Pet Blogger Challenge 2015: A Year in Review

Welcome to our blog!

Maybe it’s your first time visiting or maybe you’ve been visiting for a while but don’t know that much about us. Who we are today is a “travel and outdoor lifestyle blog that focuses being active with your small dog”. Our back-story is so much more than that though.

I had been hiking and traveling through life with Chester for 8 years. I could almost predict the shocked looks and comments when people saw him on top of a mountain. Only having owned one Dachshund in my life, I thought maybe he was unique. Then Gretel came into our lives. You can read more about how that happened here but it was definitely fate that brought us together. We took her on a 5 mile hike the day after we adopted her, she loved it, and this blog was born.

2015 was a great year for our little blog and we just quietly passed a huge milestone.

Photographer for BlogPaws
Photographer for BlogPaws

In May 2015, we won two prestigious awards – Best Dog Blog and Best Pet Blog Design. The BlogPaws Nose-to-Nose awards are extra special because the winners are chosen by our peers. We also won an award for Best Active Living Blog in the Petties. Both awards came with prize money we could donate to the rescue or shelter of our choice. Because of our awards, I am proud to say we were able to donate $2,000 to the rescue that brought me Gretel – Motley Zoo Animal Rescue – this year!

The big milestone we passed without much ado was our FIVE YEAR ANNIVERSARY! Bring on the trumpets and confetti! Ha, ha. Seriously though, I can’t believe it’s been that long. I look back at my first few blog posts and I feel like I wrote them yesterday.

Oh yeah…. I guess there were two other huge milestones. I graduated with my Masters of Communication in Digital Media (this blog was the catalyst for pursuing the degree) from the University of Washington and was able to go full-time with my pet-centric social media consulting company – PetTalk Media.

I graduated! I now have a Masters of Communication in Digital Media.

Through PetTalk Media, I help pet-related businesses and bloggers better connect their product, service, or message with pet owners who want to improve their lives and the lives of their pets.

I’ve spend a lot of time coaching bloggers, and aspiring bloggers, about how they can do what I do and better serve their audience. Probably the most important things when you are looking to grow a blog is getting clear on your purpose, niche, and story. Once you know what filter you are viewing the world through, the topics and writing come easy and you’ll attract your tribe.

Another part of having a successful blog is reviewing past blog posts and learning from what worked and what didn’t. Every year, I reflect on what I wrote over the year and look to see which articles were the most popular and which ones flopped.

This year, the most popular hiking related article was 6 “Unknown” Dog Friendly Trails Near Seattle and the most popular travel related article was 9 Lessons Learned While Flying with a Dog In-cabin. I also saw a lot of interest in my Dachshund-specific articles. It’s clear our blog readers are most interested in those topics in relation to what I’m most passionate about sharing. I will be looking for ways I can write more about them.

What is also interesting is what didn’t do so great. While I try to incorporate our personal story and pictures of Chester and Gretel in every blog post I write, blog posts that were short, were merely one or two photos with a description, or solely focused on us and what we weren’t read by a lot of people.

I have a couple of favorite posts I wrote this year. One of my most favorite was about the making of the Most Beautiful Pet Bowl You’ve Seen. As if it wasn’t enough that the owners of the company are wonderful and kind people, the owners of the Fire and Light studio where the bowls are hand-pressed from recycled glass are making the world a better place. Writing about these kind and genuine people seriously almost made me cry.

My other favorite “blog post” was actually a two part series about Gretel and I hiking for 3 days on the Pacific Crest Trail by ourselves. It was the most challenging backpack trip I’ve ever done, and Gretel has ever done, so I was really proud of us. It was a 7-day trip that turned into a 10-day trip that turned into a 4-day trip which ended up being 3. It’s a long story but we’re going to pick ourselves up, dust ourselves off, and try for the whole 72 mile stretch of trail this year.A 10 lb Dachshund hiking the Pacific Crest Trail to Chikamin PeakI write this blog because I love sharing our adventures and connecting with people. Honestly though, I don’t always feel like writing. What keeps me going on days like those is looking at the number of people that read our blog every day and the conversations I have with your readers here and on social media. It makes me feel like what I do matters.

Every year, I try to get better at balancing the topics you, our readers, care about with what I am most passionate about. What you don’t see is the countless hours I spend researching and “crunching numbers” to figure out what you most like to read. Besides you actually telling me in the comments and on social media, that’s the only way I can know. Even then, there is a fair bit of guessing invloved (hint, hint… so just tell me what you like. Ha, ha).

When it comes down to it though, people won’t read our articles if the information is visually difficult to read and the pictures aren’t interesting and of high-quality. I admit that I haven’t worked to improve my photography much in the last year or two. We see so many amazing places and I want to be able to convey that to you in pictures.

Gretel the Dachshund posing with the Interior of the North Cascades National Park in the Background I know the basics of photography so it’s mostly a matter of equipment, giving it more thought, and editing. This Christmas I bought myself a new DSLR camera – a Nikon D7100 – and it’s amazing compared to my old D80. I feel like my photos have improved already. I also invested in Lightroom this year so I can better process my pictures. That will bring a big learning curve for me though so I plan to spend a lot of time on the Adobe Lightroom Tutorials trying to figure it out.

I do a lot of other “work” behind the scenes too (it doesn’t feel like work to me… most of the time anyway).

Part of this “work” is to figure out what and how I want to write about hiking, travelling, and being active with small dogs. I read a lot of other blogs to find out what they are doing with their furry friends and to inspire me.

I admit that I have a blog crush on Just a Colorado Gal. I talk about her blog enough, I hope she doesn’t think I’m some kind of creepy stalker. Ha, ha. Even though I’ve only traveled there twice, her home state of Colorado is near and dear to my heart. I love her writing style and her photos are amazing. Oh, and her dog Tals is pretty darn cute too 🙂

Some of my favorite travel-and-hiking-with-dog blogs you might not know about include Montecristo Travels, Travel Hund, Take Paws by Go Pet Friendly, Dog About Town (Northwest), and Tails from the Trails.

I come up with new goals for this blog at the beginning of every year. In 2016, along with improving my pictures, I want to write more consistently. I only wrote blog posts when I could while I was in school but now I want to write a minimum of two blog posts a week. My goal by the end of the year for my photos is to be happy with the effort I put into them and be happy with the way they look.

I envision that this blog will continue to grow and be a resource for people who hike and travel with their small dogs. We might even create a book or calendar or something! We’re definitely dreaming of a US tour where we can meet our fans and spread our message.

I would love it if you left me a comment letting me know what you want to see more of on this blog in the upcoming year (really, that’s what helps me most). Which are your favorite kinds of dog-friendly adventures to read about? What are your burning questions about hiking with dogs, travelling with dogs, or Dachshunds in general?

We wouldn’t be here if it weren’t for you, our readers,…. so thanks!

Join the Pet Blogger Challenge Jan 9th, 10th and 11th
This blog post is part of the annual Pet Blogger Challenge hosted by Go Pet Friendly.  Last year’s blog hop was exceptional – seventy-one bloggers came together to build relationships, share ideas, and support each other. If you want to get a sneak peek inside some of your favorite pet blogs, or you are interested in becoming a blogger yourself and want to know what it’s like from a blogger’s perspective, click here to read a similar posts from many other bloggers.

Check out posts from other bloggers here:

About the Author

Hi, I’m Jessica. I’m a Dachshund sitter, President of the largest social Dachshund club in Washington State, a dog trainer in training, and I’ve been a Dachshund owner for 20 years. I have over 150,000 hours of experience with the breed. When I’m not working, you can find me hiking, camping, and traveling with my adventurous wiener dogs.


  1. I just recently discovered your blog, and I am really enjoying it. I have an older dachshund and also a Pomeranian. I live in Texas, and we have taken two road trips with our pups, to Colorado and to Chattanooga/Smoky Mountains/Asheville. We are always eager to learn about dog-friendly places to travel and how to handle issues that come up while traveling and hiking with dogs. We also love the Seattle area; we traveled there twice before becoming dog parents. I look forward to reading your blog in the upcoming year.

    1. Hi Lori. Glad you found us! My hubby and I took a road trip to Colorado (from Seattle) this past summer. I wrote a series of posts on that trip. Seattle is a very dog friendly city. There are several bars and pubs (some that serve food) that allow you to eat INSIDE with your dog. You definitely should come back with your pups if you get a chance.

      I’ve been to Texas once. I took a 6 week road trip when I was in college, and before I had a dog, and stopped in Amarillo. It was very windy 🙂

  2. Excellent! It’s so fun getting to know you and the dogs through the blog, and of course in person. 5 years has gone fast, how does that happen?

    1. Right? I feel like I just met you yesterday at the Salt Lake City BlogPaws. I love reading about your travels. Some of my readers have told me they like living through us vicariously but I like living through you guys that way 🙂 My heart is traveling on the road.

    1. Don’t forget to let me know when you are out. Ask Mary Hone from Tails from the Backroad…. I love to show people around my area of the state 🙂

  3. First, it’s great to be your friend. I’ve grown to value you as a great friend, because you’re one of the few people who I understand and who seems to understand me. Second, I love that you sent goals for yourself and you meet them. I’m terrified of days long hikes but you do it with finesse. It’s fun following your adventures.

    You have a great sense of humor and voice and I’m looking forward to see what you’re doing in 2016.

    1. Thanks Kimberly. Those are very kind words.

      I’ve enjoyed getting to know you more these past years too. It’s ironic that you say you admire that I set goals and meet them because you are super good at that too. Maybe hiking isn’t your thing but you have great ambitions for your blog and you make them happen…. and and a pretty quick pace too 🙂

  4. I am new to your blog, but will definitely be back. I love what you said about finding a balance between what your readers want and what you are passionate about. I absolutely struggle with this balance.

    Congrats on all your many and I’m sure well-deserved awards!

  5. Your hiking adventures are always amazing and I really admire your photos and tips. What an incredible year you had last year and I hope 2016 is even more amazing for you and the blog!

    1. Thanks Elaine! I hope you notice changed in my photos and like them. I guess, at the least, they should’e be any worse. Ha, ha.

  6. Congratulations Jessica! You had many great accomplishments over the past year. One type of post I do enjoy reading are posts about pet friendly places/businesses. As a guide dog puppy raiser it helps to know which businesses are pet friendly and which are not. All the best to you in 2016!

    1. Thanks Colby! Have you been blogging? I thought my feed reader showed that you hadn’t for a while.

      I just started a series called “Inspiration Mondays”. I’m not totally sure where I’m going with it but, for now, it’s a day I can share something that I found exciting or motivating. In my first one, I featured a fancy pet friendly lodge near Yosemite. People loved it. You’re not the only person who has said they like reading about pet-friendly places so I hope to share more about pet-friendly places and travel this year.

      Have a great year!

      1. Hey Jessica, the past couple months I’ve been posting a Wordless Wednesday along with a few other random posts about raising my latest puppy Archer, but not much. I’m going to try and get back on a schedule this year. The pet friendly stuff definitely works for us since it’s so important for us to socialize our puppies in preparation for their careers as service or guide dogs.

  7. I am new to your blog too and loving it! I found it by Googling snowshoeing with a corgi and I’m so glad I did! I love reading about your adventures with your dogs and I am very interested in pet friendly (not just tolerant:)) places to visit. Congratulations on your amazing year!!

    1. Don’t get me started about “pet friendly” places that are merely pet tolerant. Ha, ha. I am excited to hear that you actually found my blog by Googling about snowshoeing with your dog! We’ve been doing it for years, and I felt like I wrote about it a lot, but realized that I hadn’t been when I looked back through my posts. I plan to write a lot more about it this year. Let me know if you have any questions 🙂

    1. Ha, ha. Caught 🙂 Hope you’re having fun at OR! How could you not though, right?

      I really do admire your blog – everything about it. I feel like if I lived in Colorado I would be doing most of what you’re doing. I love your photos and seeing Tals of course. Thanks for the inspiration (and a little kick in the pants for me to do better on my blog)!

  8. Congratulations on graduation! I’ve just recently tuned into your blog (although I’ve been hearing great things from other bloggers for ages–what took me so long?!) and I’m so excited to learn about your adventures hiking with Gretel. I love living vicariously through other bloggers since Barley and I can only see so many different parks ourselves 🙂

    1. Thanks for checking us out Beth. I also wasn’t able to keep up with my blog reading in school. So may new blogs have come on the scene. I plan to do more reading this year so I’m looking forward to checking out all of the new blogs out there and yours.

  9. Thank you so much for the mention and for the comment on my post! It’s so inspiring to see someone else blogging about taking their small dogs out and doing all the outdoorsy things with them! That, and I’m so inspired by the dogs!
    I liked that you wrote this in blog post format. Way more fun to read. Congrats on all the awards and graduation! Looking forward to seeing more great photos and posts in the future!

  10. Wow, what an amazing year you had, Jessica! “Congratulations” doesn’t seem sufficient to cover everything you accomplished last year – you go girl!

    I’ve loved your blog for so long, and always enjoy seeing what you and the pups are up to. I think it would be fun to read about how you’re keeping Chester active in his senior years – it can be challenging to keep up the adventures when our pups get older. Also, if you’re doing a US tour, we need to make sure we meet up along the way. That would be a BLAST!

    I’m looking forward to seeing where 2016 takes you. You’re on a fantastic trajectory, and with your skills and creativity, anything is possible.

  11. You had such an exciting year! I was so excited when you won at BlogPaws!

    I’ve always been a huge fan of your blog and have learned a lot from you over the years!
    My Newfie specific dog articles were pretty big this year and that was one thing I was looking to do since I never did much of it in the past. Best of luck on all your adventures in 2016!

  12. We love reading about your hiking adventures, but it always makes Mom a bit sad. She would never want to live where you live, she’s been there many times and it isn’t for her, but she would love to hike in the mountains with us. The hills in Minnesota are just not the same! Your life seems to be exploding with opportunity and we look forward to seeing where you land next!

  13. I would love to see some video of you and Gretel on the trail. Also, more details about how to do it – when you camp overnight, what equipment do you need, how do you contain Gretel, how do you protect yourself? What would you do if Gretel got lost while out on the trail? Thanks!

    1. Great suggestions Mary! We do have a GoPro camera. We’ve actually had it for almost 3 years. I am FINALLY learning how to use it and edit video… so expect some of those in 2016. I also plan to write more heavily about “hiking with small dogs” and “camping with small dogs”. I realize that I’ve been talking a lot about our adventures but not sharing my experience and knowledge with others that would like to do the same things we’re doing.

  14. Congratulations on all of your accomplishments this year! That hike with Gretel is very impressive. What an adventure! I really enjoyed getting to know you better through this post. All the best to you in the coming year…hope to meet you in person at the BlogPaws conference!

  15. Absolutely love your blog, have been reading for about a year. I am about to embark on a 3 month road journey through most of the states.. We will be living in a tent and driving and exploring.. really roughing it haha. After 3 months and finding jobs again we hope to get a larger dog or another dachshie to join our little pack. Have you guys ‘roughed’ it with your pups? My fears are keeping his diet healthy (I usually cook Knox’s meals but will be unable to on the road, or keeping refrigerated meat) and finding enough places we will be accepted for the night and activities during the day.. I would hate to get to a destination and be turned away for having a small dog with me.. we have no option but to bring him. What about keeping him in a backpack for non-dog friendly this acceptable? Oh so many questions, sorry!

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