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Border Collies – A Writer’s Best Friend

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by Helen Christmas

Anyone who understands dogs must know how clever border collies are as a breed, and, as a writer, I can honestly vouch for them. They give so much. After hearing a sad piece of news concerning more than 20 collies abandoned in a house, only to end up in a local dog sanctuary, it seemed more than a coincidence that we were considering getting a dog of our own. It stimulated an idea…

Introducing Barney

So we did our homework. Hopeful we were making the best choice, I looked up as much information as I could find about border collies. Described as intelligent, interactive, and in need of regular stimulation, exercise, and playtime, we knew what to expect. Keen to discover more, we made enquiries. Sure enough, we received a call regarding a pair of border collies in need of a home.

border collie beach barney

Although the brothers were destined to be separated, from the moment they trotted through the door, I caught Barney’s eye and knew in an instant, he was the one. We had the pleasure of taking them for a walk and Barney was without a doubt the more submissive. His brother was stronger and more boisterous. Yet my husband too, developed a fondness for the gentler, more timid of the duo and on the same afternoon, he travelled home with us.

The Friendship of Collies

The one thing we discovered in Barney, more than anything, was that he improved our quality of life. As the research suggested, he did need loads of exercise and playtime. As a relatively young two year old, we took him out three times a day for at least half an hour. We’re blessed to have a large green park close to home and live a short distance from the sea, in an area where dogs are allowed on the beach. Having a dog got us out more than before, where, for the first time in our lives, we actually made the most of our outdoor living space.

border collie forest barney

Then something else changed. In 2010 I was wandering along the beach with our dog when I began to develop the idea for a story. I say I’m a writer, but I had never written a full length novel before and suddenly discovered my true calling. This is something I always include in my author’s biography because it marked a pivotal point. The threads of my story evolved while I was walking Barney along the water’s edge and, as time progressed, that book developed into a series.

A Writer’s Best Friend

So this is how I started life as an author. I’ve often wondered, if it hadn’t been for that special time, meandering along the beach with Barney, throwing his ball, whether those ideas might never have come to me. I eventually began my debut novel in 2011 after I had figured out the entire synopsis. But Barney’s intervention didn’t end there…

I’ve always been an early morning person, which is the time when I do most of my writing. Once the novel was underway, I found myself waking up even earlier and switched on my laptop at around 6am.

Barney always followed me into the office. Border collies form attachments. They are not solitary dogs, they like company, and somehow Barney became an essential part of my writing ritual. If he wasn’t curled up on the floor next to me, I couldn’t concentrate; he became my muse. The time I really noticed his absence however, was in 2012 when he needed an operation.

Knee Surgery

Sadly, Barney ruptured a cruciate ligament, which is not uncommon. Being such lively dogs, running, spinning, jumping for balls and doing little pirouettes– all are frequent causes of this injury, which is common among footballers too! Barney had to be put to sleep for his operation which involved fitting an implant to repair the ligament. It meant an overnight stay, which was a morning I really missed him.

border collie boardwalk barney

Fortunately he made a full recovery, a process that took weeks, as well as some physiotherapy and hydrotherapy. It is regrettable that we had to cut his walks down from three a day to two. Peter took him to the park in the morning and I took him down the beach in the evening at low tide. Yet it was always the same. Whether we were playing in the park or enjoying the tranquillity of the seafront, the ideas for my series kept flowing during these special times…

Fellow Writing Companions

Barney (now 11) has had operations on both knees. He is also showing signs of arthritis, prompting us to add supplements to his food, such as fish oil and YouMove, with the hope this will aid his joints. Sadly, he’s a shadow of the dog he was; not nearly as energetic but still a great companion. Since my writing journey began, I met some fellow authors, such as Carol Thomas, who has written a children’s book, ‘Finding a Friend.’ Her family adopted a puppy last year, which was perhaps the inspiration for her story; when I asked her what she thought about me writing an article for ‘Good Dog Magazine,’ she replied as follows:

“As a sixteenth month old Labrador Hubble is great at making sure I don’t have lots of odd bits of paper around me, my notes have to be organised and kept in a book or he would eat them! When it comes to writing on my computer he settles down next to me and keeps me company. I love dogs and have featured Labradors in all of my stories to date.”

So maybe it’s not just collies. I suspect all dogs can be great writing companions, as I’ve discovered in the years we’ve had the joy of Barney in our lives. In addition, I hope my article has given inspiration to potential collie owners.

Helen Christmas has written a five-book series, titled ‘Same Face Different Place’ which can be purchased online or at local book fairs in the Chichester area. Her book is a mystery thriller set in England but since completing the series, she hopes to write short stories, at least one of which will be told through the mind of a dog. She can be found online at: http://www.samefacedifferentplace.com/the-author/

Teaching Kids Respect for Animals

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By Savy Leiser

Like a lot of dog moms, I was once a dog-obsessed little girl. My family, who loved to adopt rescue dogs, always encouraged me to keep that love and respect I had for animals.

When I was four years old, my first rescue dog, Sam, was afraid of men– that was when I first saw the effects that an early life of abuse can have on a dog. Because of this fear, he was the perfect dog for a single mom and her young daughter. Of course, that meant when my mom got married a few years later, Sam struggled to warm up to my new father.

My dad never forced Sam’s affection. Rather, he spent a lot of time getting to know Sam, and let him approach him when he was ready. Over the years, my dad’s gentle approach helped Sam completely overcome his fear of men. Every Sunday morning for nearly a decade, my dad would sit on the couch and read the Sunday paper, and Sam would snuggle up in his lap, like he’d lived there all his life. There, I saw how a good forever home can help a dog turn his life around.

Talking to Kids About Respect for Animals

My parents talked to me about the horrors that can happen in puppy mills. Though my dad’s side of the family comes from the Philadelphia area, we stopped cheering for the Eagles when they accepted Michael Vick after his dog-fighting scandal. In my household, respect for animals was a given, just like saying “please” and “thank you.”

Kids have so much natural excitement and curiosity about animals, especially dogs. It’s always the kids who stop me when I’m walking Chewie and, with a big smile, shout, “Look! Dog!” It’s the kids who ask me if they can pet him. But it’s the adults who pull their kids away. It’s the adults who run away in fear, who say, “Keep that dog away from me! If he bites, I’ll call the police!”

Now, to be clear, parents should have their kids exercise caution around animals they don’t know. They should tell their kids to ask an owner’s permission before petting a dog. But that doesn’t mean they should teach their kids to fear animals, rather than loving and respecting them.

As an author, I believe in the incredible power of words and stories to change the way people think. That’s why my new children’s picture book series, The Furever Home Friends, shares real dogs’ stories, and teaches kids how to treat animals. The books emphasize the importance of animal shelters, and support the #AdoptDontShop movement. My goal is to get kids thinking about big-picture social issues, and talking about the way those issues affect people and animals alike.

Kids Have Opinions About Animals

Shortly after I graduated from college, I started teaching. I currently teach creative writing workshops to kids ranging from eight to eighteen years old, and I coach middle school debate as well. From spending time with kids in the elementary and middle-school age groups, I’ve found that kids really do want to discuss major social issues when given the opportunity. My sixth graders, who could barely sit still, would write pages flowing with emotion once I had them write about their opinions on ending violence. Kids are smart, and when you let them talk, you’ll find they’re very opinionated.

I want to get kids expressing their feelings and opinions about animals. I want to start a conversation about why animals end up abused, neglected, or homeless, and how we as people can help these animals.

One of my books, “Smile, Chewie!” features a dog who has been abused. I want to show kids the reality of what can happen to some dogs, but also show them the positive effect a forever family can have on that dog’s recovery.

As you may have guessed, this story is based on my own dog, Chewie–a cute, friendly pit bull mix. It’s no secret that it’s often pit bulls who face the stereotypes of being mean and violent. Often, these stereotypes lead to some states banning pit bulls, some shelters overflowing with pit bulls who can’t get adopted, and some pit bulls even facing euthanasia. In Chewie’s book, I really wanted to address these ideas, and help debunk any stereotypes people may have about a dog’s nature based solely on their breed.

In the story, Chewie is afraid to smile for the camera because, after facing abuse as a puppy, he is left with scars on his face, which make him self-conscious. When Chewie learns that pit bulls just like him are often abused out of a place of fear, he decides to stand up against these stereotypes, and learns to smile for the camera. Then, he and his new mom take tons of pictures together, hoping to show the world that pit bulls are sweet, not scary.

If kids– who, for the most part, already love dogs– start thinking early on about how they should treat animals, they’ll never grow up to be the adults who run puppy mills or start dog fights.

And over time, we can put an end to animal abuse.

Savy Leiser is a Chicago children’s and young-adult author and a freelance journalist. She writes about music for Halftime Magazine and Yamaha SupportED, and she teaches creative writing workshops at Open Books and Sacred Heart. Her first young-adult novel, The Making of a Small-Town Beauty King, came out in 2016. In May 2017, Savy raised over $7,000 on Kickstarter to launch The Furever Home Friends picture book series, which tells the stories of real shelter dogs. She is the proud mom of a sweet pit bull mix named Chewie.

The Secret to Pet Business Success: Customers, Customers, Customers

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By Lucy Stevens

We’ve all heard the mantra that “the customer is always right.” Happy customers are likely to stay with you, even if a bigger, better competitor opens up shop nearby. At their core, people want to feel special. As pet parents, they want their fur-babies to feel special. I’m always surprised when business owners inquire about software without consideration for the one–to–one connection that pet groomers (and other pet service professionals) can develop with their biped and quadruped clientele. In the pet business, a customer-centric approach is truly the key to success.

A puppy peeking over the ledge at a pet store

The Customer Centric Approach to Business

Let’s start at the beginning. What does it mean to apply a customer-centric approach to one’s business? When you’re taking steps before, during and after the service to ensure a positive customer experience, that is customer-centric. This approach is designed to have customers ready to book their next appointment as soon as this one is complete. It lends itself to positive reviews, sharing of the experience with friends, and a desire to return. Thus, the business is driving new sales, repeat business, customer loyalty and increased profitability. Successful businesses, regardless of industry, need to retain a good percentage of their current business as well as consistently drive new customers. The combination of the two result in steady profitability and growth.

How to Incorporate a Customer Centric Approach in the Pet Business

Professionals in the pet industry have two sets of clientele – those for whom they provide the service and those who adore them. Both need to be happy for the provider to achieve success. Let’s consider that you are very good at the service you provide, whether grooming, dog walking, pet sitting or another pet service. With that in mind, how do you set yourself apart from other quality professionals in your area? The following are some small steps that, when added together, provide a customer centric approach to keep them coming back for more.

Before the Service

Prior to the client’s arrival, place a confirmation call, text or email. Clients will appreciate the quick reminder. If you have a software system with this functionality, by all means use it. A benefit of such a product is taking that task off your plate. If clients are booking by phone, be cheerful when answering the phone. Ask how Fluffy’s coat has grown in and be as accommodating as possible in scheduling.

During the Service

When Fluffy and her parent arrive, be sure to welcome both. Greet them by name, showing you have a keen knowledge of your clients. Confirm the specifics for the service and ask if there is anything special needed. Perhaps he/she is going out for the morning and would prefer a pick up call/text via mobile instead of the home phone. By allowing them to get on with their morning, you are exhibiting consideration and flexibility. If you have others on your team, let the pet parent know who will be tending to their fur-baby. Calm nervous clients with a mention that you will handle Fluffy with kid gloves.

At pick up time, make a fuss about how well Fluffy fared. Hearing that Fluffy did well lets them know you handled her with care and provides a prideful moment about their good girl. Perhaps you can have treats available that, with permission, may be offered to Fluffy for a job well done. Thank your customers! I cannot say this enough. Yes, you or a member of your team performed the service, but clients have a choice. They chose you. Acknowledging that speaks volumes.

Professional dog showering in bath

After the Service

If you are using software for the business, send an automatic thank you email or text. Ask clients to post reviews that you can post onto your website and/or social media. Consider encouraging reviews with an offer of a discount or special gift at the next service. You can do the same for those making referrals (i.e. refer a client and take a 20% discount at your next service, or refer 4 clients and get one free service). Follow up emails or texts should have a link to book the next service. Doing so will likely reduce the time between services and may increase the number of visits in a one year window.

For those using a scheduling book, always offer to schedule the next appointment before the client walks out the door. Consider contacting clients the next day to make sure Fluffy is happy with her grooming. While on the phone, offer to schedule the next visit. Provide clients with a card with the link to your Facebook or Instagram page (or other social media). A visit and review can garner a discount or gift at the next visit.

Be sincere, honest, friendly and grateful for your customers. You will develop loyal customers who appreciate the TLC (Tender Loving Care) you give their pet as much as you appreciate their business.

Lucy Stevens is the President and General Manager of Punchey.com, a software development company providing operational management software to an array of industries. GroomPro POS, where “Tech meets Pets”, a business management software designed specifically for pet groomers, pet salons and other pet service providers, is the brainchild of Stevens, a pet lover and pet mom. Merging her customer-centric software expertise with her love of animals, Stevens has developed a much needed product for pet service professionals to grow their businesses and provide excellent service every day.

Pet Portraits: Arf Art for Your Heart

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Neither the writer nor Good Dog! Magazine received compensation for this review.

By Christine Boswell

Have you ever wanted to paint a pet portrait picture of your pooch? I do all the time, but even though I’m an artist, I cannot paint dogs. It’s my kryptonite, so I decided to give Alisa Whitley Photography and “Art for Your Heart” a try. She does paintings of pets, and from what I saw on her website, I was very impressed.

charlotte easter

The Pet Portrait Process

She starts with a picture of your beloved pet– not just any picture will do so be prepared to have a little back and forth finding the perfect shot to use. I personally was thankful that she knew which shots were better to use as our painting came out better because of it. She then creates the paintings stroke by stroke with a Wacom tablet and pen. It’s very similar to putting paint to canvas but digitally. One important thing to note is that she does not apply a filter to the photo, but she does use it as reference so the painting might be slightly different than the image you provide. For us that meant that the mud that Charlotte was covered in disappeared, but the rest stayed the same.

charlotte original photo

She puts together a basic outline of the drawing and removes any distracting background elements. She then starts working on the eyes. “They are the most important part of the painting. Eyes are the window to the soul.” Next is the face, head, and body with additional detailing to the fur as needed. Then, she adds in the background and surroundings of your pet, and, if needed, missing parts of the pooch are added to make the painting more symmetrical. Lastly, she does a final once over, adds any needed details, and then prints it onto a canvas for you to enjoy.

painting arrival

Our Thoughts

We went with the picture below. In it, Charlotte was covered in mud and hunkered down on a dirty towel. We figured if anything could be made into something glorious based on the above information, this would be the picture. Oh boy howdy how we were right! Not only is this the most beautiful image of Charlotte we’ve ever had, but it is a painting on canvas that is pawsitivly purrfect. Charlotte does not look dirty; she’s soft and clean. Her towel is fluffy and looks like an expensive blanket instead of the cheap towel we use to dry our pooches when they are naughty and run in the mud. The canvas quality is superb, and the size is just perfect for where we ended up hanging it.

the final product

Our favorite feature though is her eyes… Oh my gosh her eyes are soul shatteringly beautiful in general, but on the canvas they are brought to life like we’ve never seen them (probably because she blinks a lot and we never get the full on power of her two toned-eyes). Oh, and let us not forget that her nose is perfectly portrayed. It was one of the main features to giving our precious pooch her name since she looked like the little piggy from Charlotte’s Web, and Art for Your Heart nailed it! We adore our painting and know that you will too.

Eight paws, four thumbs, and lots of smiles way up for this review of Art for Your Heart!

The Fees

A studio session fee is $250.00
An 11 by 14 inch canvas, the most popular size, runs $350.00.
Next, is the 16 by 20 inch canvas which runs $375.00

Then, if you live in Tennessee there is sales tax, and lastly, shipping is usually $20.00 to $25.00 depending on where you live in the U.S.A. Additional subjects in the same painting are $50 each. These prices are subject to change.

How to Get Your Paws on One

If you, like us, want to get your hands on a custom Art for Your Heart™ by Alisa Whitley, CPP, TCD to put on display in your home, visit alisawhitley.com.

What’s the Deal with Emotional Support Animal Certification?

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Editors Note: we at Good Dog! Magazine have noted the trend of “emotional support animals” showing up in apartment buildings, on airplanes, and in formerly dog-free offices. Since this is a topic of interest to many of our readers, we reached out to the experts to get more information.

By Lara Rhodes

ESA Certification Process 

For those people who suffer from an emotional or mental disability, there’s good news for a treatment that doesn’t involve any drugs– the emotional support animal (ESA).

An ESA can be any species or type of animal as long as they are able to provide comfort, companionship and even a boost of confidence for those that need it. However, having an emotional support animal may not be as simple as having a family pet and calling it an ESA.

What is an ESA Letter?

An ESA letter is a formal document written by a mental health professional (i.e. a licensed therapist, licensed social worker, or psychologist) stating that your pet has been prescribed to assist you in living a normal and healthier life.

The letter must be written on the mental health professional’s own letterhead and will include his/her name, license number, date of issue and place it was issued, along with his/her signature. ESA letters may be renewed once a year.

In order to obtain an ESA letter, you must have a mental or emotional issue that falls under the documented illnesses laid out by the DSM-IV or V (the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, version 4 or 5), which your mental health professional will either know of or have access to.

Who Will Accept My ESA Letter?

Although an emotional support animal is not a service animal as protected under the ADA, you do have rights under Federal law. Emotional Support Animals are protected under two different laws. The properly documented ESA letter will be accepted by both airlines and “no pets” policy housing.

When flying with your ESA, you are asked to make your reservations at least 48 hours in advance. You should let the airlines know you will be flying with an emotional support animal. You will be expected to present your ESA letter in order for your dog/cat/bird etc. to be allowed into the cabin of the aircraft at no extra charge to you.

When it comes to “no pets” policy housing, your ESA letter should be presented to the building manager/owner. Once accepted, you should have the same rights to the building and property as any other tenant would. The landlord/owner of the building also cannot charge you any extra fees for having an ESA. However, if your animal should do damage to the property, you can be held liable and even evicted if the issue(s) are serious enough.

What Can I Do If My ESA Letter is Not Accepted?

Since there are a number of people trying to use family pets to get special privileges, airlines and building owners are becoming more hostile of the ESA letters. If you have a documented and legitimate need for an ESA and you are being denied access by “no pets” policy buildings or airlines you have options.

The Fair Housing Act (HUD) protects people with emotional support animals, so they would be your first line of defense. Inform your landlord that you take your rights seriously. If they continue to deny your rights, let them know you will be contacting HUD directly.

Your second option would be to contact a lawyer and have that person write a letter on your behalf to the building owner/landlord.

Lastly, there are ESA advocates that may also be able to step in and point you in the right direction.

However, be aware that not all landlords have to accept an ESA. These circumstances include buildings with four or less single dwellings where the landlord occupies one dwelling and the house has been rented or sold without a real estate broker (private sale).

If your ESA letter is not accepted by an airline, there should be a contact number that each airline will provide (in person or on their website) for further assistance. Some airline employees may not be aware of emotional support animal rights so asking to speak with another person may be required.

How Do I Get an ESA Letter?

Emotional support animals are not technically pets and therefore you can exercise your rights to having one when it comes to both housing and airlines. Seek support from your personal therapist or a legitimate online ESA letter referral service. Start living your life to the fullest. Refrain from turning to low priced online services that may be ESA letter mills or fraudulently utilizing therapist’s signatures. Airlines and landlords may call your therapist so make sure you have contact with your therapist directly.

Lara Rhodes represents ESAdoctors.com—for assistance with ESA certification check them out here.

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