the cause, so when the drug wears off the diarrhea returns. Instead, holistic practitioners seek to treat the patient as well as the symptom. Mainstream veterinary medicine does that, too, of course, but the approach is a bit different.

What Is Alternative Medicine?

The word holistic refers to a whole-body approach that addresses the health of the pet’s physical and emotional being. Alternative simply means “in addition to” and not specifically “instead of” other modalities. Learn about homeopathy in this post.

Rather than treating the “symptom” of disease, the holistic practitioner looks at the entire animal: diet, exercise, behavior, emotions, and even the environment. Conventional “western” medicine tends to focus on the disease, while holistic medicine focuses on the patient.

Other terms are used to describe holistic medicine, including “natural” and “alternative.” My favorite term, though, is “integrated medicine” because that means the best of all worlds—a combined approach of conventional partnered with holistic for the ideal help for your dog and cat.

Why A Natural Medicine Approach?

Holistic veterinarians would rather try to prevent problems like hip dysplasia and to support the body’s immune system to fight allergies rather than scramble to fix problems after they happen. They believe once chronic problems develop they continue to get worse even with ongoing conventional treatment.

This frustration with conventional western veterinary care inspired them to look for other options. Holistic or “natural” alternatives for many became the answer. Once they started to look, veterinarians found and began experimenting with therapies like herbal remedies, as well as flower essences and homeopathy. They looked at natural medicines and treatments that had been used in human medicine for decades or even centuries.

They found out treatments like massage and acupuncture not only worked in people but equally well in pets. Some of these treatments raise eyebrows, such as sticking needles into your puppy to help relieve pain until scientists proved acupuncture can relieve pain and nausea and even help boost the immune system. Holistic vets have found that garden herbs and Grandma’s home remedies work as well or better than many modern drugs. They often contain the exact same ingredients, but don’t cause the side effects.

You Don’t Have to Choose: Use Integrative Veterinary Medicine

An integrated approach offers your pets the ideal care specific to his needs. Alternative/holistic veterinary medicine works great alongside much of mainstream medicine.

Conventional medicine can’t be beat when it comes to diagnosing problems, so X-rays or blood analysis can reveal a tumor or fracture before the veterinary chiropractor provides a treatment. If your puppy chews through an electrical cord and stops breathing, acupuncture resuscitation can start his heartbeat again until you can reach conventional trauma medicine help. Homeopathy can’t perform surgery, but may help a traumatized pet survive surgery and heal more quickly afterward.

Evaluating Claims

Be sure to evaluate the claims of different holistic treatments before rushing into therapy. Sadly, when the term “natural” became very popular, some companies simply slapped on the label to increase sales. Just because something is “natural” doesn’t mean it’s safe or effective—poisonous mushrooms and venomous snake bite is natural, too.

It’s difficult sometimes to figure out odd-sounding therapies that work from quackery, so ask questions and do your research. Look for studies that back up the claims of a treatment’s effectiveness. Your holistic vet will provide proven science when it’s available. In fact, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) studies alternative care options for people and many of these apply to pets as well. Veterinary journals also publish studies and measure the effects of different techniques.

When a technique or product is very new there may not be scientific studies available. Because some of these therapies are “natural” there’s not much money to be made and so costly evaluations may not be embraced by drug companies. In these cases, testimonials from other pet owners and veterinarians may provide convincing “anecdotal” evidence. Just take some claims with a grain of salt depending on who makes the claims—someone with a monetary gain could be suspect. But other puppy owners and animal health professionals able to recognize true health improvements are more credible.

Choosing A Credible Holistic Veterinarian

When choosing a holistic veterinarian, look for doctors that have training in natural and alternative treatments. Professional veterinary associations or holistic organizations offer study and accreditation. Some of these organizations include:

Do you use natural, holistic or otherwise “alternative” veterinary options with your pets? Heck, I used herbal remedies for myself now, as well as herbs specifically for my pets.  Do tell! And if you decide to get the newly released NATURAL HEALING pet care book, please post a review and let me know what you think!


I love hearing from you, so please share comments and questions. Do you have an ASK AMY question you’d like answered? Do you have a new kitten and need answers? NOTE: Some links to books or other products may be to affiliates, from which I may earn a small percentage of sales, but I do not recommend anything unless I feel it would benefit readers. Stay up to date on all the latest just subscribe the blog, “like” me on Facebook, and sign up for Pet Peeves newsletter. Stay up to date with the latest book give-aways and appearances related to my September Day pet-centric THRILLERS WITH BITE!

Catnapped? Shadow to the Rescue!

Hide_Seek(2)Catnapped? Shadow to the rescue, in HIDE AND SEEK. And then YOU to the rescue for this pet writer. Wow…

I want to THANK YOU (yes, I mean YOU!) for adopting my debut thriller LOST AND FOUND back in 2012 when it first released, and again this past week when all the Ebook formats dropped to free.

Yes, free. It’s still free, and will remain free for the foreseeable future. 🙂  I announced this last week in this post (with the other links to the book), and as a result, this week the book ranking EXPLODED!

#1 Thrillers, #1 Suspense, #1 All Free Books

Why would I make the book FREE? I want more readers to discover the book and possibly read and enjoy the series. A book needs to be read…But I had no idea the book would take off like this. UPDATE: It’s 11:00 pm on Tuesday night and still holding at #2 Thrillers, #1 Suspense and #7 Free…absolutely amazing.

It would not have happened without YOU becoming a cheerleader, adopting and sharing the book. You have made this pet writer’s dreams come true. I am truly blessed.

By the way, you can get a SAMPLE of the free book by texting the word THRILLS to 44222.

So…I asked my editor and we agreed to put HIDE AND SEEK (Book #2).

I think the sale goes away the end of the week, so don’t wait! You can get it on Kindle, Nook, Kobo, iBookstore and others. And yes, you can share with whoever loves edge-of-the-seat pet-centric stories. I know you particularly love Shadow…but to answer reader requests (yes, I always listen to you!), HIDE AND SEEK has more Macy-Cat in the story (along with assorted mayhem).

This is a “kitty in jeopardy” story (well, September and other pets, too), but you know me…the pets always come out ahead.

A mysterious contagion will shatter countless lives unless a service dog and his trainer find a missing cat . . . in 24 hours.

Again…THANK YOU! And please take advantage, and get your sale copy of HIDE AND SEEK.

I’ll be at the OWFI Writers Conference this weekend signing print copies of all three thrillers (as well as the Cat Facts and Dog Facts books). If you’re there, please introduce yourself, I’d love to connect.

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I love hearing from you, so please share comments and questions. Please note that I earn a small percentage from affiliate links to books or other products which are mentioned from time to time in my posts. Do you have an ASK AMY question you’d like answered? Do you have a new kitten and need answers? Stay up to date on all the latest just subscribe the blog, “like” me on Facebook, and sign up for Pet Peeves newsletter. Stay up to date with the latest book give aways and appearances related to my September Day pet-centric THRILLERS WITH BITE!

Caption My Ass-ets! #FunnyCats Rule

KarmaButt

I’m head-down busy today preparing edits to send back to my editor on the new COMPLETE PUPPY CARE book. And my “helper” Karma has made editing a new challenge. I’ve shared a couple of these pictures on my Facebook page (have you “liked” me yet?!) but wanted to post here, too.

How do your pets “help” you with your work? Is their attention welcome or aggravating? Do tell! Oh…and let’s have some fun in the comments. Suggest captions for the two pictures. 🙂

KarmaEditI love hearing from you, so please share comments and questions. Do you have an ASK AMY question you’d like answered–post in the comments. Do you have a new kitten and need answers? Stay up to date on all the latest just subscribe the blog, “like” me on Facebook, check out weekly PUPPY CARE must knows, and sign up for Pet Peeves newsletter. Stay up to date with the latest book give aways and appearances related to my  THRILLERS WITH BITE!

Taking A Breather

MagicKarma

“Come play with us…please? when’s quitting time?” Image Copr. Amy Shojai, CABC

I need your understanding, Sweet Peeps. After several years of blogging three times a week, along with the weekly newspaper columns and the 8+ monthly articles for puppies.about.com, my frazzle-icity has reached new heights. Or is that depths? More likely a brick wall. 😛

This is my 675th blog post. Yay!

But it’s been a struggle to maintain this pace, while also writing the next book in my September Day thriller series. I’m also about 1/3rd of the way through the rough draft of COMPLETE PUPPY CARE companion volume to my kitten book. But at this rate, neither book will get done any time soon and even the short writerly schtuff feels like I’m giving it short shrift. I hate that!

SerenStormOh, and the cats and dog want attention, and–hubster too. They’re funny that way! 🙂  This past month, it hit me pretty hard that I probably won’t have Seren-Kitty for very much longer so I want to enjoy her good days while she has them.

I get to “see” and interact with many of y’all on Facebook anyway. Actually, I was so torn about this decision and then I posted a vague mention of it yesterday and the outpouring of love and encouragement made me feel so encouraged! Thank you, thank you, a million times–I can’t tell you how wonderfully helpful that was. I don’t want to disappoint but really need to figure out how best to spend my time and focus my efforts. If you’re not already following me on Twitter or my Facebook Fan, or a Friend (or Follower) now’s your chance–message me to say you came over from my blog.

I’ve got the BEST Sweet Peeps evah!

Starting next week, I’ll be dialing back my blog posts to one a week, probably Thursday or Friday. I still accept select “sponsored posts” — stay tuned for a fun one this Friday–but for the most part any product reviews will appear over at my puppies.about.com site. I’ll be sure and share all the new puppy schtuff here, of course and any breaking news will get a post, too. That way I can keep y’all up to date on the fictioning progress and any SQUEEE! puppy-licious and cat-astic info. Instead of three weekly lame blog posts, you’ll get one (hopefully) PAW-some post! I’ll try to send out more regular Pet Peeves newsletter updates, too.

Thanks for being such great supporters and followers of the blog! I’m not stopping, really I’m not, I love this BLING, BITCHES AND BLOOD BLOG–just taking a breather to hopefully give y’all more and better content in the books. I hope you’ll understand and still check back in here every week for more writer-icity and pet-astic edu-tainment.

woofs & purrs and ever-so-grateful virtual hugs,

amy

National Pet Week!

BallTugSafeToysWell, here at Shojai Central, it’s all about the pets 24/7/365. But in case you needed an excuse, this week has been named in honor of pets. My friends at PET360 have even got a special deal going:

Celebrate National Pet Week!! Get 10% off + FREE SHIPPING on orders over $59. Plus – we’re donating a meal for every order placed to animals in need!


babyratHow do you celebrate National Pet Week? I’m curious how many of y’all have what kinds of pets. Could you list ’em in the comments and let’s get a count. Of course, y’all know that
I’ve got Magical-Dawg, Seren-Kitty and Karma-Kitten.

lizardWhen I was a kid, I also had Shelties, hamsters, and my brother kept pet mice. We kids also brought in a variety of snakes and toads and frogs and lizards and turned them into pets, and from time to time we also had goldfish.

parakeetFor a short time, I also had a Spectacle Amazon parrot named Venus, aka “the lil’ green chicken.” She was a rescue and came to me when I worked as a vet tech. Venus had been fed nothing but sunflower seeds and was addicted to the caffeine, mostly bald, and the vets said she wouldn’t live.

She did. And after her feathers returned she was gloriously beautiful–but cared nothing about people. I think she’d been caught as an adult with bird lime (she was missing two toes). So when we moved from Tennessee to Texas, I left her with a parrot expert and breeder who had a wonderful aviary and doted on the smaller parrots. The story THE RISE OF VENUS was my first published pet article.
ratWe never kept rats (for some reason my mom tolerated hamsters and mice, but not rats). I understand they’re extremely intelligent.

turtleOh, and we lived on the river so there were always diamond back, leather back, and painted turtles (that’s a kid of turtle, not how we decorated them!). One year, my brother found where the baby turtles hatched, and brought home about 40 of the nickle-size hatchlings.
resizeToddlersPuppies

My parents put up with it all, bless their hearts. And as a result I had a childhood filled with wonderful pet memories. How about you?

I love hearing from you, so please share comments and questions. Do you have an ASK AMY question you’d like answered–post in the comments. Do you have a new kitten and need answers? I’m a new Brand Ambassador for The Honest Kitchen and you can get FREE samples here, check it out! (Karma loves this!). Stay up to date on all the latest just subscribe the blog, “like” me on Facebook, check out weekly PUPPY CARE must knows, and sign up for Pet Peeves newsletter. Stay up to date with the latest book give aways and appearances related to my  THRILLERS WITH BITE!

Ask Amy: Why Does My Dog Hug & Lean?

puppyfaceThere was a bit of controversy last year over a big pet products brand that promoted “Hug Your Dog Day” and got a lot of flack over it (including from me!). But what if it’s the DOG that does the hugging? What does it mean when your pooch leans against you (some can knock you flat!). Today’s Ask Amy addresses the question.

Does your dog lean on you? How about hugging? Adolescent pooches may want to hug your leg (ahem!) but that’s a subject for another Ask Amy. More dog behavior answers are found in my ComPETability: Dogs book, too, but how do you handle the situation?

I love hearing from you, so please share comments and questions. Do you have an ASK AMY question you’d like answered? Do you have a new kitten and need answers? Stay up to date on all the latest just subscribe the blog, “like” me on Facebook, check out weekly PUPPY CARE must knows, and sign up for Pet Peeves newsletter.

A Day In The Life…Of A Pet Writer

Magic-Bowl

“What’s wrong with this picture….IT’S EMPTY!!!” Image Copr. Amy Shojai, CABC

This morning as I stared into the face of my grinning German shepherd and dodged his bruising tail flagellations, I envied him. And I envied my Siamese wannabe who still hadn’t roused herself from her daily 16-plus-hour sleep marathon. I mean, I really had a moment of green-eyed angst that Magic lives a dog’s life and Seren lives in a dream-world (literally!) while my husband and I bust our buttons keeping them in kibble. But is this a fair assessment? Just for fun, here’s a comparison.

Dog’s Morning: Runs through the field baptizing everything in sight. “Helps” collect the newspaper at the front gate. Eats breakfast. Takes a nap.

Cat’s Morning: “Helps” make Amy’s bed. Relocates to printer. Sleeps.

Seren is determined to satisfy her resolutions.

Seren is determined to break her all-time sleep record. Image Copr. Amy Shojai, CABC

Human’s Morning: Slaps bug bites from tromping through field after the dog. Collects newspaper while keeping dog from lunging at morning traffic. Fills dog bowl, reads paper. Eats breakfast. Fends off doggy begging for leftovers. Fills cat bowl—wonders where cat is. Showers, checks email, writes. Twitters. Writes some more. Checks email again. Facebook posts. Writes. Answers phone, hangs up on telemarketer. Stares at computer screen.

Dog’s Noon: Barks. It’s Frisbee time! Goes outside, plays fetch. Plays fetch some more. Baptizes stuff. Runs into tank. Comes inside. Shakes off stinky water. Plays tug with towel. Naps.

Cat’s Noon: Moves from printer to front cat tree perch. Checks food options. Sleeps.

Amy’s Noon: Applies bug bite ointment to shins. Wipes down walls, floor, appliances from dog shake-off of dirty water. Fixes lunch. Fends off begging dog. Fends off begging cat. Writes.

Dog’s Afternoon: Barks. Time to play—Frisbee? Ball? Chase the hose? Car ride? Yes yes yes YES!

Amy’s Afternoon: Checks email. Takes dog for car ride to check snail mail. Argues with dog about driving. Goes to gas station. Argues with dog about staying in car. Goes into post office. Comes out of post office. Makes dog move from driver seat. Drives home. Wipes dog drool off car windows. Fills the dog bowl. Writes. Writes some more. Grateful for dog naps.

Cat’s Afternoon: Checks food bowl, nothing’s changed. Crunches several bites. Empties bowl. Checks dog toys. Checks empty dog bowl. Checks dog bed. Revels in dog absence. Hears dog coming home. Races to second cat tree to glare. Sleeps.

Dog’s Evening: Hasn’t played in HOURS, going through serious play-withdrawal!

Amy’s Evening: Shuts down computer. Runs dog outside. Tries to wear dog out. Fails. Brings dog inside. Dumps dog toys, one by one, off of lap where dog deposits them. Tries to eat dinner.

Cat’s Evening: Wakes up. Checks empty food bowl. Meows. Meows some more. Looks for dog, and meows again to get dog’s attention. Hisses when dog approaches. Cat smile when dog gets in trouble. Leaps to Amy’s chair to check her dinner. Human food sucks. But dog wants it. Dares dog to approach. Hisses.

Dog’s Night: Brings balls (thirteen different kinds), four stuffed toys, three Frisbees and five chew bones into living room. Thrusts them one by one into human’s laps. Again. And again. Waits with expectation. Can’t believe nobody understands the play invite. Humans aren’t very bright. Sighs. Grabs consolation bear and sucks like a pacifier.

Cat’s Night: Glares at dog. Races around up and down stairs. Thumps toys. Scratches—loudly—on upstairs cat tree. Riles up dog. Success! Only cats know the right way to play! Dog gets in trouble. Cat’s job is done. She sleeps.

Amy’s Night: Dreams about Frisbees, writing, and lap-purring cats.

Would I really trade places with my fur-kids? Hmnn. Maybe the better question is would they trade with me? After all, I’ve got thumbs to open doors and food bags, scritch hard to reach itchy spots, drive cars and flip Frisbees.

I love hearing from you, so please share comments and questions. Do you have an ASK AMY question you’d like answered? Do you have a new kitten and need answers? Stay up to date on all the latest just subscribe the blog, “like” me on Facebook, check out weekly PUPPY CARE must knows, and sign up for Pet Peeves newsletter.

Thanksgiving–The Pet Writer Way

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Magical-Dawg age 8 weeks…the first day he came home! Image Copr. Amy Shojai, CABC

It’s the day after Thanksgiving and I plan to take the day off, for a change, and enjoy spending time with my family. This blog post revisits a similar one from a couple year’s ago but is no less true now. Hope it’s appropriate to share my THANKS list with those of you who also love pets. And I hope you’ll add to the list of thanks by posting about your blessings in the comments.

I’m thankful to be home with my family—furry and human—rather than traveling. For many years I spent the weekend before Thanksgiving at conferences and so I’m grateful that can’t-miss event has been moved to an earlier date. I’m thankful that I’m not on the bumpy road and bumpier plane. I’m thankful my human family, though miles away, remain close-knit and loving. And I’m thankful all remain healthy.

I’m thankful for veterinarians who make life better for the pets we adore. I’m thankful for researchers who work to find diagnoses, treatments, and cures for our ailments, both for pets and for people. I’m thankful for the animal welfare volunteers who do the work of the angels when others somehow let pets down.

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Seren still loves her sun baths. Image Copr. Amy Shojai, CABC

I’m thankful that I have the best job in the world, sharing information about the cats and dogs that have become so important to our emotional and physical health. I’m thankful for publishers, editors, magazines, newspapers, TV and radio shows, websites, bloggers and email lists that share these important resources to benefit cats and dogs and the people who love them. And I’m thankful to writing organizations, teachers, agents and all those who promote the craft of good communication and help others pursue this rewarding craft.

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Nekkid tummy after spay–when Seren came home with us for good! Image Copr. Amy Shojai, CABC

I’m thankful that I found a dumped kitten sixteen years ago and brought her into my home and heart. I’m thankful that Seren-kitty still acts like a kitten and stays so healthy–despite her arthritis and recent bout with schneezles. I’m sure my veterinarian also is thankful Seren remains spry, since she is not a happy patient and the clinic staff likes to keep their fingers intact. I’m thankful she’s given up playing “gravity experiments” with my fine breakables, and has decided it’s okay to nap on my lap nearly every evening. I’m also thankful that she’s decided the dog is a boob and great fun to torment.

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Momma dog “Greta” with Magic and his siblings (can you guess which one is Magic?). Image Copr. Amy Shojai, CABC

I’m thankful for responsible breeders who ensure purebred dogs and pedigreed cats have a healthy paw-start in life. I’m thankful that Magic-dawg at age seven has become a bit…just a bit…less driven. I’m thankful for water hoses, and tennis balls, stuffed teddy bears and Frisbees that wear Magic out without exhausting me at the same time. I’m thankful my roughneck dawg hasn’t had any injury this year, and that his limping swollen paw turned out to be bug-sting reaction easily diagnosed and treated. I’m thankful Magic is smart, funny, a comedian, and a wonder to train—and doesn’t argue but has accepted that the cat is the boss of him.

I’m thankful that although he never grew up with pets, my husband loves Seren and Magic as much as I do. I’m even more thankful they adore him back (that could get awkward!). I’m thankful for my church family—pet lovers or not—who also support my furry notions. I’m particularly thankful to the Cuchara Gang (you know who you are) and partner in musical-play-writing crime who lift me up with friendship and love.

Finally, I’m thankful to you—yes, those who read this blog or any of the other venues mentioned. Without you, I would not have a career, and my life’s passion would remain unfulfilled. Without you, your pets wouldn’t have the wonderful love and care you provide. Without you, there wouldn’t be any reason for this heartfelt—THANK YOU.

Enjoy your Thanksgiving. And please share all your special thanks in the comments–let’s get a THANK-fest going!

I love hearing from you, so please share comments and questions. Do you have an ASK AMY question you’d like answered? Do you have a new kitten and need answers? Stay up to date on all the latest just subscribe the blog, “like” me on Facebook, check out weekly PUPPY CARE must knows, and sign up for Pet Peeves newsletter.

All About How A Dog Uses Cat Litter Box

All About How A Dog Uses Cat Litter Box

When cat and dog people get together, you never know what to expect. We had an interesting discussion about when a dog uses cat litter box, among other things. Can you train a dog to use the litterbox? Yes!
CWA 2013 005I originally wrote this post while at the Cat Writers Conference in Dallas. At these events, we have a ball attending expert writing seminars and schmoozing with lots of cat (and dog) lovers. At the opening event there were lots of BOO-tiful costumes displayed during the bag-stuffing party. Yes, had to don my wings!

Dog Uses Cat Litter Box

Such a gathering of pet professionals often results in some terrific discussions. We often talk about the most common cat behavior issue–cat litter box problems. I wonder how many dog trainers  hear questions about training dogs to use cat litter boxes? Or how often dogs teach themselves to use the cat litter box! It sure did puzzle the pet owner!

How about you? Have your dogs ever shown unusual interest in the cat’s litter box? No, I don’t mean THAT WAY as in yucky treats from the litter box, but wanting to potty there? Here’s the Ask Amy video for my take. Oh, and be aware that cats might object to the dog claiming their potty! Learn more about cat litter box training here.

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I love hearing from you, so please share comments and questions. Do you have an ASK AMY question you’d like answered? Do you have a new kitten and need answers? NOTE: Some links to books or other products may be to affiliates, from which I may earn a small percentage of sales, but I do not recommend anything unless I feel it would benefit readers. Stay up to date on all the latest just subscribe the blog, “like” me on Facebook, and sign up for Pet Peeves newsletter. Stay up to date with the latest book give aways and appearancesrelated to my September Day pet-centric THRILLERS WITH BITE!

Ask Amy: Pets Pester When I’m On Computer

MagicOfficeI’m head-down crazy in the middle of revisions on HIDE AND SEEK. If you missed the NAME THAT DOG/CAT contest and want in on the fun (and get you and your pet name in the book) be sure to check out Monday’s blog. Add your suggestions for names in the comments.

Just because I’m at deadline doesn’t stop the fur-kids from demanding quality time. Even when they’ve had lots of one-on-one attention, though, they often decide that the best time to pester is…

SerenComputerWhen I’m on the computer. Usually in the middle of a tricky plot point. Or at deadline on something. Seren-kitty simply walks across the keyboard, and Magical-Dawg becomes a lap dog (all 90 pounds of him!).

This was one of several questions I got over the past several months, and since many of my readers also are writers (and pet lovers), it seemed the perfect topic for this most recent Ask Amy. How about your pets? What do they do when you’re head-down busy on the computer? And…what do YOU do?

http://youtu.be/ifbr69x7lWE

I love hearing from you, so please share comments and questions. Do you have an ASK AMY question you’d like answered–post in the comments. Do you have a new kitten and need answers? Stay up to date on all the latest just subscribe the blog, “like” me on Facebook, check out weekly PUPPY CARE must knows, and sign up for Pet Peeves newsletter. Stay up to date with the latest book give aways and appearances related to my  THRILLERS WITH BITE!

Lighten The Load: Reduced Weight Litter Helps Humans

Those who follow this blog know that I rarely review products, so it has to be pretty special for me to take the time to do so. I was curious, though, having used the Tidy Cats products for many years. Recently after reviewing a number of cat box substrates, I was curious about the “lightweight” claim.

Tidy Cats LightWeight Litter–Updates to Review

UPDATE: About 2 weeks after changing the litter, Seren-Kitty developed the the “sneezles”— an upper respiratory infection. At the time, I wondered if it might have something to do with the strong aroma of the cat litter since she’d never had an issue with URI in over a decade. With treatment, she recovered, but I also noticed the new litter became more and more dusty with each new batch. Maybe that’s because we purchased in bulk at Sam’s Club. In any event, we switched to a different product by early 2014, and her “sneezles” finally went away. Coincidence? Perhaps.

ANOTHER UPDATE, February 2019: A new version of Tidy Cats LightWeight Litter has been released with claims of “no dust.” If I decide to again give the product a try, I’ll add to the update.

Tidy Cats LightWeight Litter

Tidy Cats Light Weight Litter Tidy Cats Lightweight LitterI was sent an advance sample of a new version of Tidy Cats litter to try out with my Seren-Kitty. While the product I received was free, I was not compensated for my honest review and all comments in this blog are my opinions alone.

Since I only have one tiny (6-pound) cat, litter lasts a good long time at my house. But households that have multiple cats must lug massive amounts of litter box filler. A couple of years ago when I hurt my back, there was no way I could schlep a single jug-o-litter. The weight is a big issue for many cat lovers–and Tidy Cats LightWeight version answers that challenge.

It is HALF THE WEIGHT of a comparable amount of clumping litter. No joke! The jug I was sent weighs 8.5 pounds while the same amount of a clay clumping litter in that same size jug weighs 20 pounds. PAW-some!

Clumping Cat Litter

Tidy Cats LightWeight also is a clay clumping product. The ingredients list says “natural clay and mineral product with deodorizing system.” Seren acts like it’s no different than what she’s always used. After a bit over a week’s use, I find the clumping works as well or better than the clay clumping brand I used before, and the dust level isn’t as great. Even the tracking has been reduced–yay!

My only nit is that the odor control aroma seems a bit pungent for my tastes and I worry that some cats might find that off-putting. I asked and was told the suggested retail price is $12.99 while a 20-pound “regular” Tidy Cats clumping costs about $8.50 so the Tidy Cats LightWeight costs more–but for lightening the load, it may indeed be worth it. This reduced-weight product will be released into stores sometime this fall.

Choosing Cat Litter–ASK the CAT!

Would you choose a litter half the weight of your regular litter, even if it’s a bit pricier? Is the weight, dust, tracking and/or odor control the most important aspect of choosing litter? For me, it’s whether “herself” likes the litter–and fortunately, Seren seemed to think this was the same-old-same-old as before (win-win for me!).

Along the same lines, some cats get so confused they try to “cover” when they’re outside the box. Here’s an Ask Amy that answers the why behind the behavior. With new kittens, they may need litter box training help. If your cats have litter box issues, check out this post for help.

I love hearing from you, so please share comments and questions. Do you have an ASK AMY question you’d like answered? Do you have a new kitten and need answers? NOTE: Some links to books or other products may be to affiliates, from which I may earn a small percentage of sales, but I do not recommend anything unless I feel it would benefit readers. Stay up to date on all the latest just subscribe the blog, “like” me on Facebook, and sign up for Pet Peeves newsletter. Stay up to date with the latest book give aways and appearances related to my September Day pet-centric THRILLERS WITH BITE!

Pets, Theater & Music, Oh My!

Last night I attended the SCP Volunteer Appreciating Dinner and Preview Performance of the annual fundraiser show. This year, it starred four local vocalists, the extremely talented Paul Jordan, Nick Timmerman, Aaron Adair and Blake Rice in FOREVER PLAID, directed by Nikki Silva. The show runs this weekend and next, August 2-11, at the Honey McGee Playhouse in Sherman, TX.

Run, do not walk, to get your tickets!

If you love music, if you love comedy, if you love theater–this is the show for you and the whole family. The four characters, wannabe 1950s songsters, missed their chance at stardom when nearly 50 years ago they were T-boned by a school bus and died–and have now come back from the grave for a one night performance. The close harmony is spot-on, the patter funny, the reactions subtle–and deadpan hilarious–and choreography so campy the audience doesn’t know whether to groan or give a standing-O. The elevated set, a bandstand that seems to hover amidst the clouds, makes the most of the available space while the onstage keyboard and bass player give all the support needed. Deceptively simple lighting and sound enhance the experience, and the costumes–white dinner jackets and later their namesake plaid tuxedos–stay with the theme of a low-rent concert. The crooning to Perry Como’s golden sweater will make you swoon. The featured solos (each actor gets several opportunities) literally rock the house!

Full disclosure–I know the guys in the show and would expect no less, and I also know the talented director. Having never seen the show, I’d suspected it would be a fun night with a thoroughly forgettable script. But this is one you’ll be buzzing about for weeks to come–and kicking yourself if you don’t go. Call for tickets now, the seats won’t last long, I guarantee. Here’s the number…903-892-7652…and learn more about the theater here.

Seren-ViolinI was invited to the Volunteer Dinner because last season I played cello as a volunteer orchestra member in the production of SEUSSICAL, and also volunteered as an usher. Many of y’all know that I perform now and then as well.

I love music and so do pets. Couldn’t get away from music during my growing-up years, since my Dad was a music teacher. Piano lessons started in second grade and our Sheltie used to rest underneath the piano when I practiced. Cello lessons in fifth grade, and I found my “major” instrument (voice) in high school. Yep, I was a music major in college–sang opera, among other things.

And then I ended up with a career writing about cats and dogs. Funny how that happens. Today I also write music (never saw THAT coming!) and just invested in some new Bose computer speakers after my CD player died. After not being able to listen to some of my favs in many months, it’s a joy to finally be surrounded by music once again. Oh, and in my thriller series, the main character plays cello. I’ve not yet decided how her cat Macy and dog Shadow should react–maybe some of your comments from your own pets will give me some inspiration, so do tell!

I do find some music distracting, though, and must be very selective about type of music when I write. As much as I loved FOREVER PLAID I couldn’t listen to them while working. I’d end up singing along and never get any writing done, or imagine the way certain pieces are arranged. Do you listen to music while you work? What kind is best for your favorite activity? Does it help or hinder your inspiration?

Our animal companions also have a relationship to music. That can be good–or bad, depending on if your pets have the same taste as you.

GSD-Music Magical-Dawg howls along if I happen to sing above a certain range. Everyone’s a critic–I guess it’s good that I chose writing as my work. Dogs (and coyotes) answer sirens with howls, and probably think human singers are simply inept at howling. Ahem.

Seren-kitty turns on her lion cough…ACK-ACK-ACK-ACK…when I play certain notes on my cello. I can’t wait to hear what she thinks of the violin if/when my husband finally gets around to taking lessons.

On a more practical note (pun intended), music can be a therapeutic tool in your pet’s home health care kit. Pleasant music can mask scary noises like thunder or New Year’s fireworks, or upsetting sounds like barking neighbor or raccoon scrabbling in the back yard. But more than that, the cadence of certain sounds influences the body’s natural rhythms and can speed them up and energize the listener, or slow them down to calm him.

So, does your dog or cat appreciate music? what kind gets his woofer working and purrs bubbling? Here’s an article with more details about how you can make music work for your dogs (hint: it helps cats, too!).


 

I love hearing from you, so please share comments and questions. Do you have an ASK AMY question you’d like answered–post in the comments. Do you have a new kitten and need answers? Stay up to date on all the latest just subscribe the blog, “like” me on Facebook, check out weekly PUPPY CARE must knows, and sign up for Pet Peeves newsletter. Stay up to date with the latest book give aways and appearances related to my  THRILLERS WITH BITE!

Pet Passions & Channeling My “Inner Dog” (and Cat)

UschiFunnyI’m feeling a bit philosophical these days, as I continue to swim the fiction waters of the HIDE AND SEEK thriller sequel, once again with dog viewpoint and cat-astic plot points. Between the puppies.about.com nonfiction postings, this blog and the weekly newspaper columns, my work–and life–revolves around pets. For more than twenty years, I’ve puzzled over their actions, behaviors, motivations and care, nearly 24/7. Pets rule. That’s who I am.

Some folks write to change the world. They do so with passion, dedication, and great skill, and I admire them greatly. I also write to make a difference. Sometimes manage to save lives.  I rarely know what impact the work has, though, because those who most benefit from my writing never read it. I blogged about how cats read a couple of weeks ago, but some critters skip the reading and instead probably baptize it. Please don’t leave my newspaper columns on the floor. It’s disheartening.

After decades puzzling about P’ETiQuette and studying furry foibles, I’m channeling my “inner dog” with the current thriller to extrapolate what pets think–and specifically, what Shadow (the hero service dog) wants out of life in general and this adventure in particular. Macy the Maine Coon in the story has a much bigger role this time around, and I’m having a ball as his feline character develops.

There are some clueless humans, too, that September and her fur-kids must deal with. I get to speculate what exactly pets see in humans that allows them to put up with clueless folks who seem scent-blind and hearing-stupid toward all the clear-as-crystal animal talk being sent our way.

So I accept that I’m different. Pets are my obsession, my fixation, my passion in life. My true readership will never ask for a pawtograph, or care if I have initials after my name. But they will do back-flips for the right treat, and wag and purr with delight should a human finally understand that tail-talk.

But until my audience comes out from under the bed, or tires from dog-earing one of my books and actually SPEAKS in language most owners understand–and puts me gloriously, wonderfully out of business–I’ll keep typing, blogging, and fiction-ing away.

So now it’s your turn. Listen to your inner “pet” and please share–what do you think your dog or cat (or both) want their clueless humans to understand? Maybe it’ll go in the HIDE AND SEEK book, too!

I love hearing from you, so please share comments and questions. Do you have an ASK AMY question you’d like answered–post in the comments. Do you have a new kitten and need answers? Stay up to date on all the latest just subscribe the blog, “like” me on Facebook, check out weekly PUPPY CARE must knows, and sign up for Pet Peeves newsletter. Stay up to date with the latest book give aways and appearances related to my  THRILLERS WITH BITE!

Catnip Clues & STARE-‘o-DEATH!

Okay, my blog “burped” last Saturday…and posted this blog early. So if you already read it, sorry about that.

I’m repeating this blog covering catnip and why dogs stare from 2011 because…well, I’ve got a whole bunch new followers, AND the schedule for fiction-ing leaves me little time these days. Besides, it’s my blog and I make up the rules as I go along. So there! Also, I figured the blog needed a serious influsion of sparkle-icity to keep with the “bling” theme. I’ve not posted any “new” Ask Amy videos in a while but that’s on my to-do list so please offer suggestions for topics in the comments.

To start things out on the right paw, today I’ve posted two. Here’s one about cats and catnip:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oW_mRGjqTGM

And just to offer equal fair play, here’s an Ask Amy about doggy eyeball communication:

Please share–do your cats carry the “catnip gene?” How often do they get a kitty fix? Did you get ’em on film? *snicker*

And for the dog-matic followers, have you ever experienced the canine stare-‘o-death? Of course my Magical-dawg also stares at me when he wants me to read his mind….  “Time for a car ride, yes yes yes???!”

I love hearing from you, so please share comments and questions. Do you have an ASK AMY question you’d like answered? Do you have a new kitten and need answers? Stay up to date on all the latest just subscribe the blog, “like” me on Facebook, check out weekly PUPPY CARE must knows, and sign up for Pet Peeves newsletter. Stay up to date with the latest book give aways and appearances related to my  THRILLERS WITH BITE!

Monday Mentions: Thrillerfest & Bunny Slippers with Teeth

Tfest 054I’m just home from Thrillerfest. What an amazing experience! This wasn’t my first attendance but was special and a stand-out in so many ways. That’s me at the Debut Author table on Saturday morning with 26 others in our class who were able to attend the July 13 breakfast. There were 60 in the whole class this year–wow! Here’s a Library Journal article.

Each of us had 60-seconds to say anything we wanted. Many talked briefly about themselves, their book, and their journey to reach that wonderful goal, and I was so honored to be among these talented writers, and inspired by their dedication and effort. And yes, a little teary that I’d managed to climb that thrilling mountain, too. Six years ago, I sat in the audience and felt lost…and truly didn’t believe I’d ever have that opportunity. But I went home, put on my bunny slippers and wrote the thriller I’d always wanted to read. LOST AND FOUND was born at Thrillerfest and because of ITW, today my bunny slippers have TEETH and I write Thrillers With Bite!

Tfest 056And yes, I wore my bunny slippers with pointy teeth to the breakfast–you’ll notice the ears also have bling. Enjoy a few of the pictures from the weekend (below) and then you can click on the Thrillerfest 2013 Set for more pictures. Be sure to scroll down to catch the short video from the banquet–I will have some more fun video from the weekend soon, too!

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My roomies–Carol Shenold and Paula Lanier. Thursday evening dinner outside at a terrific restaurant owned by Paula’s friend David.

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The always classy Steve Berry graciously allows a photo op.

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Lee Child at the Friday evening “Fan Fest” (one of my many fan-girl moments!)

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Again at the FanFest event, that’s me with the gorgeous thriller gals–August McLaughlin, Carol Shenold, Paula Lanier

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More famous authors! August, Doug Lyle, Carol, moi and the gorgeous Twist Phelan. (Can you tell Doug is in heaven?)

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We were guests at FanFest courtesy of the WONDERFUL Diane Capri (far right). We even color coordinated…great minds. *s*

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Me with the WANA-Mama Kristen Lamb!

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Paula, John Land and me…our “annual photo shoot.”

Monday Mentions is the mash-up-day of all the neato-torpedo writer links and videos, pet schtuff and bling and writer-icity crappiocca collected over the past week. Check out the Simon’s Cats pet-astic videos at the bottom, too. For new followers to the blog, welcome! and you can expect more cat and dog specific schtuff later in the week on Wednesday and Friday.

 WRITER-ICITY SCHTUFF

 Russian Ebook Market Growing

B&N CEO Resigns

Ways to Boost Books After Awards Wins

Reading/Writing Boosts Cognition well…duh!

5 Book Marketing MYTHS

Marketing Maze–A Guide Through the Jungle?

 Kristin Nador’s Blog with some important videos for keeping your writing hands healthy

outsmarting catsPET-CENTRIC SCHTUFF

Outsmarting Cats by my colleague and terrific writer/artist Wendy Christensen, is an update of her 2004 terrific Outwitting Cats. You won’t want to miss her terrific illustrations (and great info!).

Doggy Anxiety Tips

Iran Bans Dogs in Public Places

Planet Dog Foundation Gives $1 Million! I love this company, they donate a portion of every sale to service dog organizations…and they make GREAT products! (Magical-Dawg luvs their schtuff)

Dr. Sophia Yin’s Guide to Low-Stress Handling hey y’all, it’s FREE for a limited time!

TV Channel for Dogs

 

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