Welcome To The Neighborhood – Pet Blogger Challenge

Neighborhood is a foreign concept when you’re a transient living on a boat. We don’t see the same dog walkers every day, chat with the school crossing guard each morning, or make that weekly visit to the farmer’s market.

But we still have Pet Blogville. And the Annual Pet Blogger Challenge is its big block party.

Red buoy in the Chesapeake with birds.

On days we’re underway, this is our neighborhood.
Didn’t you know that coastal navigation is sailing from one pile of bird crap to the next?

A Neighborhood By Choice

Six years ago, I still felt raw from losing my beloved Shadow after a two-year bout with cancer.

I was expecting a new puppy. And knowing how potentially brief our time together could be (the vet diagnosed Shadow with osteosarcoma a month after we adopted her), I decided to start a dog blog.

Wouldn’t it be great to have a record of the time I spent with my new puppy?

But I found so much more.

Besides having over 1300 posts and thousands of pictures reflecting my years with Honey and several foster dogs, I’ve made many new dog-loving friends.

My pet-loving buddies are Christian, atheist, athlete, couch potato, gun owning, pacifist, introverted, extroverted, old, young, cranky, upbeat, gay, straight, vegetarian, carnivore people of all shapes, sizes, and colors.

Differences that divide people enough to start twitter wars or rages on television talk shows melt away when you spend time, real time, getting to know people who love animals as much as you do.

Reading the work of other bloggers, “chatting” with people who comment on Something Wagging, and seeing pictures and stories of friends and their pets on social media gives me a neighborhood to enjoy when I’m traveling to a new place each day.

Honey the golden retriever looks off the sailboat.

What do you see out there, Honey?

Nope, this isn’t my funniest pet blogger challenge post. That would be the Multimedia Extravaganza of 2014.

But it’s certainly the most thankful. Now let’s get to the challenge.

Hampton Virginia underway.

Oh, I see what’s so interesting. Land.
Coming in to Hampton, Virginia.

Pet Blogger Challenge 2015

1. How long have you been blogging? And, for anyone who is visiting for the first time, please give a quick description of the subject of your blog.

I began blogging on March 2010, the day before my golden retriever Honey came home to live with us.

My tagline is “An Amateur’s Musings on Dogs And Their People” which gives me room to write about any dog related thing I fancy. Most of my posts are reflections on life with dogs.

But I occasionally write “helpful” posts on the best way to dispose of dog poop, how to dine out with a reactive dog, or finding safe places to practice off leash with your dog.

2. What is the one thing that you accomplished during 2015, either on your blog or because of it, that made you most proud?

I guess I’m just glad that I’m blogging at all.

Selling everything we own, quitting our jobs, and moving aboard a small sailboat has been a challenge. And internet is far less reliable on the water than in land-based life.

So that I’m posting most weeks and continuing to attract more readers is a major accomplishment.

3. Which of your blog posts was your favorite this year and why? (Please include a link.)

Don’t Say This To Someone Whose Dog is Dying was one favorite. I often find that the comments are better than the original post. And this post is an excellent example of that.

4. A common theme from last year’s challenge was that many of us wanted to increase the size of our audiences. Whether or not we intend to monetize our blogs, it seems we’d all like to reach more people. It feels good to know that we’re connecting with others, sharing a laugh or supporting a cause, and it’s motivating to see those numbers grow! What is one thing you’ve done in the past year that has brought more traffic to your blog?

I did nothing this year to increase my audience size. I did start a Something Wagging Pinterest page but have not been very active on it yet.

What has increased my hits the most is having older, “evergreen” content that answers questions people are googling like “is it okay for dogs to sleep outside?”

5. Which of your blog posts got the most traffic this year? Why do you think it was so popular? (Please include a link.)

My most popular posts in 2015 were written in earlier years and get a lot of traffic from google searches.

With over 20,000 hits, the big winner is What Do You Do AFTER You Scoop The Poop? The post showed the pros and cons of different methods of poop disposal from composting to flushing to tossing in the trash or tossing it into the woods.

Because the natural ecosystem can only break down the waste of two dogs per square mile, it’s crucial that we find the best ways to get rid of dog poop before it gets rid of us.

6. What is one blog that you read religiously – other than your own – and what makes you such a devoted reader? (Please include a link.)

With sporadic internet access, I can’t read any blog as regularly as I like to. I do more of a hit or miss approach, stopping in on my favorites when I can.

But I’ve been following Jan’s Poodle and Dog Blog since the beginning. It’s kinda like a quick news site on all things dog with some irreverent opinion pieces. And Jan’s been blogging for longer than anyone else I know.

Which make Poodle and Dog kinda like the New York Times of dog blogs. 🙂

Not updated as often is A Slightly R-Rated Dog Blog by Jan’s “evil twin Skippy.” It’s more like the tabloid version of the news.

7. What resources do you rely on to enhance your technical, writing, photography, social media, or other skills that improve your blog?

Well, I have a feed reader full of posts to read about improving my blog. But I haven’t touched a single one.

The one thing I did was buy a better camera so even if my technical skills are still poor, at least my pictures are less blurry.

8. What is the best piece of advice you can offer other bloggers?

Remember that the majority of your readers are not other bloggers. And that they may be stopping by for the very first time.

Nothing makes me crazier than to read a name in a blog post and have no idea who the writer is talking about because it’s my first time there.

Be welcoming to everyone. It’s the best way to make new friends.

9. What is your vision for your blog in 2016? Do you have specific goals?

Well, my big goal for 2015 was to redesign the look of the blog. And you can see how far I got with that.

It’s time to see how the blog fits with our new lives aboard. But I’m not making any promises.

10. You have the attention of the pet blogging community – is there one blogging challenge you’d like help with, or one aspect of your blog that you’d like input on?

My biggest question today is about how I can really know if I’m offering anything worthwhile with Something Wagging.

It’s great to know that my traffic is growing and that people are finding useful information in old posts. But I worry that my writing is less funny and interesting than it has been in the past.

And when none of my most popular posts of 2015 were written in 2015, I start to wonder.

I’d love to know if regular readers miss content I’ve covered in the past. Or what they’d like to see in the future.

Gratitude And Welcome

So that’s my offering to the annual pet blogger block party, or as most people call it, the Pet Blogger Challenge.

Thank you to Amy of Go Pet Friendly for being our block captain for the past 6 years and rallying the bloggers together to take this challenge.

Thank you to non-blogging readers for your patience as we bloggers examine the lint in our belly buttons. And for taking time from your busy days to read and comment here. Even when I don’t have time to reply to your comments, I’m grateful for them and enjoy keeping up with your lives with your pets.

And thank you to all the other bloggers who are a part of my neighborhood, no matter where I may sail.

Fishing boat with a punny name.

I certainly wouldn’t want my only neighborhood to include people who make such bad boat puns.

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  1. Well, I don’t know about the stats, but I have enjoyed your 2015 posts. But then I am a huge fan of Honey! lol

  2. i love reading your blog. You are always funny, or insightful, or even both. Keep doing what feels best for you, that’s always the best answer.

    • Hmm, well, I would do what feels right. Now if only I could figure out what that is. Some of us are able to feel bad about just about anything. 🙂

  3. Oh Pamela, I love how you think of this all as a neighborhood – what a heartwarming, inclusive perspective! You’re still as funny and witty as you ever were, there’s no need to worry there. I sometimes wonder if the older posts that end up “most popular” instead of current ones do so because of some sweet Google juice they’re carrying over from previous years. I doubt it’s a dis on your current year’s offerings. Just keep writing and sharing all those insightful thoughts of yours, and let us travel with you vicariously!

    • Thanks for being so kind, Kim. I know Madame Google has a lot to do with my previous post popularity. And the fact that poop and pee are apparently really popular topics. 🙂

      But I would have thought that something I wrote in 2015 would have cracked the top 5 and that makes me worry that I’m not moving forward. Or worse, going back.

      I think it would be smart to revisit this when I’m feeling a little more on top of things.

  4. Great post and not just because you mentioned the Poodles, the dogs, my evil twin Skippy, and me, but thanks so much and have many bon voyages.

    • Ha! If I were a smart phone gal, I’d suggest you make a Poodle and Dog app so I could check in on your pithy observations from anywhere. 🙂

  5. I love your blog and my favorite post of yours is the one about being a dick to people who lost a pet. I’m blown away by the amount of people who are truly insensitive. I recently had someone email me asking for details about Riley and Blue’s deaths, because they found them unbelievable. #wowreally

    • Snark isn’t a good fit for me. But I’m glad you enjoyed the “jerk” post I wrote about people grieving their dog.

      I’m astounded someone took the time to write to you about Riley and Blue. You don’t have to share but I’m curious. Did you respond? And how?

      • I didn’t read your post as snarky – just honest. I think in a social media world many of us have lost our manners and your post was a great reminder that people have feelings; even if we can’t see them through a computer screen. I also liked it, because one of my readers had lost a hampster around the same time and because it wasn’t a dog or cat, no one cared.

        I did respond. I simply told her why our dogs had passed away in a brief/short response. She didn’t reply. I think my email made it clear that she’d crossed a line. I respect curiosity, but it shouldn’t trump kindness.

  6. I dunno…that boat pun was pretty funny…at least it made me laugh. 🙂
    I consider myself very fortunate to have stumbling across your blog. The owning of a dog while living on a boat has provided me quite the interesting perspective on life in general. Keep up the good work, Pamela! And keep posting pictures of sweet Honey-girl. Blogville loves you both! <3

    • Thanks, my friend, for the kind words.

      And you’re missing out on some amazing (and terrible) boat puns living in a landlocked state. E-Fish-N-Sea was one of the most creative. But Aquaholics is the most common. I see one in nearly every marina we pass.

  7. You know what I think would add another dimension to your blog is something along the lines of Tales From The Back Road. She had the dog blog but since they are living on the road in the RV, she changed the whole focus to her art, travel, and dogs. Not sure if you have hobbies you want to blog about, but something like sea legs and dogs with posts about sailing, living on a boat, and dogs would be super interesting for you and for a lot of readers I would think. Not every post would have to include Honey. That just popped into my mind, so that is my two cents for what it is worth.

    • I’m never quite sure what people want to see and always doubt myself. But you’re right that Mary’s rebranding has been really successful. And I enjoy her art, travel, and dog posts equally.

      When I can recover some of my creativity (horror at the thoughts of continuing to sail in January weather), I’ll start working on sprucing things up a little here.

      Thanks for your idea.

  8. Well, it has been a pleasure getting to know you through your blog a little in 2015, and I have loved all your posts since your transition from land to water! I’m truly impressed with your decision and know that I wouldn’t be able to live aboard a sailboat – I’ve been asking myself the question whether or not I’d be able to live in one of those Tiny Houses that get featured a lot on HGTV these days (one of my favorite channels), and I’m still not sure. Maybe if I was single – because where would you go for some privacy if you had an argument with your better half other than out the front door?

    • One thing I’ve learned about tiny house (or boat) living: it’s much easier in warm climates. When you live somewhere sunny and bright, you have more options for getting outside to enlarge your living area or just get away from family.

      As for the arguments with your dear heart? One sailing blog I followed talked about having a “leave me alone” hat. Whoever was wearing it was signaling to their partner to stay out of their way.

      Heck, that might not be a bad idea even in a regular sized house. 🙂

  9. I started a Pinterest page this year as well and haven’t done much with it either. Glad I’m not the only one.

    Thanks so much for your tips on SEO! I really appreciate them. I often try to write funny or clever titles, but I guess they probably aren’t helping me much with traffic.

    I am new reader so I can only comment on your 2015 content – which I always enjoy and find myself smiling about later.

    • I just “followed” your Pinterest page. So there’s one more.

      But yeah, I find it hard to take on one more social media thing. Especially now that I can’t always count on having the internet.

      And I have also written my share of cute or clever titles. I still do at times. But I know much better now that nothing beats click bait snark or answer a question everyone is asking google. 🙂

  10. I was having the same thought as Emma about an idea for your blog in 2016 but she said it so well (amazing for a dog too, huh?). Now that your boat is in ship-shape and you’re heading south, I would like to see some highlights of ports and cities you discover along the way and of course day-to-day life on the sailboat is always interesting. I’m really looking forward to your adventures this year! 🙂

    • Thanks for confirming Emma’s suggestion (although I suspect she got some help from her hu-mom). 🙂

      I’m never certain what people will find interesting. But I have some ideas for integrating more boat stuff into the blog, starting with a redesign if I can ever force myself to pull the trigger.

  11. You started for much the same reason that I did! One of the reasons I am most glad I started blogging was that it allowed me to meet you!

    • After you read my response to your “rat smells his own hole” post in a certain secret spot, you might reconsider ever meeting me. 😉

  12. It is very cool that you are still able to blog regularly while on the boat. I need to check out your post on poop. We have 4 dogs now and I’m looking for a better way to dispose of their poopies. All the best to you and Honey on your journeys in 2016!

    • I have to admit, one of the things I hate about living on a boat is the plumbing. No more flushable dog poop bags for us.

      BTW, you realize that the first person who invents an inexpensive way to disintegrate dog poop instantly (perhaps a laser?) will be the wealthiest person ever, right? 🙂

  13. I also lost my family dog to cancer a few years ago, but he was really close to my mom, so it didn’t hit me too hard. My current dog Matilda is more of a reflection of myself – shy, kissy and sensitive – and I know it’s going to be so tough to lose her. I also want to chronicle her life in my blog.

    I’m excited to learn more about you guys and dig into your past posts!

  14. Oh, Pamela, as far as I’m concerned you have nothing to worry about when it comes to favorite posts! Like Kimberly, I especially liked the one about not being an insensitive jerk when someone’s pet is dying/has died. I feel fortunate in that no one was snarky when I wrote about Callie back in August.

  15. Mark Twain said, “There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies and statistics.” I think that applies to the 2015 posts not being popular in 2015–I’ve loved them! Barley and I love walking by the marina at our part of Lake Erie and I’ve had so many questions about what it’s like below the decks of those boats and your blog has given me those answers! I also love discussions of all of the new training Honey’s had to do to adjust to life at sea.

  16. Great answers… and you prompted me to go read the “Things not to say to a person with a dying pet” post. It was a good post. I, together with my husband, have had to make that decision 4 times. On one occasion, we did “know” absolutely – because our dog had had a major stroke and was 16 yrs old. On the other 3 occasions, we didn’t know for sure. Like you said, a disease often waxes and wanes, so you don’t know if tomorrow might be a great day for your dog. That was a post that could help a lot of people.

  17. Oh my gosh, your blog is hilarious! I love that kind of snarky (ish?) take on things. I really liked the poop post! (Can’t believe I typed that.) I didn’t know that flushable bags existed. I wish I had known that before I bought like 900 poop bags on Amazon (they’re cheap, okay?). I will definitely look into that when we run out, but fortunately, we live on a woodsy island right now, so nature is likely taking care of it.
    So glad to meet someone else that travels with their dog! I lived on a tall ship (pre-dog) for a bit and was amazed at how well the big dogs did on the boat. I’m hoping that Alfie and I can sail someday too, but right now I’m trying to teach him that water isn’t going to kill him and then we hope to move to kayaks and canoes first.
    I hope you sail across the Atlantic! I’d love to hear about it! Will be following along. Thanks for the laughs and tips!

  18. I feel like part of this “club” of bloggers that all started around the same time – you, me, Mary, Carrie, etc. It really was the wild, wild west of pet blogging back them but somehow we managed to all find each other. I’ve loved watching everyone’s lives grow and evolve over the years and love that you took the leap to follow a dream. I hope you never stop blogging so we can stay in each others lives 🙂

    • Ha ha! Geniuses think alike. I just commented the same thing over at Tales and Tails that we’re part of this “class” of bloggers starting about the same time.

      It’s especially amazing when I think about how many bloggers have moved onto different things.

      I’m hoping my “dream” settles down soon so I can turn some attention to the blog. I’d love to transition it into a place that fits our new life while still keeping thoughts on the relationship between dogs and humans at the center.

      You can be sure I’ll be looking carefully at your blog as probably the best on adventuring with dogs. 🙂

      BTW, I met a Canadian sailor over the summer who sails with her dachshund (they just arrived in the Bahamas). When I told her the name of your blog, she was so excited she immediately jotted it down in her phone. I can only assume she’s one of your newer followers.

      • I love that you met someone sailing with a Dachshund and that you shared by blog with them. Thanks!

        I LOVE your blog because of how well you communicate about our relationship with dogs. I hope you can maintain that with you new adventures. I would also love to read about the places you visit though and whether Honey is allowed to get off the boat with you.

  19. Now that your “a float” I always get doodley excited when I see you docked in my inbox. You’ve been a delight to follow and I an always entertained by your posts. Be safe.

  20. Pamela, the pet blogging neighborhood is a much better place for having you in it! Of course things are in flux right now, but you’ll get your feet back underneath you, and then I’m DYING to get your insights on living on a boat. You always have such unique perspectives, and I learn so much from your posts – including where to put my dog poop.

    My first 10 most popular posts of 2015 were written in previous years, so if that’s how we’re measuring success, I’m clearly failing. I actually see it differently – we’re writing evergreen content that’s still useful to people and Google is rewarding us for that. Next year some of the posts I wrote this year may be the most popular – perhaps they just need to age a bit, like a fine wine.

    I’m so looking forward to reading about your adventures this year, even if it’s not as often as when you were living on land.

    Thank you, from the bottom of my heart, for participating in the Challenge and for answering questions and helping people out along the way. I’m so lucky to have you as a friend, and I can’t wait to see where 2016 takes you. Cheers!

  21. It’s almost like our dogs have grown up together since so many of started blogging around the same time that they came into our lives! I’ve always loved your blog and your writing style. It often leaves me dumbfounded with “why didn’t I think of that?”

    I think for the changes you have made in your life you are doing great keeping this blog alive! I wouldn’t worry too much about your stats for 2015, it will all fall into place 🙂

  22. Thank you for sharing your #8 tip about being welcoming to new readers. That’s something I don’t think about very often and now I’ll try to be more aware of it. Living on a sailboat is quite an adventure – I must start following you now that I know you’re doing that!

  23. I think living on a sailboat gives your blog a unique opportunity. Sure, most of us can’t relate to living on a boat, or maybe don’t need tips about how to do it…but reading about it sure is interesting, enjoyable, and entertaining. When you first started talking about your new adventure, I was worried that might mean an end to your blog. I’m so glad it didn’t, and I look forward to living on the sea vicariously with you!

  24. I’ve always found your blog entertaining, funny, informative, and endearing. I will do my best to comment more. I have the same wonderings about my blog. Like, “helloooo…is anyone out there?” And what a wonderful way for you to describe the pet blogging community as a “neighborhood.” So true. Best to you this new year!