Life as a Small Business Owner: Successes, Failures, and Lessons (PART 1)

About a year ago, I shared my story of being a long-time small business owner.  I talked about the challenges I’ve faced, the adventures I’ve experienced, and most of all, the lessons I’ve learned over the last thirteen years since I opened my first business.

Yesterday, I sent out my monthly newsletter for my eco-fashion line – for the first time since November. We decided to offer a huge sale along with our apologies for the several month absence, but I still felt a little guilty about the amount of time that had passed.  It prompted me to do some serious thinking about how different things are these days in comparison to what they were in the past, and how much they have continued to evolve over the past year, since I initially shared my story with you.  And all of that thinking made me realize that this would be a great time to revisit the whole “life as a small business owner” topic here on the blog. 

This is going to be a two part “series.”  Even with attempts to keep things brief, there is a lot to share, and novel-length blog posts aren’t fun for anyone.  I also felt like it would be best to break it up because I want to be able to tell the full story – the past and the present – and I want to do it without completely overwhelming you guys.  In part 1 (today’s post), I’m going to be repeating many of things the things I shared last year.  The story of the first twelve years hasn’t changed, but it’s important that I include it.  Bubby and Bean has much a larger reader base than it did a year ago, and most of you won’t have read this before.  For those who have, it will be a good refresher before part 2.  Part 2 will be posted tomorrow, and will talk about the continued evolution of my businesses over the past year to the present, along with some important tips I use to stay on track in my career.

And after the longest intro ever, here we go…

BUILDING A BUSINESS
Soon after college, I decided to start an eco-friendly clothing label.  I’d been making clothing for myself and my friends for years, and I was also heavily involved in several environmental organizations.  At the time, there was no such thing as “eco-fashion.”  There were a few companies who produced garments made from hemp and organic cotton, but the designs were the more stereotypically “crunchy” styles, without a lot of definition or style.  I wanted to design pieces that were fashion-forward as well as earth conscious, and began sewing one-of-a-kind designs and selling them at music festivals and local markets.  The line (called Mountains of the Moon) took off, and I created a website and started showing at large events.  I worked a LOT.  But I was very lucky because there were only a few other companies doing anything similar, and the business continued to grow.

GROWTH AND SUCCESS
In 2005, the business had gotten to a place where I was no longer able to keep up with the sewing on my own.  I continued to design and sew the prototypes and samples, but began working with a local manufacturer to produce full collections in larger quantities.  I also started doing regular events and trade shows, and set up a wholesale program so I could sell to stores.  By 2008, over 100 boutiques worldwide carried my collections, I was showing at Chicago and Portland Fashion weeks, and my designs were exhibited on two separate occasions at the Museum of Contemporary Art.  I was also getting some great press, including Women’s Wear Daily, The Discovery Channel’s Treehugger.com, NBC television, and more.  I had four employees, a large commercial space with a studio, offices, and a shipping room.  I even won a small business award grant from Intuit, and a couple of years later starred in a QuickBooks commercial.  I received regular invitations to speak on fashion panels and at green events, and produced several eco-fashion events of my own in Chicago.  I was incredibly grateful for my success, and was certain that hard work and some talent were all you needed to make it as a small business owner.

THE FIRST MAJOR CHALLENGES
After several years of steady growth and opportunities, something unexpected happened that really rattled my perception of exactly what it took to achieve success: my industry began to dramatically change.  First, the “eco-fashion” craze took over.  Suddenly, big designers were producing eco-friendly lines.  Brand new eco-fashion companies (with lots more money behind them) started to pop up left and right.  Even chain stores like Target were selling “sustainable” fashion – for much less than I could ever afford to price my items.  I no longer stood out, and for the first time ever, I watched my sales suffer.  To make matters worse, the economy fell flat on its face.  Many of the boutiques who carried my collections closed down.  In the fashion industry, you produce a season ahead, and the quantities you manufacture are based on purchase orders from stores.  When the collections are ready to ship, you get paid – except when the stores who placed orders went out of business during production.  In that case, you don’t get paid, and you’re left with a massive amount of overstock.  Big lines that have their collections produced overseas for cheap can drastically decrease their prices if faced with a situation like this.  But the little guys who produce locally and in smaller batches can’t.

I honestly had no idea what to do, and looking back, I probably became a little desperate.  I felt pressured to keep at it by the influx of competition, and it was suggested to me by a mentor that I try taking things to another level.  I ended up designing and producing a collection of high-end womenswear under the name Melissa Baswell Eco-Luxury, produced in very tiny batches with lots of hand work using expensive sustainable fabrics.  I marketed to a slightly different niche in an attempt to stand out once again while riding what had now become a major trend.  The new line got me some phenomenal press and a headlining slot at the eco-fashion shows during Chicago Fashion Week, but it just wasn’t selling like my lower priced collections did.  The market was oversaturated, consumers were no longer willing to spend the money for locally produced sustainable clothing, and there was truly nothing I could do to change that.  I’d also been working with a new pattern maker who decided to skip town with my samples, patterns and money.  (Isn’t the fashion industry glamorous?)  I was left with a lot of debt and a lot of frustration.

HARSH REALITY
At this point, I knew I had to face the reality of the situation.  Looking over my numbers, it became apparent that I was going to have to cut back.  I continued to produce collections for Mountains of the Moon, but less frequently and in smaller quantities. I went back to my roots of focusing more on retail than on wholesaling to stores.  I had to downsize my staff, move into a home office and studio, radically reduce my advertising budget, and cut way back on events and travel.  I created a sale section on our website, and marked down items for which we had overstock.  I maximized my investments by using the same fabric in most of the designs in a given collection (eco-friendly fabric is very expensive, but the more yardage you buy at once, the more the price-per-yard goes down).  I met with other local eco-designers on a regular basis to brainstorm how to get through the tough times.  I forced myself to accept the fact that although my clothing company was still making a profit, it would likely never again see the level of success it did in the past. 

Downsizing was the best choice for my business, but on an emotional level, everything felt like work now.  A lot of work.  I was losing my creative motivation because I had to be so completely focused on the business end of things.  I was fried, and at a place where I was basically just going through the motions like a robot.  It was very difficult to feel inspired when I was having to practice constant caution in order to prevent the company from going under.  I finally recognized that in order to get out of this slump, make a decent living, and actually love what I do again, I was going to have to go beyond just reinventing myself within my market.  I was going to have to step outside of it completely.    

THE UNINTENTIONAL DISCOVERY
Without even realizing it at the time, I did something that I now know is crucial for creative business owners – I started creating things for fun again.  I’d become so used to thinking only in terms of business when designing that I’d forgotten why I started my company in the first place: because I loved to make things, and I loved to design.  I went to the art supply store and bought up a random mix of paints, colored pencils, canvases, wood blocks, etc.  I also bought a Holga camera.  Each day, after finishing my daily work, I’d spend time making mixed media collages, drawing, creating digital art, and taking pictures.  I was open for making almost anything, and I started to remember what it felt like to be creative for pleasure.  The experience was very liberating for me both personally and professionally, and I started to feel motivated again.

It was now fall of 2010, and I had a ton of completed art projects just hanging around my studio.  Friends started to ask if they could buy pieces, and a few suggested I open an Etsy shop for my art prints and greeting cards.  At first I resisted.  I honestly knew nothing about Etsy, and I hadn’t sold my art since college.  Plus, how would I have time to work on my clothing business – which took a whole lot more time and effort to keep afloat than in the past – and run an art shop too?

REBUILDING AND THE FIRST EVOLUTION
Eventually, I finally allowed myself to take the leap into new ventures.  I set up a shop – called Bubby and Bean Art – to sell prints and greeting cards of my typographic designs and illustrations.  Almost instantly, I felt rejuvenated, and had what I’d describe as a “career epiphany.”  By giving myself the time to create for fun, I remembered why I chose to work for myself in a creative career in the first place (something I’d forgotten along the way when my first business hit a road block).  I got my drive back, and by branching out beyond something that had defined me for so long, I found a new way to reinvent myself and my career.  It had been such a struggle to stay ahead within the eco-fashion market, and by allowing myself to partially step out into another market while utilizing the knowledge I already had, I was able to create what would end up being a successful side business.  I started to really embrace this new path, and focused on creating designs for the art shop that were inspired by positivity, empowerment, encouragement, and love.  This new business filled in many of the gaps that had developed within my other company.  The extra income helped me with the first steps of getting back on track financially, and I was able to work with other mediums than just apparel and textiles (which helped both my clothing designs and my art stay fresh). 

Around the same time I also started this blog, initially with the intention to use it for staying inspired and promoting my businesses. I knew very little about this world, and was pleasantly surprised at how much I loved blogging – something I never would have been open to explore had I continued to limit myself to just my clothing label.  Over time, my little blog evolved into a big part of my career.  I began to spend several hours a day on it, and eventually, it opened up some really incredible doors for me and presented me with opportunities that I never could have imagined.

THE PRESENT
And that brings us to the present.  I’m going to save the details of this (as well as what I’m calling my current “second wave of career evolution”) for part 2, but I do want to mention a couple of things.  First, I know that what I just shared reads like a very tidy story with a clear-cut, happy ending.  And it’s true – I was eventually able to create an overall solution to getting things back on track and rediscover a happy place for myself career-wise.  But I won’t pretend that going from owning one business to three solved all my problems, or that my career ended up in the same place as it was in the heyday of the clothing line. The point is that my struggles taught me invaluable lessons about how to be open to and prepared for the fact that creative markets are constantly changing.  I became a better business owner (and a happier person) by embracing my mistakes, accepting the fact that regular reinvention of your career is necessary in creative fields, and remembering that in order to do what you love, you have to find ways to keep that love alive.  Even with new sets of challenges that appear, being a business owner is rewarding for me again.  I look forward to going to work everyday, and combined with the lessons I’ve learned about how to create balance between work and play (more on that in part 2), I’m in one of the best places I’ve ever been.

If you’ve gotten this far, thank you for allowing me to share my story (and lessons!) with you guys.  I know that many of you are small business owners as well, and I hope that my experiences will help some of you who are just starting out or are at crossroads in your careers.  For those who are established, maybe you’ve had to overcome similar challenges, or have faced and found solutions for different ones entirely.  (Either way I’d love to hear about them in the comments!)  And be sure to stop back by tomorrow for part 2.  It will be shorter (thank goodness!), and I’ll be filling you in on what is happening in my small business ownership world today, along with some tips and advice on how to stay afloat as a creative entrepreneur in an ever-changing industry.

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Bubby and Bean ::: Living Creatively

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Spay Day, that Golden study everyone’s talking about, and why I still happily remove testicles.

Today’s the day- 2013 Annual World Spay Day! I have to tell you, it doesn’t tickle the old joy centers quite the way, say, Ben and Jerry’s Free Ice Cream Cone Day does, but it’s here and I’m glad it exists.

Now, two things to note before I give my thoughts:

1. Although it’s called “Spay Day”, the event encompasses both spay and neuter. Nobody’s trying to leave the fellas out, I think it just rolls off the tongue better this way.

2. Yes, I know it’s a Humane Society of the United States initiative and that is making at least five of you raise your eyebrows. That being said, I do think it’s important to recognize and support good initiatives no matter where they originate, and this is one. Lots of other organizations, such as PetSmart Charities, Petfinder, and the ASPCA, agree enough to be an official part of the event.

This question of whether to spay and neuter has become somewhat controversial as of late. And to that I say, let’s talk about it. Politely, please. As long as it took me to perfect my gentle tissue handling skills I really take issue with being accused of ripping uteri out of unwitting pets willy-nilly for no good reason.

I Spay

I am a spay/neuter advocate. Anyone who has worked even a little in a shelter environment becomes one really fast- because when you are faced with the reality:

Of 10,000 faces.

walle3

No, wait, that’s not 10,000.

walle2

No, wait. That’s not 10,000 either. THIS is 10,000:

walle 10,000

10,000 faces A DAY euthanized in US shelters, makes it hard to argue against anything that will help reduce those numbers. Which is why I will support low cost spay/neuter clinics, even if it cuts into my own professional workload (though it never seemed to, even in my lower income area of practice.)

My clinic referred people all the time; our surgery protocol was absolutely top notch, but it came with an appropriate pricetag. Given the choice between a subsidized clinic down the road or no surgery at all, we knew what was the right thing to do. Money’s tight these days. I get that. I am glad there are resources around for those who need it.

Spay Day has an event locator for people to find local Spay Day events. As an example, here’s an event from my neck of the woods: $ 10 to fix any pet whose owners reside in a particular school district. I can’t compete with that, but truth be told, I probably never was in the running for most of the business to begin with. Whatever the outcome, one less litter in the Sweetwater shelter is OK by me.

But gonads are good! Don’t you deny it!

But WAIT! I know what you’re going to say. You are an educated, informed pet owner and you know all about the research showing that sex hormones do have health benefits and spaying and neutering may not always be 100% a positive thing. You’ve pored over the latest Golden Retriever neutering and cancer study (I did too. Putting 2 Goldens down in 6 months is not a fun thing.) And you ask:

Why must I be forced into this surgery for my pet? Why is no one admitting that testicles and ovaries have a purpose and are best left attached to the animal from whence they sprouted?

To this I say: I agree.

And to that I add: Will you at least concede, being an educated, informed pet owner, the sad truth that many, many people are not? And while I can say with utter sincerity that I believe you are not letting your pet run amuk impregnating the neighborhood, your less conscientious streetmates are?

We need to look at the conversation on two different levels: Individual health and population health.

I believe individual owners should have the right to decide when and if their pets are spayed and neutered. It’s my job to help you evaluate the risk/benefit analysis and decide for yourself what is right for you, what the consequences of that choices might be, and how to proceed. Should you make an informed decision not to spay and neuter, I will support you. I know you people exist. I’ve met you. However:

I also believe that from a population standpoint, in the absence of an owner who makes that level of commitment to understanding the complexity of the issue- or any issue regarding their dog, really- the default recommendation should be: spay and neuter. If you got your cryptorchid puppy off Craigslist and waited three months to bring him in for his first parvo vaccine, I’m going to recommend neutering him. If you are a local news personality and you Tweet me asking me whether you should buy a dog with an umbilical hernia if you intend to breed her….not that that happened…OK, it just happened…but do you see what I mean? There are a lot of people out there making, as I explain it to my children, “poor decisions.”

 
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Nowhere is the benefit of spay/neuter more apparent to me than in Granada, where World Vets started performing the surgeries half a decade ago. You might have walked through there in 2002 and marveled that the stray dogs all seemed so young and vibrant, but here’s the truth: that’s because they usually died, starving or in pain, by age 4.

Those people who live there will tell you, with awe in their voices, how much healthier the overall animal population is. How much nicer it is to walk down the street and not see a dead starved dog in a ditch. Those of you educated enough to appreciate the benefits of an intact pet are certainly educated enough to appreciate in the big picture, that might not apply. If not, come on down to Granada and I’ll show you a TVT.

You can’t evaluate the necessity of spay/neuter campaigns in a vacuum; so to sum up, here you go:

TLDR: If you choose not to spay or neuter your dog because you’re responsible and educated enough to have decided that is right for you, I’m here for you. And while I will support you in that I hope you will also acknowledge that for millions of animals out there, spay/neuter IS the best choice, so do me a solid and don’t undermine my efforts to alleviate significant suffering in spheres outside your own. Deal? Group hug.

Pawcurious: With Pet Lifestyle Expert and Veterinarian Dr. V.

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Cool Topical images

Check out these Topical images:

Picture0001y 126
Topical

Image by Grey Rocker

yellow orange colored flower
Topical

Image by Grey Rocker
Freshness, Growth, Nature, Square, Extreme Close Up, Outdoors, High Angle View, Purple, Petal, Stamen, Day, Fragility, No People, Photography, Single Flower, yellow, orange

rose
Topical

Image by Grey Rocker
Freshness, Growth, Nature, Square, Extreme Close Up, Outdoors, High Angle View, Purple, Petal, Stamen, Day, Fragility, No People, Photography, Single Flower, leaf, green, rose, love, two roses

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Beagle Mix

Louis the Beagle mix puppy

beagle-mix

dailypuppy

Louis, the Beagle mix is a spunky little puppy. She loves to run around with her Labrador sister, Ellie, and all the big dogs at the park. After a long day of playing and chewing, Louis likes curl up and snore like a truck driver.

The post Beagle Mix appeared first on A Place to Love Dogs.

A Place to Love Dogs

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Feeding Pets a Variety of Food Ingredients Help Them Stay Healthy

In Dog Dish Diet, I help pet owners understand that it is the allergens, carbohydrates, and the nature of dry food and especially treats that causes dry itchy skin, infected ears, obesity, urinary problems, and even seizures. Changing to hypoallergenic food (salmon/potato, rabbit/potato, chicken rice) and stopping treats and chews loaded with wheat gluten may really help some dogs. Adding eggs, sardines, raw meat, meaty bones, olive, and canola oils to a commercial diet may really increase the quality of proteins and healthy oils. These changes may be enough to help cure some ear, skin, and bowel problems. Feeding a moister hypoallergenic food with more oils (canned food, home cooked, and raw food) may help pets with more severe issues and urinary problems. I think that the better ingredients in raw and home cooked food may be best for organ health and preventing chronic medical problems and cancer.Instead of biscuits, feed turkey or chicken hotdogs, carrots, sardines, boiled eggs, or pieces of meat as “treats”.

Try a better commercial food, add some healthy food, feed some raw meat, or home cook a bit. Mixing hypoallergenic healthier commercial food with better proteins and oils will definitely prevent some medical issues. Raw food, home cooked, and canned  food are better choices for others. I think that home cooked and/or raw food are the best choices.

I have been receiving more and more letters like this.

Hi Dr. Greg.

I have switched over my dogs cooking for several years now and she is very healthy. People are surprised she is already 8 yrs old. My recipe is also using a crock pot and very similar to yours. Adding veggies, meats, gizzards, etc and sometimes oats and quinoa.

I have had numerous people in my apartment complex asking me to make it and have gladly given me money. I have researched the AAFCO guidelines which is a requirement for selling dog food. Crude protein content -a minimum of 12 percent, Crude fat content -a minimum of 5 percent, Crude fiber content -a maximum of 5 percent, Moisture content -a maximum of 65 percent. The food I make has enough protein and fat content to reach the minimums. The problem is the moisture content can not exceed 65 percent and fiber content cannot exceed maximum 5 percent. This is difficult considering how moist the food I make is and also has a lot of fiber content from the oats. Does that mean that I need to make it more “dry”, does it mean that I need to remove the “oats”?
It has been a frustrating road because I know that the meals that I make for my neighbors and my dogs are very healthy and much more nutritious than the kibbles and wet food that AAFCO considers complete and nutritious!
Anyway sorry for the long comment here but I was curious if you looked into this since you have a cookbook for dogs! Thanks again and I love your dogs so much! Take care!

 

My Reply:

Great job in cooking for your dogs! NRC and AAFCO guidelines are based on keeping animals from getting sick from deficiencies and help commercial companies sell food. If we consider what their ancestors ate, then carbohydrates may actually not be needed at all. Protein, fat, and moisture would be the diet! An all meat diet would contain much more protein and fat and a bit less moisture. Dogs are carnivores with an omnivore slant to help in times that prey are scarce.

I personally think that they can stay perfectly happy and healthy in a wide range of moisture, protein, and fat percentages above the minimum.Nutritionists argue about the right mix of ingredients in human nutrition and the NRC and AAFCO are certainly not the last word on animal nutrition. Commercial foods following their guidelines have created diets that cause allergies, seizures, bladder stones, urinary crystals, bowel problems, obesity, and diabetes in pets(30% of pets may have medical problems related to diet!) . Genetics and inbreeding share some of the blame.

My mixtures mirror prey, just as yours do. I use more eggs and sardines these days and feed raw meat several times weekly. I use veggies, even though some authors promote only raw food and think that dogs do not digest the complex carbohydrates in veggies well. I think veggies provide important nutrients like antioxidants and vitamins that may not be present in the processed, high grain, animal feed. (chicken,turkey,cow,pig,and sheep). If you vary meat and veggie ingredients and use 50%-80% meat and organs in the mix, your pets will be healthy!

I’ve seen quite a few urinary problems this winter!

Urinary crystals and stones are a common problem. They are found in dogs and cats that are peeing small amounts more often and straining to do so. Some dry commercial diets in some breeds can lead to urinary problems. Dogs and cats prone to urinary issues should be fed a moister, lower carbohydrate diet. In fact that same diet is healthier for all pets!

Dr. Greg’s Dog Dish Diet

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Eye To Eye – Geraldine MacDonald

Topical interview series presented by Catherine Deveney with guests who have dealt with difficult circumstances or extraordinary experiences. In this episode, Geraldine MacDonald speaks of the death of her baby son, and how she felt twenty years later to learn that several of his organs were removed and stored in a hospital without her consent.

Topical interview series presented by Catherine Deveney with guests who have dealt with difficult circumstances or extraordinary careers. In this episode Jenny Pitman, former British racehorse trainer and author, speaks of her life.

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{Book Review} Friend Me: Turning Faces into Lasting Relationships by Donna Carter

Friend Me: Turning Faces Into Lasting Relationships by Donna Carter My rating: 4 of 5 stars In today’s technological age, mass moves due to re-assignments for military, jobs or personal desire to relocate, finding friends that aren’t just childhood or school friends, can seem like a daunting experience; For many, finding friends that share the…



[[ This is a content summary only. Visit my website for full links, other content, and more! ]]


Sunflower Faith

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All “Complete and Balanced” Pet Food Isn’t Right For Every Pet

When a bag, can, or other container of pet food says complete and balanced, what does that mean?

It simply means that the mix of ingredients in he pet food has enough of the nutrients needed in the diet to prevent most diseases due to deficiencies of proteins, fats, minerals, and vitamins. Diets are tested to ensure they won’t make your pets sick.

Most dogs and cats seem to thrive on commercial pet food. However, individual dogs and cats may need a different type of diet to stay healthy, prevent disease, or treat medical issues. Dry food is the most common food purchased for pets, but not all pets can tolerate dry food and some need to eat a different type of diet. Some dogs or cats may need more oils for a dry coat, less carbohydrates to lose weight, a different meat or gluten-free diet for allergies (skin, ear, or bowel issues), more moisture (canned, homemade or raw) for the prevention or treatment of urinary crystals or stones, or holistic, homemade, or raw pet food for severe allergies, bowel issues or seizures. Most commercial dry food is geared for the average pet without health issues. These mixes of ingredients may not be healthy for a pet with allergies to wheat, obese pets, or those with urinary problems. Even raw food aficionados forget that not all dogs do well on a raw diet if they are fed a raw diet with beef or chicken, and they are allergic to a certain meat. The type of meat, the presence of grain or glutens, the amount of oils, and the percentage of moisture all can affect the health of your pet.

Where do you turn for advice? Can you ask your vet? Most veterinarians are trained to advise a different prescription diet for each medical issue. These diets may work, but may not be readily eaten by some pets. Some of the dry medical diets aren’t really much better for the pet’s health than most commercial foods. One urinary diet may help with crystals, but has wheat in it, that may cause skin problems. Prescription diets may be too expensive for some people and the pet suffers because they are offered no alternatives.

What are you supposed to do? Can you ask your vet about other types of diets that may work? How about homemade or a raw diet? Feeding canned food versus a kibble diet for weight loss? Feeding raw, meaty, bones to keep teeth clean? Most vets won’t know practical nutritional advice, because most were not trained to give it. Millions of pets are thriving on different diets, but most veterinarians are only trained to give advice on commercially “complete and balanced” diets and their prescription diets. Don’t blame your vet for not giving you alternatives like a homemade or raw diet or even simply supplementing your pet’s diet with healthy “human food”. We just weren’t trained to do that.

10 years ago, I started questioning the way we feed our pets. I had to reeducate myself and learn nutritional principles. I read books on the diet of the wolf and 100’s of labels on commercial food and raw food. I read books on feeding raw food and home cooking, as well as many books on human nutrition. As a result, I started advising my clients to feed different ingredients depending on their pets needs. For example, many purebred dogs and some cats need to avoid wheat-filled treats and food. Avoiding glutens in sensitive pets may cure ear problems, skin problems, bowel issues, and even seizures. With the success of nutritional counseling, I saw that different types of ingredients and moister food (canned, homemade, or raw), helped with weight problems or helped control medical problems like preventing urinary crystals from forming in both dogs and cats. I came to realize that our pets are individuals, and that each may need more than the common commercial kibble for optimum health. Some pets may need different ingredients in the dry food. Other pets may need to eat moister canned food, raw food, or home cooked food to be healthier, leaner, or to help with medical problems.

After my research and success, I wrote “Dog Dish Diet: Sensible Nutrition for Your Dog’s Health” in 2009. I updated a couple sections and published the second edition in 2011. Many clients wanted more slow cooking recipes that were in the book, so I published an eBook. “Feed Your Pet to Avoid the Vet” with slow cooking recipes and nutritional advice for both dogs and cats. There isn’t a day that goes by when a client or reader tells or emails me that they changed the type of food or the ingredients in the diet to help with a medical problem. I am so happy to know that I have truly helped pet owners become part of the health care team to treat or prevent chronic medical problems. I’m convinced that the right mix of ingredients may often prevent those problems or the need for medication.

If you want to treat or prevent medical problems in your pet, check out my blogs, you tube videos (http://youtube.com/drgregdvm), and my books, Dog Dish Diet and Feed Your Pet to Avoid the Vet .

Here’s a you tube video on “ingredients” in pet food.

Dr. Greg’s Dog Dish Diet

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The Waiting Room / Tick Tock Performance

Check out these Tick images:

The Waiting Room / Tick Tock Performance
Tick

Image by Topeka & Shawnee County Public Library
Performance | Tick Tock
Friday | January 13 | 6 PM & 7:30 PM
Saturday | January 14 | 11:30 AM
Marvin Auditorium 101 ABC

This one-act play follows a group of women and men in a medical waiting room that begin feeling isolated, bored and anxious but eventually come together in exuberant song and dance. Marcia Cebulska (playwright) is best known to Kansans for her play Now Let Me Fly, commissioned for the national celebration of the Brown v. Board 50th anniversary and Through Martha’s Eyes, a film broadcast on national public television. Darren Canady (director) is a Topeka High alum who currently teaches playwriting at University of Kansas and has had his own work produced nationally. Eleanor Goudie-Averill (choreographer) grew up in Topeka, teaches at Temple University, and dances and choreographs in New York City and Philadelphia.

The Waiting Room / Tick Tock Performance
Tick

Image by Topeka & Shawnee County Public Library
Performance | Tick Tock
Friday | January 13 | 6 PM & 7:30 PM
Saturday | January 14 | 11:30 AM
Marvin Auditorium 101 ABC

This one-act play follows a group of women and men in a medical waiting room that begin feeling isolated, bored and anxious but eventually come together in exuberant song and dance. Marcia Cebulska (playwright) is best known to Kansans for her play Now Let Me Fly, commissioned for the national celebration of the Brown v. Board 50th anniversary and Through Martha’s Eyes, a film broadcast on national public television. Darren Canady (director) is a Topeka High alum who currently teaches playwriting at University of Kansas and has had his own work produced nationally. Eleanor Goudie-Averill (choreographer) grew up in Topeka, teaches at Temple University, and dances and choreographs in New York City and Philadelphia.

The Waiting Room / Tick Tock Performance
Tick

Image by Topeka & Shawnee County Public Library
Performance | Tick Tock
Friday | January 13 | 6 PM & 7:30 PM
Saturday | January 14 | 11:30 AM
Marvin Auditorium 101 ABC

This one-act play follows a group of women and men in a medical waiting room that begin feeling isolated, bored and anxious but eventually come together in exuberant song and dance. Marcia Cebulska (playwright) is best known to Kansans for her play Now Let Me Fly, commissioned for the national celebration of the Brown v. Board 50th anniversary and Through Martha’s Eyes, a film broadcast on national public television. Darren Canady (director) is a Topeka High alum who currently teaches playwriting at University of Kansas and has had his own work produced nationally. Eleanor Goudie-Averill (choreographer) grew up in Topeka, teaches at Temple University, and dances and choreographs in New York City and Philadelphia.

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The Rock: Chapter 2 Final Installment

The term ‘Miracle’ can have many meanings especially when you’re talking about a puppy; the first pee on newspaper, the first poop outside or when it’s a Pyrenees, the first paw. 
But for me and Malcolm it meant blankets.
I’ve had chronic back pain most of my adult life due to an injury sustained on a job and then a subsequent car crash in Corpus Christi when, on my way to a deep sea fishing expedition,  a Dodge Ram driving 50 MPH slammed into my rear end rupturing a disc. 
For as long as I can recall, beds made it worse but couches made it tolerable. 
Back in Castroville, I slept on the living room sofa while Malcolm was asleep all Superman style on the cold corridor tile, and even though we were close in proximity we still seemed worlds apart. 
——–
Then one morning, after what must’ve been a fitful night, I awoke and found Malcolm sleeping not in the tiled hallway but right next to my couch.  

“Why hasn’t he done that before”, I wondered?  And then I realized that at some point my blanket had partially slipped off me onto the floor upon which he lay.
I tested that hypothesis the very next night.  
After I retired to the couch, I deliberately took half my blanket and draped over me and the other onto the floor and closed my eyes pretend like. 
Moments later, sure enough, Malcolm plopped himself down onto the blankets and fell soundly asleep. 
It wasn’t my notion of ‘snuggling’ or even what I wanted or expected out of a puppy but that night I realized something I’d never ever thought possible from a dog.  He was trying to communicate with me. 
But about what?  Are cold tiles giving you piles?  Is Timmy stuck in the town well?  

Hell, I didn’t know.  And at the time, he didn’t even have a name.    
——–
You’d think a creative type wordsmith like me would have no problem at all naming a dog but even after months together nothing came to mind.  And it wasn’t due to lack of diligence.  I researched mythologies from around the world and the only name I came close to was Loki, the Norse God or mischief, which seemed fitting.  . 
Still, I remained uncommitted until my brother, Mark, came into the living room one night and spoke the name ‘Malcolm’. 
“That’s it”, I said without any hesitation and up until now, I never understood why I pulled the trigger so hastily. 
To the extent of my recollection, I’ve never known anyone or anything named Malcolm and couldn’t find any personal, historical, emotional, or grand significance to it either. 
And maybe that’s the reason. 
I didn’t want this dog and maybe giving it a name that I had no attachment to meant I could get rid of it cleanly and easily.  

Or maybe even then I had absolutely no idea what I was up against and it was still so foreign to me.  
——–
Over the coming months Malcolm would accrue many nick names.  
One of the rules I had set forth on our first day together was I absolutely refused to ‘cutesy-tootsy baby talk’ him like girls do.  Southern men just don’t do that   
But Malcolm had a way of breaking down my preconceptions and down and outright bigotry towards dogs. 
One morning in our first winter together, I was taking a long soak and he nosed the door open to the bathroom and I started singing the ‘Rubber Ducky’ song to him but instead substituted the name ‘Chubby Bubby’. 
Other names followed; Smiley Britches and then later on, Snow Monkey.   

And I loved singing to Malcolm as he listened to me with rapt attention, whether I sang Queensryche, Emmy Lou Harris, or Luciano Pavarotti. 
From nicknames to sing songs to finding any and every excuse to picking up a new chew toy on my way home from school, the little feller was growing on me. 
Malcolm rarely left my side and I his.  With one exception.  Church.
——–
One Saturday morning I was headed out to worship at the Alsatian Golf Club, the only church I knew at the time.  As I suited up and strapped my bag on my shoulder, Malcolm got all excited as though he was coming with. 
“Oh, no”, I said patting his head.  “This is a man’s sport and no dog’s allowed.”
Unconvinced, he sidled up to me with a sweet expectant look.  Whether I was spent from the constant battle between us or resigned to the inevitability, I said to the little wedge shaped head dog, “Fine.  But I’m driving the cart.” 
“And don’t bark in my backswing.”
Malcolm didn’t.  He turned out to be an exceptional caddy, riding shotgun in the golf cart, spotting my errant balls, and chasing the geese and gophers from the fairways.  And although he couldn’t keep score so good, his card always erred on my side. 
——–
I think then and there on the fairways of the old Alsatian course, I was entering into a new chapter of my life.  Malcolm had become my mate.  

——–

But my naive misconception of the true nature of our relationship almost cost Malcolm his life several times over and I had a whole helluva lot to learn.  

2 Dogs 2,000 Miles

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