Animal lovers unite! Social media is a great tool to stay connected with those who share your passion for dogs and cats and everything in between.
What is social networking? Think “birds of a feather” meets high tech, without the constraints of coordinating schedules or even being in the same country. Groups of people with like interests – a cat breed, dog sport, or just animals in general – meet online to exchange information, share enthusiasm and talk all things canine and/or feline.
So where are these folks and how do you find them? You don’t need a secret handshake or a map to the clubhouse, just a good search engine and time on the computer.
There are all kinds of ways to connect and communicate with other animal lovers all over the world. Just remember to protect yourself and your identity. Never give out personal information, share passwords or a home phone number. People can easily find an address and even a map to your house online.
Email groups can be by city, rescue, breed, the way a dog or cat is fed – just search dog or cat lover plus your area of interest. A local group can keep you updated on fun things for you and your animal to do. Rescue groups can arrange a long distance transport or the pickup of an animal from a shelter. Most email groups allow photos so everyone can see your dog or cat’s best picture.
Be sure to read the rules when you join – no flaming (personal attacks), no shouting (ALL CAPS), and sometimes, no off topic remarks. Each group has its own rules. Remember, when posting, you don’t know all the members. Limit your comments to your own experiences.
When replying, use proper email etiquette. Your subject line should reflect the content of your email. Trim your posts – that is, when replying to the group, delete all the original emails except a line or two for reference. Most email programs can do this by changing the settings. Before you hit Send, double check the address line. Many group members have embarrassed themselves by thinking they were replying to a personal message only to see it appear in the group email for all to read.
Blogs are web logs posted by an individual, group or as part of a business. You can find information on dog parks, animal friendly hotels, Pawrdi Gras parades and more by searching “location + dog (or cat) lover + blog”. Information can show up anywhere. For instance, one blog from Baltimore mentions a pet lounge area at the St Louis airport (weblogs.baltimoresun.com/features/mutts/blog). It also allows readers to post photos of their dogs (be sure to see the pugs dressed as geisha girls!). Dogster.com lets you create a webpage for your dog or cat, see dogs in need of a home, post videos, or find answers in the forums. You can post events in your area as part of their blog page.
If you would like to start your own blog, the three most common blog hosts are, wordpress, typepad and blogspot. In May 2008, internetbusiness. com reported that 175,000 new blogs are created each day. That’s one new blog every half second.
Keep in mind that with so much information being posted, not all of it will be accurate. Trust your instincts, verify facts and never use medical information you’ve read online in lieu of seeing your veterinarian. Your dog and cat are part of your family; don’t put them at risk.
Facebook is the most interactive social utility. Think of giving the key to your diary to everyone you know and everyone they know – and getting the keys to theirs, too. You can post a private message or a message on the wall (for all to read). Dogbook and Catbook are places for you to see pictures, create your own profiles and more. Save a Dog lets you virtually foster a dog; each time you log on, you earn points that donate food to rescues. Find out more by searching Dogbook, Catbook or Save a Dog in Facebook’s search. Posts may include links to videos on youtube.com, which now boasts one billion (billion, not million) views per day.
Twitter is fast paced, instant dispersal of information in quick bursts, limited to 140 characters (not words). This keeps messages brief and to the point. Co-founded by Jack Dorsey in 2006, Twitter creates a community where posters choose who sees their updates. Dog groups can benefit by building a strong base of followers (those who read your messages or tweets). If an emergency occurs, one tweet alerts the followers instantly; no need for the old-fashioned phone tree. In a situation where animals need to be rescued in a hurry, Twitter could save lives.
Imagine taking a walk in the park with your dog and coming home to find an email from the guy with the bulldog who passed you by the bridge. If you have a SNIF collar tag for your dog, and meet another SNIFer, information is transferred by the tags as you pass each other. You can download the information when you get home. A quick look at the sender’s profile will let you know if you want to SNIF around some more. The SNIF tag can help you meet people and dogs in your neighborhood, arrange play dates at the dog park and even monitor your pup’s activity level while you’re gone. Lightweight and armed with a low level radio frequency, the tag is safe for your dog to wear.
If you’re looking for more than information or friendship, an online dating service for animal lovers might be something to check out. One example is Purrsonals.com, a dating and social networking site dedicated exclusively to cat lovers. Sites like these help ensure you won’t wind up in the heart-wrenching position of having to choose between your animal and a new partner who turns out to dislike or be allergic to dogs or cats.
Technology combined with common sense can make lots of friends for you and your furry friend all over the world. And it’s a lot more fun than reading about your second cousin’s root canal in her annual newsletter!