Pawsitively Humane

Thursday, February 28, 2013

Gaining the Trust of a Wild Lion

 Lions Hug, Lick & Play with Human

Wildlife Animal Behaviorist Interacts with Lions

At Pawsitively Humane, Inc we come across lost pets and feral cats.  Sometimes when we come across a large, stray dog, we have to be careful because we do not know if that dog is scared, or innately vicious that the dog may suddenly bite or attack us.  We use caution.

With feral cats we know what to expect and using traps is a must to capture the cats to get them spayed/neutered or to a vet if they are injured. However, over the years, in feeding these feral cats, some cats have allowed us to pet them. This does not grant us full permission to pick them up or to bring the feral cats indoors. With daily interaction by feeding the cats and talking to them, we gain their trust. That first time they rub against your legs, or let you pet them, is a joyous moment and one you never forget. Sometimes it takes years. As time passes and the trust grows, it the most rewarding feeling.

Here is a video of a wild animal behaviorist physically interacting with large lions. The Lions are hugging and licking him. You'll love the water scene. And Lions do not like water. 

Let us know what you think of this video. Post a comment below.


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Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Thinking of a Mini Pet Pig? Meet Coccolino!

Pets come in all shapes, sizes, colors and species.While most people have cats or dogs or even rabbits or ferrets as pets, one pet that is cute and cuddly and gaining popularity are mini pigs. Yes pigs! So the "cute" part you can envision. But if the "cuddly" adjective has you perplexed or wondering "don't they smell?" well...these are excellent questions!  We turned to Katie Bastianelli who writes a blog of the adventures in raising a mini pet pig named Coccolino. We soon learned that pigs, like some cats, do not like to be picked up, but like dogs or other friendly cats, love to cuddle and are extremely intelligent.  But mischief is clearly their main trait and so extraordinary patience is essential to accepting your mini pig.  Soiled carpets and pirating of food vessels is standard routine. We asked Katie for a very candid story telling of her experience and we're excited to share it with you below. The stories will leave you laughing, wanting to scoop Cocco in your arms and also thankful for your own better behaved cats and dogs. Enjoy the adventures!

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Coccolino resting outdoors
Pigs are often equated to perpetual toddlers. They are stubborn, clever, loving on their own terms and always getting into mischief. We already had two toddlers in the house; what’s a third? Before our mini pig arrived, our brood consisted of me and my Italian husband (I met him in Rome and lived there for six years before we moved to upstate NY where I’m from), a sweet and sassy three year old daughter, a very attached and needy one year old son and three stray cats straight from the streets of Rome.
Sadly, our one cat, perhaps the most social and affectionate of the three, passed away in February 2012. It was a very difficult time for me and my husband and our daughter still talks about her cat Giaccolo (pronounced jock-olo) to this day. 

After a few months, we still felt his absence and decided to bring home another pet. We couldn’t consider another cat and one of our remaining cats does not do well with dogs. The wheels started turning and after much research and discussions with several veterinarians, we decided on a pet mini pig.

Our mini pig came to us in early July 2012 at barely five weeks old. He should have been nursing with his brothers and sisters and finding excessive summer warmth in their bodies but his mother turned him away. He was ready for his new home. 

Since all of our cats have Italian names and only understand the Italian language (rightly so, since they are Italian), we decided to give our pig an Italian name too. Coccolino (pronounced co-co-leeno) was chosen since that means “cuddle bug” in Italian and we were hoping he would be just that. Our rejected runt was not a “coccolino” when he came to us. He was the exact opposite. He caused quite an ordeal in the beginning, so much so that we weren’t sure how we could manage having a pig, especially with such young children. Even our two cats Lacci (pronounced lah-chy) and Pizzico (pronounced peets-ee-co) weren’t sure what to make of the high pitched squeals emitted from this tiny pig.
Lacci and Pizzico

Needless to say, our daughter was not a fan of the pig’s shrieking and our son was overly jealous that his Mom was holding anything but him. The first few weeks were nearly impossible trying to get everyone happy – and quiet.

After extensive training and patience, Coccolino settled in and finally began to live up to his name. Even the cats became curious once he quieted down. They would sleep next to him and Cocco would obediently hold still so they could sniff him. Cocco always showed deference to Lacci, the top pig in Cocco’s herding-order mind. Lacci seemed to respect this. Pizzico, always a sweet but timid cat having been hit by a motorcycle when he was a few days old, gets along with any animal he encounters. The three of them quickly formed a working balance.
Lacci the cat and her brother,  Coccolino the mini pet pig

Cocco’s new life began to consist of two priorities: food and warmth. He would eat just about any food he had the opportunity to touch, or steal from the kids, and he sought warmth in his pile of blankets, my arms and legs and later my daughter’s lap when she was sitting still. He avoided and still avoids my son who now verbalizes his disdain for the pig: “no, no, Co-cco!”

Although we found an equilibrium in our house of kids, cats and pig, life with a mini pig is never that easy or uneventful. Pigs are smart, often considered the third or fourth smartest animal, and they will test you. The toddler quickly emerged from the shy and scared mini piglet that came to us. And, as we are finding out months later, he does not appear to be transcending this stage in childhood.

We have experienced more frustration in the past few months than we ever have before. Coccolino still shrieks when someone approaches him, still can only be picked up by me and continually discovers innovative ways to achieve his goals (again, food and warmth). If it weren’t so infuriating to deal with the aftermath of his skillful work, it would be impressive. 

His tact for overturning garbage cans, opening cabinets and urinating wherever suits him has disrupted our lives and made us question our choice of pet on almost a daily basis. Still, the cuddles and kisses Cocco shares with us has us helplessly at his mercy, begging him to stop causing so much trouble and live by the rules but accepting him even though he refuses. We could not imagine life without our mini pig yet cannot quite get used to all the newly situated baby gates we thought we were done with and putting our garbage can on top of our counter when we leave the house.

Cocco always find a way to food!
Pigs are a lesson in balancing the endearing with the exasperating, the heart melting kisses with the pile of poop in the living room. Everything they give in one way (cuddles), they take in another (usually resulting in a huge mess). They will show you as much love as mischief and will definitely be a perpetual toddler…for a good 15 years…but they will also be the cuddliest pet you could ever imagine.

Some lessons learned:

  • A pig will sacrifice anything in the name of food.
  • Never leave food packages accessible. Accessible means in a paper package they can easily tear open, knock over (garbage) or on any level low enough to get into (cabinets).
  • A pig will seek warmth any way they can get it, be it dog, cat, heating vent or under your sweatshirt.
  • Pigs communicate in many noises beyond squealing and grunting. They do not oink.
  • Pigs do not like to be picked up.
  • Maintaining a pig is easy since their health is excellent overall; maintaining patience to have a pig is trying.
  • It is possible to feel love and frustration in equal measures.

I hope this article hasn’t turned you off to pet pigs. They are extremely intelligent and affectionate and a pig might be the best pet you’ve ever had. Rather, I hope this article was an educational glimpse into all the chaos – and love – that coincide with having a pet pig.

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Thank you Katie for sharing your story! There are highs and lows in raising and disciplining children and pets. The more knowledge we attain, the better equipped we are to handle the mishaps and appreciate the fruits of our labor--happy, healthy pets and children.

To learn more about the responsibilities of caring for a mini pet pig, follow Coccolino's adventures at 


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Saturday, February 16, 2013

Iams Love Tails Contest

The bond between a person and their pet is the strongest bond and one of unconditional love. Each of you have stories of that bond and how your pet demonstrates that eternal gratitude. Whether it's greeting you or knocking you down as you walk through the house door, licking you feverishly, the dog fetching you a bottle of beer from the fridge or a cat bringing you its leash (yes cats can and do fetch and walk on leashes!) here is your opportunity to share your special story.

Beginning February 14, Iams will search for real stories from pet owners about the unique bond they share with their dogs and cats. And, the winning two and four-legged “family” will star in Iams next national advertisement! Consumers can log on to the Iams Facebook page from February 14 through March 3 of this year, and follow the easy steps to enter the contest.

Building off the highly successful Keep Love Strong advertising campaign unveiled in November of last year, which features heart-warming ads inspired by real stories, this contest is designed to find the very best Love Tails featuring the special connections people share with their animals.

IAMS Love Tails Contest Details

       Submit your story from Feb. 14 through March 3 by visiting the Iams Facebook page and following the easy steps.

       Share a photo and tell us in 500 characters or less about the unique relationship you have with your dog or cat and how Iams helps you show your love.

       Once the submission phase is over, Iams will select 50 stories (25 dog and 25 cat) as semi-finalists.

       From the semi-finalist Love Tails, Iams will select 10 finalists (5 dog and 5 cat) and each will win a cash prize and free Iams food for a year.

       In April, Iams will ask its Facebook fans to choose their favorite Love Tail from the group of finalists and one grand prize winner will be selected. 

Have fun!


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Friday, February 15, 2013

Urinating Outside the Litter Box

One of the top four reasons cat owners become frustrated and want to turn in their cat at a shelter is when the cat exhibits bad behavior.  Often in cats that behavior is urinating outside the litter box. There is hope!

The below article by Cindy Hewitt explains that misbehavior is the cat's way of communicating that something is wrong either in the environment or medically. Please be patient and observe all the signs in order to assess and take the appropriate steps to help your cat.
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by Cindy Hewitt

Inappropriate elimination is the leading cause when cats are relinquished to shelters, and urinary issues are one of the most common health problems for which cat guardians seek veterinary assistance.  

Cats naturally seek somewhere to eliminate that will allow them to bury their waste.  When cats don’t use the litterbox, there is usually a reason:

  • There is a medical issue.
  • The litterbox is unattractive.
  • There is a behavioral issue.

Medical issues: “Knowledge regarding feline urinary tract issues is evolving in terms of diagnostics, causes and treatments, and this can be both confusing and controversial. The current thinking is that the majority of Feline Lower Urinary Tract Disease (FLUTD) cases has no clear cause and is lumped into idiopathic cystitis or interstitial cystitis (borrowed from human medicine).  Since the exact cause is unknown, the perfect therapy eludes us.  To make matters worse, this syndrome of idiopathic cystitis can produce urinalysis results that sometimes yield either bacteria or crystals, obscuring the true process initially.  This frustrates owners and vets alike.  Often, idiopathic cystitis is finally diagnosed once a trend or repeated pattern is detected” explains Dr. Jim Dugan of Pinecrest Veterinary Hospital.

Cats frequently attempt to get our attention and let us know they are having problems by eliminating outside the litterbox.  When this occurs, cats should be examined by a veterinarian to insure there is no medical basis for the issue. A urinalysis should be performed to determine Ph and specific gravity, and to look for crystals, bacteria and blood in your cat's urine.  If there are no significant findings in the urinalysis, but this is a repeat or chronic issue, a radiograph should be performed. If there are still no findings, an Ultrasound is helpful in more thoroughly visualizing the bladder and bladder wall to evaluate for possible calculi.  If US isn't available, a radiograph with contrast (usually air is used to inflate the bladder) may be useful.

If a cat is going in and out of the litterbox, or appears to be straining but not producing urine, it is CRITICAL to monitor carefully and if the cat cannot urinate, it is a medical EMERGENCY.  A blocked urethra can be fatal and must be treated immediately.  If you are unsure, segregate the cat with a clean litterbox and observe carefully to determine if it is actually urinating.

Some studies have shown that in cats under 10 years of age, the vast majority of urinary tract infections (UTI) have no bacterial component, so treatment with antibiotics may not be necessary.  If there is blood in the urine, most veterinarians prescribe antibiotics to prevent infection.  In addition, studies have shown that most UTIs in young cats clear in 3-5 days, with or without antibiotics, fluid therapy, both or nothing.  Providing COMFORT to the cat by using medication to relieve pain and/or reduce inflammation should be discussed with your veterinarian.

Diet appears to play a role in many cases.  If the cat is producing crystals, modifying the Ph of the urine (with diet or drugs) can help prevent formation and even dissolve some existing crystals.  Fluid intake also makes a difference, as larger fluid intake can help flush out any small crystals that may form.  Providing a fresh flowing fountain, or giving your cat very low-sodium chicken broth (such as Pacific low sodium, free range, organic broth with about 70mg sodium/8 oz) can help increase fluid intake.

Many cats improve if fed a prescription diet such as Hill's Rx CD Multicare, Royal Canin Urinary SO and Purina UR.  If the cat improves on a prescription diet, then dietary modification is probably appropriate.  If the cat improves and is stable on a prescription diet for an extended period of time, but cost is a factor, ask your vet if you can try an over-the-counter (OTC) urinary formula food such as Purina Pro Plan Urinary Formula.  If your vet approves, slowly add in the OTC urinary formula food (no more than 10% at a time) over several weeks, and if the cat does well both from a digestive and urinary perspective, see if you can maintain him on the OTC urinary formula.

Additionally, if the cat has experienced painful elimination (such as with a bladder infection), it may associate this pain with the litterbox and be hesitant to use the box again.  If your cat had an infection which has been successfully treated and is still hesitant to use the box, try a different type of box in a different location in an attempt to break the association.

Cat Professionals, Ltd. has produced a great booklet on FLUTD, which thoroughly outlines the diverse things that can impact your cat.  It is available in print or download formats at

Unattractive litterbox:  Cats can be very particular, and a variety of issues affect their willingness to use a litterbox. 
  • Location:  should be in a quiet, peaceful location away from noise and traffic.
  • Type of box:  some cats are hesitant to use a hooded litterbox; other cats prefer the privacy.
  • Size of litterbox. Box should be at least 1.5 times the length and width of the cat; bigger boxes are usually better.
  • Litterbox entrance: Be aware of height of entrance, as older cats may have difficulty getting into high litterboxes and larger cats may not want to enter through a small opening.
  • Type of litter: 
o   Most cats prefer a small grain litter such as scoopable litter. Dr. Elsey’s Cat Attract Litter is formulated to encourage cats to use the litterbox, and may be helpful in retraining your cat.
o   Scented litters can be very offensive to cats.  Try an unscented plain clay or scoopable litter. 
o   Dust from litter may bother the animal; use a low dust brand.
o   Try different types of litter (scoopable, clay, etc.) in different boxes (open vs. hooded) at the same time, preferably in the same location, to control for all variables. If your cat has a preference for one type of litter, use that litter in different boxes and locations to further understand your cat’s needs. 

  • Litter box liners:  some cats dislike liners; when they dig their claws get caught, and they don’t like the feel of the plastic.
  • Number of boxes vs. number of cats:  most animal behaviorists recommend at least one box per cat plus a spare; if there are litterbox problems, they recommend two boxes per cat because some cats won’t urinate and defecate in the same location
  • Frequency of cleaning:  cats don’t want to step into a landmine (theirs or another animal’s).  If the box is dirty, they will seek another location.  Clean boxes at least once daily, more often if possible.  Hint:  make cleaning litterboxes as convenient as possible.  If using flushable litter, place in bathroom near toilet.  Consider having an old-fashioned diaper pail for easy disposal of waste, and containment of odor.  There are automatic boxes that will keep at least one box clean even if you aren't home.   
Behavioral problems:  When cats are stressed or unhappy, they may “mark” with urine.  This can be vertical spraying or horizontal urinating.  Behavioral urination is frequently associated with the introduction of additional animal or person (even a new baby) in the household, or some other type of change to the cat’s environment.  Multicat households have a much greater risk that one or more of the cats will urine mark. 

Try to determine the source of stress, and eliminate or minimize causes of stress if possible.  Do not punish a cat for urine marking; this will only encourage the cat to mark when you are not around.  NEVER hit a cat or try to rub its nose in excrement; this type of response only further stresses the animal and makes it afraid of the guardian.

Try to give the animal extra attention and even “private” space if possible; it is not cruel to segregate a cat in an office or bedroom if that is what the cat prefers.  Sometimes environmental enrichment can help reduce stress.  Cats like vertical hideaways, and you can dramatically increase their options by adding cat perches, walkways and tall furniture.  In addition, some cats really enjoy having access to safe, outdoor enclosures.  There are several commercial products available that allow your pet to be outside without the normal risks faced by free-roaming felines.

Thorough cleaning of any surfaces marked with urine is critical to minimize the chance the cat will be drawn back to the same area by residual scent.  First remove as much urine or other organic material as possible using just water; use a steam cleaner/extractor on carpets and upholstery.  Then thoroughly saturate the area to be cleaned with an enzymatic cleaner such as Nature’s Miracle, Urine Off, etc.  The enzymes break down the urine to remove all odor.  Do not use soap or detergent when cleaning, as these will leave residue that will inactivate enzymatic cleaners.  Reapplying the enzymatic cleaner for several days will help minimize the chance that there will be any lingering odor that your cat can detect, even if you can’t.

If urine marking cannot be eliminated, discuss possible segregation, pheromone therapy and/or medication with your veterinarian. Ultimately, if a thorough medical workup has ruled out any physiological cause, and the spraying behavior cannot be controlled, it may be better to allow the cat to go outdoors than to surrender it to a shelter or have it euthanized.  

Conclusion: Recurrent urinary issues are one of the most common health and behavioral problems among cats.  Resolving these issues requires patience, perseverance, a bit of detective work and flexibility on the part of caretakers and veterinarians.   People regularly make significant concessions to address the medical or behavioral issues of family members.  Hopefully more and more pet guardians will make the same commitment to their furchildren.

Thanks to Dr. Jim Dugan of Pinecrest Veterinary Hospital for contributing to this article.


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Monday, February 11, 2013

CAT Community Alert: Pompano Beach

A couple of weeks ago Alley Cat Allies made a promise to work with residents to make sure Trap-Neuter-Return is embraced as a first step toward shelter reform in our community. Well that promise is coming true tomorrow for residents of Pompano Beach.

This campaign isn’t just an opportunity to meet with  grassroots activists and supporters—it’s also about making communities truly safe for cats. It begins with conversations about changing the policies of Pompano Beach, Broward County, Florida—and the country—for cats.

And so the work begins tomorrow! If you work, reside, or own a business in Pompano Beach, you can keep the momentum going.

Please join us at  Pompano Beach City Commissioner’s meeting to show your support for cats and Trap-Neuter-Return.
On Tuesday (2/12), the mayor and city commissioners will be taking their final vote on a 90-day moratorium on a backwards ordinance that was fining people for caring for outdoor cats. Please join us: 

Tuesday: February 12, 2013 Please be seated by 7:00 PM!
City of Pompano Beach
100 West Atlantic Boulevard
Pompano Beach, Florida 33060

Pompano Beachers, we hope to see you there!

If you’re in Broward County and other areas of Florida, keep an eye on this website. We’ll be updating you regularly in the coming weeks, including the date and location for  upcoming Alley Cat Allies workshop sessions with residents to formulate a statewide strategy for cats. Plus, we’ll be reaching out to you when communities and individuals across Florida could use your support.


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Alley Cat Allies in Ft. Lauderdale Feb 2013

Alley Cat Allies, headquarters in Bethesda, Maryland, was founded in 1990 by two women who recognized that stray and feral cats’ welfare were not being met by the animal control and shelter system. They are now the only national advocacy organization dedicated to the protection of these cats and were the first organization to introduce and advocate for humane methods of feral cat care, particularly Trap-Neuter-Return (TNR).

Now, 20 short years later, Alley Cat Allies has established care standards and has brought the humane treatment of cats into the national spotlight. Cats are animals too. Major cities and animal protection organizations across the country support the efforts and more than 260,000 supporters look to Alley Cat Allies for leadership in the movement to protect cats’ lives.

While TNR has been proven to improve cats lives, it still does not protect them from their number one documented killer – being rounded up and taken to city or county shelters where 7 out of every 10 cats are killed. To change this startling statistic, Alley Cat Allies has instituted a campaign called “Changing Communities for Cats” to help transform our current animal control and shelter systems. To aid in that effort, they are touring across the county with educational seminars aimed right at the source - to meet with the key people in local communities who actually work tirelessly on behalf of these cats each and every day to make systemic changes at the community level.

On Saturday, February 2nd, Becky Robinson, Founder of Alley Cat Allies and Paul Berry, Executive Director and others came to Fort Lauderdale, FL, where Founder, Christine Michaels, and Secretary, Deborah Barnes of Pawsitively Humane, Inc. were able to participate and learn about new ways to raise funding, recruit volunteers, educate local governments, interview with local media, and so much more to help make a difference for outdoor community cats. Some of the key points taken from the meeting:

1. Approximately 20% of the phone calls the Feral Friends Network (call center for Alley Cat Allies) receives is from the State of Florida.
2. A significant “social movement” has occurred within mainstream society as TNR and spay/neuter have changed the scope of veterinary medicine.
3. Current data regarding cats and dogs in shelters, on the streets, and those that are euthanized is very unstable and reliable documentation must be put into place.
4. Cats have been killed for over 100 years by animal control. If that solution really worked, we would not continue to have cat overpopulation to the extent we do.
 5. Figures on cats killing birds highly are erroneous and exaggerated. A select few are repackaging and broadcasting the same misleading headlines to garner media attention. These individuals target only cats and disregard other studies that point to humans, urbanization, and other known causes for impacting bird populations.
6. The number one threat to cats is the system known as animal control.
7. The definition of euthanasia has changed – it used to mean it was for ending pain and suffering. Now, very healthy cats are killed in the name of animal control.
8. Myths about cats remain a big problem and we must educate people to debunk them.

"You are doing everything right", says Robinson to conference room of over 100 attendees. The audience consisted of average residents who volunteer in their communities in managing cat colonies, small non profit rescues, and a handful of veterinarian technicians. Robinson is referring to TNR and TNRM. "You know it works, but sadly we are working in parallel to a system that is outdated."  Robinson is referring to laws surrounding animal control and shelters that were created over 50 years ago.

Robinson then announced an initiative to help concerned residents work with local government officials and begin the process of educating elected officials at the local, county and state level and bring legislation to date with science and proven successes of TNR and TNRM.

Christine Michaels, Becky Robinson, and Deb Barnes

At Pawsitively Humane, Inc.  we were thrilled to hear this news. We strongly believe that to correct this community ailment requires a three point solution.

1. Low cost TNR teams and spay/neuter clinics.
2. Comprehensive city-wide education and awareness campaigns to educate the public and engage the average resident.
3. Educate local government and work towards updating laws.

Here in Miami-Dade county we are fortunate to see the passing of the Pets Trust which aims to tackle points one and two.

While other cities like NYC is progressing, where residents, professionals, and local come together with solutions to improve conditions, it seems Florida cities are going backwards. Broward County, Tampa, Pompano Beach have been in recent news of taking steps to pass laws prohibiting residents to feed or care for neighborhood cats.  This is despite the fact that residents have invested their own money to have the cats  spayed & neutered and not reproducing.

Christine Michaels & Paul Berry, Executive Director

Thankfully Alley Cat Allies will be leading efforts for the third solution. The first priority is Pompano Beach where the mayor agreed to a temporary halt on the feeding ban.  We encourage concerned residents and readers to follow these important updates. You can receive automatic updates by registering your email on the right bar.

Together we can make a difference!


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Sunday, February 10, 2013

Who Let the Dogs Out?

When the Hallmark Channel --The Heart of TV--  announced a segment titled "Who Let the Dogs Out?" one knows this woof-theme was sure to pull heart strings and leave viewers in awe.

Well it did and then some with this pawsome segment of smart dogs, athletic dogs and dogs gifted in many ways.Our favorite part was the famous bulldog, Tillman, riding his skateboard.

We met Tillman in person at BlogPaws conference last year in Salt Lake City. To finally meet this dog we had seen on major news networks and witness him skate around in graceful figure 8's was amazing.

Actually, our founder and President, Christine Michaels, literally bumped into Tillman the second she walked into the venue. A celebrity dog was the first "attendee" she met at BlogPaws. Below is their photo. You can imagine her excitement.


What is BlogPaws? It is THE most popular pet blogging conference in the nation. Whether you want to blog about the wonders of your pet, or animals in general, or educate the public about important pet issues as a vet or vet tech, or if you belong to a non profit rescue, this conference is the place to leverage social media as an outlet for writing and as your own venue for attracting readers.  Attendees learn basic to more advanced techniques to create and write a blog, get traffic, build loyal readership and potentially earn a supplemental income if you choose.

Our favorite part of the BlogPaws episode was meeting so many well known bloggers in the flesh and their famous pets in the fur!

What we hope to learn at the next conference?  As a small nonprofit with a smaller budget, we'd love to learn basic graphic design techniques with simple programs. The use of graphics in communications is very important in our efforts to find homes for rescued pets. We're confident every blogger would benefit from this as well.

We hope one of our Pawsitively Humane, Inc members can attend BlogPaws this year. Since 100% of our donations go to the care of rescued pets, we pay for the conference and trip out of our own pockets. So here's keeping our paws crossed!


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