Saturday, July 29, 2017

From Puppy Mill Survivor to Spoiled in Suburbia: Meet Molly the Shih Tzu

Our family had never rescued before. All of our dogs had come from breeders. Some we learned later were not reputable to say the least. After being so involved on social media for a while, we were learning that the stigma of rescue and shelter dogs weren't always accurate. There are instances when best intentions don't work out, but we kept seeing so many happy stories. We found that so many wonderful fur babies had adapted and flourished when they became part of a family with love and care. We began following SASS Rescue on Instagram after I had researched for a Shih Tzu rescue here in Ohio. The work that they do for these dogs is incredible. My mother and I literally fall in love with a pup every week! I already had two dogs and was unable to have another at the time when we first saw Molly. After seeing her photo, we had to figure out a way to adopt her. She was a puppy mill survivor, age unknown, with a sweet little tongue that stuck out all the time due to her lack of teeth.

Molly went to live with my parents, brother, and Lucy their Brussels Griffon in October 2015. She was very shy and timid, but eager to embark on her new life. She still makes great strides to this day. She has become such an affectionate and sweet little girl. She loves her cozy beds and blankets, she dances for her meals and enjoys things that the first several years of her life she was deprived of. Rescue dogs are not less than desirable or irreparably damaged. They can and will become wonderful companions and family members if given the time and patience to allow them to thrive.

Our family is so grateful to SASS Rescue for all the love and hard work they put into these amazing pups.

Sunday, July 16, 2017

Glamour Pup Shih Tzu: Meet Bijou

Wearing KoaBear Bandanas
For me, writing about the early days of how Bijou came to be my fur baby isn't easy for me. Bijou isn't my first Shih Tzu. Prior to her was Lola, the fluffy love of my life. Lola was diagnosed with Chronic Renal Disease at 6 months old and had passed over the Rainbow Bridge October 23, 2012 at the age of 4 1/2. To say that I was devastated is an understatement. I devoted my life to her care, making sure she was as healthy and comfortable as possible during her time with us. She was my shadow, always with me. She had to be touching me at all times. At night, I had to be facing her in bed or she would scratch at the back of my head until I rolled over! She was such a contrast from Siouxsie who is fiercely independent and not affectionate. After Lola had passed, not having that constant companionship was very difficult for me. I had hoped that maybe Siouxsie would become a little more warm towards me, but that simply was not the case.

Lola: 5/28/2008-10/23/2012
At first, I didn't think that I could possibly be ready to open my heart to another pup anytime soon. I had started on Instagram just a few months prior and because I was having such a difficult time falling asleep, I would lay in bed on my phone scrolling through Instagram until I could not keep my eyes open any longer. Even back then when the IG dog community was much smaller than it is today, I was overwhelmed by the outpouring of support offered to me. These people had never met me, didn't even know me well, but they understood. The words of comfort and encouragement, and the cards and personalized gifts really helped me thorough the most difficult loss of my life.

Bijou at about 6 weeks old.
Bijou at 3 months old.
It had only taken two weeks after Lola passed that I started looking at puppies online. I felt guilty and angry that I was even looking already. Though in my heart, I knew that Lola would want me to give my love to another pup if she couldn't be physically with me anymore. At the time I wasn't as educated or aware of rescues, so for me, that wasn't really an option. I was looking at reputable breeders here in Ohio and I discovered That Puppy In the Window. There were actually 3 little females that caught my attention. One was a little red girl that the were calling, "Natasha". She would be 8 weeks old right around Christmas. She was born exactly a week after Lola had passed away. I was drawn to her and after discussing with my husband, we decided to go ahead and see about getting her.

One of her first top knots!
Watching t.v.
Bijou is a French word associated with a "jewel" or "trinket." It is also the name of a song by one of my favorite bands, "Queen." I have liked the name since I was 12 years old and thought it would be perfect for a little puppy diva. 

Bij has quite the personality. She loves people, but is very aloof with other dogs. If it wasn't apparent by her photos, she thinks she is a human girl. I truly believe that! She doesn't mind being dolled up and posing for photos as long as she doesn't have to do anything too physical. Bijou is dubbed, "the laziest lady in all the land" because she certainly is. She wants nothing more than to sleep, eat and be fawned over at all times.

FabDog Sweater

Bijou loves to chew on Whimzees and PetQwerks Flavorit bones, have me braid her luxurious hair and get back scratches from her dad. 

Fun fact: Bijou's birthday is October 30th, the day before Halloween!

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Ten Tips On How To Photograph Your Dog For Social Media

This past month I finally bought myself a professional camera, (Canon Rebel t6) All the photos up until that point of the fluff crew have been produced by my iPhone. I decided to invest in a camera mainly because I am building a brand/blog/website. I still use my phone to take photos a lot of the time as well. Most pics are just what I find to be cute, mainly for Instagram. Here is a list of tips that I have personally implemented for pictures of the pups.

1) A clean and clear background is key. This can be just a plain wall, a solid sheet or wrapping paper. Just tape or tac the sheet or paper on the wall and snap away!

Bijou with a wrapping paper background.

2) Lighting is very important too. The more natural the light is, the better. I also don't use a flash. I find that the flash makes the pups eyes look strange and it also can startle them.

Natural light from window used in this pic.

3) Get down to their level. This gives your pet more of a chance to relax and for you to get the best picture of their faces.

On Lucy's "super cool" level.

4) I prefer to get in close to them as well. When I am on their level and close, I am able to get rid of distractions within the shot easier.

Up close and personal.
5) Patience is crucial. Finding the times of day that the fluff crew are calm, but not too sleepy works best. Some days I get tons of great pics, while others there aren't any. If they are getting restless or distracted- it's best to stop and then resume at another time.

Molly being calm, cool and collected.
6) I talk to and praise the girls all through our photoshoots. Sometimes I squeak toys for their attention too. It's important to make sure they know you are pleased with them and reward them for doing well at the end. I personally do not give treats throughout, but depending on your model you may need to keep those treats coming!

Sitting pretty.
7) My dogs are very lazy. They are used to and prefer to sit and look cute for their photos. If you have a more active pet, you will have even more opportunities to capture in a great pic. Anytime you can get snapshots of them running, playing outside etc. are always great.

Molly out in her yard.
8) I love props, especially if you have a fur baby that isn't keen on dressing up. I am a bargain hunter, trust me, you do not need to spend a lot of money. Here are a few of my favorite places to shop for props.
  1. Dollar stores, especially Dollar Tree. Everything at Dollar Tree is truly a dollar and they are loaded full of great decor and fun stuff especially for holiday pics.
  2. Target and Wal-Mart. The Target Dollar Spot is props gold! There are alway super cute items there that are inexpensive. 
  3. Marshalls/TJ Maxx/Burlington. I find lots of throw pillows and blankets that are perfect for the pups to lay on or beside for a pop of color. A lot of times I get the blankets in the baby section- those are obviously smaller and they cost less too. Occasionally I will find small pieces of accent furniture, decorative boxes or signs to enhance photos.
Lots of great Halloween props!
9) Snap, snap and keep snapping. You will continue to get better and better if you keep at it. My pics have continued to get better because I practice and try to learn more about photography. I have never taken a class or had someone teach me. Keep in mind that getting a great picture rarely is the first you take. The more you snap away, the better your chances are of capturing something special.

It's a lot of trial and error to get a great photo.
10) When you have a great picture to share, be sure to crop out any distracting backgrounds . It's great to utilize the editing tools that are built into your camera and social media apps to enhance your pics too!

Edit to get the best out of your photo.
Do you find these tips helpful? Do you have questions? What other tips have you found to work for you?

Miss Molly and I.

Natural light works wonders if you don't have a professional camera!

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Brussels Griffon Cutie: Meet Lucy!

Lucy is a dog that makes me giggle at just a thought of her. Spindly little drumstick legs, a lady beard and a mean mugging underbite all adds to the quirky charm of this little monkey dog. Lucy is a 6 year old Brussels Griffon with the most expressive eyes I have ever seen and a loyal companion to her doting mom.

Like most Griffon's, Lucy is the true definition of a "Velcro" dog. What does that even mean, you may ask? Well, she is obsessed with her mom and has to be near her or to be able to see her at all times.

Lucy is not a fan of strangers, or really anyone outside of her immediate family. Lucky for me, I'm her #2 favorite person! I refer to myself as her "sisfur"/best friend and she loves coming over to my house to visit. With me she is quite affectionate and loves giving smooches and having me massage her.

My favorite trait of Lucy's is her human-like emotions. She is very empathetic to the other dogs and people around her. She seems to really sense when compassion is needed. My first Shih Tzu Lola suffered from Chronic Renal Disease. Lucy would always lay next to her to cuddle and place her front "arm" over Lola to comfort her like a human would do.

When Molly was first adopted, Lucy took her under her wing, per se, and immediately showed Molly the ins and outs of her new life. Molly's transition from a puppy mill survivor to a loved member of her family was greatly influenced by Lucy.

My family had never encountered a Brussels Griffon or knew much about them before Lucy. We have come to adore this interesting little breed and now follow many on social media. We have also attended Brussels Griffon meet ups here in Ohio the past two years.

You can find out more about Brussels Griffons through the National Brussels Griffon Rescue.

Sunday, July 9, 2017

Sassy Senior Pekingese Dog: Meet Siouxsie!

Siouxsie is my first fur baby. We named her after one of my favorite musicians, the goth/punk pioneer Siouxsie Sioux, of Siouxsie and the Banshees. My husband and I decided to get a puppy when we moved into an apartment that allowed pets. We weren't aware of puppy mills and backyard breeders at the time. We knew we wanted either a Shih Tzu or a Pekingese.

I started searching online and the first day of looking came across her picture. I was immediately drawn to her cute little face and unique fur markings. I didn't want to jump into making a decision so soon, so I continued looking for a couple more weeks, but kept coming back to her photo. She was in Missouri and we are in Ohio. I contacted the breeder and despite my intuition that things were not as they seemed on their website and their demeanor on the phone, I was already in love and had to have her.

Siouxsie as sent on a plane and my husband and I picked her up at the airport. She was stubborn and independent from the start. She was a terror to potty train and was steadfast in doing things her way, on her own time. Despite this, we adored her.

Several months after getting Siouxsie, I found many articles online about the breeder we got her from. Many people complained about their breeding practices and not much later they were deemed a mill and shut down. I was so upset that I helped support a puppy mill without knowing it.

Siouxsie is now 13 years old, she will be 14 in October. She has been with us most of my adult life now. She is in good health and still quite active. She has arthritis, it doesn't slow her down as much as it should. She loves laying in her yard and letting the breeze blow through her hair, guarding the neighborhood and sharing my dinner with me.

Shih Tzu Dog Fashion with Bijou

Alpaca bow and bandana by: Koa Bear Bandanas
One of my favorite things in life is to doll up the fluff crew, and mainly Bijou. Bij is so accommodating and calm about it. I prepped her from the tender age of 8 weeks on how to be primped. As with anything, hard work and gentle persistence (along with a lot of tasty treats) got her used to all of my fussing over her. As soon as the hair on top of her head could fit into an itty bitty ponytail we were on our way to adorable hairstyles! Bijou is nicknamed, “the laziest lady in all the land” and I truly believe it. She falls asleep while I braid her hair, and is ready to doze off when I get her dressed. 

Keeping clothing on her isn't just for fashion purposes. Bijou suffers from a lot of indoor/outdoor allergies so having a shirt of helps keep debris off of her. She likes wearing clothes since she also seems to get chilly easily. 

Unicorn tank by: Danish Dog Fashion

I am always scouring the internet, social media and stores like Marshall’s and Tj Maxx for any and all cute and affordable outfits along with matching accessories. I will be sharing reviews and photos of garments on here to help those of you who want to keep you pooch in style!

Bijou the Shih Tzu Dog Gets First Starbucks Puppuccino

Who would have known my local Target's Starbucks could be so cool? Surely not my friend Danielle and I. After trolling through the "Dollar Spot" for any cheap props for taking pics of our dogs we decided like any other ladies in our age range that we deserved some caffeine for all of our diligence on our way out of the store was needed. On the counter there were some samples of new drinks, but my focus was on the cute little cups. I knew they had to be the ones used for the puppuccinos that I had seen many other doting dog parents providing their furry besties. Since Northeastern Ohio is certainly not known for being a progressive dog area I had never taken my girls to get this highly sought after doggy delight...

Yes, I know it's just whipped cream in a paper cup, but I needed to bring one home for Bijou! I couldn't get back home fast enough in order to get her in her Starbucks tank top (purchased years ago on eBay) and her custom Beauty By Paris matching hair bow. Once all that was taken care of it was time for her puppuccino introduction, here are the results!

Saturday, July 8, 2017

Keeping Pets Hydrated During the Summer Months with PetSafe®Brand

We have teamed up with PetSafe® Brand to help raise awareness for Pet Hydration Month. Not only is proper hydration key to staying healthy for humans, but the same applies to our beloved fur babies. You can connect with them and learn more via their Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter accounts.

Water intake cools the body and helps in maintaining a normal temperature. Drinking water aids in kidney function which helps to flush out toxins.

Dry cat and dog food tend to have very low moisture levels. If your fur baby tends to not drink a lot of water, incorporating wet food or adding water to their kibble can help with their hydration.

We are giving the PetSafe® Drinkwell® Pagoda Pet Fountain a try at our house. This fountain is geared towards small to medium sized pets. It's ceramic and is available in four colors. There is an upper and lower dish with dual, free-falling streams which make it possible for multiple pets to drink from two areas. We have never used a fountain before so I am hoping with some time and encouragement, the fluff crew will become accustomed to their classier water source! I personally love the fountain because it keeps the water free-flowing, cool and fresh the duration of the time that it is plugged in. It's also quite attractive compared to a standard drinking bowl. I plan to post an update in a couple of weeks to let everyone know how it is working out. Do any of you use a fountain? How did you get your pets used to drinking from one?

Here is a list of common symptoms of dehydration:

*Vomiting and/or diarrhea
*Lack of energy
*Excessive and ongoing panting
*Loss of appetite
*Sunken, dry eyes
*Dry and sticky gums
*Loss of skin elasticity (when pulled or moved, skin won't go back to original place).

If you suspect your fur baby might be dehydrated- please take them to a vet immediately so that they can be monitored and receive IV fluids.

Andis Trim N’ Go: Paw Grooming Tool

I do all of the fluff crew’s grooming myself. I am not a trained dog groomer, but I am a licensed cosmetologist and am a hairstylist as my career.

That being said, Molly is a puppy mill survivor. My mom adopted her from SASS Rescue in Urbana, Ohio in October 2015. Molly took a long time to get used to being bathed and groomed. Now she is actually the best behaved for her grooming sessions out of all four of the crew.

The only aspect of grooming Molly that I hadn’t been able to master was getting the fur off her paw pads and in between her toes. Molly’s paw pads are extremely sensitive and would bleed anytime I attempted to clean them up with trimmers. I resorted to just cutting what I could with scissors.

Here is a before shot of her paw pad:

Last week I had picked up the Andis Trim N’ Go while at the BlogPaws conference. It’s cordless, operates with a “AA” battery and fits nicely inside my palm. I was pleased that it runs very quietly, which is a huge help for grooming a nervous dog. I went to work on Molly’s paws with the trimmer. It cut through the fur with ease and Molly was much less nervous than any other time I have tried to do this. This was the first time all of her paws were shaped up and free of excess fur. I believe that each time I use the Trim N’ Go, Molly will become more and more comfortable with having her paws groomed.

After shot of Molly's paw:

Update: I have currently used this tool on Molly three times and am still getting great results!

BlogPaws Conference 2017

I attended my first BlogPaws conference before having an actual blog. I was on the fence about starting one mainly due to my feelings of anxiety about not knowing how or where to begin.

The whole crew modeling Koa Bear Bandanas. Bijou's hair bow: PawPawRazziReady.

Until now, I have considered myself a “microblogger” since my main platform is Instagram. At the moment the @fluffdogcrew account has exceeded 58k followers. I enjoy taking photos, reviewing products and engaging with those who follow the account. I just knew that there was more to do! More opportunities to show who we are and to discuss topics more extensively that I am passionate about.

Bijou learning about blogging.
BlogPaws was held in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina this year. I went on my own, no fluff dogs in tow. I was excited to meet a few of my favorite Instagram friends in person for the first time while there. I had the opportunity to network in person, a lot of different pet companies and learn about all the products they offer.

 Marla @loveakasha, Alison and me.
Most of the sessions were for seasoned bloggers and were totally out of my wheel house, but even those were ones I found to be beneficial. Being pushed out of my comfort zone really inspired me to go bigger. My goals became more apparent and I wanted to come back to BlogPaws 2018 with a lot more experience and knowledge.

Dr. Buzby, Alicia Halloran @odieseyes and me.
The conference was great being with so many other people who are passionate about animals. I found the instances where I was just having conversations during meals and other down times to be the most rewarding. Being about to bounce off ideas, talking about personal experiences and both giving and receiving advice was priceless.

I purchased my ticket for the next BlogPaws being held in Kansas City, Missouri in April 2018. That leaves me about 10 months to get this blog of ours up and running. I look forward to being to keep learning to ins and outs of blogging from here on out.