About Danita Blackwood

Danita Blackwood is a writer and media professional with skills in a variety of formats including video production, media training, new media and social media promotion. A former television reporter and producer, Danita produced the nation’s top rated local morning newscast. She draws on this experience to contribute and place segments on national television programs and online outlets including more than sixty local television stations, radio programs, and local websites. Her public relations and strategic communications experience includes case studies, blogs, and partnership initiatives with corporations and federal agencies.

Fast and Furriest Is Much More Than a Timed 5K Run & 1M Walk With Your Dog

Most Dogs Are Natural Networkers 

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Your neighborhood is filled with dog lovers. In the United States, nearly half of all households, 44 percent, include at least one dog according to the American Pet Products Association. Not only are dogs great companions, they help connect their owners to their communities and people who enjoy being outdoors with their pets.

Just visit a park to see what I mean. Pets are natural networkers introducing their owners to a variety of possibilities. FF-group-336x223I recall a dog park visit where I met a woman and her pet visiting for the first time. Hank was met with wagging tails. Hank’s owner had just moved from Atlanta. Other pet parents learned Hank came into her life in college and has been a constant companion through moves, break-ups and celebrations including the job promotion to Saint Louis. Hank helps her meet people, network and explore their new neighborhood.

You see, Hank loves to exercise with his owner. I mean serious running. Hank is a Whippet, a superb athlete as well as a gentle companion. Several of us made sure Hank can stretch his legs in an upcoming event to help homeless pets. I want to make sure you know about it too whether you have a pet or not! ffThe 9th Annual Fast and the Furriest 5K Run and 1-Mile Walk will be Sunday, April 23, 2017 at Hollywood Casino in Maryland Heights. The run is the Saint Louis original dog-owner professionally-timed race. Others with or without pets will take part in the walk at a leisurely pace or activities on the grounds. This is an event not only for athletes, but the entire family! There will be food trucks, vendors in addition to the activities. This major fundraiser for homeless pets in the Saint Louis area is sponsored by Purina.

Great FFYou can take a gamble on the 1 mile Pooch Poker Walk, which offers a more leisurely pace with the added fun of creating your best possible poker hand along the way. Both the 5K and 1M come complete with a race t-shirt and the best goody bag in town. There are special awards for fastest runners in each age group and for the fastest overall male and female dogs. But you don’t have to have a dog to get in on the fun.

FF%Collecting pledges for your participation with your pooch is another way to involve your friends and family while increasing your impact to help pets. A generous donor is matching all the pledges at the Fast and Furriest to raise double the amount for homeless pets at the APA Adoption Center. The top fundraiser will lead the race and gets a grand prize

It is easy to get registered and be a part of this fun mission to help pets. This is the link to learn more, register and invite pledges or visit the APA’s website at apamo.org.

Don’t miss this great opportunity to spend some quality time with your pup, get some exercise, help homeless pets and meet great people who love dogs. I’ll be there and I hope you will too!

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Take a Holiday Pause to Make Holiday Paws Ornaments With Your Family

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Are you shopping for your pets this holiday?

I will join other pet parents in lines for Santa photos and buying holiday themed pet products.

image7Overall spending in the pet industry reached a record $60.28 billion in 2015 and this holiday season will help set another record according to the American Pet Products Association.

It is expected 2016 could close out upwards of $62 billion dollars based on early strong holiday spending.

Pet owners on average will spend $62 on their pets according to PricewaterhouseCoopers ‘ Holiday Outlook report. And millennials are spending even more at an average of $81, projects PwC researchers.

20151213_140520_resizedYou don’t have to spend a lot to include your pets in the celebration.

Paw prints ornaments can be a pet keepsake and holiday ornament.  Making your own ornaments can help bring families together and create memories as you craft your pet keepsakes.

I think the ornaments are easy to make and children can help.

cooking-ornaments2 There should be adult supervision while making since there is heat involved, but parents or grandparents can do the cooking for “Holiday Paws Ornaments.”

Easy DIY Holiday Paws Ornament Recipe

ornament-makingsMix ½ cup cornstarch + 1 cup baking soda in a saucepan. Slowly add ¾ cup of water while stirring. Place on medium heat and stir constantly.

Mixture will thicken, be sure you stir to bottom of the pan.

Once it comes together as a dough ball, let it cool so you can comfortably handle it.

Knead for a minute so it is workable. Cut into pieces, roll into balls and press flat.  Have your pet press paw into dough. Wipe your pet’s paw. The mixture is not toxic. Use a toothpick to make a small hole to hang the ornament.

great-ornBake in a 250 degree oven for 30 minutes on a tray lined with foil or parchment paper. You can paint your pet’s name and outline their paws once ornaments cool….or you can leave plain and add string or ribbon to add to your tree!20151213_140520_resized

Taking time to interact with your pet can be fun and great for you too. Medical research and doctors agree pets can be an instant stress reliever. Not only can pets reduce anxiety, companion animals can improve heart health by lowering blood pressure and regulating the heart rate during stressful situations.

The Warmest Cup Of Kindness

Recently part of my world came crashing down. Literally. A ceiling collapsed. I am grateful no one was hurt or killed. Pieces of insulation continue to waft down and bigger chucks of the ceiling continue to drop occasionally so that part of the house is off limits now.

20161017_083501-1It has changed the way I move in my home and disrupted my routine. It can be cold in the house.

When I left this morning for coffee, I was wearing layers like I might be heading for a hike in the Cascades. I didn’t feel good about my morning or engaging with anyone.

Uncharacteristically sitting in a back corner, I didn’t think it would be an issue. My personal neon “closed” sign was up.zqa3wt2cl9_stop

That changed in an instant. A gentleman I often see in the shop, left his table and came over. We don’t know each other except we go to the same place for coffee. We’ve said good morning to each other before or remarked about the weather, but never anything more than one or two words.

I fired a verbal warning volley as he walked toward my table, making apologies for my insulated layers, casually up-swept hair and bare face explaining it wasn’t the best morning. I was cold in more than ways than one. He did something so kind and so unexpected, it left me speechless.rzcqtq4uny_coffee_hand

He told me he had to come over to tell me he had grown accustomed to seeing my face and had been disappointed when he came in and I had not been there. I sat there speechless.  He quickly said he’d flubbed his line, but was glad to see me and turned to walk away.

I found the words to thank him for his kindness and explain I had been in a bad mood because I was cold. I only realize now in writing this, I didn’t invite him to sit down. He stood there and told me he understood. He often has chills because of the drugs he takes to fight inoperable cancer in several areas of his body.

I hadn’t known this. I had noticed before he sometimes used a walking stick or cane. A younger man with an athletic build I had just assumed it was some kind of sports injury. I told him I had noticed today he was walking unaccompanied. He then shared how even this accomplishment was frustrating. Just the day before his diagnosis, he had skated 14 miles!

I regret I never asked him to sit down. I did find out what the next phase of his treatment is and when it will happen. I will be praying for him.

How kind he is. Seeing I was obviously not my ‘normal’ self and reaching out to me today. If you found out you were dying would you be kinder?  Live life more?  Well, we all are. 

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The Benefits of Pets in the Workplace

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Some of my dearest friends I met at work. So it was a natural fit when a couple of my employers opened the door to my best friend, my dog.dog-1134492_960_720

Eight percent of all U.S. pet owners are allowed to bring their pet to work according to a survey by the American Pet Products Association (APPA). The number of companies allowing pets in the workplace is on the rise.

“While this does not work for all companies, studies have shown that pets reduce stress which can ultimately increase productivity,” said APPA Executive Vice President & COO Andy Darmohraj. “We’ve had dogs, cats and fish at our office over the years and they have been a source of joy and a real morale booster.” 549978_10200513195216643_1431418705_n

Researchers found support among the American workforce for pets on the job:

55 million Americans believe having pets in the workplace leads to a more creative environment

50 million believe having pets in workplace helps co-workers get along better

38 million believe having pets in workplace creates a more productive work environment

37 million believe having pets in workplace helps improve relationships between managers and staff

236506There is evidence employees with pets at work are healthier. Studies show the presence of friendly animals can reduce heart rate, blood pressure and cholesterol and regularly interacting with animals can reduce anxiety and promote calmness.

Need more proof pets would benefit your business? Check out this persuasive pet infographic.

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Benefits of a pet-friendly workplace Infographic

Benefits of a pet-friendly workplace Infographic by Petco

 

Abandoned Pup Becomes a High Flying Star on the Dock and at Home

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Flying is not something you usually associate with dogs, but a former APA Adoption Center rescue dog is changing that.

13494787_10207056851919422_2885648887790078003_n-1 A puppy was found abandoned in a rural area of Missouri. The Labrador mix named Serenity by her rescuers was transferred from the overcrowded rural St. Clair County Animal Control shelter to the APA Adoption Center .A044044

The former stray seemed to have springs in her legs and an eagerness to learn. APA matchmakers alerted a Purina trainer, Sara Brueske. Brueske is always looking for canine athletes in her work as an award winning trainer who frequently fosters dogs. Serenity became Kapow and began training with Brueske for a possible slot in a performing team at Purina Farms.

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Working with the award winning trainer, Kapow was a stand-out in several competitive canine events including Frisbee play and dock diving. But she didn’t have everything Brueske was looking for, so a search was on for a new home.

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Kapow’s wait for a new owner wasn’t long. An animal advocate added this high-flying pooch to his pack. An authority on flight as a professional avian ecologist, Ryan Brady knows a lot about active dogs.

Brady lives with a dock diving Yellow Labrador that is also an award winning sporting companion and a trained barn hunt dog. Rounding out the active Brady bunch is a sweet Puggle who embraces the hunting heritage of her Beagle ancestors and lap dog tendencies of her Pug lineage.Kapow_3_medal

”Kapow is a great dog! She fit right in with my other two dogs from the first day I adopted her and is a member of the family,” said Brady who is committed to new stimuli and training for his canine companions who often accompany him on nature hikes and farm visits.Kapow_1

Kapow won a ribbon on her first jump in a dock diving competition with Brady. He is continuing training on the Frisbee and dock-diving while adding new pursuits like retrieving and putting out bird decoys.Spending a lot of time in nature where her owner works at a wildlife refuge, Kapow succeeds at a pursuit where many other dogs fail.

”She catches and kills squirrels frequently,” explains Brady. “Her speed and agility are amazing.”

Kapow may not have wings, but it isn’t keeping her from flying on the ground or in the air.

photo by Ryan Brady

Kapow is one of thousands of pets who find homes at the APA Adoption Center  every year. Providing services to more than 10,000 animals annually, the APA is a humane option for those surrendering unwanted or abandoned companion animals, provides education and outreach programs, reunites lost animals with their owners, provides pet adoption and foster care services and offers veterinary clinic services at a reduced rate. The APA Adoption center is open 7 days a week. For more information about the APA of Missouri, visit www.apamo.org .

photo courtesy of Ryan Brady

Unleash New Possibilities in Your Life

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Elaine likes to start her morning at the window and thinking about the possibilities of the day ahead. While her sight may be fading, Elaine’s search for the promise of each day is strong. The glimpse of a new flower in the garden or a bird sighting brings a smile to her face.

It is a philosophy that has served her well for more than eight decades. Elaine had two children and lost her husband in a war when both youngsters were still in diapers. She found new possibilities in the tragedy and went to work while earning a degree in nursing. Elaine went on working and helping people until her faltering sight took her independence and ability to drive. That is when Elaine moved to the senior community she now calls home.

fold-63623_960_720One of her favorite new friends is Clyde. Elaine sometimes forgets his name, and just calls him “Sweetheart”, but Clyde doesn’t ever seem to notice. Clyde always sits as close as possible to Elaine’s wheelchair. So close, some people stop and watch their sweet exchanges of affection in the lobby of the senior community.

Clyde and Elaine have a lot in common. She likes to share stories of her family and Clyde likes to listen. Both are avid birdwatchers. Elaine knows the names of the various species and Clyde seems eager to learn more about one of his favorite past times.

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Clyde is one of the few visitors Elaine ever has. She has outlived most of her family and friends. She looks forward to school and church groups who might visit the senior community on special occasions. But week after week, she knows she can count on her faithful friend Clyde to come see her. Elaine shares some of her favorite stories over and over again, and Clyde never tells her he’s heard that story before. He is the most patient and polite conversation companions one could ask for.

Clyde’s love of birdwatching comes naturally, but not his skills as a great companion. You see Clyde is a bird dog. He is a Pointer mix and a therapy dog, trained to visit hospitals, nursing homes, schools, and rehabilitation centers. Clyde’s intensive training equips him to work with all kinds of people in a variety of situations.

Clyde and wheelchairClyde and his owner enjoy volunteering in pet therapy. They are part of the Animal Protective Association of Missouri or APA Adoption Center PetReach Program. Since 1983, PetReach has sent APA staff, volunteers and their pets into senior care facilities and convalescent centers. PetReach was the first no-fee, pet-assisted activity program in the St. Louis area. You can get more information about volunteering, pet education, pet adoption and PetReach therapy dogs at the APA website: http://www.apamo.org/

Another nonprofit in the Saint Louis area with free dog therapy teams is C.H.A.M.P. Assistance Dogs, Inc. CHAMP provides free assistance dogs and also offers a disability awareness education program, facility dogs and a reading program utilizing dogs. These are just a few of the services CHAMP has offered since 1998. Learn more volunteering, pet therapy, assistance dogs and other services at their website:   http://www.champdogs.org/ Spring_CHAMP5

Both nonprofits are a great way to help someone else. Sometimes it’s the best thing you can do for yourself too! You never know what you’ll learn in the process. Think of the ‘pawsibilities’ of volunteering with or without a dog.

 

Doggie Dining Spots in Saint Louis

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The weather is warm and it can be fun to take your furry friend along when dining out. Many restaurants with outdoor seating are dog-friendly.

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Chow ready to chow down!

This is a sampling of Saint Louis area dining spots to mix and mingle with the canine crowd.  This list is not comprehensive and you may want to call ahead to double-check your dining choice’s pet-friendliness.

Failoni’s in Dogtown welcomes dogs with treats on Tuesdays and Wednesdays on their large patio.

Anthonino’s on The Hill welcomes dogs with water bowls on their side patio.

The Boat House in Forest Park is a favorite for dog owners who enjoy lakeside outdoor dining.

The Forest Park Café also welcomes canine companions for outdoor dining.

Carl’s Delicatessen has outdoor pet friendly dining options.

Katie’s Pizza + Pasta has an outdoor patio where canine companions are welcome

Wild Flower Restaurant invites well behaved dogs and their owners to try their cuisine.

Park Avenue Coffee has dog friendly dining options.

Tamm Avenue Grill is a popular destination for pet families.

Pi Pizzeria welcomes dog dining where outdoor patios are available.

Most Starbucks with outdoor tables allow well behaved canine companions.

Many Panera Bread locations with patio facilities welcome doggie diners.

Piccadilly at Manhattan welcomes canine customers on their outdoor patio.

Cardwell’s at the Plaza has outdoor pet friendly dining options.

Kaldi’s Coffeehouse has dog friendly outdoor dining areas.

Biggie’s welcomes well behaved canine companions on their patio.

Many of these restaurants also offer special dog menus or special events for pet owners. Check the business social media pages to stay up on the latest canine cuisine news. 12006127_1199688976712863_1172305024498875031_n