Be the Change, Following Up from BlogPaws

photo of black cat and calico

Mimi and Peaches remind me that homework must be done on time.

First, I’m going to do my homework assignment from yesterday, which was the “Be the Change Extravaganza” among pet bloggers. But that can be any day, or every day.

Much of what blogging accomplishes on the internet is to try to make change in the world, getting news and opinions out, including your own, that would otherwise not be heard, letting others know about events, and in an odd virtual way bringing people closer together. This can have its downside, but so does the evening news. We take what we trust and what is useful and leave the rest behind. Most people are trying to “do good”, and in the blogosphere the marketplace decides whose information is worth reading, not a profit-oriented commercial enterprise.

Long before blogging, individuals who cared about pets, animals in shelters, feral and stray cats, puppy mills and any other issue facing companion animals and all animals in our society were networking in the best way possible to stop abuse where it was found, educate people on the importance of spaying and neutering and health care for their pets, adopting animals for the right reasons and responsibly re-homing them if they no longer wanted to keep them—and that’s just the short list. Local, state and federal legislation governing humane treatment of animals, development and support for shelters were also on the list of topics.

I remember those days when most things were done by footwork and telephone—the old land line from your house, handmade flyers with photos copied too many times, going door to door to solicit donations…how did anything get done before cell phones and Facebook and Twitter and e-mail?

photo of two kittens looking at computer

We're getting our updates.

We have an incredible tool at our disposal in blogging and the ability to disseminate our information throughout the internet on Facebook and Twitter and all other social networking links. Those of us who had to stop volunteering at shelters because we were either in danger of taking everyone home or were too hurt by the stories brought back by humane officers, or those of us whose homes were already full of fosters and permanents, can still participate daily in finding homes for animals, passing the word about spaying and neutering, can share information on events and just share stories about our lives and our animals. Everybody has a part in this, however small they may think it is.

So our homework assignment for yesterday was to let the world know what we do for the betterment of animals, how we represent the change we’d like to see in our society. Here’s my little list.

photo of cat nursing kittens

Mimi nursing the Fantastic Four when they were just little fuzzballs.

I’m one of those who years ago had to stop volunteering at the shelter because of the abuse cases I saw and heard about, which I still can’t forget. Instead, I began rescuing and fostering cats in my home, which I still do today, fixing them up and teaching them to be good cats for their forever home. I’ve always had a houseful, but I’ve also found forever homes for about 40 cats in 25 years, and most I’ve become friends with the adoptive family. I’ve also temporarily fostered a number of cats for “families in transition”, women and children moving into and back out of subsidized housing where pets were not allowed, or who were leaving their home due to separation or divorce and didn’t want to give up their pets permanently. All of these people returned for their cats when their situation stabilized. I continue to do this.

When I began painting portraits I also began using my artwork for the good of animals wherever I could. I always ask a portrait customer what animal shelter or organization they’d like to have 10% of the cost of their portrait donated to in their name. I donate artwork or certificates for portraits to animal welfare auctions around Pittsburgh and pretty much anywhere else, jokingly saying the organization will get more from a donor in an auction than I could ever donate in cash out of my own pocket.

And, like all artists creating art featuring cats and dogs and any other animal, I love these animals, I hope it shows in what I do, and I hope that has an impact on whoever looks at my work and spreads the love and respect for all living creatures, which has a value beyond any amount of money I could ever raise.

pastel painting of cat on table with peonies

Peaches and Peonies

One project I’m working on right now is encouraging people to adopt older or senior animals. I painted “Peaches and Peonies”, an image of my Peaches who I began fostering when she was 15, and for every full-size giclee I sell I’ll make a $25.00 donation to the senior pet adoption program of the purchaser’s choice.

In addition to that, in honor of Peaches’ 100th birthday (that’s 20 in cat years), I’ll be celebrating with articles on her and other senior cats, and other bloggers will be writing their stories about senior cats and other pets as well. I’ll be auctioning a signed half-size print of “Peaches and Peonies” to the highest bidder, with the proceeds to benefit FosterCat, an organization of foster homes which has rescued, fostered and adopted out many older and senior cats. Details on all that in the next entry!

To find out more about how this initiative began, visit Romeo the Cat and click to see the video that brought tears to about 300 pairs of eyes during the last session of the conference because it simply showed all the good people are doing by helping animals via the internet. Also read about the “Be the Change Extravaganza” on Pawcurious. The article explains the reasoning and includes a list of many other bloggers and what they are doing. And click to read all the other blogs that are linked to these two and to mine. You’ll find an amazing amount of good being done, and perhaps with all this effort we can finally win the battle of ending animal overpopulation, stopping animal abuse and increasing respect for our animal companions.

Back From BlogPaws!

photo of foodbowls

Our Welcome Mat

Wow, I had no idea there would be so many people at this conference! I don’t think anyone else anticipated it, either, but it just goes to show that social media is here to stay.

BlogPaws meeting

Our opening meeting

And the neatest thing is that it wasn’t just a gathering of “geeks” who only know how to communicate by virtual means, as some people had speculated. The din of voices was so loud all the time that most people were walking around hoarse at the end of every day.

photo of dog's tail on chair

I sat behind a canine attendee.

Lots of animals were in attendance as well, especially dogs who attended meetings.

I photographed a few Cornish Rex cats as well, but I haven’t downloaded their photos yet. Their moms brought them in style—covered carriages!

The meetings were well-planned and informative, and since we’re all new to blogging and twittering and facebooking, we could all share notes with what works for us and listen to the advice of others who have spent a good bit of time experimenting and looking at statistics and refining what brings the most readership to what we have to offer.

It’s a little overwhelming, but we all agreed we felt we were adding to both what people could learn about caring for their pets, and we could also influence the welfare of millions of animals by raising awareness and donations in our blogs.

photo of pin-felted dog

Pin-felted dog by Sarah Williams

photo of my art display

All my art sold, half of the price went to benefit shelters

I know I’ve got several ideas for articles I’ll be writing from individuals and from vendors I met at the exhibits too. Not only that, but I’m going to start my new blog feature on The Creative Cat—interviews and reviews with other animal artists. I’ll be beginning with an artist I’ve known for years and one of the artists I met at Blogpaws who makes pin-felted animals of all species, and will even do a 3-D pin-felted portrait of your animal!

photo of cookie peaches and kelly

"You're leaving, arent' you?"

I admit it was difficult to leave the kids, especially Peaches knowing we’d been struggling with kidney failure in the past few weeks and her condition has taken a few quick swings twice. I got her all primed up before I left, though, and my pet sitters, a vet tech graduate and a long-time cat owner are experienced so I was confident everyone was in good hands. Just to be sure I confined Peaches, Cookie and Kelly to my bedroom in case the kids decided to get a little rambunctious while I was gone. Kelly was in paradise, but Cookie and Peaches didn’t want any parts of it, leaving me with some pretty unhappy expressions.

photo of Peaches on my desk

Peaches is back to work.

And I will admit that I was pulling for home by the end of Saturday, thinking of Peaches especially, and the last leg of my journey by Greyhound bus seemed interminable as i practically went past my house on the way to the bus station! But Peaches and I are back to work. Everyone was well and happy, no one turned their back on me when I got in, and everyone’s been enjoying their goodies brought back from the conference.

More on BlogPaws later, and I’m sure plenty of us will be writing about it!