Pet Blogger Challenge 2014 – Something Wagging’s Multimedia Extravaganza

Pet blogger Challenge January 10You think the Pet Blogger Challenge is answering a bunch of great questions about why you do what you do to connect with other bloggers. But it isn’t.

The real Pet Blogger Challenge is to write an entertaining piece that says what you want to say without seeming like a jerk for not answering the questions just the way they’re asked. Now that’s a challenge.

Am I up for it? You tell me.

Pam & Honey - 250 px

Pet Blogger Origin Story

Call me Pamela. Nah, too Moby Dickish.

It was the best of blogs. It was the worst of blogs. Nope. Too Dickensian.

I was born a poor black child. What am I? A jerk?

Okay, just trust the material, Pamela.

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 started blogging on March 23, 2010, the day before I brought my puppy Honey home to live with us. In my shortest blog post ever, I called a puppy “anticipation in a fur coat.” Somehow I worried I might forget puppy shark teeth, cleaning up accidents, and chewed furniture without a blog to remember everything by.

Something Wagging This Way Comes has evolved into my musings on the human canine bond. I let my imagination stray as I consider the serious, silly, and profane things we learn from living with dogs. My teachers are Honey and the dogs we foster for our local shelter.

Honey the Golden Retriever Takes an Apple for Teacher.

Pet Blogger Lessons in the Learning

How has my blogging changed? Monty Python said it best:

2. Name one thing about your blog, or one blogging goal that you accomplished during 2013, that made you most proud.

John Cleese said it. I got better.

I came back from BlogPaws last year wondering what else I could do with my blog. I’ve rejected most ways of making money with it. I have few tech skills. I’m not artistic.

But then it struck me. I can get better. I can always get better.

I’ve worked on simplifying my writing. I’ve learned how to make my posts easier for search engines to find. I’ve started editing my pictures so that even if they’re not beautiful to begin with, they’re a little less hideous.

Oh, and after nearly four years of threatening, I finally gave my blog a new theme. It’s not finished or perfect. But I’m glad to be rid of that tiny font and bland colors.

3. When you look at the post you wrote for last year’s Pet Blogger Challenge, or just think back over the past year, what about blogging has changed the most for you?

4. What lessons have you learned this year – from other blogs, or through your own experience – that could help us all with our own sites?

It’s something I’ve always known but needed time to let it sink in: always trust your readers.

Sometimes I write something I’m afraid will feed a troll. And it never happens. I’ve even had other readers reply to comments when they thought someone else misunderstood a post.

And nothing is as important as taking care of my readers (I’ve started calling them S’Waggers because they are so swag). If you take care of them, they’ll bring new readers to you.

If you could ask the pet blogging community for help with one challenge you’re having with your blog, what would it be?

Being less neurotic. Any pet bloggers out there doing free therapy?

I have tons of great ideas and only need courage and motivation to bring them forth.

Honey the golden retriever tires to understand what I'm explaining to her.

I don’t call my tribe by howling like a husky. I do it the golden retriever way–by smiling.

Finding Your Tribe

Something Wagging This Way Comes is never going to be the next Dogster. Heck, in comparison, it’s barely a hamster.

But I have a tribe. And there’s space for more members.

5. What have you found to be the best ways to bring more traffic to your blog, other than by writing great content?

Facebook is my biggest referrer. But it’s not my Facebook posts that get new people to stop by. It’s when someone shares my stuff on their much more popular Facebook page.

I also get steady, although not monumental, traffic from comments I’ve left on other blogs.

5 1/2. Don’t you think it’s been way too long since you’ve made a joke?

Why yes. Yes it has been way too long.

Did you hear the one about the agnostic, insomniac who had dyslexia? He laid awake at night wondering if there’s a dog.

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 try not to keep track of how long things take or I’d start to wonder if I should be doing something else.

7. How do you gauge whether or not what you’re writing is appealing to your audience?

When S’Waggers leave lots of comments and even respond to other comments, I know I’ve hit a nerve. Or a funny bone. I always seem to miss the ovaries, however.

Oh, and when lots of people share something on Facebook.

But I can’t predict what people will like one little bit. I’m so weird that what I think is great often falls flat. And stuff I just toss off gets lots of attention.

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?

The day I can’t think of anything else to say. That’s why I stopped writing the Puppiness Project after two years.

You want to end while people still like your work. Don’t wait until after you’ve jumped the shark to end something.

8. When you’re visiting other blogs, what inspires you to comment on a post rather than just reading and moving on?

First I have to think of something scintillating to say. And if the person regularly comments on my blog or is a friend or someone I really admire, I’ll spend a few more minutes trying to think of something amazing or just coherent to say.

But if nothing comes to me, I won’t force it.

And I’m more likely to comment on a newish blog or one that doesn’t get many comments. It encouraged me so much when I got my earliest comments. I want other pet bloggers to know they’re not alone. And that someone appreciates their courage and commitment to write.

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’ve been writing reviews of books that inspire pet travel for A Traveler’s Library for the past two years. And while I love to read and talk about books, I find writing reviews very hard.

It’s the same for products. I only review a product if it’s particularly interesting to me and something I would use in real life.

But people do find them helpful. People regularly visit my video review of The Honest Kitchen dog food, for instance.

Or maybe they’re just tuning in to see if I really do taste test all of Honey’s food.

People do like videos. But my editor has only so many hours in the day to help me. And besides, shooting a quickie review video on crappy equipment with someone who went to film school is a sure recipe for marital disaster.

Honey the golden retriever is an easy dog.

If you don’t let me write more than the captions, I’ll start my own dog blog.

It’s All Over But The Shouting

10. When writer’s block strikes and you’re feeling dog-tired, how do you recharge?

Writer’s block? What’s that? I’m more likely to suffer from logorrhea.

But I’ll let you in on a little secret. When I’m feeling low, I’m more likely to write a silly list post:

I can only write a reflective, serious post when I’m feeling good. I have to be good and depressed to be funny. Lucky for you folks who love the silly lists, I don’t take Prozac.

11. Have you ever taken a break from your blog? How did that go?

Does going to Panama for a month count? But I did have a few things posted in advance so I don’t think of it as a total break. I lost a lot of traffic but it was back within a couple of months.

I took a longer break from my blog for first home buyers, Hands on Home Buyer. The bad side effect is that my writing is less funny now than it was before the break. I don’t know how to fix it.

Writing about mortgages and home inspections with humor and intelligence is not easy. But I give it my best. And hopefully people get something from my reasons to avoid real estate porn besides a giggle over hardwood floorgasms.

Have you ever thought about quitting your blog altogether? What makes you stay?

I have thought of quitting Hands on Home Buyer. Especially after a glitch that occurred during my redesign caused traffic to plummet.

But I can’t imagine not writing Something Wagging This Way Comes. I’d miss my doggy bloggy friends too much if I went away.

12. What goals do you have for your blog in 2014?

To care for the S’Waggers. To be on the blog who I am in real life. To never let writing about dogs get in the way of loving dogs. To remember what’s really important and not get swept up in worthless trivia, like stats. 

Honey the golden retriever poses pretty.

I’m shouting about the Pet Blogger Challenge.

And Now The Shouting

I’m giving a standing ovation (oops, I just woke up the dogs) to the divas who invented the Pet Blogger Challenge and have kept it going the past four years. Thank you, Amy Burkert and Edie Jarolim for growing a community and helping us feel that we’re not alone when our blogs bully us.

There’s still time to join the fun by grabbing the questions here.

This is the fourth year of the Pet Blogger Challenge. I’m pleased to have collected the whole set:

I can hardly wait to settle in for a week of reading everyone’s posts.

Your Turn: Okay, enough about me. What do you think about me? Just kidding. What’s the best part of a get-to-know-you challenge like this? What’s the best thing you get out of the Pet Blogger Challenge, whether you’re a blogger or not?

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Comments

  1. Way cool. Way. Especially the Python bit. Or the shark bit. Or both.

    Your blog rocks because it’s never anything less than perfectly honest. How you can be completely honest yet perfectly tactful and diplomatic at all times is something I am in awe of. I’m proud to be an S’Wagger, and I want a t-shirt that says so!

    • Shhhhh, if someone sees you wrote “shark bit” we’ll have every one rushing out of the water. :)

      I can’t say I’m perfectly honest. I still have a few secrets. But I’m glad it doesn’t look like I’m holding anything back. As for S’Waggers t-shirts, the thought of finding fairly traded, organic shirts made from non-toxic inks makes my head spin. How about washable tattoos instead?

  2. Pamela, you crack me up! What a great post and I love how Honey always comes up with such witty captions for your photos. Your goals for 2014 really resonate with me. I’m going to borrow them and work them into my aspirations for the coming year. Thanks so much for participating in the hop – you’re one of my favorite bloggers and I so appreciate the opportunity to see the wheels turning.

    • {blushing} Gee, thanks. Glad I could give you a giggle. I’m happy to play court jester in the audience room of Queen Amy and Queen Edie. :)

  3. Well aren’t you just the creative, funny one? Great post, as per usual . . .now I feel so BORING! :) I may need to go back and read some of your first posts, so I don’t feel like such a failure at this puppy thing. Geez, I don’t remember it being this hard!!

  4. Hahaha! You could’ve posted ONLY the Arrested Development clips and I would’ve left here happy. Way to over-deliver! So many LOLs to be had.
    I think neuroses is what makes us pet bloggers and unites us – I’m sure there’s such thing as too much, but I’ve yet to see it.
    -Proud to be a S’Wagger!

    • I think the DSMV V lists the following symptoms: obsessive attention to dogs, including writing about them and taking their pictures; an inability to get grossed out by poop, drool, and vomit; and a heavy coating of pet fur. Any patient exhibiting these traits is either suffering from severe dog neurosis or is a dog blogger. :)

      Oh, and you also love Arrested Development? Now I’m really in love.

  5. Very nice, as always. I can always get entertained, informed, or maybe both when I come here. You have a fantastic way with words and ideas, and I like that.

  6. Nice to read :-)

  7. Great post, as always! One of my favorite blogs to visit!

  8. I love your humor and I also read your home buyer blog. It inspires me for the real estate blog and other real estate posts I have to write. With my job, they can’t really be funny, but I can sometimes take a funny idea and turn it serious.

  9. Your blog was very good from the start — the name alone is worth the price of admission — but it’s gotten even better over time as you’ve tapped into both your sense of humor and your confidence. I’m glad I’ve been along for a great ride!

    • Thanks, Edie. And you deserve some of the credit for the improvement. Perhaps it was the first pet blogger challenge where I read your post and said to myself, “Gee, you mean we’re supposed to proofread and edit these posts?” :)

  10. The Fonz jumping the shark… I think I saw that air on it’s original date! Great post… Hilarious, entertaining and informative all at once. :)

    • You and I were both watching the Fonz on it’s original airing. Shhh, don’t tell anyone how old we are. They might not have noticed my white hair. :)

  11. Haha – thanks for this…and I laugh at Kim because I too seem to remember that Happy Days episode and thinking WTH???

    • Mike Webster says:

      From the Husband:
      I do believe I was with you and Kim (metaphorically speaking) in front of the set that night. And my thoughts were similar, but I’m pretty sure the last letter to come to my mind was something other than an “H.”

  12. Like your style! I’m going to have to start following you ( in the blog sense!)

    • Mike Webster says:

      From the Husband:
      Don’t be shy; go ahead and follow her in the literal sense, too. I’ve done it for about twenty-five years. No arrest record yet.

  13. First, I love the comment you left on my blog. So would you follow Your Bliss, or would Your Bliss follow you? :-)

    The best part of this challenge for me was finding out how many bloggers are struggling with the same things I am. Not that it’s a good thing to be struggling, but it’s nice to know you’re not alone. And I love the humor you brought to this post. But then I love your humor. :-)

  14. It’s been interesting to see how many bloggers dwell on the same issues. I don’t know why but I hardly ever write list posts. I may have to start.

    • Lots of blogging websites talk about how much people like to share list posts. Personally, I get tired if I see to many of them. But I find it a fun way to do something different. It’s harder to write short things than long things. I find it a good discipline.

      Give it a try and see if you like it.

  15. LOVE the blog and the smiling-not-howling approach to your S’Waggers! Your comment about the blog never being “Dogster” – well thank DOG for that! Dogster has become a haven for trolls, poorly trained writers/reporters, and even, heaven help us, a place for those who favor giving marijuana to dogs to gain approval. Once Dogster was brought under the umbrella of a multimedia corporation with little in the way of moral compass points to balance its profit motive, Dogster deteriorated markedly. Even the advertising crowding out the (frequently) poorly written editorial content is nearly exclusively for non-dog-related products, instead hawking everything from belly fat cures to antipsychotic prescription meds. In short: please for the sake of your S’Waggers, keep your own lovely, low-key and sincere style, and don’t worry for one minute about not being a Dogster!

    • Y’know I stopped reading Dogster quite a while back and didn’t know why. You’ve refreshed my memory.

      Thanks for the encouragement to keep on keeping on. :)

  16. You never seem to amaze me! Love your response to these questions!! So creative and now I’m a wee bit jealous!
    I feel the exact same way about my posts-some I think are going to be HUGE and they fail and the ones that I think are going to bomb right out are hits! I need to post more of those!

    • Yeah, if you figure out how to write only popular posts? You and your husband will both be able to retire early. Because everyone will want what you’re selling. :)

      That’s why I’ve decided to just follow my muse and not worry about what might be popular with someone else. I’d rather find the people who get the real me than those who just appreciate my ability to chase their affections.

      Besides, do you really want your dog to humiliate you in public every day so you have a hilarious post that goes viral? :)

  17. I love that you’ve been writing since the beginning – bringing Honey home. I tried to do the same, but was so overwhelmed by having littermates and my introduction to the dog world wasn’t great, so I ran away. Fast.

    I’m happy to be back, because this is a great community. And I just love your sense of humor. Hope you’re having a nice rest :) I’m still reading and commenting.

    • I only wish blogging had been around when I brought my litter mates, Agatha and Christie, home nearly 25 years ago. I would have learned enough to avoid some of my worst mistakes.

      Frankly, you continually amaze me with your energy and commitment to your goals. And you do it all while still loving your wonderful dogs. You are definitely a blogging superstar.

      And I’m glad you’ve found your tribe here.

      BTW, don’t forget to blink. Staring at the screen for hours is terrible for your eyes. :)

  18. Wow you’ve got a name for your fans, just like Beliebers, you’ve got S’waggers! Hmmm what could I call mine, Petters? No it just doesn’t work like yours does! BTW, I love lists! I think they are often the most clever, and most fun to read!

    • Don’t forget I had a poll where people suggested names for my readers. Maybe you should do the same thing and see what your peeps come up with? :)

      Glad you like the list posts. Since I don’t laugh while I’m writing them, I have no idea if they’re funny or just dumb. Thanks so much for the encouragement.

  19. Although I would love the numbers, I know that my blog will never be a Dogster either. I know I have a fairly narrow niche so my tribe will also stay smallish. I kind of like the coziness of it though.

    I think it is so interesting that the majority of the pet bloggers I have grown to be friends with have been blogging 3 – 4 years. I guess you can say we have grown up together :)

    • I’m with you. I even feel a little funny when I see someone following me who I don’t “know.”

      As for the longevity of bloggers, I wonder if it would be useful to refer to the class of 2010/2011 since the year we started gives us quite a bit in common.

  20. Your 2014 goals really resonated with me. In fact, I grabbed a pen and wrote them down. (This year is all about life priorities for me and you said things so well!) The best part of a challenge like this? For me, it’s hopping around and “meeting” new blogs and bloggers, as well as checking in with blogging friends to see what they’re thinking about their own blogs. (The hardest part of a challenge like this: finding the time to hop around and read all the posts!)

    • I’m glad my little bit of silliness gave you a good idea for prioritizing. Be kind to yourself this year. No one can do everything.

  21. That was awesome! I am still a new blogger and I too like to visit other bloggers and leave comments too when they don’t have so many comments as I am one of them.

  22. I love how funny and quirky your blog is. Those lists are pretty darned cute. I’m glad you don’t have any plans to stop any time soon. BTW, I love your answer to #8.

  23. I’m rather amused that I was apparently attempting the “real” challenge without even realizing it. ;) Whether or not I was successful at it is another matter, of course…

    Loved your post, Ishmael. Er, Pamela. It took me a while to get through the post as I couldn’t stop giggling. And the Lucille clip as your response to #3? Marry me. ;)

    What you said about being utterly unable to predict which posts will be popular really struck a nerve with me. I feel the same way – I’ll think I’ve written something that is comedic gold, and nary a notice. But if post a cat video to fill some space, it will turn out to be the most popular post ever.

    In any event, your blog was one of the first ones I discovered, and one of the first ones that I fell head over heels in love with (it was that Puppiness Project). You never cease to amaze me with your unique perspectives on things, your wit, and your prolific output.

    I’m a S’Wagger for life.

    • OMD! Your comment is better than my original post! Does that mean I’ve made a huge mistake? :)

      I’m just thrilled to have gotten to know the fan behind the pup.

  24. I am glad I am not the only one who feels that “I’m so weird that what I think is great often falls flat. And stuff I just toss off gets lots of attention.” It is a crap shoot sometimes for sure. Happy Continued Successful Blogging ;)

  25. What a great sense of humor:). And i loved this “To be on the blog who I am in real life. To never let writing about dogs get in the way of loving dogs.” Great writing

  26. You KNOW I’m a big fan, Pamela! I was a fan before we met at BlogPaws all those years ago (seriously, was it three, four years now?), but after I met you, it was cemented. Yours is a blog I read every day. And if I miss a day or two, I always catch up. I think you have an easy to read, breezy, funny way of writing and I love it. Your fostering forays are as delightful as they are educational. Keep it up, I love it!

  27. Where to begin?
    Monty Python AND Arrested Development in one post. About dogs and blogging. As one of the 4-year-old charges in my daughter’s camp group said, “You deserve a round of a paws.”

    So much great advice in one column. Awesome idea about using lists. Love the thought about never letting writing about dogs getting in the way of loving dogs. And I feel better knowing I’m not the only one who will need some time to plow through all the responses to this hop. Though I have a feeling it will take more than a week.)

    This is my first Pet Bloggers Challenge, and this year, I’m happy to say, will also be my first year attending BlogPaws. Maybe I’ll get a chance to meet you–and some of the other creative and inspiring bloggers I’ve only met online–in person.

    –Woofs (and purrs) from Life with Dogs and Cats.

    • Welcome to my weird mind. :)

      You’ll come back from BlogPaws with more things you’ll want to do with your blog than you can find time for. I won’t be there this year. You’ll have to share what you learn on the blog.

  28. What a great sense of humor and blog. I’m new to blogging and finding inspiration in reading the answers to the questions in the Pet Blogger Challenge. I really enjoy learning what keeps all these fantastic bloggers going!

  29. Outstanding! I love your humor, your good sensible way to look at things, the company you keep is just extraordinary, and I could go on and on. This was my second read-through. I wanted to make sure I didn’t miss anything.
    Just one more thing – If you do find that therapist, please let me know.

    • Well, Lori from the Bark Park is getting her graduate degree in counseling. Perhaps she could take on a couple pet bloggers for a research project. :)

      Thanks so much for the kind words. And yes, I do keep some fabulous company, Jobi. :)

  30. If you find the pet blogger offering free therapy, please pass that referral along! Your blog is one of my can’t-miss-no-matter-what subscriptions. Even if I don’t always comment, I read every word you write because I know that what I will find here will be valuable, insightful, honest, funny, I could go on… I love the goals you’ve set for yourself. I can’t wait to see what pours onto the page – so to speak – for you in 2014.

    • Thank you so much, from one fan to another. And I’m very thankful you see it as words pouring into the page. Sometimes I worry it’s more like vomit. :)

  31. What I love about challenges like this is learning how much alike many of us are, and celebrating how different we are in wonderful ways, too. I think you take some pretty darned nice pictures, and not every one of them has to be a stunner. Honey is naturally beautiful, and your photography skills don’t take away from that in the least. I always know that when I come here, I’ll have something to think about and at least leave with a smile if not an outright laugh!

  32. Great post, as always. Instead of repeating the awesome comments that have already been left, I’m going to say that ‘extravaganza’ is my favourite word ever. Love what you do, Pamela :)

  33. Still laughing at Monty Python!