Monday, April 15, 2013

Blog the Change: Project Perry

While Penny is the inspiration for this blog, she does share her life with parrot siblings. These parrots have been with me for over a decade now, and are every bit as interesting, cuddly, loving, and quirky as our furry friends.

Scout, 6 years old, my cuddle bug.

During the last Blog the Change for Animals blog hop, NEPA Pets contributed a great read on parrots. If you're considering adding one to your life, I recommend taking a trip over and reading that entry.

This quarter, I'd like to highlight Project Perry. Founded in 2006, Project Perry is a peaceful sanctuary for parrots in the woods and hills of Central Virginia. Having gone to college in a nearby town, I can attest to the area's quiet and suitability for abandoned and abused parrots.

Project Perry is unique even among bird rescues. Here is a blurb from their Facebook page:

Our mission is to provide a safe place for these birds to go when no other options are available. New arrivals are carefully quarantined and evaluated with an effort to adopt them out to a loving forever home. Birds that are not suitable for adoption are given the opportunity to remain here at the sanctuary in a cage-free flighted environment with others of their kind. The Sanctuary also offers a Lifetime of Care program.

You see, they don't JUST take in abandoned parrots to rehabilitate and rehome. Project Perry is very much about letting birds be birds, which is something even the most well-intentioned parrot guardians can forget. Since it was founded, the organization has created a few aviaries on their 15-acres--aviaries custom built for a various groups of parrots and other birds, complete with appropriate enrichment toys and foraging opportunities. The birds remain flighted, and, when the weather is right, are able to enjoy some sunshine and fresh air. While some birds are adopted out to qualified volunteers, most are able to stay and enjoy the sanctuary as their forever homes. "Forever" is a key word in a parrot's life, as they many times outlive their human companions. This is especially important to those at Project Perry; they have even created a Lifetime of Care program that not only covers the parrots of the sanctuary, but can include your bird, too.

Bartok, 10 years, incredible to see in flight when he's not
busy being a roly-poly little peanut man.

Project Perry has recently completed an aviary for conures and quaker parrots, and is in the process of raising money to build another African Grey aviary. Be sure to watch the engaging video and read more about the campaign here. This week, a supporter of the organization will match all donations up to $1,000, so please consider taking this opportunity to donate! If you are unable to right now, you can also sponsor a bird later on.

If you are in the area, you can volunteer or arrange a visit. Matt Smith, the founder, is nothing short of a perfectionist--you will see it in the work, details, and care the sanctuary residents receive.

Project Perry
Indiegogo Campaign for a new African Grey Aviary:
Donate to the Indiegogo campaign this week and your donation, up to $1,000 will be matched!!

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Checking in...

Hello everyone! You may have noticed that it's been quiet over here. I've been having some computer issues that will hopefully be resolved by the end of the week. Penny and I are looking forward to sharing new entries with you, one of which includes 5 week old lab puppies!

Until then,

Nikki & Penny

Monday, January 28, 2013

An Update on Eating

First of all, I would like to thank everyone for your encouragement, personal stories and advice on my post about Penny's eating woes. I'm finding that the pet blogging community is filled with some of the kindest and most helpful people!

Not too long after the post, Penny began separating the Canine Caviar kibble pieces from the wet food, which was no small feat because the wet food crumbled into many tiny pieces that clung to the kibble like nothing else. If you are familiar with Canine Caviar, you know the wet food is basically pure meat and is only recommended in small amounts with the dry food, as it does not have the extra nutritional elements the kibble was formulated to contain.

(Did I mention that the only two flavors of wet food Penny would eat out of the three that were available to us [Turkey, Venison, Duck--there was no Beaver at our local store] were the Venison and Duck meals? She would literally turn her nose up at the Turkey version. Looks like someone's forgotten about her humble beginnings, hee hee hee.)

John finally broke and brought home a 5-lb. bag of Acana Pacifica as Penny is a huge lover of fish. The one and only time she's ever tried to snatch food out of my hand was when I was eating a dried, salted, extremely pungent fish from Thailand. This stuff is STRONG--my sister called it "elephant butt hair" fish when we were younger--but I love it. Penny went wild-eyed nuts over it, so we thought a fish-based kibble might be the way to go.

We actually wanted to get Acana Pacifica when we were testing out foods a few weeks ago, but the shop owner didn't seem to believe in it so we passed. We didn't even have to open the bag before Penny was sniffing it with the same whites-of-the-eyes showing enthusiasm she showed me with my dried fish. Since I had heard that some dogs had a hard time digesting Acana because of its richness and the formula change they made over the summer, we transitioned very slowly. The suggested transition time is 5-7 days, but we went for 10 at the suggestion of Dog Forum members.

Penny's now been on the Acana for a few weeks, and seems very happy eating it. We're going to cycle through all of the Acana Regional diets so she hopefully won't become bored again. A couple things about Acana:

1. Pacifica is quite smelly, even to the most seasoned of dried fish/fermented fish paste/fish sauce eaters.

2. You will notice, three or so weeks after starting the diet, that your dog suddenly has more energy. Not hyperactive energy, but good energy.

A note on #2: I always took the Orijen/Acana lovers statements of their dogs having more energy with a grain of salt. In our case at least, it's been true: Penny just has more of an "up and at 'em!" attitude about everything, and it's not in a bored dog/hyperactive way. So, count us in for one more shining testimonial of, "Acana gave my dog more energy!"

Do I recommend the food? Penny seems to be doing well with it, but with all that we went through, I don't think there's one magic bullet. In fact, I'm still waiting for the other shoe to drop on the new diet--hopefully it never happens. But if it does, I have so much great advice you all have given me to fall back on. :)

Saturday, January 26, 2013

First snow

I'm feeling better, and real content is coming again in the next couple of days! In the meantime, enjoy this video of Penny playing in the first snow (and her very first snow!) of the season on Wednesday. I think she likes it!

Monday, January 21, 2013

Sick as a dog...

Hello! Penny here. It's been quiet over here because mom hasn't been feeling well. Don't worry--I've had it under control, making sure to keep mom's feet warm while I contemplate life over a bully stick, and snuggling with her while she naps. Dad took a photo of us together this morning. I didn't want to leave mom's side, so he gave me breakfast in bed. Hey, if she gets it then I should too, right? Caretaking is hard work!

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Blog the Change: Big Fluffy Dog Rescue

While going through my Google Reader feed last night, I came across Dakota's Den's Blog the Change  entry. Intrigued, I found out that the blogging event happens quarterly, with the first happening today! One of the purposes of this blog is to raise awareness for dog issues and rescues, so I couldn't imagine a more perfect event to participate in.

It wasn't hard to think of what cause I wanted to blog about. Big Fluffy Dog Rescue (BFDR) came to mind for a couple reasons: they are very active and do amazing work, and Penny is a big fluffy dog herself! BFDR focuses on rescuing large and giant (and hairy) breeds like Great Pyrenees, Bernese Mountain Dogs, and Saint Bernards and all their crosses, though they occasionally get the "pocket" pup of 40 or so pounds.

Big Fluffy Dog bonus: They are fantastic footwarmers in the winter!

I first came across BFDR on Facebook, while looking at Pyr rescues. As you well know, Penny is 50% Pyr, so I've cultivated quite a fondness for the breed. If you look at BFDR's adoption list, you will see quite a few purebred Pyrs as well as Pyr mixes (and what they call "Pyre-nots", dogs who look deceptively like Great Pyrenees mixes), so I found myself visiting their site daily. 

Part of BFDR's magic is that they truly embrace social media. With the help of weekly transports and dedicated volunteers, BFDR is able to operate over a wide region on the East Coast, spanning from Maine to Virginia (and lately, including Tennessee). BFDR also runs a Southern Dog Connection, a program that brings dogs from the south to more adoptable regions in New England. This cause is very near and dear to my heart. I went to school in Louisiana for two years and can't even count the number of stray dogs and cats I would see roaming around the city. To know that there are programs like this gives me some hope for all of those skinny, haggard mama dogs I saw looking for food. 

What blows me away is how the administrators are able to communicate in a grateful, thoughtful way while maintaining a sense of humor. I've volunteered at an animal shelter in the past, and have friends in the rescue and foster community. It gets rough out there. REALLY rough. How an animal is found, the abuse endured, the shocking reasons people surrender their companion animals--it really wears you down. To handle all of that, AND to answer questions asked multiple times over the period of a few hours positively, well, that just takes some really special people!

Recently, there was a litter of five pups surrendered to BFDR. They came to the rescue orphaned under the very worst of reasons. Not only did BFDR fundraise and find foster homes at breakneck speeds, they kept those who had been following the story in the loop with daily (or near-daily) updates. I really don't know how they do it.

Rudy, a male Lab/Pyr mix in need of a home. (Photo credit:

Please consider fostering, adopting, or donating to Big Fluffy Dog Rescue.  Visit and follow BFDR at:

Blog the Change

Monday, January 14, 2013

Happy birthday, Penny!!

Penny turns 1 today! We actually don't know when she was born, but set January 14 as her birth date based on the estimated age she was when we got her.

We have a few things planned: a couple little gifts, birthday pig ear, and of course, Puppy Cake from last month's well-timed BarkBox! She already got a small KONG filled with a little cheese this morning.

I'll post a full birthday recap tomorrow. For now, happy birthday, Penny!

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Get to know your bloggers: Third Annual Pet Blogger Challenge!

I've always loved to get to know my favorite bloggers better through these types of surveys/questionnaires. I haven't been blogging for very long, but was excited to see that I started in time to participate in the Third Annual Pet Blogger Challenge. As much as I'm looking forward to sharing my answers with other pet bloggers, I was pleasantly surprised to learn more about myself and organize my thoughts on where I hope my blog will be a year from now.

Here are my "first timer" questions and answers:


1. When did you begin your blog?

December 8, 2012

2. What was your original purpose for starting a blog?

I wanted to find honest reviews on dog products and training techniques. It was kind of hit-or-miss: I usually only found reviews of products that were very popular, or the reviews were parts of personal blogs that generally had nothing to do with dogs. Reviews on vendor sites tend to be excessively positive, or scathingly negative. I find that bloggers tend to have a more balanced viewpoint. My initial purpose was to outline my day-to-day life with Penny, and also review some of the weirder products that weren't getting much attention.

3. Is your current purpose the same? If not, what’s different?

Not quite. I still want to write about my general experiences with Penny and our experiences with dog products. However, as I got deeper into the companion animal community, I decided that I wanted to spread awareness for important dog-related programs (like the wonderful Warrior Canine Connection), rescue efforts, and lost dogs. I'm hoping to gain enough of a readership that the lost dog alerts and animal rescue calls for help I post here on the blog or on Penny's Facebook or Twitter pages will one day make an impact. Social media has really changed how we can communicate, and it's amazing who you can reach with one post.

4. How often do you post? 

I've only been going for a month now, so I'm kind of erratic. I've had blogs before and always had trouble keeping up with them and being consistent. Right now, I'm trying to go for once a week, just to make sure I get something up without pressuring myself too much.

5. Do you blog on a schedule or as the spirit moves you?

More as the spirit moves me. I find it difficult to write if I don't really believe in what I'm writing.

If you don’t publish on a schedule, why? How do you think your decision affects your audience? How do you know when a topic is “post-worthy?”

I have my loose "once a week" schedule, but I don't want to give myself a strict one until I have more faith in myself. I have a lot of other projects going on in my personal life and tend to shut down when overwhelmed. I want to make sure I keep doing this! I think this affects my audience in the same way I am affected by other bloggers. I LOVE it when good, thoughtful bloggers blog every day. Bloggers I like who post less frequently are kind of nice too, because it's like you get a bonus at the end of your day when you find that they've updated. I'm not saying I'm so great that I can uplift someone's day, but I hope that I can be a pleasant surprise once a week to the people who do follow Penny and my adventures.

How do I know a topic is "post-worthy". Hmm. I write about what I'd like to hear about, things I find funny, or things that are bothering me. I want to be honest in my writing because I know that I have as much to give back to the pet community as they have to give me. I almost didn't post about Penny's eating issues because it sounded like such a boring problem, but I'm so glad I did because the encouragement and advice I got was so valuable.

6. How much time do you spend writing your blog per week? How much time visiting other blogs? Share your tips for staying on top of it all.

Hmm...I would say around 5 hours a week? I love going through my blogs at the end of the day. It's my quiet time. I stay on top of it with Google Reader. I don't know what I would do without that wonderful application!

7. How do you measure the success of a post and of your blog in general (comments, shares, traffic)?

Right now, not very successful! I have something like 7 followers on Penny's Facebook page, ha ha. But I've only been going for a month and Beth and Gizmo from Terrier Torrent helped bring some more readers in with their wonderful post about Penny and me.

Do you look strictly at the numbers, or do you have a way of assessing the quality of those interactions?

I haven't quite figured this part out yet. Aside from wanting to help rescues and folks with lost pets out, I want to be satisfied with what I write first, before placing value on how many people are visiting and commenting.

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

This kind of contradicts what I just answered above, but I'd love help with getting more followers on Penny's Facebook and Twitter pages! Those are the ways I will be able to reach out and help the causes I believe in most.

9. What goals do you have for your blog in 2013?

Mostly, I'd like to keep posting consistently.

I'd like to write about what is on my mind and foster discussion.

Take more pictures.

Participate in community activities like Wordless Wednesday and blog hops.

Start posting recipes for homemade treats. 

Write more about senior care (even though I have a puppy--senior dogs will always hold a special place in my heart).

My shoot-for-the-stars goal is to start fundraising for dogs who need help. By this, I mean dogs in rescues/shelters (and I wouldn't be opposed to other companion animals, either) as well as dogs who need help but whose owners are down on their luck. We haven't gotten to a place where health care is affordable for our companion animals, and it's unfortunate when a loving family has to let go of a pet because they simply cannot afford the special diet or surgery.


Here's a photo of a cute puppy butt, since long wordy entries aren't always pretty to look at:

Thank you to the Take Paws Blog for hosting 2013's Pet Blogger Challenge! Make sure to visit the linky list to read about all of the other bloggers participating today.

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Pet Blogger Challenge 2013

I'm still new to a lot of this blogging business, but still excited for community-wide events like this year's Pet Blogger Challenge! See you on January 10th!

Pet Blogger Challenge Jan. 10

Exploring the world with Terrier Torrent!

Recently, I signed up for the Pet Blogger Gift Exchange that Pamela of Something Wagging This Way Comes and was paired up with the very fabulous Beth and Gizmo of Terrier Torrent. Beth and Gizmo have been on the pet blogging scene much longer than I have (though that's not saying much at this point), and have a fun and thoughtful point of view. What I love is that it's written both from both Beth's and Gizmo's perspective--who doesn't want to see life from a spunky terrier's viewpoint?

Gizmo! I could just scoop him right up.

One of of my favorite entries is about homemade liver treats. It is written with much humor, and just shows how loved Gizmo and his friends are. In a more recent one, there aren't as many words as there are photographs of lovely Sandhill Cranes. As of the new year, there is a new feature on the blog called "Behind the Paw" (how cute is that?), which highlights weekly events in Gizmo's world.

A little about Beth and Gizmo: they hail from Central Florida and love to explore the great outdoors through hiking and geocaching. Beth writes extensively on Florida's natural life, and pairs her entries with wonderful photography that just makes you wish you were there. I know a couple geocachers, but no one has a cool little doggie pal that accompanies them.

Gizmo with his geocaching loot

Gizmo was a shelter rescue from a kill facility. Of his adoption, Beth says, " He was dumped at our animal conrol (read: kill)shelter when he was about 3 mos old...I had lost my beautiful Bruno about a month earlier and was feeling pretty low...I just can't live in a dog-less house...I went to the shelter with nothing in mind other than finding the dog that needed me most and downsizing a bit...Gizmo was tiny (11 pounds...Bruno had weighted in at 105#) He was in a cage with another dog...The other dog was all happy and bouncing when I walked by, but Gizmo was wet, hairless (bad care and bad nutrition) and curled up in a quivering ball at the bak of the cage...seemed like he'd given yes, of course that was the dog for me:) We took hi to the meet&greet area where he began to respond to me...That was it, I made my decision and never looked back..."

Lovely words for a lucky dog. :)

Be sure to add Terrier Torrent to your feeds! You can further connect with Beth and Gizmo through these channels:

Facebook: Gizmo's Terrier Torrent

Twitter: GizmoGeoDog
Google+: Gizmo Geodog

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Happy New Year!

A dose of cute for the new year.

May 2013 be a healthy, happy, and prosperous one!