Midterm Evaluation: Old Paws

At the beginning of the course I started writing about website improvement inline with my career. It is a topic that I am passionate about and in which I possess an extensive knowledge. When deciding on my beat, however, I was torn between website improvement and writing about another passion which relates to senior dog care and senior dog advocacy.

Seniors are the most underrepresented dogs. Many people give up their senior dogs to shelters oftentimes because they struggle with caring for them and when most people want a dog, they look for a puppy. When I thought more about how beneficial it could be to others to read about adoption and taking care of senior dogs, I knew this was a beat I wanted pursue.

[Like a good bourbon, senior dogs improve with age. Learn how you can keep up.]

I have a senior dog who is about to turn 17 and caring for him has been oftentimes challenging and sometimes overwhelming. Taking care of a senior dog is a lot of work; it is a lot of trial and error. Although taking care of a senior dog can be challenging, there are many ways to help make the experience easier.

For example, my post “How to Build a Dog Ramp” takes a common problem people have with senior dogs–mobility–and offers a step-by-step solution. I took my own experience of building a ramp for my senior dog and wrote detailed instructions to enable others to build a ramp as well. I want to continue to share my experience to encourage others to hang in there with their dog and to inspire those looking to adopt, to consider adopting a senior.

[Don’t buy a puppy when there are millions of dogs abandoned at shelters every year…] @j_kazmir

One of the challenges I faced in writing for my beat has been incorporating the aspect of adoption. I want to be able to educate others about the atrocities of puppy mills and the importance of adopting, and I want to do this in a sensitive way. Writing the “Devil’s Advocate: Pet Store Puppies” piece was an interesting exercise that took me outside of my comfort zone. I took on the voice of a pet store supporter naive to where pet store puppies come from. Though many of the quotes in this piece are actually things people have said, I wanted to exaggerate the notion that even though someone says something, it does not make it true. I wanted to stress the importance of research before looking for a pet with the implication that adoption is a better option that buying a dog.

There were moments in the piece when I thought, “Maybe this is a bit harsh” and “I hope people realize this is a satire.” The sad reality, however, is that I have met many people that really do understand where pet store puppies come from and they simply do not care.

“Maybe if they hear how ridiculous they sound, they will care.”

Getting people to care about any issue has its challenges, but I want to keep trying and experimenting with ways to accomplish this.

[Don’t underestimate an old dog. He’ll surprise you.] @j_kazmir

My goal with this beat is to expand on my blog so that it can serve as a viable resource for senior dog care and advocacy. As the course continues, I will write more on the following blog: oldpawsnewtricks.wordpress.com. I also changed my Twitter username from @j_kazmir to @old_paws, and will use the platform to promote my blog. Stay tuned for more.


Wikipedia: Canine Dental Hygiene

Canine dental hygiene is the process of cleaning a dog’s teeth to prevent bad breath, plaque buildup, tartar buildup, and other dental issues that can lead to infections, gum disease, and tooth loss.

Plaque & Tartar

Plaque is a yellow film that forms on teeth and grows bacteria, which causes teeth to decay [1]. Tartar is hardened plaque that is virtually impossible to remove with a toothbrush and must oftentimes be removed surgically from a dog’s mouth. Dental surgery on a dog requires anesthesia.


Toothbrush and Toothpaste

A toothbrush and toothpaste are used to help remove plaque from a dog’s teeth and prevent tartar buildup.  Dog toothbrushes and toothpastes are available at most pet stores. It is not recommended to use human toothpastes for dogs because they include fluoride, which is extremely poisonous to dogs [2]. Dog toothbrushes have soft bristles and are available with two sides. Dog toothpastes come in an assortment of flavors, such as chicken, ginger, and banana.

Additional Products

Various products are available to help clean a dog’s teeth in addition to regular brushing. Dry dog food, chew bones, and chew toys help with a dog’s dental hygiene [2], but must not be used as substitutes for brushing. There are also water additives, breath strips, and mints available for dogs.



It is recommended that a small amount of toothpaste first be offered to the dog to introduce the taste [3]. Once the dog is familiar with the product, it can then be applied to his teeth. By lifting the dog’s lip, the outside of the teeth can be exposed and easily accessed. The toothbrush should be held at a 45 degree angle towards the gumline and brushing should be done in gentle circular motions [2][4][5]. Forcibly brushing a dog’s teeth will make the experience less enjoyable and difficult each time it must be done, which is why gradually easing a dog into the process is more effective.


Veterinarians recommend brushing a dog’s teeth every day starting at a young age [3][6]. This will help reduce plaque and tartar buildup. Daily brushing will also help the dog become more familiar and comfortable with the process.


[1] Oral hygiene. Wikipedia. Retrieved from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Oral_hygiene

[2] How to clean your dog’s teeth. Cesar’s Way. Retrieved from https://www.cesarsway.com/dog-care/dental-care/7-tips-for-doggie-dental-care

[3] Do I Need to Brush My Dog’s Teeth? Banfield Pet Hospital. Retrieved from http://www.banfield.com/pet-health-resources/preventive-care/dental/do-i-need-to-brush-my-dog-s-teeth

[4] Are Your Dog’s Teeth Healthy? WebMD. Retrieved from http://pets.webmd.com/healthy-dog-teeth-10/slideshow-brushing-dog-teeth

[5] Brushing Teeth & Home Dental Care. PetEducation.com. Retreived from http://www.peteducation.com/article.cfm?c=2+2089&aid=384

[6] Gorrel, C. & Rawlings, J.M. (1996). The role of tooth-brushing and diet maintenance of periodontal health in dogs. Journal of Veterinary Dentistry 13(4):139-143. PMID: 9520789.

The Lump

I remember vividly finding my dog’s first lump. It was his first, but it would not be his last.

It was almost ten years ago and he was seven, what many consider “old.” But, he still ran around like a puppy and wouldn’t showcase any gray hairs until several years later.

His nails scratched rapidly against the linoleum as he rounded the kitchen corner and galloped into the family room, before skidding on the carpet to a halt. His tail wagged. He lunged toward me with his front paws as if to say, “Come at me!”

I got off the couch and crouched down to his six inch frame. He scampered onto my lap and I rubbed his back as he grumbled softly. I scratched under his chin, his favorite spot, and scratched his front where there it was, right on his chest.

A lump.

It was the size of a pea and my heart sank. The “c” word crept into my mind and burrowed itself like a tick, feeding on my worry.

I immediately called the vet and scheduled an appointment for the next morning. But that night the tick in my mind kept growing. Would my dog be OK? Did I find the lump in time? I abandoned any hope of falling asleep and Googled dog lumps.

The tick in my mind gorged on the images. Well, it could be cancer…or cancer… or…it could be a cyst…There was no use in jumping to conclusions, but I tossed and turned all night, and just as I drifted away, my alarm rang.

The 15 minute drive to the vet felt like an hour. The 10 minute wait seemed like a day.

“It’s called a lipoma, a benign tumor.”

The vet explained that as dogs get older they sometimes form growths, but that this growth was nothing to worry about for the time being. He told me to monitor its size. I asked if he recommended removing it and he strongly advised against it.

“As long as it’s not getting in the way of his mobility, the risk of anesthesia outweigh cosmetic improvements and generally these do not grow quickly.”

I was relieved. His words reached into my mind and plucked the tick away. The worry ebbed satisfyingly.

It wouldn’t be until eight years later that we would have to readdress the lump on my dog’s chest. In the meantime, his small body formed two more lipomas, we celebrated eight more birthdays, and we lived every day to its fullest.

Build a Ramp – App

Build a Ramp is an app used to create a 3D version of a dog ramp design. Create a custom ramp based on your input fields and drag and drop capabilities, or upload a sketch to watch your dog ramp come to life! Use the handy measurements to buy the right amount of wood for the real deal.

Download. Access the App Store on your mobile device and search for “Build a Ramp.” Tap the “Get” button to download. Once downloaded, open the app.

Start from Scratch or Upload a Design. Select if you want to “Start from  Scratch” or “Upload a Design.”

Upload a Design. Upload a file with your dog ramp design. Acceptable file formats are: .jpg .png .pdf

Watch your design transform into a 3D version!

Start from Scratch. Select Ramp Type. Choose whether you want to design a Freestanding Ramp or Prop-up Ramp. Freestanding ramps can be placed anywhere without the need to lay on a surface and are good for heights like beds and couches. Prop-up ramps require a sturdy surface to lay on and are not as stable as freestanding ramps, but are easier to build and more portable. Prop-up ramps are good for thresholds, such as the step out of a doorway, small sets of stairs, and car access.

Choose Your Dog’s Weight Range. Select your dog’s weight range from the drop-down menu. This will display the minimum wood thickness recommended for the ramp’s surface.

Enter Incline Height. Type in the height of your incline from the lowest point to the highest point, such as from the bottom of the couch to the couch cushion.

Drag and Drop. Use the drag and drop feature to add wood to your ramp. Slide the wood up or down to adjust the slope. The length of the wood will display above it and adjust accordingly.

Add Parts. Add wood to build a base for a freestanding ramp and/or sides. An outline will appear for possible layouts. The sides of the ramp will be perpendicular to the surface of the ramp with the bottom of the sides fastened to both sides of the surface. The sides will serve as a barrier and prevent your dog from falling or jumping off of the ramp. The length of each piece of wood will display and adjust based on placement in the design.

Add Traction. Choose between a low-pile or high-pile carpet. Low-pile carpet is thinner and better used for high-traffic areas or outdoors. High-pile carpet is thicker and more plush. Select the carpet color from a variety of available swatches.

Paint. Use the paint features to add color, patterns, and text onto your ramps for a personalized touch.

Save. Once you are done designing your ramp, you will have the option of saving the design and/or measurements. Use these resources to gather materials and build your own dog ramp in real life!

How to Build a Dog Ramp

As dogs age, their bodies become more susceptible to injury, and high impact activity like jumping could cause severe damage that may even require surgery. Ramps are useful tools for dogs to get up and down high points like beds, couches, stairs, and cars, but ramps are often expensive, too narrow, too short, or too flimsy. Learn how you can build your own dog ramp for under $30.

Materials you will need:

  • Tape measurer
  • Wood
  • Nails or Screws
  • Hammer or Drill/Driver
  • Floor mats or carpet scraps/tiles
  • Jig Saw
  • Adhesive
  • Paint (optional)

Take measurements. Determine the steepness of your incline from the high point to the low point of your ramp and how wide you would like it to be. Take and record your measurements.

Gather your materials. Check to see what you already have and pick up anything you’re missing. Your local home improvement store will have everything you need. You will have many options for wood, but make sure whatever you get will be sturdy enough to support your dog’s weight and wide enough for them to walk on.

Plywood for the top of the ramp should be enough or you can lay a couple of pieces of thicker wood side-by-side and connect them with wood underneath. If the surface sides are thick enough, you can get some wood for the sides of the ramp as well, so that your dog doesn’t fall or try to jump off. Depending on how high the ramp is, you can get additional pieces of wood to make the ramp freestanding. Pick up some carpet scraps, carpet tiles, or floor mats for the top of the ramp for traction. If this is an outdoor ramp, consider something with a low-pile.

Cut the wood. If you don’t have a saw at home, ask the store where you are buying your wood if they could cut it for you. Otherwise invest in a saw and cut the wood at your desired length. For wood with a thicker surface, cut the ends at an angle so that they can lay flush against the high point and low point of the ramp. For a freestanding ramp, cut the wood at your desired length so that you can form two L shapes with it under the surface of the ramp, that you can then connect across.

Build the ramp. Use nails or screws to attach all of your pieces of wood as necessary including the ramp sides, the base, and the surface. Make sure to use short enough nails or screws so that they don’t stick out. Form right-triangles at the base of the ramp and connect them across the bottom. Glue the carpet or floor mats to the top of the ramp; you may want to use nails or screws as well for outdoor ramps.

Feel free to paint the sides of your ramp a color of your choice before attaching them. Have fun with it! Add patterns for a personal touch.

Your ramp is complete! Guide your dog up and down the ramp and reward them with kibble. Keep practicing and be proud of yourself for helping your dog out.

An Unexpected Addition

Tracy and her boyfriend, Alec, have been living together for almost two years and would like to get a dog. Tracy has never had a dog, but Alec grew up with several in his family.

They discuss the possibility of getting a puppy and research local sources including a pet store and a shelter. In her research, Tracy learns that pet stores get their puppies from puppy mills, where there are often poor living conditions. So they take a trip to their local shelter instead.

At the shelter, Tracy and Alec meet with an adoption counselor who interviews them to determine whether a dog would be a good fit for their lifestyle.

The couple works full-time jobs in their area and are renting a small one-bedroom apartment with wall-to-wall carpeting. Their landlord allows one dog with breed restrictions and a monthly pet fee. Tracy and Alec do not have a preference on breed, but would like a medium-energy dog that they can take on walks.

“We really want a puppy that we can raise from youth.”

“Puppies are a lot of work,” the adoption counselor tells them. She explains the challenges in potty-training, teething, and obedience with a puppy. “I just want to be honest with you, so that you know what to expect, but if you’re open to it, I’d like you to meet Bonnie.”

The adoption counselor guides Tracy and Alec to a cocker spaniel sitting quietly in her kennel.

“This is Bonnie, she’s eight-years-old and was surrendered by an owner who entered a nursing home. She’s house-trained, playful, and very gentle with children.”

Tracy and Alec had not considered getting a senior dog, but after hearing about Bonnie, they agree to meet her.

Bonnie excitedly enters the visitor room and sniffs Tracy’s leg.

“Nice to meet you Bonnie!” Tracy holds out her hand and Bonnie licks it delicately.

Tracy and Alec discuss the possibility of taking Bonnie and how gentle she would be when they decide to have kids.

“But she’s already eight, I don’t want to have to say goodbye to her sooner than if we got a puppy.”

“Cocker spaniels can live until 15 if not older and Bonnie has is in perfect health.”

Tracy squats down and Bonnie jumps into her arms. Their connection is immediate and irrefutable.

“Babe! I love her!”

The couple provide the adoption counselor a copy of their lease and fill out the required paperwork to bring Bonnie home. They are excited to make her a part of the family.

Personas: Tracy & Alec

Tracy is a twenty-five-year-old accountant, who has been living with her boyfriend, Alec, for almost two years. Alec is a twenty-seven-year-old electrical engineer. They both work full-time day-shifts and are renting a one-bedroom apartment in the area where they work.

Tracy and Alec have been together for about four years and have discussed one day getting married. They would also like to have kids someday. Before they take these next steps in their relationship, the couple would like to get a dog.

Growing up, Alec had several dogs in his family, and Tracy’s family had one cat that lived to be about twenty-three. Some of the couple’s friends have dogs that Tracy and Alec dog-sit when their friends go out of town.

In their spare time, Tracy and Alec like to take walks in their neighborhood and local park, go hiking, and spend time with their families, including Alec’s nieces and nephews. They discussed that any dog they would get would need to be good with children.

Alec has shared that he had a dog that got sick and passed away at a younger age than expected, so he thinks they should keep an open mind about the age of the dog they get. He would rather rescue a dog from a local shelter.

Though Alec does not have a preference on the dog’s age, Tracy believes they should get a puppy from a local pet store because she is concerned about the lifespan of an older dog.

“It would be great to be able to raise the dog from youth and, not to be depressing, have more time with the dog.”

Tracy and Alec have agreed to do more research about where to get a dog and set aside time to visit their local shelter.

J. Kazmir Search Results

1. Adoption, Your Only Option | J. Kazmir
Learn about the beauty of adoption with J. Kazmir.

2. Age is Just a Number – Senior Dogs – J. Kazmir
Age is just a number. Adopt a senior dog, they’ll prove it.

3. Keep up with Your Senior Dog | J. Kazmir’s Tips
Like a good bourbon, senior dogs improve with age. Learn how you can keep up.

4. A Second Chance at Life – J. Kazmir
Give a senior dog a second chance at life. They will spend it loving you.

5. Senior Dog Care – J. Kazmir
Senior dogs may need some special care, but you can handle it.

6. J. Kazmir Senior Dog Advice – Facebook

7. J. Kazmir’s Senior Pet Advice (@j_kazmir) | Twitter

8. J. Kazmir’s Senior Pet Secrets (@jkazseniorsecrets)

The Devil’s Advocate: Pet Store Puppies

Pet stores sell puppies—what’s the big deal? A lot of people buy puppies from pet stores. My parents bought our dog from a pet store and why not? The girl at the counter is friendly. The store is clean. And the puppies are so cute! The pet store has been open for several years and the owner swears that the puppies do not under any circumstances come from puppy mills.

“Well then where do they come from?”

“Oh, well, uh, we have a fantastic source in the south that breeds different kinds of puppies, but they’re not from puppy mills. They’re treated very well.”

You see? The owner of the store said that the puppies they sell to anyone who offers money don’t come from puppy mills, so then they must not come from puppy mills.

Opponents of pet stores selling puppies post videos of puppy mills and the horrible conditions that they endure: small overcrowded wire cages, injuries, diseases, and mother dogs being forced to reproduce again and again with little time in between births. These places do exist, but they are far away from pet stores in another part of the country, and your local pet store didn’t get their puppies from those places. The owner said so.

Buying a puppy from a pet store is easy. You go in, pick out a puppy to play with, and then pay for it and take it home. The shopping experience is quick and you don’t have to jump through any hoops.

I read a review once about a pet store that one of the employees “kicked” one of the dogs. When interviewed, the employee explained that he accidentally tripped over the puppy when a bunch of them were running around him in the playpen. Because of all the bad press, the store owner was forced to fire the employee and issue a formal apology.

“We fully train our staff to handle all of our animals safely and gently.”

The training includes a 30-minute video about the history of the store and good customer service.

Sometimes the puppies at the pet store get sick. An old friend of mine bought a puppy that developed a bad cough. Her eyes oozed so much mucus that she could barely open them. She wasn’t eating. She wasn’t playing. “Your puppy has kennel cough,” the vet told her, “it is common in dogs from pet stores.”

Poor doggy. It’s a good thing I rescued you.

Yes, after several accounts of investigation, certain organizations did find that some pet stores do sell puppies from puppy mills, but what are the families that bought those puppies supposed to do now? Return them? Give them away? Besides, pet stores are going to sell puppies, so we might as well buy them.

The problem with organizations like the ASPCA, the Humane Society of the United States, and PETA is that they villainize anything and everything that makes people happy. If a child walks by a pet store at the mall crying that he or she wants a puppy, that they’ll take care of it, and that it will make them the happiest kid in the Whole Wide Universe, why would you deprive that child from happiness?

Puppies make people happy. They form a bond with their owners from a young age. And they’re cute.

So don’t worry about the puppy mills that sell those puppies to pet stores. Don’t worry about the mother dogs that are killed or tossed to the side of the road after producing their quota of puppies or the runts of the litter that are cast aside because they are not playful enough and won’t help pet stores make a profit.

In fact, don’t even think about, just go out and buy a puppy.

About the Author: J. Kazmir

When my family and I moved to the United States from a country in Eastern Europe shortly after the fall of Communism, we had a few suitcases, several hundred dollars, and no command of the English language. It was instilled in me at a young age that if I was going to make it in this life, I would have to learn English and work hard at a paying job.

I entered the workforce immediately after turning 16 and saved everything I earned to pay for college; my parents couldn’t afford to help.

I went on to study English literature. I would teach it. I would get paid in a teaching position and my family supported the idea, but my heart wasn’t in it.

After college I started working a customer service position, where I listened to the patrons’ frustrations with the organization’s website.

“I can’t find the information that I’m looking for…” “I don’t know how to reset my password…” The complaints were constant.

To assist with the website, I developed boilerplate responses that included step-by-step instructions along with screenshots. I also kept a log of feedback and areas of the website that needed improvement, and shared my notes with the Web Manager at the time. My superiors took notice, then when the position opened up, they recommended me for it.

I knew very little about website architecture and design, but I learned. I ordered and read books from front to back, absorbing every bit of helpful information that I could. And I wrote. I wrote and edited pages of information about the services that the organization offered. I held meetings with stakeholders where I shared feedback and analytics. I butted heads with individuals who, while initially were against implementing any changes to the site, realized that my work was creating positive changes.

After some time, I went on to pursue other leadership and web opportunities, and in doing so, I learned more and accomplished more.

I fell in love with my line of work.

Now they call me the Web Guru.

I’m the one that companies and organizations call in to help “fix” their websites.

“Your website isn’t broken, it just needs better organization, graphics, content, layout, usability tests…”

Website challenges vary, much like the objectives and structure of the companies they represent. Some websites contain robust amounts of information on thousands of pages, but lack cohesiveness and are poorly organized. Others are in their infancy with little valuable content and an undetermined focus. Still others have not had their aesthetics updated since the ’90s and could badly use a face-lift.

Website architecture is what I eat and breathe every day. I gorge on research about latest trends, studies, successes, and faux pas. I immerse myself in a healthy debate with my employers on why certain changes on their websites should be made. I know what I know and what I don’t know I explore eagerly. “This is how we’ve always done it” is a rebuttal that I have learned to brush aside, as it has neither benefit nor merit. Then, when my work produces measurable success, whether revealed in analytics or positive feedback, I embrace the respect earned from my fellow colleagues.

Their respect gives me more opportunities to improve the website.

Improving websites isn’t just about the websites themselves. The process involves a deep examination of the organization’s culture, goals, and strategies. A team of collaborators must be able to engage in an open dialogue while bringing to the table their own levels of expertise. At the head of the table you’ll find me, the Web Guru, prepared to tackle this week’s website challenges, armed with a toolbox of experience, resources, and an appetite for change.