Three Chatty Cats

Social Media to the Rescue!

Social media has not only changed the world, it is saving lives. Thanks to the hard work and dedication of animal welfare organizations, shelters, rescue groups and individuals, countless dogs and cats who might not have had a second chance are living wonderful lives with their forever families. One of these dedicated individuals is Rachel Loehner. She is the brains, talent and heart behind Three Chatty Cats, a blog devoted to highlighting the work of great cat rescues and their life saving efforts. Although she just started Three Chatty Cats in January, she has already been nominated for a Liebster Award and is quickly becoming a social media influencer. Her blog posts are fun to read, full of amazing photos and provide relevant information that resonates with animal lovers. Most importantly, she is vastly expanding the reach of the wonderful cat rescues and people she profiles.

Besides all of the research, emailing, writing, editing and photo prep she does for her blog, Rachel is also the mom of – you guessed it – three chatty cats; Dexter, Olive and Sophie, as well as an adorable dog named Eddie. Each of them has an inspiring rescue story which you can read by clicking on their names above. She has kindly offered to share some of her blogging experiences with us.

Dexter
Dexter

Your own pets, Dexter, Olive, Sophie and Eddie, have wonderful stories. Did your rescue experiences with them help inspire the creation of Three Chatty Cats? If it was something else, can you tell us a little about what did?

Well, I love my pets and I named my blog after my cats, so in some small way they’re an inspiration behind it. But it’s funny because I didn’t really think out the process of starting Three Chatty Cats. I had recently become addicted to an app for cat lovers (Catastic) and was constantly browsing through all the cat pictures and loved how everyone was sharing their stories and experiences. Something clicked inside of me and I suddenly wanted to start a cat blog.

I think I researched it for all of about one day and then signed up and got started. I definitely rushed into it and probably should have taken a bit more prep time before “going live.” I didn’t know what I wanted to blog about – just that it would be related to cats somehow. I started with a few basic posts on my own cats just to get something posted. Then I asked someone I had connected with through the cat app if I could share their story because they are an amazing couple totally dedicated to helping animals. And that post completely spiraled into where Three Chatty Cats is now – a blog to promote cat rescue groups and individuals who are doing their part to help cats in need. I couldn’t be happier with the direction that the blog has taken, even without pre-planning it! Sometimes you just let things take their own direction and it works out for the best.

Dexter
Dexter

Have you had any unexpected or surprising experiences as a blogger?

I didn’t realize how much of a difference a blog could make. I know that because of my blog some featured rescue groups and individuals have received monetary donations and items from their Wish Lists. And just yesterday, I had someone contact me about donating items to a woman I featured in Italy who helps stray cats. An American living abroad in the very city that the rescuer lives in – what are the chances? The woman I featured emailed me to say they were already in contact with each other and set to meet up. Here I am in California, and my blog is helping cats in Italy! Things like that really warm my heart and make me feel like I’m doing my part. I know it’s about the cats, but it’s so nice to have that feeling inside that you’re helping.

Olive
Olive

In your post on Amanda Whitman, I read about the importance of Facebook in the work she is doing. How do you think social media has changed the landscape for shelters and rescue groups?

I usually ask the rescue groups and rescuers how they get donations or get the word out. So often the response is Facebook. I think Facebook is key in supporting shelters and rescues. In my own personal experience, with the exception of one rescue group post on my blog, I have found every other group to profile through social media (I’ve also since asked for reader suggestions). A lot of them I find on Instagram and then go to FB to learn more about them. Without social media, I would be completely lost!

The Amanda Whitman post was due to the fact that another cat blogger shared her story on FB that she read in a local online newspaper. So again, without FB, I would have never learned about her amazing story. And Amanda wouldn’t be as successful as she is in all her rescue efforts without Facebook. That is primarily how she is able to save so many cats. She’s able to network through Facebook and link up with rescues.

Without a doubt, social media (blogs included) has opened so many doors to shelters and rescues. Some of the groups I’ve featured have mentioned how they get donations from people around the world because of social media. That likely wasn’t the case 10 years ago. Maybe even five years ago!

Olive
Olive

Do you have a favorite success story since beginning your blog?

I’m probably not supposed to, but I do have a favorite cat rescue story – and that is Sophie (a different Sophie than pictured below) from the Zoo Rescue. Her rescue off the streets and into a loving home is so touching, and I can’t imagine what her life was like as a declawed kitty, abandoned and alone. But luckily she was rescued! Her eyes are so soulful and her face speaks to what trauma she endured in her previous life. Every time I see her picture, my heart just melts. And it’s so amazing what that husband and wife team who rescued Sophie do to rescue all of their animals. They really are an amazing set of rescuers! (This is the post that got it all started for me… in regards to the direction of the blog.)

Sophie
Sophie

Is there anything else you would like to share?

I love how social media, as well as the blogging community, brings people together around a common cause. I personally never used Facebook or Instagram to post things prior to starting my blog. I saw it more as a place where people shared pics of their dinner or shared selfies 24/7. But of course there really is much more to social media than that! Yes, there are those who do only use FB and IG to share those food pics. I’m probably the one they roll their eyes at since I share cat pics! But now that I have my blog, I’m glued to my screen (undecided if that’s a good thing or not!), either on FB, IG or reading other blogs. I even opened a Twitter account! I now have so many communities and people I follow who have all helped me on my blogging journey. And being able to connect with people like you is awesome! I feel like I’m coming to the social media game a little late. But now that I’m here, I see how truly helpful it can be in connecting like-minded individuals. My take on social media has basically been a complete 180.

Sophie
Sophie

 

 

 

 

 

 

I want to thank Rachel for sharing her time, expertise and insights. You can follow her on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and of course, Three Chatty Cats!

If you are interested in making a difference like Rachel or know of a shelter or rescue group that might benefit from a social media presence, here are a few resources that might be helpful:

Social Media 101 for Shelters and Rescue Groups

Shelters Use Social Media Strategies to Find Homes for Pets

21 Ways Non-profits Can Leverage Social Media

By caring and then connecting, we can all do something to help an animal in need.

Eddie
Eddie

 

Pinky and Her Brain-Part II

What kind of unique genius does Pinky possess? That is what we spent the weekend finding out. Pinky took the Dognition Assessment, which is a series of 20 games designed to test dogs in the five categories of Empathy, Communication, Cunning, Memory and Reasoning. According to Dognition, “There has been a revolution in how we think about intelligence. The profile is based on his cutting-edge field called cognitive science. Cognition is the study of how the mind works and draws on many scientific disciplines, from psychology to computer science to neuroscience.” The test is done at home using only a few household items such as paper cups, sticky notes and treats. The test is lengthy, as you repeat each game numerous times to ensure the validity of the results and we found it best to break it up over a few days. Created by Brian Hare, an evolutionary anthropologist and the head of Duke University’s Canine Cognition Center, the tests are designed to reveal a dog’s “cognitive style” – so there are no right or wrong answers. From the answers given, the profile reveals the strategies your dog uses to solve a variety of problems.

Dognition 1 text

Empathy

The empathy portion of the test offers information on how your dog reads and responds to the emotions of others. It included a yawn game as well as a game to test how long your dog will hold eye contact.

According to her profile, Pinky’s empathy scores were very high, which according to initial results is unusual as small dogs tend to be more individualistic. “Pinky certainly stands out from the small dog crowd. If most dogs are bonded to their owners, Pinky absolutely adores you”. (A test that asks her to yawn and look at me is just her kind of test!)

Communication

The communication section included arm and foot pointing tests. This required putting three sticky notes on the floor about two feet apart in front of me and setting a paper cup on the right and left side of the middle sticky note. I would show Pinky a treat and let her watch me put it under a paper cup on my right side. I would point to the cup with the treat and she was allowed to look for it. If she passed between the center note and the left, she was choosing the left cup, if she passed between the center sticky note and the right side; she was choosing the right cup.

Pinky’s results indicated that she was highly collaborative. “Pinky can read you like a book…Pinky pays close attention to your gestures and what you are trying to communicate”. (This is very true of Pinky – and also the reason I sometimes have to hide in the bathroom to eat cheesecake. She is always watching my hands and knows what a fork is!)

Cunning

These tests were designed to indicate how trustworthy or wiley your dog is (or as we like to think of it – the sneaky quotient). This category included games such as showing your dog a treat, telling them no and then turning your back. Do they go for the treat when you aren’t looking? These tests help determine whether a dog uses social information when deciding whether to take advantage of you.

Pinky scored as trustworthy because Pinky was more likely to take the treat when I was looking at her versus when my back was turned. “Pinky shows that she can easily and flexibly read your gestures. But when given the chance, she won’t use that knowledge against you.” (Perhaps…but they have never seen her with a donut in the room!)

Dognition 3 text

Memory

These games included ones such as showing your dog a treat, letting them watch you put it under a cup, then pointing to the other cup when they approached to retrieve the treat. There were also games that tested memory vs.smell and delayed memory.

Pinky struggled with these tests. Many times she would come to the middle sticky note and stare at me as opposed to choosing a side. Each of the tests were repeated 6 times to ensure accuracy and she never figured them out. “Pinky does not rely as heavily on her working memory as other dogs do. Working memory is a kind of short-term memory that allows Pinky to retain and process information.” (Hmmmm….might explain a few things)

Reasoning

Reasoning is the ability to solve a problem when you can’t see the answer and have to imagine the solution. These games included hiding a treat behind a folded piece of paper with an angle to it (to indicate something was behind it) and the dog having to infer that there was a hidden treat as well as more games using the cups.

Pinky struggled with these as well. Her profile said, “Pinky seemed to have a difficult time figuring this one out. She scored more towards the impulsive end, which means she doesn’t get caught up in the details-especially details that aren’t right in front of her. There is no shame in this.” (Well, if you have to say it…)

Dogniton chart
Pinky’s Results

The Results

Once the results are analyzed, you are sorted into one of nine categories – such as problem solving “Experts” to clever “Charmers” to independent “Mavericks”. Pinky fell into the category of Stargazer, which said, “While what goes on behind the Stargazer’s eyes may sometimes seem mysterious, it is by no means dull. Perhaps these dogs see a whole other world that is hidden to us.” Click on the categories below to learn more about each one:

Ace

Charmer

Socialite

Expert

Renaissance Dog

Protodog

Einstein

Maverick

Stargazer

We had a lot of fun playing the games in the assessment and it did give me a better understanding of Pinky’s problem solving strategies. I can now better communicate with her by approaching things in a way that takes advantage of her strengths. Although Pinky’s profile said, “Pinky is an intriguing enigma…and she may have to work a little harder than other dogs” we are not discouraged. As Dr. Hare once said, “It’s not always survival of the fittest. Sometimes it’s the friendliest that have an evolutionary edge.” Pinky is an A+ in my book!

Pinky and her brain 2 edited

*Although I was not able to find a scientifically based intelligence test for cats, for our kitty loving readers, here is a link to some fun games to test your furry friend’s brainpower. I hope you have a great time with your feline IQ test!

Pinky and Her Brain

I had always heard that a dog is happier when it knows what is expected of them, so soon after I adopted Pinky, I signed us up for an obedience 101 class. I thought it might help to make her transition from the rescue group to her new home a little easier. Treats in hand we headed down to our local pet store for our first day of school. Full of excitement, I thought about when my mom’s pug completed her class. She received a diploma and had her photo taken with a little graduation cap on. I couldn’t help but think how adorable Pinky was going to look on graduation day.

Rosie graduation

Obedience 101

Well,…things didn’t go quite as planned. No matter what we did, Pinky just wouldn’t cooperate. She was distracted when she saw other dogs and really distracted when she saw a treat. She just couldn’t concentrate. We were both trying hard, but didn’t have much to show for it. To make a long story short, although we attended every class, she didn’t receive her graduation diploma or have her photo taken for the store’s wall of fame (They politely suggested we repeat the class). What did this mean? Was she being stubborn or did she not have the intellectual capability to do what was asked of her? Perhaps she was still adjusting to her new home and just had other things on her mind. That was three years ago and ever since, she has been considered (by people other than me) to be less than brilliant.

Certificate jpeg edited

 

The Canine IQ

According to an article in Smithsonian magazine, “The canine IQ test results are in: even the average dog has the mental abilities of 2-year old child. The finding is based on a language development test, revealing average dogs can learn 165 words (similar to a 2-year old child), including signals and gestures, and dogs in the top 20% in intelligence can learn 250 words”. I am not sure how many words Pinky recognizes, but I know she is smarter than she is given credit for. With the help of Dognition, an assessment created by Dr. Brian Hare, the Director of the Duke Canine Cognition Center, we have decided to prove it

Dognition

The Dognition assessment is comprised of 20 games created by scientists, trainers, and behavioral specialists that can be played with your dog at home. According to their website, in the amount of time you would normally take your dog for a walk, you can gain a whole new understanding of your dog’s unique genius. Eureeka! Pinky is not a slow learner, she has unique genius! In the name of science, we are going to hand over our $19 and restore Pinky’s intellectual reputation.

A Cliffhanger

After completing the assessment games, we will receive Pinky’s unique Profile Report describing the cognitive strategies she employs. Will Pinky triumph? Will a brilliant mind be uncovered? Stop by next week for Pinky and Her Brain Part II, where we discuss the exciting results!

Can't I just rely on my looks

Smoky, An American Hero

When we think of heroic dogs, we often picture dogs of stature; regal German Shepherds or St. Bernards with their alpine rescues. I don’t know about you, but I would never imagine that a tiny dog like Pinky could save the lives of countless men and help win a war – but that is exactly what happened.

Found 

In 1944, during World War II, a Yorkshire terrier standing only 7” tall was found in an abandoned foxhole in the New Guinea jungle. Corporal William A. Wynne of Cleveland Ohio adopted the dog and named her Smoky.

WWII Service

Smoky slept in Wynne’s tent on a little blanket made from the green felt cover of a card table and Wynne shared his C-rations with her. Smoky braved the dangers and hardships of war backpacking along with Corporal Wynne. Over the next two two years, Wynne and Smoky survived air raids, typhoons and 12 combat missions together. Smoky was much more than just a bystander. According to National Geographic Magazine, “Every day waves of Japanese planes attacked the Allied airfield at Lingayen Gulf on Luzon, the largest of the Philippine Islands. The onslaught was taking a toll on communication, and the American commanders urgently needed to run telephone lines through a pipe that stretched roughly 70 feet underground from the base to three separate squadrons, but they lacked the proper equipment. The pipe was just eight inches in diameter, and the only way to put the lines in place would be to do the job by hand—having dozens of men dig a trench to get the wires underground, a dangerous job that would’ve taken days and left the men exposed to the constant enemy attacks. Instead, they pinned their hopes on an unconventional solution: send a tiny Yorkshire terrier through the pipe with kite string tied to her collar. The string could then be used to thread the wires through the pipe”. Calling to her, coaxing her forward was Wynne. The little dog reached the other side, the communication network was established, and she was credited with saving the lives of some 250 men and 40 planes that day. That was just the beginning of Smoky’s contribution.

First Therapy Dog

While Wynne was in the hospital after contracting dengue fever, his friends decided to bring Smoky to visit him. Smoky’s antics and amazing repertoire of tricks brought such delight to the other patients, the nurses asked if she could stay. Commanding Officer Major Dr. Charles W. Mayo of the famed Mayo Clinic gave his approval. This was a pivotal moment. By allowing Smoky to stay in the hospital, Dr. Mayo recognized the healing power and joy that a dog could bring to patients and that it was safe to have a dog in a medical environment. As a result, Smoky became the very first therapy dog. Smoky would sleep on the bed with Bill at night and during the day, she would accompany the nurses tending incoming casualties from the Biak Island Invasion. Later, while on leave in Australia, Bill and Smoky were staying at an American Red Cross facility and were asked to visit sailors and marines at the 109th Fleet Naval Hospital.

After the War

After both proudly serving in the South Pacific with the 5th Air Force, 26th Photo Recon Squadron; Smoky and Bill’s contribution did not end with the war. Once home, Bill and Smoky continued to visit veteran’s hospitals throughout the 1940’s and into the 1950’s. The two even became popular on television, with Smoky continuing to delight and entertain with her spirited tricks. Bill later wrote a book about their adventures, Yorkie Doodle Dandy, and many wonderful photos of the two can be found on Smoky’s website and Facebook page. Smoky has been bestowed with the honor of numerous awards for service and heroism and there are currently 7 memorials across the world dedicated to her.

smoky memorial edited

When taking her in, little did Corporal Wynne know how he and a 4 lb. Yorkie would change the world!