Helping Animals in Need in the Central Texas Fires

*** Updated Tuesday, September 6, 2011

We need rain here in Texas. Badly.

That’s a picture from Big Dog Rescue’s Facebook page. They’re located in the Austin area, and their Vice President just had her house burned down and they’re looking for fosters to take in animals displaced. The Bastrop County Animal Shelter was evacuated as well and thanks to the awesome folks at Austin Pets Alive and the Austin Humane Society, all the animals were saved and they’re looking for donations and temporary fosters. You can find more detailed things they need by going to their facebook pages:

*** Williamson County Regional Animal Shelter needs fosters ASAP! They took in 15 dogs from the Leader Fire and have run out of space. Please check out their facebook page for more updated information. If you’re a shelter/rescue/someone looking to adopt, please help them out!

If you haven’t heard, Central Texas is being hit HARD with fires right now. The biggest being the one in Bastrop that has burned up to 25,000 acres since yesterday, jumped the Colorado River twice, and has desecrated more than 300 houses. Over 5,000 people have been evacuated so far, and a mother and her 18-month-old child were killed. The winds from the recent hurricane aren’t helping. You can keep updated about the fires by checking the Austin Statesman.

We are located in east Austin and while the fires are supposedly moving away from us, we’ve still come up with our evacuation plan (packing up 20 animals is no easy feat). Standing outside in our front yard, the smell of smoke is strong. It’s scary. If we didn’t have so many fosters already, I know we’d both be at the shelter taking in animals right now. I’ll be continually nagging friends all day to make sure they’re okay.

Please send good thoughts, positive vibes, and lots of rain.

*** We will be updating our twitter account with information as we get it. Follow @RescueAnimals on Twitter!

#BlogPaws [Part 3]: Andrea Arden’s Keynote

What follows is Part 3 of our BlogPaws adventures. This whole week will be a post a day about the sessions we went to, the people we met, the wonderful and inspiring feelings we took back with us from this conference. If you didn’t know, BlogPaws was a conference held in Columbus, Ohio this past weekend that brought together pet bloggers and animal advocates from all over the world. It was truly a life-changing conference.

Friday night came and went and we were well into the early morning hours of Saturday before we finally shut our eyes (this had become a theme). Ash and I woke up a little later than we wanted to because of this, but we managed to get to breakfast and met up with the rest of the Pedigree-sponsored bloggers for coffee and fruit and muffins.

Our awesome Pedigree stuff!

The morning ceremony started with Tom, Yvonne, and Caroline talking about the night before and all the amazing connections they saw in the making. “It’s all about the bloggers!” Michelle from the American Animal Hospital Association got up and spoke about both educating people and celebrating the pets in our lives. The “AAHA believes in setting ‘The Standard of Veterinary Excellence.’ Throughout the Association’s 75 years, its mission has remained the same: provide veterinary professionals with the resources they need to effectively manage their businesses and deliver the best in companion animal care.” After her talk, she introduced the morning keynote.

If you watch Animal Planet, then you’re already familiar with the talented Andrea Arden, host of Underdog to Wonderdog. Her keynote was my favorite of all the speakers and I found her words the most inspiring. She was very down to earth and easy to relate to. She struck on why blogs are important and how they are great resources for networking. She told us a story of a thirteen year old boy who loved her blog so much he wanted to intern with the show, and another story of a five year old girl who saved up her allowance, a whole $5, to give to her local shelter. “Storytelling develops us as people,” she remarked. She introduced a new thought: the intentional community. Blogging is storytelling made easy and people who read it help spread your message. It’s ongoing. It’s a support system. Online social media can affect people daily and it does.

Andrea Arden

“What do you get back from blogging?” she asked the audience and it got me thinking about what we offer to our readers here and what we expect in return. At the moment, all we want is interaction. We want to hear your voice. That is our reward. Shelters, Andrea pointed out, can become no-kill with the help of a well written blog. “Blogging amplifies your voice. Blogging can have a dramatic impact on saving animals lives.” She goes on to describe the rewards one gets from blogging; Saving animals’ lives, humane education for children, helping increase media opportunities.

Three of my favorite quotes from Andrea were: “Recognize the importance of your history as it relates to blogging.” “The best bloggers are storytellers.” “Think back to a time when things weren’t so obvious to you.” The first is easy enough – we write what we know. The second is also obvious – bloggers are storytellers, there is no doubt. We write. We know words. Simple as that. The third – well, this is one I am constantly telling myself to remember. Not everyone feels the same things as I do. Not every reader is going to think something is so clear and easy to understand. I have to remember that not everyone knows what I know. We’ve all got to start at the beginning.

Andrea gave a phenomenal speech.. She also gave some awesome advice. She talked about how TV shows have what we want: airtime; so whatever we write, whatever we believe, it’s got to be something they want. They want information and “telling your stories can help move people to action.”

The Pedigree-sponsored bloggers!

This keynote was by far the most inspiring, and Andrea’s last few words to us hit home. “You are helping to create a better world for animals and for people that care for and about them.” Isn’t that what this is all about? I don’t know about you, but personally, I know that’s what I hope for every day of my life. To help animals. To help people help animals. It’s why we’re here; it’s why I am writing this blog post. Why are you here?

#BlogPaws [Part 1]: In the Beginning!

What follows is Part 1 of our BlogPaws adventures. This whole week will be a post a day about the sessions we went to, the people we met, the wonderful and inspiring feelings we took back with us from this conference. If you didn’t know, BlogPaws was a conference held in Columbus, Ohio this past weekend that brought together pet bloggers and animal advocates from all over the world. It was truly a life-changing conference.

Our adventure begins in the wee hours of the morning on Friday, with an annoying alarm clock after two hours of fitful sleeping and twenty-two animals demanding their breakfast. Ash and I stumbled around doing last minute packing and cleaning, and trying to get everything done in time. Our plane took off promptly at 9:45am, took two breaks – one in Houston, one in Chicago – and then we landed safe and sound in Columbus Ohio.

Welcome to BlogPaws! Image by Brad Smith Photgraphy

As soon as we entered the doors of the beautiful Westin Hotel, I knew it was going to be an amazing event. People were so friendly and helpful, and I instantly felt like we were among friends. Ash and I wandered for awhile before finally finding Caroline and, in turn, Yvonne, two of the three founders of the whole event. They, along with Tom the other founder, had done everything in their power to get us to BlogPaws and we couldn’t be more thankful. Because of them, Pedigree Pet Foods chose us (along with a few others) to send to the conference. We love Pedigree’s Adoption Drive so this was so exciting for us to be able to get their word out. So we met up with Mark, the PR dude for Pedigree, and got all of our goodies and cards to hand out, and then headed upstairs for the night’s event.

Tom started the night off by thanking all the people involved in the event and talked about some of the earlier beginnings of the site. Yvonne added to this with some background of how BlogPaws was started – she and Caroline had met at a BlogHer conference and wondered to themselves what a conference for pet lovers would take to set up. “If we knew what would be involved, we wouldn’t have done it,” Caroline said laughing. Fortunately for all those in attendence, she didn’t, because this first annual BlogPaws conference was beyond a mere success – it was a triumph, a victory, an inspiration.

More speakers came up. First was Susan Resnicoff, Director of Pet Food Marketing at Del Monte Foods, the number one sponsor of the conference. She talked about how we are not owners of our animals, we are Pet Parents and that the biggest thing we can do is nurture the relationship we have with our furry children. She says, “Pet Bloggers are vitally important to the industry,” and in this day, I don’t think she could be more right. She goes on to introduce Charlotte Reed, the pet expert who has been on The View and written dozens of articles/books on “petiquette.” She talked about her influence and why she does what she does. Her advice to BlogPaws-goers: “Listen, learn, and ask questions.” But the biggest thing: “Help each other!”

Nikki, Molly, & Ash. Image from AmazonCARES

The night wasn’t over yet. When we had first sat down, we had introduced ourselves to our fellow tablemates. Turns out, we knew some of them on Twitter. Molly of Amazon CARES was seated next to us, and Jo of Enlightened Ferret was there as well. It was so much fun to finally put faces to names and meeting people we had known online. We chatted between speakers and then Caroline got up and started talking about the Sponsors and Yvonne came out to start the first night’s raffle.

The raffle… well let’s just say we may not have gotten anything personally, but in a way, we won big time. But I’m going to leave that for another post. *winks* You’ll just have to wait.

After the speakers were done, a lot of mingling happened. Ash and I went around and introduced ourselves and handed out business cards. We met some awesome new friends that night; 1eyes27toes, PetsBlogRoll (and her cool dad), LNS Consulting, Petfinder, Furminator, grouchypuppy, BZTAT, and Curlz and Swirlz, just to name a few. Throughout the whole conference, this was probably my favorite part. I loved just going around and talking to people – there was an interesting person to talk to whichever way you turned. It was extremely refreshing to talk to people who completely understand where you are coming from when you talk about your love for animals.

Great Artwork from BZTat! Image from Brad Smith Photography

Ash and I stayed up for a long time talking to our new friends and tweeting about the on goings of the conference. We didn’t go to bed well after 2 in the morning, but it was worth it. BlogPaws was just beginning.

We’re Going To BlogPaws!

If you haven’t heard, there’s a big old shindig going down in Columbus Ohio this weekend called BlogPaws. And guess what, WE’RE GOING!

I'm going to BlogPaws 2010 badge

Now, both Ash and I thought fate was completely against us going, but as it turns out, never give up hope. Yvonne, Tom, and Caroline, founders of BlogPaws, have bent over backwards to get us to the conference and get a hotel room, and with their help, our airfare is now being sponsored by Pedigree, who chose several bloggers to attend the party of the century, including us! How awesome is that?

In return for Yvonne, Tom, and Caroline’s help, Ash and I will blogging from the floor of the conference, giving you all a running commentary of all the sessions and events, at the BlogPaws’ blog. I’m more than excited and I cannot wait to start connecting with follow animal lovers. But first – a favor from you!

Because we’ll have access to some pretty awesome people and some big name brands, we are opening ourselves up to what YOU guys want to ask. Have a question for someone in particular (check out the speakers that will be there) or just a general inquiry, comment here with it and we will do our best to ask the appropriate person. You can also tweet a question at us, but because twitter will be full of BlogPaws questions and answers, there’s more of a chance we’ll see your question if you ask it here.

Help us make the most of the first ever BlogPaws conference – tell us what you want to learn! If you’re going to BlogPaws, let us know if there’s anything we can do for you and we’ll try and help you make this an amazing experience.

BlogPaws or Bust, y’all! We’re going to bring a little Texas to Columbus!

Web Designs for Non-Profit Animal Organizations, Shelters, and Rescues

Hey folks, this is Nikki. As many of you know, I’m the web designer behind ILRA, and making web designs and developing them is the way I make my living. But did you know that if you’re a non-profit animal organization/rescue/shelter, you’re eligible for a 5% discount from my freelance business Design Coyote? And not only do YOU get a discount, but another 5% of the final price is put into our slowly growing Brody Fund (a fund raised to help rescues and shelters just like you), meaning a full 10% of the final quote goes to helping animals.

Of course, all the money I get from it generally disappears in dog food, cat food, ferret food, rat food, and fish food, so I guess you could say it ALL goes to animals. Our kids come first to us, you see.

Anyway, if you’re a shelter or organization and feel that your website needs a face lift and re-haul of content organization, please fill out my Quote Request form on Design Coyote and let me know what you want – I’ll come up with a quote for you with the special discount and we can start working together to create a website that any dog or cat (or ferret or rat or horse) would love to be featured on.

Together we can make a difference in the world and the web.