March 16, 2014 22 Comments
The faces who welcome me home, all taken on different days.
March 13, 2014 16 Comments
Just a quick note to say Happy Birthday, Moses!
Looking back at past birthday posts, it seems that snow in March is common. Not this year. This year is muddy. Muddy outside, muddy dogs, muddy house.
Ah well. He doesn’t seem to mind!
Here’s to 6 more great years, buddy – at least!
February 26, 2014 27 Comments
This week’s Wordless Wednesday photos come from the recent long weekend when Moses met up with his buddy Douglas, a yellow lab, at River Park, one of Calgary’s bigger and nicer (and busier) dog parks, for some off-leash fun.
To see the rest of Wordless Wednesday, click here.
The blooper reel:
January 26, 2014 27 Comments
The past few days, we saw both a loss, and a gain, in canine.
The loss, was Moses’ canine. The x-ray showed the tooth should be removed. And removal then confirmed it – the tooh wasn’t super healthy, so extraction was definitely in Moses’ best interests.
(Gross photo warning in 3… 2… )
Moses was allowed back on regular exercise the next day, and has been recovering well. He gets pain killers once a day and antibiotics twice a day, and is otherwise doing well. Soft food is a must, but on a raw diet, we just need to make sure it’s fully thawed.
BUT, we also gained a canine!
After nearly a month away, Alma and the Husband are home for some well-deserved time off.
Who knows – maybe Alma can help keep Mo’s mind off his sore face while he heals up.
And we even went to Nose Hill Park, and it was completely enjoyable and uneventful.
So, not much mischief to speak of, but that’s intentional this weekend.
January 10, 2014 62 Comments
I started blogging in the fall of 2010 and first participated in the Pet Blogger Challenge just a few months later in 2011.
Actually, the first Challenge in 2011 was the only time I’ve participated.
In January 2012 I was on a no-computer-screens doctor’s order, due to surgery to repair a detached retina. I have no excuse for not participating in 2013; January just happened to fall during a long period of non-blogging that occurred for no good reason I can recall.
But I’ve been marginally more diligent since then, so why not accept the challenge once more?
It’s kind of hilarious to go back and read my first response to the challenge. So much naiveté and optimism. Though, truthfully I don’t expect a lot of difference in my responses as I go through questions.
We shall see.
1. How long have you been blogging? Please tell us why you started blogging, and, for anyone stopping by for the first time, give us a quick description of what your blog is about.
I’ve been blogging since September 2010, so for almost 3½ years.
The Soapbox is primarily about Moses and Alma, Newfoundland dogs living in Calgary, Canada with yours truly, the Husband, and a couple of cats. I take pictures of our local adventures, our travels, and write about the minutiae of life as a dog owner. Kind of like Seinfeld (I wish), with more drool and no studio audience.
Every once in a while I’ll take a break from the dog stuff and share some scuba diving photos, or write about local current events, politics, or other random things like different kinds of restaurant patrons and a list of annoying things about weddings.
2. Name one thing about your blog, or one blogging goal that you accomplished during 2013, that made you most proud.
I think I’ve finally grasped and acknowledged that 75% of the work of producing a blog is to follow, read, and comment on the blogs of others who you admire and enjoy. It definitely takes more time and a regular commitment to give back to those who read and comment here, but it’s important. And I’ve discovered lots of good blogs lately – both established and I’ve just been out of the loop, and new bloggers.
That doesn’t necessarily make me proud, but I think it’s a necessary and inevitable realization of most bloggers. A milestone, if you will.
Besides, there’s a whole community-wide conversation going on in the Blogville, and if you read regularly, you’ll never get writer’s block.
I don’t think I’ve answered the question.
I suppose I have managed to churn out some decent content and page views myself, which does make me proud. My post on being an introvert with very visible dogs seemed to speak to a lot of people, and my post on whether or not to shave your dog (including awesome decision tree!) got a lot of shares and hopefully spared some Newfs from the clippers!
3. When you look at the post you wrote for last year’s the 2011 Pet Blogger Challenge, or just think back over the past year, what about blogging has changed the most for you?
The Soapbox started as a one-way dialogue. It was meant to be rant-filled and instructive (hence the title).
But, even though I still like my blog title, and it’s established if only in a very tiny way to my small population of regular readers, I acknowledge it doesn’t necessarily accurately reflect the content of the blog.
Oh well. It’s mine and I’m not changing it.
The Soapbox has become a much more personal chronicle where I write about things I didn’t necessarily think I would. It’s easy to write hastily and flippantly, but as an introvert, sometimes it’s difficult to be candid.
The Soapbox has definitely gone from a more sterile, careful voice to something more frank and conversational.
4(a) What lessons have you learned this year – from other blogs, or through your own experience – that could help us all with our own sites?
I’m certainly not in a position to provide any valuable advice, but I always learn things from other bloggers – whether they’re the ‘big names’ with thousands of followers or bloggers newer than I.
I would recommend just reading as many other blogs as possible, as I mentioned above. And comment on them in thoughtful ways – which is good for both you and the writer.
ACTUALLY… on that note: I would recommond bloggers quickly re-evaluate your comment platform. This comes from a reader’s perspective, not another blogger’s. Elaborate CAPTCHA codes are a pain in the ass, and sometimes I’m sure my comment is discarded because I miss having to enter a code after typing my comment and hitting submit. This happens on some Blogger/Blogspot sites, but not all. Or those terrible Google-only comment forums. The. Worst.
The easy commenting and following functions of WordPress are a key feature that keeps me loyal to this site. I’m not saying everyone needs to switch to WordPress, but I bet there would be more comments if commenting was easier for non-bloggers and bloggers on other platforms.
That’s really the only general improvment recommendation I can give.
(b) If you could ask the pet blogging community for help with one challenge you’re having with your blog, what would it be?
Not a challenge, but I do have a general question: I’d be curious to know when everyone (who has done so) decided to make the move to a privately-owned domain. I’ve been considering dropping the ‘wordpress’ from my URL for some time now, but remain undecided.
5. What have you found to be the best ways to bring more traffic to your blog, other than by writing great content?
If I obsessed over stats and page views, I probably would’ve stopped blogging a long time ago.
This post I wrote about Jake Gyllenhaal carrying his dog around way back in 2010 continues to be a top traffic-getter for me, so I’m sure there’s a lesson in there somewhere.
And, obviously I’d get more hits if I wrote more and more regularly. I think Hyperbole and a Half is the only blog I know of that’s earned the credibility to post very infrequently and retain a huge reader base (and deservedly so).
6. How much time to do you spend publicizing your blog, and do you think you should spend more or less in the coming year?
I don’t spend much time publicizing at all. I’m very lazy. This is unlikely to change.
I may throw out the odd Tweet, but I don’t even share posts to my personal Facebook page. I am in a couple of Triberr groups, but I have mixed feelings about Triberr; I’m not sure it generates that much additional traffic and it does monopolize some Twitter feeds to the point they look robotic. Personally, I don’t like to approve Triberr posts if I haven’t read the blog entry myself. However, the benefit of Triberr has been discovering other new blogs written by tribe members.
Also, blog hops are always a fun way to generate traffic, expand visibility, participate in a common theme, and come across new and interesting blogs.
Sure, page views are nice – I don’t completely ignore them – but it’s not what drives my interest in producing content.
7(a) How do you gauge whether or not what you’re writing is appealing to your audience?
Definitely based on the comments. And not just the number – the quality. If someone takes some time to write a few sentences, share their own experience or perhaps a perspective I didn’t think of when writing, I consider it mission accomplished.
(b) How do you know when it’s time to let go of a feature or theme that you’ve been writing about for a while?
Hold on just a second – people write in themes or features? I definitely don’t do this – if I abandoned my general dog theme, there’d be nothing here.
8. When you’re visiting other blogs, what inspires you to comment on a post rather than just reading and moving on?
If the post asks a question, I’m extremely tempted to answer it. (Light bulb moment: this probably means if I want more comments myself, I should ask more questions of my readers.)
Otherwise, if I’ve got a relevant story or experience to the post, I’ll share.
But, as I already complained about, I won’t comment at all if the commenting form is onerous.
9. Do you do product reviews and/or giveaways? If so, what do you find works best, and what doesn’t work at all? If not, is this something you’d like to do more of? What hurdle is getting in your way?
I don’t do either. I’m not certain I’d be interested in giveaways – seems like a big time investment. And I’m sure being Canadian takes me out of the running for some of these opportunities.
When I answered back in 2011 about sponsorship, I mentioned I was concerned that would come with censorship. That’s still a fair comment, I think. But I might be able to be coerced into product reviews in exchange for free stuff. Who doesn’t like free stuff?!
10. When writer’s block strikes and you’re feeling dog-tired, how do you recharge?
I was going to say “I’m notorious…”, but technically I think you have to be well-known to be considered notorious. In any case, I frequently take a step back from the Soapbox when I’m busy with the “real” world, when I don’t want to write anything, or if I don’t perceive myself as having anything to say.
I’ll be inspired again usually by something that happened in real life that I think would lead to a good post. Although, sometimes just one of the regular blog hops like Mischief Monday or Wordless Wednesday is a great prompt to get back at it.
And, as I already mentioned, I think being well-read is a good cure for writer’s block.
11(a) Have you ever taken a break from your blog? How did that go?
You bet – several over the years. They’re generally unplanned and one lasted as long as 3 months, but it’s fine. This is just a hobby for me, and I worry to take it too seriously would kill some of the enjoyment.
Besides, the hardest part is catching up on your blog reading, not your blog writing! (Because when I step away from the blog, I tend to step away from WordPress altogether.)
(b) Have you ever thought about quitting your blog altogether? What makes you stay?
Nope. The thought never occurred to me. Despite taking the odd break, I do always assume I’ll get back to it eventually. I don’t expect to maintain the Soapbox forever, but I have no plans or inclination when it might end. And rather than a defined ending or up and quitting, a slow, painful, unplanned death is far more likely, anyway.
12. What goals do you have for your blog in 2014?
I’m not one for New Year’s resolutions. I think it’s silly to have to make changes just because December is over, and even sillier yet to hold off on changes you want to make until January 1st. I continually update the Soapbox as I see fit, and as a purely recreational pursuit, I have no specific goals for readship or income generation.
This hesitation to set specifics also comes from unknowing – I wouldn’t know where to begin, not being sure of what’s reasonable or possible.
A good goal, however, would probably be to try to post every month of 2014, but I’m hesitant to put even that in writing lest I fail. Maybe I’ll just try to keep up the momentum of the last few months. If I don’t, I’ll just have to answer to myself the next time I respond to this challenge (which, at this rate, won’t be until 2016 anyway!).
Actually, here’s a goal I can divulge: I want to continue to work on my photography skills. That’s more of a personal goal than a blog goal, but the blog serves as a good excuse to work on it. The Husband got me Lightroom for Christmas, so I definitely would like to master photo-editing with it. You all get to bear with me as I stumble through it.
December 30, 2013 21 Comments
If I had to make an alliterative list to quickly sum up the last week it would include Christmas, kilometres, and, of course, canines.
And I can’t mention Christmas 2013 without a HUGE shout-out to Cindy at Bird Brains & Dog Tales. For those who don’t know, Cindy has an awesome Etsy shop where she makes personalized dog toys (among other things).
They were a big hit and I’m even able to report they’re all still fully intact, which is both amazing and unlikely given Alma and Joshua’s reputations as toy destroyers.
Crosby may not have received one, but trust me, she had fun playing with everyone else’s and was certainly not left out at the dog park!
We’re back home in Calgary now – and Alma and the Husband have already made the journey back up north for work. But I still have a few more days of mischief until I need to report back to the office myself.
Hope everyone else is enjoying their holiday breaks, too!
December 12, 2013 27 Comments
This won’t come as a shock to anyone who’s met me, but it may be harder to determine in the blogosphere, so here’s today’s confession: I am an introvert.
Between employers and undergrad psychology classes, I’ve done Meyers Briggs, the DISC test, and Insights. (For those unfamiliar, DISC and Insights are nearly identical, but one groups you into letters and one into colours.)
Each time, the results are similar, predictable, and accurate.
But I don’t really need a personality test to tell me about myself; I’ve long known that a book can be better company than most people.
My results don’t bother me and their exactness means I’m not hesitant to share them. I know some people are a bit wary of discussing personality assessments, but I’ve found them pretty on-point when identifying strengths (thorough, organized, logical, problem-solver, reliable) and weaknesses (critical, lacks empathy, avoids social interaction, impatient) – at least for myself.
Some assessments are better than others, and it may be difficult to try to box all people into one of 4, 12, or 16 different types, but they have some use, even if it’s just introspective or an oft-needed reinforcement of the obvious fact that people experience the world differently.
For example, I have a coworker who nearly daily pokes her head into my office to ask me “what’s wrong?” or commands me to “smile!” This baffled me for a long time. Nothing is wrong. I’m just working. But thanks to the internet, a term that plagues many other unexpressive INTJs has become a common phrase; I suffer from RBF. Resting Bitch Face.
Being an introvert doesn’t mean you “hate people”. It also doesn’t necessarily mean you’re shy, stuck up, or lack confidence. Lots of introverts love spending time with other people (like people I know and like) and may even be considered confident and outgoing by those who spend time with them.
This is because the introvert/extrovert scale is about energy: social interaction is tiring to introverts and energizing to extroverts. Someone isn’t one or the other as if there are two buckets, either. Introversion and extroversion is a scale where you can fall anywhere along it with varying degrees one way or another, and you can be different things in different situations (at work vs. as home, for example), and also be different things when tired or stressed (e.g., often introverts will be naturally more introverted under pressure).
As far as social interaction is concerned, introverts and extroverts approach it and value it differently. As an introvert, I’m much more comfortable hanging out in small groups of people I already know and having conversations of substance. Talking about the weather or what day of the week it is just seems pointless to me.
This means blogging is right up my alley; I’m able to prepare and process information carefully before sharing it – though I also understand how extroverts would be attracted to blogging as another way to interact with lots of different people.
A networking event with strangers or mere acquaintances where you’re forced to small talk is my personal hell. I’d rather public speak in front of a room of 300 hundred strangers than have to mingle with those same people at a cocktail party. And there’s hardly a thing such as “awkward silence” to me, since I’m perfectly happy not to speak if there’s nothing worth saying. Morning elevator chit-chat? Shooting the breeze with the hair stylist? Someone who answers more than “well, thank you” to a polite “how’s it going?” THE. WORST.
And I’m certainly lucky I landed The Husband long ago, since my INTJ results astutely identify that I have “little patience and less understanding of such things as small talk and flirtation”.
So what does this have to do with Moses and Alma?
In retrospect, Newfoundlands are interesting dog choices for introverts.
Walking 280 pounds of dog around the city daily is not inconspicuous. In fact, you are a spectacle. You draw attention, comments, and queries.
This is something I certainly never considered when we were looking for the right dog for us. Newfoundlands seemed like the perfect choice as far a size, temperament and lifestyle goes. But no one warned me that simply owning Moses (and then Alma) would challenge my comfort zone as an introvert.
Don’t like small talk? Well, prepare yourself for having the exact same conversation every dog walk:
No, they’re not ‘black St. Bernards,’ they’re Newfoundlands.
180 and 100 pounds.
Yes, he’s big for a male and she’s smaller for a female.
No, they’re not related.
He’s from a breeder, she’s from a rescue.
Yes, they drool.
Yes, they shed.
No, our house/yard isn’t huge.
Yes, they eat 5+ pounds of food per day between them.
If they eat that much, how much do you THINK they poop?
He walks a bit funny because he’s had spinal surgery.
Yes, it gets old. But it’s part of the gig as a Newf owner. You literally stop traffic from time to time.
I admit I’m not always interested in entertaining a typical exchange – I’m out enjoying fresh air and free time with my dog and I don’t do it to meet people.
But Moses and Alma bring me lots of joy. They’re great dogs! They’re funny and social and stinking adorable. I think they’re awesome, so it should be no surprise to me when other people do, too.
Why should I stand in the way of them providing random passersby with a little joy, too?
So rather than always being a dog walk Grinch (sometimes I still am), I do suck it up and frequently engage in the boilerplate conversation with strangers about my dogs.
And besides, socialization and practicing polite greetings (with people and dogs) is always good for Moses and Alma.
Sure, being an INTJ or a Reforming Observer may mean I’m impatient with small talk, but it also means I’ll go on endlessly about things I like and think are interesting, and I think this blog is Exhibit A to my dogs being one of those very topics! And if I’m being honest, dog-walk-small-talk (say that ten times fast) is far less painful than “chilly out there, eh?”
Moses and Alma definitely mean I talk to more strangers (and neighbours) than I normally would, but your comfort zone won’t expand if you don’t push it from time to time.
And now any extroverts reading know that if they plan to train, like big dogs, and can handle the drool… well, then a Newf might just be the perfect dog for you!
Curious about what your Meyers Briggs results might be? This test is free and not too shabby. Once you have your results, you can search lots of resources for information (typefinder.com, for example, is pretty detailed).
November 16, 2013 16 Comments
Leave it to another owner of two Newfs to morbidly declare November 16 National Slobber Appreciation Day.
It’s weird, but it’s right up our alley!
Moses is a drooly dog. There’s no getting past it.
Alma, while less so with her smaller jowls, still has moments befitting any Newf.
As a brand-new dog owner when we got Moses, I was really quite… well, prissy, when it came to the drool. Or at least I used to be. We would carry “drool rags” everywhere with us, and we’d wipe him down before meeting new people.
But now? Well, after you experience finding drool on your walls, ceiling, bookshelves, car windows… and get drool flung on your clothes, in your hair, and – the ultimate of grossness – on your face… let’s just say the drool rags are long gone.
It’s now pet-at-your-own-risk if you want to meet the Newfs.
It took a while – and a healthy stock of Mr. Clean Magic Erasers – to fully come to terms with the drool, but it’s all about trade-offs.
For example, a little visible slobber means more people leave you alone to enjoy a nice, peaceful dog walk.
And I’d much rather deal with occasional drool than excessive shedding.
Now, that’s not to say Newfs don’t shed.
Just like “dry-mouth” Newfs are a myth, so are non-shedding or hypo-allergenic dogs – it’s just a matter of how much and what type of coat.
Newfoundlands, with their double coat, shed mostly as the seasons change; it’s particularly bad in the spring as they slim down for summer. But their oily water-dog coat means their fur doesn’t stick to clothes or furniture. Instead, it gathers on the floor and roams around the house like soft, charcoal tumbleweeds.
I compare this to the shedding of labs, retrievers, and shepherds, where you can’t leave the house without a lint roller. To me, a little slobber is easy to handle in comparison.
So, do I appreciate slobber? I don’t know I’d go that far. But I certainly appreciate Moses and Alma.
For more of Slobber Appreciation Day, go visit My Brown Newfies.