ZineOne – Customer Service at Your Fingertips

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CaptureAnyone who knows me knows that I consider customer service the most important part of the consumer experience.  Sure the product needs to work and pricing should be good, but the thing that will win, or lose, my repeat business is a company’s customer service.  I was trained as a member of Disneyland’s Guest Relations.  I know what gold star service looks like and I expect to receive it.  Given the way I now shop this has become an issue for me, and I would assume, for many others.

I was an early adopter when it came to doing transactions via the internet.  When using my phone became an option it took me no time at all to download a number of apps where I could deposit a check, place an order for pizza to be delivered (light sauce, light cheese, pepperoni and pineapple), or purchase a giant bag of dog food, all from the safety and comfort of my sofa!  I just ordered toilet paper from an app just minutes ago.  Why should I do something crazy like get in my car and drive 3 blocks to the store when I can hit “add to cart” from an app on my phone while watching the premier of Madam Secretary?  It’s like I’m a member of the Jetsons.

It is all so wonderful, easy, and a time saver … until you have a problem.  A few weeks back I ordered a product from one of those retail apps, it doesn’t matter which one.  I was very excited, until the item arrived and didn’t work.  I honestly didn’t think this was going to be a problem.  It was so easy to order through the app on my phone it was obviously going to be just as easy to report the problem and get a replacement.  I hopped on my phone only to find there was no way to report my issue.  Worse still, there wasn’t even a phone number to call or an email address to write to.  There was nothing.  In shock I was forced to ditch my phone, my lifeline, and get on a computer.  I found the company’s website and was finally able to email through that.  Eventually I got the help I needed but it was not easy and I swore never to purchase from that company, and through their app, again.  This company had failed completely to fully leverage connecting with their client, me, through their mobile app.  This, based on the fact that I used it in the first place, would obviously be my preference.  Multiply me by every single person who has downloaded and used that app.  This isn’t just a missed opportunity to connect.  It doesn’t take much imagination to see how this translates into lost revenue.

A handful of companies have started to take advantage of this new avenue for customer service.  Amazon introduced the Mayday button and we have all seen the commercials for Kindle Fire where a live chat button is pressed and an entire living room of people see the live human (gasp) customer service agent smiling and ready to help.  I’m confident these solutions will prove to be successful for Amazon, but looking at the apps that I use it’s clear that there is not a one size fits all solution.  I realize that a successful business plan would not or could not include instant help to a live customer service rep 24/7 for every single company.  What is the solution?

logoLast week I had a discussion with Debjani Deb, CEO of ZineOne.  Debjani and the ZineOne team have thought a lot about this question and how to help companies integrate a higher level of customer connection and service into their apps.  ZineOne recently launched a product that can help any transaction based app take advantage of multiple levels of service in order to enrich their client experience and in doing so grow their client satisfaction scores and increase customer loyalty.  All of this results in higher market share and increased revenue.  ZineOne’s product takes a company through every step needed to effectively and efficiently handle client’s customer service needs.  Starting with analyzing data and identifying where help is required, to putting that help into action.  ZineOne doesn’t just help identify the issue it solves the problem.

At the basic level ZineOne will bring a company the data it requires to put together an app based service plan.  A user is tracked from app download through all usage points.  In analyzing this data it becomes clear where, within an app, customers are getting lost and/or having difficulty.  It also helps show app developers if the customers are being driven through the app as planned/expected.  Proactively identifying where usage problems may be and solving those will help increase user satisfaction.  Of course it also helps a retailer understand how someone is shopping in their virtual store and how to take advantage of that real estate to help increase sales (think the impulse buys that are done at check out of a brick and mortar store … like Trader Joes … and those delicious chocolate covered almonds that call to me even though I swore I only came in for a bag of apples).

Now that “sticky” points have been identified ZineOne will allow a company to put dynamic rules into place that help users navigate more effectively (and therefore with a bigger smile).  These rules can be changed and tweaked as needed.  As data comes in, a company can update their “rules.”  If the increased use of apps has taught us anything it’s that this new world of client access is not stagnant.  It’s always changing and often changing quickly.  A company doesn’t want to be locked into something only to find out a month later that customers concerns and needs have changed.  The ability to easily remain dynamic is key.

Finally, ZineOne can help identify who should get what message and how.  For example, my $25 worth of dog treats may not require a human to contact me to help explain shipping options.  Perhaps offering me a chat option would make more sense or even have me, the customer, answer a couple of questions so the shipping “FAQ” is fed to me vs. me having to go find it in a list of 20 other FAQs.  Have you ever tried to find the answer you need on a long list of FAQs on an iPhone screen?  It isn’t a great experience … believe me!  On the other hand, if I’m having difficulty because my $5,000 check I just deposited via my bank’s app isn’t showing up in my savings balance then perhaps I should have the option to push a button and have someone call me to help me out (I suppose $5,000 isn’t a lot of money to my bank considering they are a huge national bank.  It is too me though.  That’s what matters!).

Of course there is a technical aspect where the ZineOne SDK is downloaded and integrated into the app.  That all sounds like an alien language to me but I’m told any developer would understand it and easily be able to make it happen.

ZineOne allows companies to take their customer service to the next level.  It is the invisible bridge between a consumer sitting on her sofa with her iPhone and the customer service folks; even if those customer service folks aren’t actually there. ZineOne puts the customer service the user needs at their fingertips.

For more information about ZineOne and how they are able to do what they do, head over to their website – www.zineone.com.

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Back to You in the Studio

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CaptureI always thought I’d make a very entertaining on air news reporter.  I’m guessing the producer wouldn’t like me much but I can almost guarantee I’d be a viewer favorite.  One thing that always baffles me is how those people have so much to talk about in a breaking news situation when there is no new info to pass on to viewers.  As an example the Los Angeles area is in the tail end of a crazy heat wave right now.  Temperatures are triple digits and we are breaking records left and right.  Of course any weather activity at all is a HUGE story for local Los Angeles news folks.  Here is a taste of what it would be like if I was on on-scene reporter:

Bob – Let’s go out to Wendy.  She is on the streets of Los Angeles were the temperatures just hit a scorching 104.  What is happening out there Wendy?

Wendy – Well Bob it’s hot.  Real hot.  I’m sweating.  I’m starting to smell really bad too.  How is it in the studio?  Air condition working well there?

Bob – Yes it is Wendy.  You should get inside fast.

Wendy – You think?  Thanks for the great insight Bob.  That’s why you are an anchor and I’m out here hoping for the end of days.  (To onsite producer) What number am I in line for the anchor position?  I need to know how many people I need to knock off so I can sit in the comfy cool studio like ol’ Bob there.

Bob – Thanks Wendy.  We will be back to Wendy in the next hour to see how things are going.

NEXT HOUR

Bob – I’m told I HAVE to throw it to Wendy again.  As a reminder she is on the streets of Los Angeles where we have just broken a new heat record.

Wendy – You say “we” Bob but do you really mean “we?”

Bob – Ummm … Wendy … (to producer) What is she doing?

Wendy – I’m (bleep)ing hot Bob.  I’m moving this party to this here water fountain.

Producer off camera – She can’t go in the fountain.  Someone stop her.  George do something.

Wendy – George set the camera right there and come in here.  The water is fine.

Bob – Wendy is there anyone around you can interview?

Wendy – (Now screaming because mic was left on the side of the water fountain for safe keeping.) And ask them what Bob?  If it’s hot?  What they plan to do when the sun finally does land on top of them?  There isn’t anyone out here but us Bob.  It’s instant sunstroke.  George and I are dying for you out here just to report it’s hot.  I can report that from the air conditioning of the news van.

Bob – We seem to be having technically difficulties with Wendy’s feed.  Let’s take it back to the studio.

Wendy – Technical difficulties my (bleep).  The mic is melting.  If you want to call that a “technical” difficulty be my guest.

NEXT HOUR

Bob – (to producer) No.  I’m not doing it.  No.  Fine.  (To camera)  You guys asked for it.  Back to Wendy …. Wendy …. Wendy …. Wendy

Wendy – (holding camera in passenger seat of car while George drives through a McDonalds).  … with chocolate sauce.  Yah.  Oh and ask for a glass of ice.  I want to poor it down my blouse.  Stupid on-air dress code.  HEY BOB … WE’RE HEADING BACK IN TO SEE YOU AT THE STUDIO.  YOU WANT AN ICE CREAM?  Get Bob one too.  He is cranky and needs a treat to perk him up.  BACK TO YOU IN THE STUDIO.

Blame the Dogs

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Today's Pack (Huxley, Riggins, Asscher, Bear, Jax, Wallace, & Hudson)

Today’s Pack (Huxley, Riggins, Asscher, Bear, Jax, Wallace, & Hudson)

I’m all for taking credit for a mistake.  Just the other day I had to call a co-worker and admit I screwed up and needed her advice on how to fix it.  The way I look at it no one is perfect and if you never screw up it just means you weren’t trying hard enough to succeed in the first place.  Even though this is my nature during my DogVacay meet and greets I find it easier … just to blame the dogs.

During a meet and greet a dog and his/her folks are coming over to check the place out and see if it is a good fit for an upcoming stay.  Normally I have the new dog go to the backyard.  I meet the folks out there and discuss their dog, his/her activity level, allergies, etc.  Then, when the pup is settled down, I go in and get Riggins and any other dogs I am watching, so they can come say hi and get to know each other.  Finally we all head in the house for a tour.  This means my house needs to be clean.  Heavy sigh.

I clean constantly.  CONSTANTLY and yet it is never enough.  There is always dog hair and dust on the furniture, dog hair and slobber on the floors, and dirty dishes in the sink.  I swear I’ve vacuumed and an hour later really need to do it again. Here is what happens whenever a meet and greet is scheduled:

Day before – “Shoot.  I have a meet and greet tomorrow.   I need to vacuum, wash the dishes, mop, clean the bathroom, dust, fold/put away clothes, and change the linens.  I’ll do that tonight.”

Night before – “I’m too tired.  I’ll just go to bed and wake up early to clean.”

Early the morning of the visit – “I’ll sleep until <insert name of dog> gets here and then I’ll vacuum when <insert name of another dog> gets here.  Then after our hike I’ll wash the dishes, make the bed (no need to change the linens they aren’t crawling into bed with me), stuff the clothes in the dryer to deal with later, and light the candles.  If I keep the lights low they won’t notice I didn’t dust and mop.  I’ll put <insert name of dog> in the bathroom and tell the visitors that he/she doesn’t get along with all humans so it is really for their safety he/she is there.”

Later that morning of the visit – “I don’t need to vacuum.  More time for a few winks.”

After the hike – “Crap.  I have to wash the dishes and light the candles … fast.”

Right before meet and greet – “Just have time to wash the wine glasses but not dry them and put them away.  I’ll casually talk about the gathering of friends I had last night (didn’t have — no one wants someone with that many used wine glasses watching their baby). I’ll just pile the clothes onto the bed and say I was in the middle of doing laundry.”

Seconds before the meet and greet – “I’ll just fill the sink with soapy water like I’m getting ready to clean the counters and floor.  Screw the rest of it.”

Then during the meet and greet I mention that I just had some really heavy shedders go home and haven’t had time to vacuum yet – lie (Sometimes.  I probably had heavy shedders but they went home a couple days ago.  Plenty of time for a vacuum.)

The poor sacrificial lamb/dog stuck in the bathroom gets a bad rap just so I don’t have to clean my sink.

I make sure Riggins jumps on my bed when we are in the bedroom and throw up my hands as if to say, “I don’t know how I can get anything done with such nonsense.”

A dirty floor just means we went for a long hike this morning and had so much fun we all got dirty and I didn’t have time to bathe everyone yet.

So the poor dogs take one for the team (the team being me).  It is only fair.  After all I feed them.

Holding Out For a Hero – Re-post

With the recent news of Ray Rice being cut from his team and being suspended by the NFL indefinitely, it seemed like a good time to re-post my blog from January. 

Holding Out For a Hero

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I feel like I’m a pretty laid back person.  I let a lot of things slide.  I’ve often said I’m easy to date.  Maybe too easy.  You wanna hang out all night partying with 25 year olds?  Fine.  Just don’t wake me when you get home.  My friends come in all shape, colors and moral codes and yet I feel like there are a few truths we can all live by.

  • Sleeping with, torturing, marring, etc anyone underage is bad.
  • Killing, maiming, torturing other humans is a no-no.
  • Adultery is a cry for help.  Stop whoring around and hurting your family you selfish prick.
  • Killing, hurting, torturing, etc an animal makes you an asshat (I suppose unless it is to feed you and/or your people … whoever they may be and even then torturing is off the table).

If we can all, at least on some level, agree that these things make you less than a saint why do we allow people to do them.  Specifically why do we allow people we consider “heroes,” “legends,” or “leaders” do it?  Bill Clinton gets a pass for dragging his family through a very public scandal because he was the leader of the free world and “man that must be stressful.”  Tiger Woods is given a pass and even kept on as an endorser for major brands because “his personal life has nothing to do with how well he plays golf.”  We give Woody Allen a Lifetime Achievement award at the Golden Globes even though 90% of humanity would consider his personal life gross and repulsive he sure made a lot of movies that made someone somewhere a lot of cash.  Don’t even get me started on Michael Vick … oh no … I said his name …. let the rant begin.

I truly don’t understand how anyone can give Michael Vick a pass.  I’ve talked to people, even people I call my friends, who do and I consider their arguments for the man mind numbing.  If you have been hiding under a rock for years let me bring you up to speed.  Michael Vick plays football.  He also bankrolled a vicious dog fighting ring which he reluctantly admitted too and spent time in jail for.  You can read a great blow-by-blow account of the “dog fighting” timeline here.  It is much more factual based than anything my hate filled fingers could type.  There is no need for me to rehash the horrific acts he did and knew about.  If you want to ignore that his actions were illegal be my guest, but you can’t for a second tell me they were in any way moral or right.

I’m told by Vickians (the label I give those that forgive and forget his crimes) that he didn’t know any better.  That I’m too sheltered and don’t understand that dog fighting is a way of life for some people.  He was never taught it was wrong.  My response?  Tough shit.  It may be a way of life but he knew it was wrong.  He started his dog killing business (see I told you my fingers were hate filled) when he was an adult who, by all accounts, had been to more cities in the US than most men his age.  You are telling me he never figured out torturing and killing animals for pleasure and money was wrong?  If you believe that then obviously Vick needs to get himself into an assisted living home STAT because his mental status is that of a 3-year-old and he has much bigger issues to deal with.

The NY Times recently published an article by Juliet Macursuggesting any team that wants to sign Vick should be made aware of his past crimes.  I think that is a great idea unfortunately I don’t think it would matter one bit.  As Diddy sang, “It’s All About the Benjamins.”  Head honchos don’t give a flying rats ass as long as it brings in the cash.  It’s up to us, the normal humans of this precious race, to let them know it isn’t okay by not giving them the green when they make such ridiculous decisions.  (Macur actually does give Vick’s side some ink near the end of the article.  My favorite is when the reader is informed Vick supports a bill to make it illegal to take a child to a dog fight.  Ummmm … isn’t it already illegal since dog fights aren’t allowed?  Do we need to add bills that state the obvious like, “don’t murder your baby’s mama in front of him.”  I also read somewhere that Vick admitted to all the bad things he did with his “business” but that he never made money betting on the dogs or a percentage of the purse.  If that is true he isn’t just a horrible person he is a moron too.  Idiot.)

Vickians tell me I’m being too harsh that he served his time in jail and has earned a second chance.  My response?  F*** off.  He can have a second chance.  He should get his resume together and start applying for jobs where he has to check the “was convicted of a crime” box.  I’d be okay with that.  Sadly that is not what happened.  Just 7 days after his ankle monitor was taken off he was signed to a professional NFL team making 1.6 million dollars.  That number jumped to 5.25 million the next season.

Vickians will tell me he is good at his job … playing football so why shouldn’t he be allowed to do that.  My response?  Because I expect more from my heroes and my society.  Just because you are good at something I don’t believe you should get a pass for not just breaking the law but glorifying brutal and deadly hate acts.  The job of football player, president, politician, actor, singer, director, golf champion, and paid brand advocate includes having your personal life be part of your public persona.  If you don’t like that fact then get another job.  You get fame, glory, money and ego boosting in your position.  For all of that I expect you not to be an immoral asshat.  I feel like that is fair.

“But judgemental Wendy no one is perfect.”  True dat.  Although I would NEVER think it was okay to grab a dog with a friends help, and whip him up and down against the pavement until he no longer breathed.  Call me crazy.

 

Beyond Match.com

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photo 1 (79)As you know I broke up with Match.com and eHarmony.  I’ve moved on to the dating apps!  Now I’m all about Hinge and Coffee Meets Bagel.  Both of these apps pull from friends of friends of friends on Facebook and match you up with dudes (or dudettes) who have also signed up.  So far I’ve had zero success.  Nada.  Nothing.  It’s one of those things were if you “ok” a guy your info gets sent to them and if they “ok” you, then you can communicate.  I “ok” almost everyone.  Why not?  

On Coffee Meets Bagel (What the hell is that name mean?  I’m seriously asking.  I don’t get it.  They seem to have the tag line, “What happens at noon?”  I guess coffee meets bagel, but that doesn’t clear anything up for me.  In fact it makes it even more confusing.  Wouldn’t you consider coffee AND bagels breakfast items.  Who is the bagel and who is the coffee?  Actually I guess I’m the coffee because I’m told by the app that my “bagel is waiting for me.”  I suppose I’d much rather be the coffee. photo 4 (43) Personally I don’t drink coffee but at least it’s adjectives like “hot” and “exhilarating.”  Bagels are “white” and “doughy.”  Horrible name.) I’ve had zero matches.  I’ve said “yes” to lots (you get one match a day unless you buy/earn more “bagels” — again, no idea what that means).

Hinge I like better.  You get a handful of matches a day.  I’ve had 13 mutual “matches.”  None of them have written me.  One day, while at a bar with a friend, I said, “Screw it.  I’m writing all of them.”  So I did.  I sat there and wrote to each and every one.  I heard back from one dude who said Hinge was overwhelming and he missed my note.”  Really?  He is overwhelmed by so many responses he missed my little outreach.  I, on the other hand, have nothing. 

I got side tracked.  Telling you about the dating apps I’ve tried and their success rate wasn’t my initial message when writing this blog post.  This was:

Isn’t it a pisser when you go on your dating site and realize the old dude you were matched up with is indeed within your dating age range?  Total hit to the ego.

For The Love

photo 5 (13)I’m exhausted.  Being a loving and caring dog sitter is exhausting.  I care so much for my doggie guests it always seems a bit lonely when one of them leaves (even if there is 6 more laying at my feet at the time).  It is always interesting to me which doggie parents show appreciation for the care I’ve taken with their pups and which just walk off into the sunset after picking  up their dog.  This job has certainly given me more appreciation for those folks that work to make our lives easier (aka “the help”).  If I still could afford my cleaning lady I’d smother her in hugs and kisses … as I know now what I put her through.  In today’s world with YELP reviews and social media “word of mouth” I think it is more important than ever to not just report negative experiences but positive as well.  I’m always over the moon when I see a positive review that a doggie mom/dad has left me and sob silently inside when someone takes their pup home without taking the time to write a review.  I realize that they have more important things in their busy lives to think about.  I get that heading back to their email to write a review is the last thing on their mind BUT I have taken care of their baby.  I did everything I could to keep their precious fluffy cargo safe and happy during their folks vacation just so they could soak in the sun without having to worry.  Just as a reminder here are the things I have done while others have been swimming, relaxing, taking in culture, enjoying the view, and whatever else you do while you are away from home:

photo 4 (41)* Gotten bruised and scratched.  SO MANY BRUISES AND SCRATCHES.  I’ve held onto a collar with a Hulk-like grip and had my arm twisted around just to keep a dog from escaping.  I’ve fallen so many times while hiking with the pups I can’t keep track.  I’ve broken up dog fights with my own body (I don’t suggest you do this).  I’ve been a chew toy for puppies and something for dogs to jump up on over and over and over again.

* I’ve given up my bed.  I’ve slept sideways, diagonal and at the foot of my own bed so the pups can be comfy.  I’ve slept on the sofa and on the floor.  I’ve not slept because a dog was sick or I’ve slept with a dog head in a cone on my chest.  I’ve curled up in a dog bed next to an uneasy pup.  I’ve slept with dogs pushing me off the bed, dogs sharing my pillow, dogs on my head, dogs on my legs, dogs on my stomach … To be fair Lousy actually did share his bed with me once when I was sick and he was sleeping in the bathroom.  His bed was perfectly placed next to the toilet.  I suggest it the next time you get the flu … much comfier than the cold tile floor.

* I take the dogs out on an adventure every day.  That usually means hiking … everyday.  Sure you may think this sounds like a blast and … it is … but it is also exhausting.  Try climbing or being pulled up a hill or down a path EVERY DAY for approx 2 hours a day.  No weekend breaks … 7 days a week.  I have horrible tan lines.

* Dogs have taken over my phone memory.  The constant pictures to show dog folks their babies are a-ok.  I’ve taken the time and effort to download the pictures and get them to their folks so that they can enjoy.  That means before going to sleep I set up my phone to download a bunch of photos from the day.  I do this EVERY night.

photo 2 (74)* Everything I own is dirty.  You think your house is dirty with one active dog?  Try 4-7 active dogs.  I am CONSTANTLY cleaning.  CONSTANTLY.  I guarantee I’ve cleaned my carpet, floor boards (how do the floor boards get so filthy), walls (dog height), and linens more than anyone else you know.  My car is covered in dirt and smears from dog noses.  My backyard may never not smell like pee.

* I do zillions of loads of laundry.  Rags are on a constant rotation from pee clean up to washer to dryer to pee clean up again.  My sweaty smelly daily hiking clothes pile up and up and up.

*  If your dog is hurt or not feeling well I do everything I can to fix her/him.  I stay up to make sure everything is okay.  I’ve picked up dogs form ERs in the middle of the night.  I’ve woken up every x many hours to administer pills.  

*  I’ve purchased enough hydrogen peroxide and food scented candles (I don’t like floral scents) to make Target’s checkers curious about what is happening in my house.  My hydrogen peroxide has a spray bottle top so I can easily saturate myself and pups in it … daily.  Scented candles cover the smell of wet dog and pee (and wet pee when I clean my carpet).

photo 3 (52)*  When a dog ran away I didn’t sleep (I couldn’t sleep) until he was found.  I walked for hours in the middle of the night screaming out his name.  I forced my strong will on friends and wouldn’t let them give up our search.  I (we) printed out 50+ flyers and hung them up around town.  When found I carried the pup to the car.  When he was at the vet I stayed up waiting for him to be ready for pick up.  When I got home I had him lie next to me and I constantly woke up to check on how he was doing.  I did everything in my power to make sure he was okay.

My job is 24/7 and sadly it isn’t my only job.  There are no breaks.  There are no weekends … and did I mention the bruises?  I love the pups (almost all of the pups) and I’m happy to do so much for them.  I just want doggie folks to understand all that is being done to keep their baby happy and healthy.  

If you think someone has gone above and beyond in their job don’t keep it to yourself.  Let them know.  Let their boss know.  Write a good review.  Drop them a note.  And if it’s me … I do accept wine as a tip!

Ike’s Back!

A number of my doggie vacay regulars come see me fairly often.  Often enough that sometimes you wonder how it is these dog parents are able to travel so much!  Others I only see once in awhile.  Ike is a good example of that.  He came today for a short stay and I was so excited to see him.  It’s been almost a year since he first stayed with Riggins and me.  I thought this would be a good time to re-post my original blog about this sweet boy and the Potcake breed.  Enjoy!

I Like Ike! (originally posted Oct. 15, 2013)

photo 1 (2)When I traveled to India one of the things that I found interesting were the street dogs.  I mistakenly called them wild dogs once and was quickly corrected.  I spent hours on the internet reading about the dogs and what is being done to help stop overpopulation.  Since I had opted out of getting a rabies shot prior to my trip (and because I’m not totally insane) I didn’t come face to face with any of the dogs although all I wanted to do was sit down in a pack and cuddle each and every one.  Since then I’ve had a special place in my heart for those street dogs.

When Ike’s folks brought him to come visit me I hadn’t done any research on his breed.  It wasn’t until after I met the energetic love bug that I headed to the computer to check out what exactly a “Potcake” was.

A Potcake is a mixed breed dog that resides in the Turks and Caicos Islands and the Bahamas.  They are named after the food fed to stray dogs by the locals, the “cake” mixture found at the bottom of the rice/pea pots.  Exactly what kind of dog is included in the mix depends on where the dog is from but most are short-haired, can be between 25-60 pounds, and a long face.  Brown is the most typical color although their coats can also include a mixture of black, white, red, cream and yellow.  Technically mutts-mixed breeds (my favorite kind of breed) the Potcake is a recognized breed on it’s own by the Bahamas Kennel Club.

On the street Potcakes only live about 7 years and are only about 25 pounds.  Domesticated in a happy home their lifespan is similar to other dogs of their size (approx 13 years) and are a healthier weight.

photo 3Ike is the only Potcake I’ve ever watched but if he is the norm for the breed I’m sold!  Ike is a wonderful dog.  Very energetic so needs exercise but is really smart and very loyal and loving.  Ike did not like it when single men ran by us on the trail.  If they got too close he told them so.  Ike spent all his free time near me and, preferably, on my lap cuddling.  When hiking or at the dog park he always stopped to check in with me, make sure I was close, and that I was alright.  He got along wonderfully with all other dogs no matter age and energy level.  He could easily go nose to nose with Bear who is a vocal and rough playmate.  He was also just as happy sleeping while spooning Riggins (as long as Riggins would allow such silliness).  Although protective of me he never scolded or barked at my other dogs (like Dragon does).  He was part of the pack not the leader and looked to me to fill that role.

photo 2If you are looking to get a dog I always suggest rescue.  If you are looking to adopt, much like human children, I believe there are plenty of loving babies (dogs and humans) close to home that need you.  BUT if you want to reach out to adopt a dog then a Potcake is something to definitely look in to.  From my very minimal research it looks like the loyalty, intelligence, and love Ike showed is typical.  It is like they know you saved them from living on the streets and they are thankful for all you do for them.  They do need someone who can be a pack leader and who is willing to keep them active so definitely keep that in mind.  If you are looking for a mild-mannered lap dog who sleeps all day a Potcake isn’t for you!

Ike’s mom works with BAARK – Bahamas Alliance for Animal Rights and Kindness.  They have a spray and neuter program for the street dogs of the Bahamas and also help rescue dogs and find them homes.  Ike’s mom told me that there are a number of these type of organizations that will help adopt Potcakes to loving families in Canada and the US.  Keep BARRK and Ike in mind when you are thinking of what kind of pooch you would like to make part of your family!

Things I Now Know

photo 1 (66)I’ve been dog sitting for a year and 1/2 now.  I thought it was time to share some of the wisdom I’ve collected during this time.  I’m sure it will come in handy at some point in your life.

  • It doesn’t matter how long you are out and about on a hike or long walk sometimes a dog will hold it just so he can pee in your living room.
  • The littlest one is always in charge.
  • No matter how nice a dog is there is one person out there that he doesn’t like.  This hatred will make itself known at the exact same time you have his leash wrapped tightly around two fingers.
  • If an otherwise nice dog doesn’t like someone it’s probably because that person has children tied up in his basement.  Or the dude just smells really bad.
  • photo 1 (37)It’s not your bed anymore.
  • Barking is like yawning.  It’s contagious.
  • Dogs can get sunburned.
  • There are two types of dogs.  Those who want to swim in any water they can find and those who will pull your arm out of your socket running away from a puddle.
  • A water sprayer won’t work on a dog who likes to drink water from a hose.  The “deterrent” just becomes their personal water fountain.
  • Dog hair sticks really well to yoga pants.
  • Dog hair sticks really well to sheets.
  • Dog hair is a pain in the ass.
  • photo 4 (35)Horse poop is delicious.
  • Coyote poop isn’t bad either.
  • Many dogs like the taste of lotion.
  • Dog slobber is not an effective moisturizer.
  • Dog poop smells … bad.
  • Exercise does indeed calm the wildest dog down.  Unfortunately you have to exercise with them and it poops you out more.
  • Dogs who want to cuddle are the best!
  • Unless you have had multiple dogs in your bed nonstop for a week or two and then those who want their own space at night are the best!
  • The crappy crinkle toys at the 99 cent store are by far the best investment ever.
  • Your mailman will learn your schedule and make sure he stops by the house of hell while you have all the pups out and about.
  • photo 3 (44)Vacuums can be scary.
  • You can get use to the smell of wet dog.  
  • Dogs can get out of almost any leash or harness if they really want to.
  • Thorns and stickers love fluffy dogs and your carpet.
  • Humping isn’t just for boy dogs.
  • If you have a dog that likes to grab your scarf don’t wrap it around your head multiple times and secure it with multiple knots.
  • No matter what, the other guys food is always better.
  • According to every master their dog is house trained and well behaved.  75% of those people have lied to you.
  • Dogs like to sleep on a pillow.  Especially if it is yours.  
  • Starring at a ball and barking at it nonstop will not make the ball throw itself across the yard.
  • photo 3 (36)It’s a real pisser when you are the one dog that has to sleep in a crate and everyone else is free to flop down on each others beds.
  • Sometimes it’s just simpler to watch TV standing up.
  • Sometimes it’s just simpler to eat your dinner in your car … in the garage … in peace and quite.
  • Whatever room you are in is THE BEST ROOM EVER AND EVERYONE MUST BE IN THERE WITH YOU.

That’s just the tip of the iceberg.  There is so much more I could share with you but I need to go take the gang out in the back to pee.

 

 

What’s In a Collar

Lousy with Riggins' Sporn Halter and his greyhound style collar.Riggins’ collar was getting all frayed and sad looking so I ordered him another one.  Guess what came in the mail today?!?  He is sporting his pretty (red) collar right now.  Actually he is sleeping in the hall since he is pooped form our morning hike.  There are a ridiculous number of dog collar options out there.  Which should you choose?   Recently I’ve seen more of my dogs coming to me for their vacay with slip chain control collars or prong collars.  I’m not sure where this trend is coming from but wanted to share my thoughts on the matter.  I know you are all just itching to hear more of what I think about dog safety products!  Wait no more!

First of all what are these slip and prong things you speak of?  A slip chain control collar is essential a metal chain with two big-ish circles on each end.  You slip the one end of the collar down one circle to make a big loop that, when pulled, gets tighter.  A slip

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collar, when used correctly, allows you to make corrections to a dog by tugging on the collar, making it tighter against the dog’s throat.  Then when they come back in-line with you the collar automatically becomes slack again.

A prong collar is what it sounds like.  It’s a metal collar with prongs sticking out that go into the dog’s neck.  Much like a slip chain collar the prong collar is designed to close more and “tug” when a dog is being corrected and lay slack-ish when he/she is not.  

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Both prong and slip chain collars can be used very effectively IF used correctly and IF they fit correctly.  I’ve seen a number of these type collars that are either too loose or too tight.  A misfitting collar can cause damage to your dog.  If you choose to use this type of collar please have it fitted by an expert and get training on how to use it properly.  I’m talking training above and beyond a one day at Petco.

As you know I don’t even like walking a dog on a normal collar but instead prefer a walking harness so it is no surprise that the first thing I do when I dog comes to me with a slip of prong collar is to take it off.  No easy task if the collar is fitted too tight.  I also think if the dog is a breed that is already stereotyped as “dangerous” these types of collars add to the unfounded fear someone may have.  After all if a dog needs something jabbing it in his neck to behave I don’t want anywhere near that animal.   It is also VERY difficult (close to impossible) for me to walk a dog with this type of collar safely when he/she is being walked with 2, 3, 4 or 5 other dogs.  I fully admit I’m not the best at walking a crowd on leash (off leash is a

Gracie ditched her prong collar when she got here and is sporting Riggins' Non-Pull Mesh Harness by Sporn.

Gracie ditched her prong collar when she got here and is sporting Riggins’ Non-Pull Mesh Harness by Sporn.

different story).  It’s all I can do to keep them all from sweeping me off my feet in a tangle of leashes.  It’s best for me to swap out the correction collars for one of Riggins walking harness’!

Now to really get picky.  I believe a dog *should* be wearing a safety collar.  A safety collar allows the dog to get out of the collar on his/her own if it becomes snagged on something (or someone).  More than once I’ve had to remove a collar from a dog when he/she is playing in the dog park because another dog is hanging on to it and causing the pup to choke.  Riggins’ new collar is a breakaway.  The brand I purchased is easy to put back together if it is taken apart and includes metal loops on both ends of the “break-away” area so that if you do put a leash on the collar it will stay put.  It would be a bit useless if you hooked up your dog only to have him/her take off and leave collar and leash behind comically hanging from your hand!  

A martingale style collar also allows for a dog to get it off his/her neck if needed … most of the time.  This type of collar has a loop holding the two ends together where you hook the leash. When you or the dog pulls the collar gets tighter but then immediately releases.  It’s a much much less harsh version of the metal slip collar … but made with material … and no chains.  Lousy wears this type of collar (and Riggins wore one in his last picture shoot with his photographer).  The one thing to be aware of for both the breakaway and martingale style is that if a dog is about to take off to eat a squirrel, lizard, cat or mailman and you grab the collar there is a very good chance you will be left holding that while a nudie (aka no collar) dog takes off toward it’s prey! (Note that collars that Lousy and Riggins wear aren’t actually “greyhound” martingale collars.  They are in the style of these greyhound safe collars.  A true greyhound collar will be made of fabric and be very thick to fit better and more safely on a long necked sight-hound.)

There you go!  My suggestion (because I know you really really care) is to have a safety collar on and a walking harness (I suggest looking at Sporn.  The “halter” is my favorite while Riggins prefers the Mesh Non-Pull Harness) ready for whenever the dog leaves the house.  AKA spend as much money on your dog as possible.  You know you have to … he/she is your baby after all!

Scatter Kindness!

photo (75)You know how sometimes your life blows monkey chunks?  No matter what you do the universe has decided to throw up it’s middle finger to you.  You feel like you are on a constant pace of two step forwards one step back.  Yah … me too.  In fact, I dare say, that is something everyone feels now and then.  If life was all rainbows, unicorns, and puppy dog tails how would we know to enjoy the good times when we have them?  Still … getting kicked in the bum by life isn’t fun and sometimes it feels like no one cares (when in fact everyone cares but that would really throw a wrench your pity party that you are rightfully throwing yourself).

As you may remember when I turned 39 I did 39 acts of kindness in my neighborhood.  It was a great experience.  I thought it was time to whip out a couple of my favorites to share with you again.  They are two that you can do too.  It’s a great way of throwing out happiness to random strangers that feel like they are being sucker punched by life.  When you feel that way wouldn’t it be nice to receive a moral boost from a stranger?  I think so!

1 – (The following is copy and pasted from my original post.  I had to remake the flyer – see picture below.  Please feel free to print it out – print as full page picture – cut the tab lines, and start posting it around your hood. You can also find my original on my Studio account – wendylnewell.  If you want to change any of the messages you can just hit “remix” on the app.)

Pinch to grow an inch – Free Happiness.  After the Make a Wish Wendy Bomb of Kindness I made my way home to take Riggins for his morning walk.  I had decided that my neighborhood could use a little happiness and compassion.  I’m not saying it is a bad neighborhood but it did take me YEARS to get my neighbor to smile back at me when I waved as I passed him in my car.  And there was that one time when I was running with Riggins and misjudged the height of the curb causing me to fall flat on the ground.  We are talking straight down, pants torn, knees bloody, hands scrapped fall.  Their were plenty of people around, there usually are.  They all stopped and stared at me.  Not ONE came to see if I was okay.  The only person at my side was Riggins.  Now it is possible they are afraid of Riggins.  Scratch that, they are afraid of Riggins.  If you want to scare the crap out of someone in my neighborhood tell them you are friends with the big black dog that blonde girl walks.  It will have them shaking in their boots.  Still, no one even called from a distance, “Are you okay?  I’d come help you but your dog scares the crap out of me.”  Sigh.

On our walk today Riggins and I put up free happiness flyers.  Each had tabs that a person could take for him/herself or pass on to a friend including “happiness,” “love,” “a hug,” “confidence,” “patience,” “humor,” “strength,” and “peace.”  I hope they bring a smile to someone’s face.

BTW while looking for Scatter Kindness pictures I came upon a few that are part of really great Etsy stores so I wanted to share them with you:

2. (Also taken from my original post

Now, as promised, more on Operation Beautiful (http://www.operationbeautiful.com/). Per the web site – “The goal of the Operationphoto (6)Beautiful website is to end negative self-talk or “Fat Talk.” If this little blog only does one productive thing, I hope it helps readers realize how truly toxic negative self-talk is — it hurts you emotionally, spiritually, and physically.” To participate you grab a sticky note pad and a pen and write out positive messages to strangers then leave them in places they will be found. The woman who started this movement, Caitlin Boyle, is adorable. Truthfully I don’t follow her Operation Beautiful blog but I do read her personal blog (http://www.healthytippingpoint.com/). Caitlin also goes around the US conducting inspirational discussions with teenagers within high schools spreading her message that everyone is beautiful. Although aimed toward teens, who are often at the age where you struggle with your self-identity and care deeply about what others think, I’m all for getting the message out to adults as well. Seriously, if I was on a date and, feeling self-conscious, popped into the restroom to “freshen up” (aka try to slather on more make up in an attempt to look alluring) and came across a post-it staring at me telling me I was already beautiful it would be a game changer. I’d drop my make-up bag back into my purse, stand up a little straighter, smile at myself in the mirror and pronounce, “That’s right! F*** it. Let’s go do this thing Post-It” and then proudly head back to my date with more self-esteem than before. I’d love it if more people around the world became a part of Operation Beautiful. It’s so easy and can lead to such happiness.

photo (75)