Friday, December 28, 2012

The Dogs (and People) of Blogville

Today is the 2-month anniversary of our hurricane evacuation (whole story can be found via that link if you're out of the loop). My hope of having renovation work start before the end of the year is not looking good, which is discouraging for certain, but I feel confident it will happen sometime in January.

This seems like as good a time as any to share some very lovely things that have happened in these 60+ days.

I'm not sure how many times I've mentioned this before, but the writers, readers, and animal lovers who make up the pet blogging community should be given some kind of humanitarian award for being the types of people who remind you that there are still a lot of folks out there who are selfless, thoughtful, and just plain nice.

I do not run around telling everyone I know that I'm a dog blogger, although I never hide the blog or my association with it. I very much identify with this fantastic post on Rescued Insanity about being outed as a blogger. But I think I should be more proud of this part of my life. I still sometimes feel like people outside the community think it's a big joke, but I'm no longer going to worry about that.

How can I not want to fully admit to being part of a group of people who run fundraisers partially in my family's honor? Or who run a holiday gift exchange involving nothing but being really awesome to another blogger--even if said other blogger has not put in the same amount of effort as her gift-giver?

Let me elaborate a bit.

First, the fundraiser. Jodi, of Heart Like a Dog, along with the design talents of Julie (from The Daily Dog Blog), and the efforts of lots of bloggers who sent in photos and voted, created a calendar called the Dogs of Blogville, and then promoted it and sold it--all with the goal of sending the proceeds to Roxanne & Lilly, from Champion of My Heart, who are facing quite a battle after an adverse vaccination reaction, and to us.

Yes. Us. Desmond, Joey, and I. Because of that stupid jerk Sandy.

How do you go about thanking someone, many someones (countless of whom you don't even know--and all being people you have never even met), for thinking of you and wanting to help, and then doing something about it? You cannot do anything other than offer your heartfelt thanks. I appreciate every single thing about this effort. Thank you to everyone who had a part in this. We got our copy of the calendar, and it is truly well done. I absolutely love it, and I especially love seeing some of my favorite blogville dogs in the pix. Plus, this calendar has brought some new-to-me bloggers to my attention.

Front cover

Back cover

All the dogs featured in the calendar

There is talk of another round of ordering for the calendars, in case anyone missed out, and I really hope that happens. I believe there was originally a thought of using the proceeds to donate to a rescue organization or another animal charity. That would round this all out in such a perfect way.

Other than the calendar, another awesome thing was the gift exchange.

The internet can be a terribly negative place. Things can get nasty in your comments section or on Twitter before you even realize what's happening. It can be unwelcoming and cliquey, too. But I think that if Pamela, of Something Wagging This Way Comes, were able to single-handedly rid the internet of all icky-ness, she would do it in a heartbeat and never look back.

She set up a virtual gift exchange to spread some love among the bloggers. Mel, of No Dog About It blog, was my gift-giver, and I've been on the receiving end of lots of social media love for Life With Desmond all month long. Plus, Mel topped it off with this very cool post about us and the blog.

I first started to really follow Mel's blog when she had the awful experience of losing her foster dog Lady. It was a long and scary couple of weeks, but there was a very happy ending and it was another one of those times when you see the power of animal lovers, both in the flesh and on social media. You can read the entire saga through this post (which is the end of the story, so I recommend scrolling down to the end of the post and using the links to the earlier posts and reading in order).

What's great about No Dog About It is that, besides personal stories and cute pix of her doggies, Mel often has really useful information to share. You can learn something. :-) I implore you to check it out.

For lack of knowing what else to say--THANK YOU to everyone, and I hope you all have enjoyed a fantastic holiday season and get to ring in the new year with those you love.
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Monday, December 10, 2012

Hurricane Update Part 3

I have to warn you, this is going to be a bit of a long ramble and much of it may not make sense, but if you bear with me, I'll be your best friend. :-)

On October 25th, I was in the middle of writing a followup about Desmond's esophageal stricture, addressing all the great input we got from readers. That seems like it was a lifetime ago.

Strangely enough, Desmond has actually been regurgitating less since the displacement. I'm not sure how much of that is due to the fact that he's also been eating less regularly. He is far less interested in his THK meals, which he was going bonkers over before everything happened. We bought some Merrick dry food to sprinkle on top as a fun supplement but sometimes have to add people food or crumble soft treats into the THK. That's all well and good, but it's just one more thing making it hard to get him back on any kind of schedule.

"See, Mom? I can eat bones again."
What's adding to this problem is the fact that we all sort of feel like we're on a displacement vacation, if that makes sense. Basically all health and wellness and structure rules have gone out the window with both us and the dog. I had a hard enough time getting Joey on board with all the plans and training, never mind getting an additional two people on the same page--people who are fully the spoil-your-grandpup type.

Everyone does know what's safe or not safe to give Desmond, so I'm not worried that he's going to get sick or anything, but I've got concerns about him gaining weight. So far, he hasn't--which I previously mentioned is super annoying, seeing as how only one of my pairs of pants that were salvaged from the house still fit me, and it's only been 42 days and 23 hours (but who's counting?)--but that can easily change, so I'm trying to keep an eye on it.

We've been meaning to start walking him more often or for longer periods of time, but the aforementioned pants issue has been a hinderance for me, less because of fit and more because of the fact that I lost all of my warm comfy clothes and dog-walking sneakers. I ordered new ones, but obviously shipping is still all messed up, so things have been taking a while.

Oh and have I mentioned that Desmond's reactivity is off the charts? Have I also mentioned how much more stuff is going on in my parents' neighborhood than in ours? I had enough problems in East Rockaway at 5:30 in the morning. Never mind Queens--at any hour of day. People, kids, cats, other dogs (so many other dogs), cars, busses, trucks, random yelling and barking, waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaay too many holiday decorations that move and sing and generally need to tone it down.

So add all those things up with the darkness and the cold and the "displacement vacation" mentality, and you do not have someone who is jumping out of bed, or off the couch, or away from her "desk" (aka someone else's kitchen table) to go for a jaunt with her crazy dog. Very sucky, the whole damn thing.

"And by 'displacement vacation', you mean 'full-sized pull-out bed all for me all day long', right?"
I'm also trying to find a vet around here, because I really think this poor dog needs those damn anxiety meds more than ever before and our vet in LI won't prescribe them without having us go through a behavior modification program. I don't necessarily disagree with him, but it's a bit frustrating, what with the whole Animal Behavior College thing I've been doing for over a year. I mean, I can do the modification myself and if I couldn't I'd ask for help from the vet or from my mentor trainer, but scheduling-wise, it's very hard to coordinate with another person, especially right now.

The separation anxiety doesn't seem to be subsiding at all really either, but I can't work from home four days a week forever. We found a doggie daycare that's very close to my husband's job, so we're going to give them a try for a day in the next week or two. If things go well, then I can actually go out into the world to my job two days a week or even more, starting in January. And that would be great for my own sanity.

In the meantime, we're going to try and get this poor dog over to the closest dog park on Saturday or Sunday afternoons. That's been hard, too, because of weather and needing to be back at the house. I love Desmond with all my heart, but there is no denying how much less complicated this displacement would be if we were a no-dog family. And it's very hard not to feel just utterly terrible for him at all times. Poor guy has no clue what the heck is going on or where we are or where his house is or when we're going back to it.

We had discussed taking Desmond back to the house/neighborhood once in a while to keep it in his memory, but we're not even sure that it's safe to do that thanks to whatever horrifically gross things were floating around and have now seeped into the ground. By the time we can take him back, the house will already be in the renovation phase and won't look or smell the same anyway. How messed up is my doggie going to be when we eventually move back home?

At least it won't look like this anymore...

All photos from after the surge receded. We had about 3 feet of water inside the first floor of the house during the height of the storm. Thank goodness for that ground-level crawl space. Our neighbor had floor-to-ceiling flood water on her first floor. And, yes, that is boat gasoline you see making a rainbow in the water on the right. 

I don't fully understand the logistics, but neighbors who did not evacuate for this storm reported that the water was at the street signs and a police boat came down the block to rescue children and wives from the houses. Our block is a bit odd in the way it's slanted--even our property and house have some odd slants going on--so some houses got it a lot worse than others, even though there was basically a river going through. I cannot even imagine being one of those people who stayed and witnessed that. Thank goodness everyone we know made it through without injury or worse.

For those who have been asking, I can share this good news: we have finally heard back from the insurance companies and now have a budget for our repairs. Much of the demo has been completed and mold remediation has begun. I'm hopeful some kind of work related to moving forward--as opposed to making this mess go away--can begin before Christmas.

A note to all my pet blogger friends: I am still trying to keep up with everyone as much as I can. I have surely not forgotten about you or your funny and gorgeous and talented pups. Sorry for being a creepy lurker!
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Sunday, December 9, 2012

Printcopia Photo Canvas Giveaway

Here we go with another giveaway--a great one just in time for Christmas.

(image provided by Printcopia)

Canvas photo prints. Who doesn't love them? There's something about seeing one of your photographs recreated on a canvas that makes it feel extra special. Prices--and qualities--for canvas photo prints vary greatly depending on the company you choose to create your piece. Now you have a chance to win a great-quality, free 8" x 10" canvas from Printcopia!

I know the canvas is great quality, because we got one ourselves of Mr. Desmond. And I have to say, I was very impressed with the process of making the canvas on their site. (That is until I ran into some difficulties switching back and forth from the side-wrapping options. Every time I clicked a different option, it would bump my photo into an off-center position on the preview canvas. Very odd. Although, truth be told, my browsers are all out of date, because my OS on this MacBook is so many versions old that the software I would need to begin the dual-process upgrade is no longer even available on the Apple store website as a download. Le sigh. For the record, I am running Mac OS X Version 10.5.8. If any of you IT folks out there have any tips for me on how to upgrade without waiting for software to get delivered or going to the Apple store in person, I'd love to hear them. Anyway, my point is, I don't know if that problem was coming from my end or Printcopia's, but it was a problem nonetheless.)

So sorry. Major sidebar there. Back to the canvas.

On Printcopia's site, it's super easy to upload your photo. The biggest problem you'll have is choosing a photo to upload, because not only can you pick from whatever you have stored on your computer, but you can also upload directly from Facebook and Instagram.

Now you know that I almost fell out of my chair when I saw that Instagram option. I seriously considered a few shots from our feed there, but in the end--after much debate--we decided to go with this photo I took of Desmond at Coindre Hall last winter:

I purposely lightened the shaded areas on Desmond's front, because I was worried about it all coming out too dark to see his facial expression, which very clearly says, "Oh, bother. The ball is just out of my reach. Woe is me." 
Throughout the process of making your canvas, there are various customization options to choose from, including dimensions and custom dimensions, thickness of the canvas, resizing your photo, retouching your photo, choice of backing (for hanging purposes), and how to treat the sides of the canvas. You can very much make this photo canvas your own. Plus, they offer you wall-mount hangers to help you get your canvas up on the wall easily. We didn't choose to buy those, because we happen to have one of those ridiculous frame-hanging kits that comes with like 200 of these things.

Here are some screen shots from the process--I just did another one really quick to show you how it works. I pulled the photo directly from Instagram onto an 8" x 8" canvas (because the Instagram pix are squares, so it's just easier that way).

I resized my image so I wouldn't need to include the black area that lives at the top of it or the railing that's at the bottom of it (neither of which you can see here)

The first of the wrap/border options is a mirror image. This is the option that caused all the problems for me when I did this the first time around--that I mentioned earlier. Today, I didn't have that problem, so I have no clue what that means. Maybe the site wasn't working properly at the time. I surely haven't fixed my computer in the meantime.

The second involves the image continuing around the sides. Here you can see how the actual photo has black at the top (due to the way I added it to Instagram) and a railing at the bottom. 

The third option is to choose a border color. I really liked this idea, but I couldn't get it to look quite right when I tried with Desmond's pic and I was very worried that what looked like it matched on my screen would not look like it matched in real life. 
And here's the final preview, as a mock 3D canvas. That gray color on the side is just to represent shadow--it does not come out with a gray tint when you get the canvas.
One of the other great things about Printcopia is that everything is made right here in the U.S. and all inks are nontoxic and eco friendly.

Now, I was supposed to do this review almost a month ago, which at this point feels like it was about a year ago. Obviously, the hurricane put a bit of a kink in all my blogging plans, but the other main effect this has had on this review is that I do not want to remove the canvas from the plastic wrap that it arrived in. We are not living in our house again yet, and I don't really have anywhere to keep extraneous items, so I thought the canvas would best be kept safe until I have my own walls again if I kept it all wrapped up in its original packaging, under the watchful eye of my dear mother. So, forgive me, but these photos of the finished product are semi-terrible.

With flash, on the iPhone, in terrible indoor lighting. Ugh.

Without flash. Slightly less horrible.

We went with the image wrap for the sides of our canvas, and I really like the way it came out.

A shot of the back, which comes with a standard hanger attached. Please note the date on the back. When I got my shipping notification, it seemed as though this was going to arrive the day of or perhaps the day after the nor'easter that blew through shortly after Stupid Sandy (as I am now calling her). I was in a near panic that this would be sitting on my front steps, getting drenched in snow and rain, but we have some very good friends in the neighborhood who kindly checked for the package at our house. Turns out it was delivered a few days after and our mail hold had already kicked in, so it was safely at the post office. Anyway, the date on the back implies that this was made and shipped out the same day, which I think is pretty cool. 
Needless to say, I am very happy with our canvas.  I know it's hard to tell from the pictures I took, but the quality is great--which can be tricky with a black-and-white photo for sure. I'd certainly love to see a color photo on one of these canvases in real life. I bet it's quite vivid.

For years now, I've been planning a gallery wall in our living room--planning being the farthest I got with that. When we get back to the improved version of our house in a few months (yes, I said months. Le sigh. Again.), I am going to make this photo canvas the focal point of the entire gallery. And I will be very very happy to unwrap it and hang it up.

If you'd like a chance to win your very own 8" x 10" photo canvas from Printcopia, please enter via the Rafflecopter widget below. This giveaway is open only to continental U.S. residents (sorry Alaska, Hawaii, Canada, and beyond!).

It seems they are currently running a 25% off sale on the site, which is great if you either don't win the giveaway or if you are in a big hurry and would rather just buy one now. :-)

Additionally, they have a sister company that does other kinds of printing: signs, banners, magnets, and business cards. The giveaway winner can arrange an exchange for one of those options if that better suits him or her. Good luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Disclaimer: I was provided one free 8" x 10" photo canvas from Printcopia in exchange for my honest opinion of their product & service.
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Monday, December 3, 2012

Pet Product Giveaway: Nature's Logic Sardine Oil

You know what's icky? Dry, flaky, itchy skin--on your dog. And if you're already in the swing of cold weather days like we are here in NY, then you know the icky-ness is only going to get worse. One good way to combat this problem? Seafood.

(image from Luxe File Chicago)

OK, I don't mean a delicious seafood tower from a fancy restaurant (although, I can't come up with too many reasons not to acquire one of those anyway), but I do mean Nature's Logic Sardine Oil.

Allow them to explain:

Excessive shedding, scratching and dander production might mean your dog or cat could benefit from a supplement containing omega-3’s. These essential fatty acids are well-known for their ability to help pets with dry, itchy skin and to promote a healthy coat. In fact, clinical studies in dogs determined that those given a diet with higher levels of omega-3 fatty acids had healthier skin and coat than those dogs fed a more standard diet. Sardine oil is rich in omega-3 fatty acids and a good addition to your pet’s diet. 
Nature’s Logic North Atlantic Sardine Oil, derived from wild sardines, is a natural, rich source of Omega-3 Fatty Acids. This brilliant, gold oil is the most popular source of EPA and DHA used in dietary supplements. It contains more EPA and DHA than salmon oil and has naturally lower levels of environmental contaminants. The oil is then purified and molecularly distilled to remove all the traces of harmful contaminants and achieve its human, pharmaceutical grade.

Now, we have not actually tested Nature's Logic Sardine Oil on Mr. Desmond. Due to his digestive/vomiting issues, we didn't think it was a good idea to introduce another variable to his diet. But Nature's Logic let us host a giveaway anyway, because they're cool like that. 

And you may recall that we have used other fish-oil supplements and saw good results--but in the end, I did not like the fact that they were pills (Desmond wouldn't eat them without great effort on our part) and decided the liquid form was the best option; however, I do think it can be messy and all fish-oil liquids should come in containers with pumps. That's my big suggestion to the entire fish-oil industry.

On another note, we absolutely loved the Nature's Logic dry dog food. My instinct tells me this would be a super product, as it comes from the same company, and their dog food is top-quality kibble. If they put so much effort into feeding doggies, why would their supplements involve any less care?

Most unfortunately, poor Des has some rough-looking elbows right now that could use help. It's a shame I couldn't feed him some of this oil. I'm genuinely sad about it. 

But you should give it a whirl. Enter the Rafflecopter below for your chance to win one 16oz bottle of Nature's Logic Sardine Oil. Oh, and this here giveaway is open to both U.S. and Canadian residents. Woop woop!

a Rafflecopter giveaway
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Friday, November 30, 2012

Review & Giveaway: Awkward Family Photos Pet Edition 2013 Calendar

In an attempt at regaining some normalcy around here, I'm getting back into the swing of things with some reviews and giveaways. Today, lucky readers, you get a little sneak peek at the 2013 Awkward Family Photos: Pet Edition day-to-day calendar.

Let me take just a quick moment to refresh your memory regarding last year's post on Awkward Family Pet Photos the book: review of seriously funny book.

You don't even have to read the review post if you don't want to, but you should at least click through to check out the photos included. Good times!

This year, the book has been expanded into a daily desk calendar. You know the ones--there's a square page for each day with a saying or photo or both.

Yup, that's it.

Usually a calendar like this sits on your desk and you forget to rip off the top page half the time and all of a sudden it's March and you're stuck peeling off page after page--or trying, unsuccessfully, to rip off almost three months' worth of pages at one time. Or, possibly worse yet, you have collected all of your favorites in a pile for future reference (like the time you saved the pages from the wine calendar that pictured bottles you swore you would go buy), only to come upon them later and get all annoyed at yourself for unachieved goals and toss the pages into the recycling bin in a huff.

Oh, is that just me?

Well, I'm not worried about that at all with this calendar. The fantastically awesome full-color (what a nice surprise that was!) photos and captions are so funny and ridiculous (or both), that you'll look forward to turning the pages--if you can resist cheating by looking ahead. And you won't feel obligated to save anything for later like some sort of real-life Pinterest board that just makes you feel bad. Not that you won't want to share some of these crazy pix with friends or co-workers. By all means, rip and share.

Here's a smattering of awkwardness from some personally meaningful dates:

Click to enlarge. That goes for all pix.

And here are some of the photos included on the actual calendar packaging:

This stuff is brilliant!

Would you like to proudly display a calendar like this on your desk? Enter via the Rafflecopter below for a chance to win your very own copy! (U.S. residents only)

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Disclaimer: I received one copy of the calendar in exchange for my honest opinion of the product.
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