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You may have heard about Pawsley by now, a new social networking and shopping site that’s launching later this week. If you haven’t heard of it before, well, you just did. Ha!

I got to sniff around on Pawsley last week for a little pre-launch sneak peek (dog-blogger perks abound) and see what it’s all about. The best way I can describe it is Facebook meets Dogster meets Groupon, with all-around better graphic design. Pawsley is a community of and for dog owners to meet and share, take advantage of special deals, and help out dog charities. Here’s Mike Pacifico, founder of Pawsley, explaining it a little further:

Put simply, Pawsley is an interactive social networking and social shopping experiment created for dogs, their owners, and people that sell dog-related services or stuff. That’s it! We’ve taken the familiar concept of social networking, applied it to our furry friends, tossed in some ribbons, and injected a bit of shopping so that our members can leverage their collective love of canines – all in a cool looking way, of course!

What made us decide that the digital world needed yet another dog website? Well, the idea came about as our pooch Maeby was sniffing around the web looking for a cool site to play. She couldn’t find one. Although we found a few virtual dog parks out there, none were created with the care and professionalism of a dedicated team that viewed the user experience and design as top priorities. But a social network for dogs isn’t a revolutionary idea, so we added some cool new twists to keep people (and pooches) coming back!

But we really DO love dogs (not just our own!), so we were committed from the start to give back to the dog community at large – that’s where 4% for 4 Paws comes into play. We promise to donate 4% of all proceeds to dog-related charities and causes throughout the country.

Sound interesting? You can scamper on over to Pawsley to learn more and sign up.

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Barking Deals is a new social buying program (a phrase I never knew existed before yesterday) offering daily deals on pet products. Basically, it’s kind of like Woot! or Groupon for pet stuff – offering participants up to 50% to 90% on a select pet product every day. The deal changes every day, but there are no minimums or tipping points before the deal is a good — if you want the deal, you’ve got it. And what’s even more awesome? Free shipping, every day.

I could seriously get into this.

Head on over to Barking Deals to learn more and check out today’s deal.

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Chances are you’ve seen some of Jamie Pflughoeft’s work before — she’s the talent behind Seattle’s Cowbelly Pet Photography, and she’s one of the best in the biz. (You can check out her amazing images here.) Jamie started a personal project in the fall of 2008 called the Graffiti Dogs Project, and she’s amassing a really cool portfolio of dogs alongside some of Seattle’s best street art.

Graffiti and dogs — pretty much two of my favorite things. Add in a slice of red velvet cake and some William Faulkner and it’s like my own little heaven.

You can check out more cool images and read about Jamie’s Graffiti Dogs project on the Cowbelly blog.

And if you happen to be a pet photographer yourself, you might be interested in another project Jamie’s recently launched, the Beautiful Beasties Pet Photography Network. It’s an online forum for pet photographers to network, share images and ideas, and educate one another on running a successful pet photography business. Check the link for application information!

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The vet/client relationship is an interesting one: we trust our vets with the health of our beloved pets, inviting them to participate intimately in our lives and in some of the most difficult and painful decisions we have to make — yet, at the same time, we often see them as merely providing a service, like the guy who changes the oil in our car, perhaps grumbling and complaining about their charges or policies.

We expect a lot of veterinarians, and we easily forget that 1) they’re human and 2) they love dogs, too.

Pawcurious, a hilarious and touching blog written by San Diego’s Dr. Jessica V, chronicles the daily adventures and struggles of a practicing small-animal vet — from the teeth-gritting to the the tear-jerking to the LOL-inducing. Dr. V brings humor, perspective, honesty, and human-ness to topics such as difficult clients, tough medical decisions, hilarious office adventures, her personal loss of a beloved pet, and the joys of raising a puppy. (I almost put “joys” in quotation marks there.)

Dr. V’s candid and personal revelations will delight you, move you, and perhaps cause you to reflect on the relationship you share with your own vet. Go ahead and give it a look.

(And yes, that’s Pet Doctor Barbie you see in that photo.)

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Cute pups, huh?

All of them live in my area, and all of them are looking for forever homes through Petfinder.

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(Clockwise, from top left: Alaia, Rhiannon, Stewart, and Colby)

October is Adopt-a-Shelter-Dog Month, and if you’re looking to add a dog to your family, Petfinder is an unbelievably awesome resource, with photos and information for over 300,000 pets looking for an adoptive family. Petfinder allows you to easily search adoptable dogs by breed, sex, location, or size, and contains bios and photos of the dogs-in-waiting that include information on the pups’ personalities and needs. Petfinder also offers a wealth of resources for families adopting, including information on dog breeds and types, dog care, dog training, and dog health.

When we adopted our Dottie in 2008, we first found her through our local shelter’s listing on Petfinder. Petfinder then allowed us to keep track of her between the shelter, a foster home, 2 cities, and about 175 miles before we were finally able to bring her home. I’ve known friends thinking of adopting a dog who refer to Petfinder as “puppy porn” — and trust me, it’s OK to look. Go ahead.

If you’re not able to adopt right now, Petfinder has published a list of things you can do to help pups in need find forever homes.

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So you like dogs, you like living green, and you like reading blogs, right? So you’d probably like a blog about living green with dogs, right? Yeeaahh, I thought so.

Head on over to the Raise a Green Dog blog and check it out. It’s got all kinds of great tips on eco-friendly dog products and responsible, sustainable pet care.

Hey, if I can’t make ‘em good, I might as well try to make ‘em green, right?

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Y’all know that we love eco-friendly stuff here at phetched. After all, dogs are total tree-huggers, right? (Umm, well, Mingus really likes to pee on trees, too, which doesn’t seem very “friendly” at all, but, well, I can’t really do anything about it).

The super-nice Michele Martin is here today to talk to us all about going green with your pooch. Michele (along with her sidekick, boxer Bella McBratty) runs Lucky Dog Organics, an online retailer specializing in organic and eco-friendly pet products.

(She’s also offering a special coupon code for phetched readers for the month of September… see below for details!)

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Phetched: Tell us how you got interested in holistic and eco-friendly pet care.

Michele: I had become interested in holistic living in the early ’90s. I was a vegetarian, then macrobiotic and practiced a semi-green lifestyle. I chose cycling and walking, I lived small, etc. It wasn’t until my former dog Lucky was diagnosed with cancer in 2005 that I made the connection between my own animal’s health crisis and the modern approach to health and wellness in our pets.

What do you think is the hardest part of eco-friendly living?

I think there are many difficult things. Convenience, greenwashing, cost, status quo… all of these things make living green difficult. None of us can be perfect. I think the most important thing is to try and make small changes and to think about the origins and destinations of our products and the impact on our earth, our animals, and ourselves. Sometimes conventional is the right answer…if the “eco” answer is shipped from China while the conventional is locally made. Does the amount of carbon produced locally equal or come under the amount of the imported good? Consider that items were sent back and forth several times in order for decisions to be made, that several parts of the product may have been made here but shipped there for final production. The most important thing is not to be brainwashed by the “all natural,” “organic,” “eco-friendly” marketing on the label. Look deeper. We need to all become active participants and decision-makers.

It seems like “going green” is all the rage these days. Do you fear that people may get tired of the buzz eventually, and eco-friendliness may become little more than a passing fad?

I think that the buzz words will go away, but I believe the cause will remain. The generations that are growing up now are, for the most part, very eco-minded. Our generation is raising kids to respect the earth. This won’t go away.

Tell us about 2-3 of your favorite organic or eco-friendly dog products.

It’s hard for me to pinpoint only products. This is easier for me to talk about companies. Three companies that I love are:

a) West Paw Design – They are Montana-based and make everything in the US. Their eco products are an amazing reuse of plastic water bottles. Each toy is the equivalent of one plastic bottle. In some of the beds, 20 bottles were saved from landfills and chipped up and turned into fiber to create the beds! I also love their Zogoflex line of virtually indestructible toys like the Huck, Hurley, Tux, and Zisc. I like them so much better than the Kongs! AND they have a new awesome raincoat and reclaimed cotton sweaters for those chilly fall walks!

b) Zukes – These treats are made in Durango, Colorado. Free of a lot of the natural allergens such as wheat, corn and soy, this line comes in everything from a small training treat (Mini Naturals), a supplement line (Hip Action- available both as cat or dog), a baked treat, and a dental treat! The ingredient list is simple, and they are low in calories but high in taste. I have yet to meet a dog or cat who doesn’t love them!

c) NuHemp – These Canadians really GET the whole eco/natural thing! Hemp is such a healthful ingredient, whether it be in food (high in Omegas! rich in easily digestible proteins!), bedding (hemp is naturally anti-microbial, anti-bacterial and anti-fungal), and grooming products. (Can I admit that I have used the pet shampoo? After running out of my own salon shampoo I said what the heck. Funny thing…less frizzies, better rinsability, less buildup, and people always compliment me on how good my hair smells!)

OK, I said just three, BUT:

d) Artisan Tags – This wonderful artist in Colorado makes these custom tags for me, and not only are they gorgeous… but they are made in the USA, there is no plastic, they are virtually indestructible, and your dog or cat will love them. The only catch is that they can take up to six weeks to get, so people need to order by mid-October to guarantee Christmas or Chanukah delivery. The best way to keep your pet safe is to keep them properly identified. A microchip doesn’t always get your pet found, but a good secure collar with an easy-to-read tag listing name and a couple numbers is a definite must!

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Do you have any favorite eco-friendly pet care tips to share?

a) Scoop the poop with newspaper or degradable bags. It is estimated that in a year the approx 74 million dogs in the US would eliminate enough solid waste to fill 1100 football fields from end zone to end zone… five feet deep. (That’s approximately 10 million tons.) (Editor’s note: Umm, gross??) So, don’t hermetically seal those plastic bags that don’t degrade. Imagine how much of our landfills are quite literally filled with poop!

b) Find the most natural food you can afford for your pet, US-made, US-grown and sourced… preferably organic. The healthier the food for your pet and your planet, the longer your pet’s life and the less your vet bills. Spend more now on food to spend less later on vet bills!

c) Be leery of toys that are not NATURALLY made in the US. Most soft plastic toys contain PVC. This makes it pliable and gives off that distinctive smell (you know: new car, pool toys, inflatable balls, air mattresses). Well, the thing that gives it the pliability and the smell… phthalates. Phthalates are KNOWN endochrine distruptors, amongst other things. Your pet plays with its mouth. Saliva can help to create a leaching process. Don’t risk it. Try safe toys like those from West Paw Designs or Ruff Dawg!

d) Do NOT buy disposable items for your pets. Disposable travel bowls? One-use tooth brushes? Disposable litter boxes? Really?! Leave a stainless steel bowl in your car or in your backpack. Buy your dog a toothbrush… you may only need to replace it every couple of years. And litter boxes… oh, my. All you need is a good sturdy litter box, and skip the liners… the cat is going to rip it anyway! Do NOT flush. Cats carry Toxoplasma gondii, which isn’t properly treated in all water treatment plants. Seal this one up in non-degrading plastic! We don’t want runoff issues into our lakes and streams! AND please… stop using clay. It’s bad. Switch to a responsibly sourced pine product, or Swheat Scoop or Yesterday’s News.

Wow, thanks, Michele, for bringin’ all that knowledge! I guess there’s a lot of little things we can do to be more eco-friendly dog owners.

And to help get us started, Lucky Dog Organics is offering 20% off all orders for phetched readers for the month of September! How awesome is that?! Just use coupon code Phetched09 at checkout. (Code expires 9/30/09.)

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This pretty girl is named Hope.

Hope’s been through the wringer the past few days.

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Scott MacLeod, a musician from here in North Carolina, found Hope in the middle of the road near Lumberton, NC, last week. She was obviously a stray, and obviously had been hit by a car. Both the pup’s back legs were broken, and the vet who made the diagnosis advised Scott he should have the puppy put to sleep.

Scott decided that answer wasn’t going to work for him — or for Broken Puppy (as she was soon to be called, before receiving her very apropos new name).

Scott and his wife Rebecca took Hope in and found a great orthopaedic surgeon in Cary, NC, to help fix Hope’s legs. Hope’s surgery on Monday was successful, and if all goes well, she’ll get to return to Scott and Rebecca’s today, where they will care for her through the long and arduous rehab she has before her.

Please visit Scott’s blog to see more pictures of Hope, read about her surgery and recovery, and to see what can be accomplished with a little hope and a lot of love.

(If you want to donate toward Hope’s medical care, you can do that on the blog, too.)

UPDATE (11:25 p.m.): Hope came home from the hospital today, and she has mobility in all four legs! Just over $4000 has been raised toward Hope’s medical care, and Scott believes that will cover the vet bills! (Any monies left over will be donated 100% to United Animal Nations.)

Amazing… in just over a week, a broken-down little puppy’s life has been saved, and she’s on her way to running and playing once more.

UPDATE 11/4/09… Hope has found her forever home.

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Public option? Co-ops? Death panels?

While healthcare for our dogs may not be nearly as complicated (at least from an administration standpoint), the waters of veterinary care can certainly be tough to navigate.

Dolittler.com is the creation of Patty Khuly, VMD, MBA, a vet practicing in Miami, FL. It contains a wealth of information about dog health and healthcare for both vets and dog owners from a personal and caring point of view.

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I was at the grocery store a couple days ago grabbing something quick for lunch, and on my way up to the registers I caught a glimpse of some packaging out of the corner of my eye that literally made me stop, turn around, and investigate. (I don’t know a ton about graphic design — that’s my husband’s bag, after all — but I’m pretty sure provoking such a reaction is pretty much the point.) Although I didn’t even really realize I was in the pet-supplies aisle at the time, I was stoked to see that what had caught my eye were Bit-O-Luv dog treats.

How much do I LUV this packaging?

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I had heard of Bit-O-Luv when they first debuted a few months ago, but this was the first time I actually had seen them in a store. Bravo, Bit-O-Luv, on your super brilliant package design.

I checked out Bit-O-Luv’s web site and discovered their treats are made in America with USDA-inspected meat, no wheat gluten, and no by-products, and Bit-O-Luv also donates a portion of profits to local dog-related charities. Pretty cool, huh? Their fun web site also allows users to report lost or found dogs and connect with other dog owners in your area for park dates and meeting new pup pals. All in all, it sounds like a pretty cool company.

So I forgive you, Bit-O-Luv, for suckering me in with your cute little snaggle-toothed cartoon doggies on your labels. You got me, fair and square.

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