Tag Archives: Guest Post

Guest post – 5 Great Holiday Gifts for Dogs

By Dr. Fiona Caldwell, a veterinarian and writer for Pets Best, a pet insurance company for dogs and cats.

 pets bestNot sure what to get your dogs for the holidays? Here are five great gift ideas to say thanks to the pups in your life for their unconditional love all year long. You’ll make their tails wag, and several of the items double as a gift for you!

 1. Dental chew toys

Dental disease is one of the most common preventable diseases seen by veterinarians. There are toys available for your dogs to chew on that are designed to remove plaque and prevent tartar formation. This can help stop the progression of dental disease and freshen breath. The added bonus of this is your dogs’ better breath when they get in your face to give you kisses – wanted or not! Your local dog store can help you find a dental chew toy that will be best suited for your dogs.

 2. Bowls designed to slow eating

When dogs gulp their food down quickly they often aren’t chewing the kibble. Chewing on their kibble can actually help prevent periodontal disease by removing plaque and preventing tartar. In addition, eating quickly can cause excessive air to be swallowed by your dogs, which then leads to them having gas. And really, no one likes dog gas. There are bowls that are designed to slow down your dogs’ eating. With the benefits of eating slowly, both you and your dogs will be getting a gift! Your local dog store can help you find a slow eating bowl that will work best for your speed eater dogs.

 3. Treat Puzzles

There are many educational toys for dogs that require them to “work” for a treat. These usually require pets to figure out how to open compartments or tinker with the toy until they are rewarded with the treat. Educational toys are great because they reduce boredom and increase cognitive functions. These toys are a perfect gift for all dogs, but those who will benefit the most are puppies, working breeds that need mental stimulation, and senior dogs. Educational toys can help slow the progression of Canine Cognitive Dysfunction in older pets, which is a little like Alzheimer’s disease. Your local dog store can help you find the best puzzle toys for your dogs.

 4. A canine photo shoot

Celebrate your love for your pets by capturing a picture of them. Take photos of your dogs, have a photo shoot done with the whole family, or use one from the hundreds you probably have on your cell phone! There are tons of photo gift options available these days, including simply framing the photo, making it an art print on canvas, making a custom iPhone case, and putting a picture of your dog’s mug on a mug.

 5. Pet Insurance

Give the gift that keeps giving! Studies show that people with pet insurance visit the veterinarian’s office more regularly. Regular veterinary visits will help keep your pets happy and healthy. Pet health insurance will help ensure your dogs receive the best veterinary care by alleviating the stress of the hefty bill that often accompanies it.

See more at: http://www.petsbest.com/blog/5-great-holiday-gifts-dogs/#sthash.bAIarpPO.dpuf

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So You’re Writing a Novel?

Guest Post by Fleur Philips, author of I Am Lucky Bird

For as long as I can remember, I’ve loved to write! When I was young, I’d write poems and short stories—nothing more than a few pages. My first attempt at writing an actual book came in third grade with a children’s book called Misty’s Adventure. I even illustrated it. I wrote the book for an all-school writing contest at Spring Creek Elementary School in Rockford, Illinois. And I won first place! After that, the stories continued to flow. In high school, I started a number of different projects, but I never finished them. I’d get 40 or 50 pages in, and suddenly, I wouldn’t know where to go next. So, I’d start something different, and the same thing would happen. Over and over and over again.


Although writing has always come easily to me, actually finishing a novel is one of the most difficult things I’ve ever done. In 1999, I finished my very first full-length manuscript. I went through the entire query letter writing and sending process (and back then, everything was sent via snail mail with a SASE…thank goodness we now have email), but I came up empty-handed. Looking back on that manuscript now, I completely understand. My second full-length novel was finished in 2002. Once again, I went through the “seeking an agent” debacle, and this time, I got my first agent! Unfortunately, she ended up being a fraud. So, I was back to square one. In 2005, I started writing I Am Lucky Bird, but—much like my many other projects over the years—I powered through the first 50 pages and stopped. But it wasn’t writer’s block this time. Rather, an unexpected life change (not entirely uncommon in adulthood) caused me to put the book aside. Work and being a single mom made writing a challenge, and so I focused my attention on other things, all the while thinking about Lucky and her story and hoping I’d find time to eventually finish it. And I did. Another unexpected life change redirected me back to my writing, and in 2010, I applied to graduate school at Antioch University in Los Angeles for my MFA in Creative Writing. I needed a swift kick in the butt to get me back to writing, and within a few months of being in the program, I finished I Am Lucky Bird.


For anyone thinking of writing a book, I highly suggest developing an outline with chapter summaries and character sheets. I have hundreds of ideas floating around inside my head, but most of them are incomplete. If I try and sit down and start typing out my ideas, they fall short because I haven’t fully developed the characters or plot or structure. Start with the outline, and then tackle the novel! I’m also a firm believer in writing what’s in your heart. The only downside to this is the realization that what’s in your heart might not necessarily be what other people want to read. If you just want to write a book to write a book, great. But if your #1 goal is to find a publisher, you have to consider whether your story is marketable. If an agent and/or publisher can’t sell your book (no matter how much they might like it), they won’t take you on as a client. The best advice I can give, though, is to just keep writing!




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A brief history of the royal pet: the cat

Guest Post by Nancy Woo

The common housecat that slinks around 34% of yards in the U.S. has a long and fluctuating history in human evolution. From wild cats to farmhands, from gods to demons, the cat plays a small but fierce role in human history. Sometimes revered and sometimes feared, the cat has nonetheless been by our side for at least 9,500 years.

At least, this a recent estimate, according to archaeologists. It’s long been known that cats had been domesticating humans in ancient Egypt, where they were hailed as gods, but now scientists have evidence reaching back even further. In 1983, archaeologists found a cat’s jawbone on the island of Cyprus, which dated back to 6,000 B.C. It’s unlikely that wild cats were brought hissing and scratching on a long boat ride, so it is safe to say that skeleton was from a domesticated cat. Even more convincingly, a cat skeleton was found buried right next to a human skeleton, indicating a close relationship between the two – and this was at an even older site on the same island, dating back another 1,500 years.

In a study published in 2007, the modern cat has been linked to the ancient Felis sylvestris, a cat originating from the Near East about 12,000 years ago. It means, literally, “cat of the woods.” So what filled the space in between then?

The dog has been man’s ally for much longer than cats, proving themselves as useful hunting partners millennia ago, but the cat has also served its purpose in society’s evolution. It’s widely believed that cats first became domesticated sometime after the agricultural revolution, when farmers started storing grain and other food. This attracted mice, and cats were naturally drawn to the rich hunting ground; thus, the mutually beneficial relationship began. Early farmers may have left out saucers of milk or scraps for the kitty to entice him to return each day to hunt rats and mice – pests for farmers and food for felines – and throughout time, those with gentler traits were favored over wild ones. In this way, it may be said that cats domesticated themselves, and no wonder, since any cat would scoff at being tricked into docility.

By 2,000 B.C. the Egyptians were hailing cats as divine creatures, not least because they kept rats and snakes at bay in their grain storages. The cat was so integral to Egyptian life that, by law, it was illegal to export a cat, and punishable by death to kill one. If there is any ever doubt as to the cat’s haughty attitude, just look to the Egyptians. By 1,000 B.C. the cat had become a deity. Mafdet was the first feline goddess, depicted in early texts as killing a snake with her claws. Bastet, goddess of love, may be the most famous, depicted in drawings as a human with the head of a cat, and her divinity was celebrated yearly with a festival, full of wine and dancing. Not inconsequentially, Sekhmet was the lion-headed goddess who ruled over all of human fate. Perhaps most telling of the Egyptians’ love for cats was the cat graveyard in Beni-Hassan, which, when unearthed by archaeologists, revealed an astounding 30,000 feline skeletons.

The domesticated cat also moved into Asia and Europe, where its important role in pest control was similarly, though not ever so elaborately, recognized. Romans viewed the cat as a symbol of liberty, and some Asian cultures believed the cat to be a sign of luck and good fortune.

However, the cat’s high place in human society took a drastic nosedive in the Middle Ages. Somehow, the cat became associated with evil, black magic, the devil and demons. Cats were believed to be accomplices to witches, and even today, the superstition remains that it is bad luck for a black cat to cross your path. The fear of cats was so intense that during times of plague, cats were thought to be bringers of evil, and therefore killed without a second thought. This is somewhat ironic, since the Europeans were mercilessly killing the predator of the real carriers of the plague – the rat.

In North America, there had been no recorded evidence of cat domestication, though there were wild cats living on the continent. It wasn’t until the Europeans took root that the domestic cat began to roam. And now, of course, cats are loved and adored by much of the American population, as well as the world. Cats are seen prolifically in popular culture, from Garfield to Hello Kitty to the Cat in the Hat. And believe it or not, the cat is the most popular household pet in the U.S., ranking in at 90 million fearless felines.

Cats have been loved, feared, worshipped and tolerated. Their history is so entwined with our own, and now that they have become a staple in worldwide lifestyle and culture, it is our responsibility to take care of them as they have taken care of us. The cat is well cared for in American society, and the relationship has come full circle. Just as cats used to manage our pest levels, we now manage theirs. The average cat now regularly receives check-ups from a trusted veterinary technician, who will ensure that the feline is free from her own infestations, like fleas and ticks. Cats are said to have nine lives, but it’s better to be sure.

And maybe they do. One saying goes, “According to legend a cat has nine lives. For three he plays, for three he strays, and for the last three he stays.” In Egypt he played, in the Middle Ages he strayed, and in the modern day and age, he stays.

Nancy Woo is a freelance writer covering various topics from art and music to health, media and technology.

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