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Influence Positively Questionnaire - Amy Burkett

GPF Winnebago
Amy Burkert and her husband Rod created to help people enjoy extraordinary travel experiences with their pets. They believe it should be simple and hassle-free to include your furry loved ones in all of your leisure activities.

The idea for originated in 2008 after they found “Buster” – an intimidating, yet shy and fun-loving black German Shepherd – behind a construction dumpster. Unable to locate his owners, they decided to adopt Buster into their family, which included their 3 ½ year-old Shar-Pei “Ty”. After working with several trainers, the formerly reluctant Ty accepted Buster as family and now the two are brothers – playing, cuddling, and competing with each other.

With both dogs settled in, the Burkerts decided to plan a trip for the entire family. However, what they thought would be fun and easy ended up being a daunting and time-consuming task. Finding acceptable accommodations with pet policies that met their needs was a hassle. Locating restaurants that allowed Ty and Buster to join them and activities the whole “pack” could enjoy together was another challenge. Out of this challenging experience the Burkerts created

Recently Amy teamed up with Kim Clune of to create - a website that features a weekly cause and provides their readers the opportunity to Be the Change for Animals. Inspired by BlogPaws' Be the Change Movement, Amy and Kim wanted to create a site where all animals lovers can focus their attention, contribute just a few minutes a week, and take action to make the world a better place for animals.

What is your idea of perfect happiness?

Happiness to me is being able to live your passion. Sometimes life throws you a curve, and in our case it was Buster. When he arrived our lives took a turn, and it couldn't have turned out better. We've been able to redesign our lives around what we love the most - traveling with our dogs. What makes it even better is that we're able to help other people have more fun with their pets! It's pretty amazing, really.

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Fostering an animal can be a gift

We have a wonderful guest post today from Elisa, a volunteer at St. Louis Senior Dog Project in Missouri. In her own words, she describes how her love of animals motivated her to begin fostering, even in the midst of graduate school and writing her thesis in a second language.

    In the last six years I have moved around quite a bit. I moved to the US from my hometown of San Luis Potosi in Mexico to study at a university in Ohio. I lived in Ohio for almost four years before I moved to Missouri where I have lived for two years. I left my family and friends behind when I left Mexico, but I also left behind my cats Pikachu and Milka and my dog Peque.

At first I had Pikachu with me. I just couldn’t bear the thought of not having her with me, she is after all my first pet and the most wonderful (and yet so evil) cat. But I soon realized that she was not happy. At home she had her furry siblings, my parents and sister to hang out with, and with me going to grad school she spent most of her time in my apartment alone. She sadly developed behavior issues and allergies and I had to let her go back to Mexico with my parents.  I was sad and although I had friends in my new town I somehow felt alone without her; without my family and without my pets everything seemed a lot harder to go through.

After giving it much thought I decided I was not ready to have another permanent pet and so I decided to get back into fostering. While I was an undergrad in Mexico I had volunteered for APDA (Associacion Potosina por la Dignidad Animal), the only rescue in my hometown. I became really involved with the rescue little by little and soon ended up as the adoptions coordinator and a foster parent. While in Ohio I knew I didn’t have as much time as I would have liked to for volunteering for  a rescue, but I always remembered fondly those animals that I had helped place and the feeling of having helped a dog or cat find a better life. So I knew it was a right decision to become a foster pet parent once more and I joined the ranks of foster cat parents at Capital Area Humane Society. Through fostering I was able to enjoy once more the companionship (or the occasional hissing!) from a cat.  It was a wonderful feeling each time one of my foster cats was adopted.

When I moved to Missouri I took some time off fostering to try to get the hang of the new city, then I met my now fiancé Andy and his dog Norah.  After six months in my new city in Missouri I started looking for volunteer opportunities but my timing for the training sessions did not work out, so in the meantime while I waited for the next round of volunteer trainings I started taking Norah to obedience classes. Soon I was dreaming about going to agility courses and winning awards! And then suddenly… Norah passed away.  She was 4 years old and had no prior health issues but one day she collapsed in our front yard, and in less than 10 minutes she was gone. I can’t describe the devastation my fiancé experienced. I loved Norah too but she was his dog, she had been with him since she was a puppy. He felt alone, just as I had felt in Ohio, only this was worse. He wanted a dog so bad, but I didn’t feel that for him the best thing would be to adopt another pet so soon.  He still needed to grieve Norah’s sudden passing.

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Most Versatile Blogger Award

Wow, we're still blushing.  We recently received an award from @STLSeniorDog also known in the blogosphere as the St. Louis Senior Dog Project. It is a wonderful and unexpected surprise that made our week. The folks who help pets and in particular finding homes for senior dogs have a special place in our heart.  We couldn't imagine Cleo being in a shelter again because we were gone or unable to care for her now.   Before we start getting schmoopy, this award comes with some conditions, so let's get to it!

1) Thank the person who gave you the award: THANK YOU! Gracias! Salamat! Grazie! Danke! ありがとうござ います!

2) Share 7 things about yourself:

  • Though I would drag my heels, I actually really loved packing the car at night with my mom for those early morning road trips to dog shows when I was a kid.
  • Before we rescued Cleo, I used to go around to our friends in the city and borrow their dogs to play with and take for walks.
  • This blog, Dog Days is the companion to Cleo's Day. At Blog Paws, the amazing people I met encouraged me to speak from my own voice, not just Cleo's.
  • When I was a kid living in rural California, I thought my grown-up life would be spent on a farm in Wyoming with tons and tons of animals.
  • I love social media and using it as a form of 21st century storytelling. Between both blogs, we are trying to teach people young and old basic civics, tolerance, open-mindedness - to give fearlessly and influence positively.
  • In all honesty, Cleo really did inspire all things Grouchy Puppy. Everyday in the past five years, she has done something to push me towards being a better person and I'm so grateful.
  • Choosing to get involved with the larger pet community online through Twitter, Blog Paws and Facebook has made me even more motivated to get involved locally, starting with helping senior dogs.

Now the most awesome part of this award:

3) Pass this award along to 15 bloggers who you have recently discovered and you think are fantastic:

Boulder Dog - I love Deborah's approach to dogs & understanding their behavior. I learn something valuable every time I visit her blog.

Rumblebum - We recently discovered that he is the secret little brother of Cleo

Hero the Sharpei - He is the cutest dog and I adore reading and seeing his adventures a world away

Blog Paws - Where the rubber meets the road for pet enthusiasts. They are a great resource!

Pups in Tea Cups - Cleo loves little dogs but these holy terrors could be the ones to change her mind.

The Thundering Herd - they make me want to get another dog!

No Dog About It - We like checking out what Mel finds on her walks

Something Wagging This Way Comes - I always learn something here

Two Little Cavaliers - we love to see what new giveaway she has going or what her pups are up to!

Muttville Senior Dog Rescue - This San Francisco group demonstrates how one person can make a difference and create something meaningful.

I still want more Puppies - Puppy Love! Always something interesting or funny going on here.

24 Paws of Love - that says it all. Love stopping by here for a dose of doggie warmth.

Will My Dog Hate Me? - Edie has a way of taking serious subjects and mixing them with just the right amount of humor, that it keeps me wanting to read more and more of her writing.

Amazon Cares - Met them at Blog Paws. Wonderful animal rescue and education

Moxie Paws(TM) - Because Cleo has it!

4) Contact the bloggers and let them know they where picked!

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How the Pet Bloggers Blog Hop Came About

To explain how the Pet Bloggers Blog Hop came about I need to start at the beginning. I was basically thrown head first into the Pet Blogging world. My Blog Two Little Cavaliers started out as something I was doing for myself. It was a way to start to focus on the positive and happy things in my life while Davinia continued to recover from being viciously attacked.

I didn’t have a clue about the active Pet Blogging and Social Media Community though I knew there was a group of pet people on twitter who I said hello to once I a while and even crashed a #Pawpawty once not understanding what it was (sorry guys).

 Then I entered a contest to win tickets to some event called BlogPaws thinking it would be fun. I mean I like animals and get along with pet people so it couldn’t be all that bad and might just be something fun to do to get away for a few days. I didn’t win the tickets but was approached by the Pedigree Pet Adoption people who were willing to send my blog to the event. I guess someone saw potential in my little two month old blog that I didn’t even know was there and a week later I was at BlogPaws in Ohio.

For any of you who were there you know first hand how full of information, networking, and fun the event was. To say I was overwhelmed meeting everyone and being introduced to their blogs for the first time would be an understatement.

I cannot tell you all how grateful I am for the experience of being there but I also knew for myself that I wanted a way to stay connected to my new friends and continue to network once BlogPaws was over. Then I came up with the idea that if Blog Hops worked for the mommy bloggers why not have an ongoing hop for the Pet Bloggers. I knew that I would need co-hosts in order to really get the idea out there so I decided on Neil from Life With Dogs (who made our Blog Hop Badge) and Salina who helps Baby Patches write Confessions of the Plume. I now consider Neil a friend and mentor who I speak with on a regular basis via email and phone calls. 

Through the Blog Hop I have met so many new people and learned so much from Pet Bloggers all over the world. I hope you all have as well. If you have never joined us come and play this weekend and say hello to your hosts and then visit as many other blogs as you are able. We would love to have you!

Thank you so much to Cleo and her mommy Sharon for allowing me to be a guest blogger and for sharing the story about how the Pet Bloggers Blog Hop came about.

Can’t wait to see you all in Denver at BlogPaws West,


Two Little Cavaliers

Felissa & the Two Little Cavaliers (Davinia and Indiana)


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Influence Positively Questionnaire - Vicki Boatright

BZTAT Vicki Boatright
Vicki Boatright, known as "BZTAT" (pronounced bee-zee-tat), is an artist who specializes in whimsical drawings, paintings and prints of cats, dogs and other companion animals. She creates colorful, customized pet portraits, which are unique in their original contemporary style and are collected by people around the world. She also creates murals that follow pet motifs and other themes.

Vicki uses the name BZTAT in homage to a feline companion of that name who was with her for 19 years. You can learn more about the artist and view her artwork at

What is your idea of perfect happiness?

There was a time when I would get into a “half full or half empty?” kind of discussion with a question like this… Now that I am getting older, I am still philosophical, but less needy to query the nature of happiness. I will say, though, that preceding the word “happiness” with the word “perfect” tends to take away from it. Perfection is an unattainable ideal, in my opinion, and I really don’t seek it out.

Happiness does not need to be perfect. It just needs to be. Happiness is simply a state of feeling comfort, joy, peace, love, gratitude, and/or any combination of those things. Spending time with my cats, my family and my friends often bring these things to me. Meeting new friends through social media then meeting up with them in “real” life brings me joy. Creating artwork that brings joy or some other kind of gratifying experience to others brings another kind of happiness to me that I cannot fully describe. It just “is”. Seeing a homeless pet find a forever family brings me another kind of indescribable joy.
If you could come back as a dog or a cat, which one would it be and why?
I think both would be thrilling experiences! Cats are independent, intelligent and self aware. Dogs are loyal, playful and grateful. I suspect that I would come back as a cat, though, because I think that I have a feline soul within me already.

What is your pets most treasured possession?
I have 4 cats, each with their own preferences and treasures. They do all seem to battle for two particular sleeping spots, however. One is the mini-cat tower that sits next to my desk chair at the computer. The other is a purple laundry basket. I have long since given up using the basket and the few clothes that were left in it when it first became a pet bed.

Oh, and of course there is that video evidence of the world famous Brewskie Butt playing with his prize nip cigar that he got from his Twitter friend Baby Patches of Nip and Bones…

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Sheep herding gone wrong


A certain girl doesn't quite get the concept of sheep herding. The downside to city life? Cleo was surrendered to a shelter up north five years ago before we adopted her from the SF/SPCA.  Maybe this photo is telling us that she has officially forgotten any country life before us?

I kind of like the idea that we have successfully replaced all of her past life and any bad memories.  Now we just need to work on this hoarding tendency...

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Influence Positively Questionnaire - Kim Clune

Kim Clune - This One Wild Life!
Kim Clune, a web designer and writer by trade, shares her joy of animal rescue, fostering and adoption She co-founded (with the brilliant Amy Burkert), to rally animal advocates behind one cause each week and to Blog the Change for Animals four times each year.
With her strong sense of devotion to animals, it’s fitting that Kim married Tim Clune, Director of Dog Adoptions at a local rescue. Many of their first dates were spent at adoption clinics and their house is constantly filled with fosters and rescues. (At the moment this includes a Newf, a hound, two orange tabbies and three birds.)

What is your idea of perfect happiness?
Perfect happiness – what is that, exactly? I suppose life would be stagnant without the push and pull of opposing forces and, although not all of those forces make us happy, they create constant motion and beautiful mysteries that I greatly appreciate. In the face of adversity, I feel best when I’m challenged, learning and working toward improving the things that I feel I can change. This makes me truly happy.
Of course, laying in the grass with my husband and dogs or being covered by sleeping cats on the couch is pretty darn near perfect. No, wait! Swirling cool, creamy vanilla ice cream around my mouth while covered by the warmth of sleeping cats on the couch, my husband next to me, and dogs sleeping at my feet… THAT is perfect happiness.

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How do you know if and when to add to your pack


One Dog Two Dog No Dog - Deciding to get a dog was a big deal for us. We waited a long time because we wanted to get the right dog for us. My husband and I had different experiences growing up with a dog or in my case, several working dogs. He was used to having strictly a pet that was happy to hang out with the family, while I only knew dogs that had active roles to perform within a pack. Together we knew we would need to take our past experiences and figure out what made sense for us today.

We live in a big city. This meant at the top of our initial list of questions was, "What is the right size and energy level for us?"  Once we decided on that, we agreed that we would wait until we had the right size home and lifestyle to accommodate this future dog. We waited nine years before adopting Cleo from the SF/SPCA.

How do you know if and when to add to your pack? We have had Cleo for five years now and she is about seven years or older. I've started thinking about whether it would be a good idea to get a second dog.  Our big girl loves little dogs and puppies and could make a great matriarch. And I admit that as "an only child" she could use more regular canine interaction than what she gets now. 

Cleo has become a bit spoiled, with my giving in to her demanding affection and attention out of guilt as much as from my own love of spending time with her. Is another dog the answer or would she be better served by us if she had more mental exercise? Searching for answers, I found Patricia McConnell, a certified applied animal behaviorist, dog trainer and author of The Other End of the Leash: Why We Do What We Do Around Dogs, and For the Love of a Dog: Understanding Emotions in You and Your Best Friend. 

She wrote a great post How Much is Enough?, on how much training and attention our dogs need every day.  It got me wondering if Cleo's skin issues might be related to her not getting enough mental and physical exercise? We walk her every day for thirty minutes and she goes out with a play group of about five dogs twice a week for two hours.  Does she have behavioral issues that are manifesting themselves through the itching and biting?  My guilty conscience points the finger squarely at me and that as the human, all of Cleo's problems stem from my inability to take care of her properly.

Have I become Cleo's enabler? I wonder if at this age how much behavior modification I realistically can expect from her. And from me. Would I be up to that possibly complex task? While we wait for the blood test results from the vet on what, if anything, she is allergic to, I vacuum every two days all the hair that she naturally sheds or purposefully scratches off whenever alone.

Part of me would like to take the simple action of getting a second dog. The dog could be a playmate for Cleo, solving all of our problems at once - for the modest cost of adoption fees and additional food.  Problem solved, right? Somehow I don't quite believe it.  The logic reminds me of troubled marriages where the couple decides that bringing a baby into the situation will solve every issue between the two of them.

Is now the right time to add another dog to our pack? The more I think about it, the more time I know we need before we make any decision. After the reading I have done, we need to explore first this issue of exercise and wait to see what the test results tell us.  Making changes to our behavior as much as hers is where I plan to start.

Adopting Cleo from the SF/SPCA was the best experience ever. I can't imagine ever buying a dog again.  Whatever the future holds, one decision that will remain the easiest is our choice to adopt rather than buy a dog.

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Influence Positively Questionnaire - Carol Bryant

BlogPaws Carol and Dex

As the Social Media and Public Relations Director for FIDO Friendly magazine and writer/editor for one of the nation’s largest online learning institutions, managing multiple priorities with skilled confidence is a mainstay for Carol Bryant. As the author of numerous feature articles and original educational content, diversity is a well-managed craft. Dogs to digital, canines to career certification, Carol’s writing has produced training and advancement programs for usage by thousands of students in an online, e-learning capacity.

What is your idea of perfect happiness?

A book in my hand, a cocker by my side.

If you could come back as a dog or a cat, which one would it be & why?

A dog because I'd become my dear beloved and departed dog, Brandy, who inspired me, filled me with love, and taught me the meaning of true unconditional being.

What is your pets more treasured possession?

My foot, as he sleeps across it frequently ;)

Your proudest achievement so far?

Graduating from college with a 4.0 GPA having given everything I knew up to that point in my life.

Who are your heroes in real life?

People who rescue pets, give them homes, foster animals others 'threw' away, and those who are underdogs and fight for the small victories of life.

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Why we need to advocate for spay/neuter programs

Lucas web

Last Saturday, Emmett and I worked the humane association booth at our county fair. The goal for the event is answer questions about pets and animal welfare. The booth includes posters about animal abuse, dog fighting, bite prevention, adoption, and spaying and neutering - topics that I sort of, somehow take for granted.

For instance, in my mind, of course you get your pet spayed and neutered. Obviously, right? Our shelters are bursting at the seams; animals are put down for no reason other than lack of space; stray cats and dogs roam rural and urban streets. So, yes. Of course we spay and neuter our pets.


A woman approached the booth with three young daughters. “I have a question for you,” she said. “I think I need to get my cat spayed. I didn’t think she’d get pregnant. But last night she showed up with a kitten in her mouth.”

I talked to the woman for a few minutes. Turns out, she didn’t realize that her outdoor cat was pregnant until she gave birth to a litter of kittens - only two survived - and now the woman needed to know what to do with the kittens and if she still could get her cat spayed.

I wanted to lecture her (I mean, come on? She didn’t think her unspayed outdoor cat would get pregnant? She didn’t notice that her cat was pregnant? Seriously?). But then I looked at the girls surrounding their mother. They shuffled their feet, waiting for their mom so that they could get back to enjoying the fair. When I answer the woman’s question, I tried to address those girls instead.

“While your cat is nursing, bring them all inside. Once they’re weaned, if you can’t find a good home for the kittens, it’s better to take them to the shelter than to let them fend for themselves outside. As for your cat, any unspayed cat can get pregnant - especially outdoor cats who are free to roam.” I smiled at the little girls while I handed the woman a brochure for the low-cost spay and neuter clinic. After they left, I hoped that those girls will remember our conversation, at least a little. As for the woman and her cat, I’ll know if she brings her in - I volunteer at the clinic, and I’m great with faces!

But the whole conversation drove home a really important point: We can’t take anything, no matter how seemingly basic, for granted. Those of us who are involved in animal welfare, whether it’s as a volunteer, as a blogger, or as a responsible pet owner out for a walk, need to be mindful of the fact that some of the things we sort of overlook - well, of course we spay and neuter our pets - may not be second nature to someone else.

Pet overpopulation is the root of so many animal-welfare issues. According to the Humane Society, four million animals are euthanized in shelters each year – that’s about half of the total number of animals that enter shelters. So what can you, the pet-savvy reader of Grouchy Puppy, do?

Start by being a cheerleader for spaying and neutering. True, most people don’t like unsolicited advice, but whenever the opportunity arises, sing the praises of getting animals fixed!

Consider volunteering for a low-cost or free clinic. Your local shelter or vet’s office might offer a clinic or use a locator to find one nearby. And you don’t have to be a vet to help at a clinic! When I volunteer, my job is to fill out the person’s data on a slip of paper. Simple!

If you’d rather make a donation, there are nonprofits that sponsor the surgeries for low-income families, specific breeds, targeted demographics, etc. To find one that you would like to contribute to, Google a phrase that includes the type of program you’d like to support. For example, I Googled “free spay and neuter + pit bull + Indiana” and came up with Spay-Neuter Services of Indiana, Inc.

By spaying and neutering our pets - and helping others to do the same - we can make a huge impact in the overall well-being of our companion animals.

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Seniors Rule!

My time at Muttville has left a mark, and I'm not talking about the dirty paws on my pants. My heart has been captured by those "senior sweethearts" waiting to move to their forever home. Here is a short tribute I made, from watching one of the cuties I met:

Don't buy, adopt! If you are thinking about getting a dog, consider adopting an older dog. Visit a shelter in your area or a nonprofit group like Muttville and see what I mean. Your heart will thump and you might find yourself considering adopting a breed or mix that you know nothing about - all because those soulful eyes shine with all the love and companionship that is still in their gray haired body.

Visit your local humane society or shelter or check out the helpful information on Petfinder. Here are groups specializing in senior dogs:

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Influence Positively Questionnaire - Maggie Marton

Maggie and Emmett web Maggie Marton is a freelance writer, editor, and grammar junkie. She lives in Bloomington, IN with her husband and two darling dogs. Visit her online at or

What is your idea of perfect happiness?

Perfect happiness to me is spending Saturday morning snuggled in bed with my husband, my dogs, big mugs of coffee, and the newspaper. Bonus points if it's raining or snowing. 

If you could come back as a dog or a cat, which one would it be and why?

A dog with a good person. I'd love to spend my days eating, napping in the sun, playing, getting scratches, then eating and napping again!

If you could have one animal trait what would it be?

I'm so clumsy! I think I'd like to have the balance of a flamingo.

Your proudest achievement so far?

Walking my dog Lucas through any pet store, park, or other crowded place! Adopting a terrified, miserable, emotional wreck of a pup who resorted to aggression every time he feared something - which was actually everything - and helping him to become a friendly, outgoing, playful dog is absolutely my proudest achievement. It's been hard work every single day for the last three years, and we still have improvements to make, but seeing him play with other dogs makes me absolutely burst with pride.

Who are your heroes in real life?

Oprah (is that too obvious?), my dad because he is kind to absolutely everyone, and my husband for working as hard as he does to follow his dreams.

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