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The more I’ve read in the last few weeks here—about mentors and how animal professionals feel so positively about the people who’ve influenced and guided them as they built their careers—the more I’ve considered all the wonderful animal-related jobs that are out there, waiting for someone just right to fill each one. I think of all the kids I know who love animals now, and imagine they dream that one day, they might make a living doing a job that would keep them close to animals.
What jobs are out there today (and what jobs might be out there in a decade) for kids right now in school, thinking about their own futures, wondering how to get to that animal-related job they want?
I started to pursue that topic—animal-related jobs that young people might find interesting—this week by talking with professionals who write about animals and about all subjects animal-related.
Shelley Bueche lives in Austin, Texas, which, she points out, has “consistently ranked as a top dog-friendly city in the U.S.” Shelley has been a freelance writer for the last 20 years. She is a former columnist for two canine publications, Just Labs Magazine, and the American Kennel Club’s AKC Family Dog magazine. Shelley is now an Austin history columnist for CultureMap, a digital ezine.
For all of those publications, Shelley explains, “I started writing for them and then proposed a column. And with Just Labs, I frequently wrote for an existing column; the editor asked if I was interested, and I answered ‘Yes!’” She continues: “Education-wise, my background isn’t ideal for a job working with and writing about animals. I have a bachelor’s degree in government and a master’s degree in human services administration. But I’ve always been an ‘animal person’ and I think that is the key! The role that animals play in our lives is becoming more popular—hence the need for persons to expand on that role and write about the possibilities!”
I asked Shelley, “What do you like best about your job?”
Shelley replied, “Flexibility is foremost. And thankfully I am in a position where I have a spouse with a full-time job that ensures health insurance for both of us; otherwise, I would have to make different decisions. It is possible to make a living from writing, but writers must be persistent, and open to writing outside of their specialties.”
I asked, “What advice would you give a young person who might want a job like yours?”
“Volunteer or serve as an intern in many areas to get get a ‘feel’ for your dream job. Don’t shy away from the dirty work—growing up, I was a huge horse fan and I relished everything horse, even cleaning the stalls! Be available, and don’t shy away from any request or opportunity that has even a remote chance of being in your field of interest!”
Lisa Begin-Kruysman, who recently moved to Georgia from New Jersey, is a blogger and author of fiction and non-fiction (including Dog’s Best Friend: Will Judy, Founder of National Dog Week and Dog World Publisher). Lisa says, “I’ve spent the past ten years promoting an awareness observation known as National Dog Week. Not long ago, a newspaper reporter described me as the torchbearer for National Dog Week through my efforts to keep this 92-year-old observance relevant and active.”
I asked Lisa how she came to be in that “torchbearer” position.
Lisa answered, “In 2010, I launched a blog with the goal of educating readers about Captain Wm. Lewis Judy (better known as Will Judy), a prolific dog writer and editor, and the publisher of Dog World magazine. In 1928, Judy established National Dog Week to honor American dogs. In 1935, Judy co-founded the Dog Writers Association of America! I’m currently a member of the DWAA social media team. I have been a recipient of three DWAA Maxwell Medallions for exceptional dog writing.”
Lisa expanded on the background—both education and experience—that led to her work as a writer. “After graduating from the University of Connecticut, I was employed in the entertainment industry in New York City. I left the corporate world to become a fine artist and I began to take my writing seriously 15 years ago. I’d always wanted to write, so I considered my experience, skills, and interests, and I realized I enjoyed writing about obscure histories, biography, and of course dogs. When I learned about the National Dog Week movement, it became the central focus of my writing and it remains so today. I’m currently shopping my memoir, Finding Dog Week, about my ten years as the National Dog Week promoter and how it changed my life.”
I asked Lisa, “What do you like best about your job?”
Lisa replied, “I’ve enjoyed meeting so many inspiring people in the dog and publishing industries. I’m fascinated by how many careers exist in the dog and pet world, and how they all offer so many interesting writing prompts. I’m always learning something new.”
I inquired, “What advice would you give a young person if you were asked about how they might eventually end up in a job like yours?”
Lisa answered, “Most young people love animals, especially dogs, and are naturally inspired to write about them. I would advise those interested in a career in journalism, or creative writing, to start early. Write about anything that interests you, and write and read every day. I’d stress the importance of how good writing and reporting can educate and inspire others to understand issues. For example, my writing about fostering and puppy mills has led people to see all angles of a complex topic and make better choices to help animals.”
I asked Lisa if the Dog Writers Association organization has a mentoring program that’s available to young people. Lisa answered very enthusiastically:
“Yes! DWAA is encouraging the next generation of writers with a new program called Young Writers on the Web. Writers who are under 18 years old are encouraged to submit stories about dogs for possible publication on a special section of the DWAA website, and potentially in our newsletter, Ruff Drafts, as space allows.” To learn more, go to https://dogwriters.org/young-writers/.
“The DWAA even has a category in their annual writing competition for writers ages 7 to 18! This award was created to recognize and encourage young writers who exhibit talent, resourcefulness, dedication, and integrity in their writing about dogs and dog-related topics. The winner of each age-designated category receives a monetary award, a DWAA Maxwell Medallion, and a lapel pin.”
To learn more about the DWAA Junior Writer Award, go to https://dogwriters.org/writing-competition/writing-categories/.
To learn more about National Dog Week, go to https://www.facebook.com/NatDogWeek.
“It’s good to remember that dogs have always been there for us, through good times and through times that are more challenging,” Lisa concluded. “Appropriately, this year’s National Dog Week theme is ‘Keep Calm and Dog Week On’! Join in the celebration that begins September 20—also the anniversary of the birth of Will Judy, the man who took America to the dogs.”
Photo by Carol Bryant
Kim Campbell Thornton, who lives in Lake Forest, California, writes about pet care, health, behavior, training, and history; occasionally, she also writes about marine life and wildlife.
Kim is personal assistant/mentor/activities director for two Cavalier King Charles Spaniels. She is content manager for Fear Free; feature writer and columnist for Pet Connection; and creature-comforts columnist for MSNBC.com. Kim is the author of these books:
▪ Careers With Dogs: The Comprehensive Guide to Finding Your Dream Job
▪ Bloodhounds: A Complete Pet Owner’s Manual
▪ Mastiffs: A Complete Pet Owner’s Manual
▪ The Everything Dog Health Book
I asked Kim about her background, education, and experience.
Kim replied: “I have a journalism degree, and one of my early jobs was as an editorial assistant at a company called Fancy Publications, which published pet magazines. I spent 11 years there, eventually becoming editor of Dog Fancy. I also wrote my first book (on nights and weekends) while I was there, on caring for senior cats. I decided to leave and become a freelance writer when I realized how much work I was assigning to people who had previously left the company.”
I asked Kim what she liked best about her job.
She answered: “I love getting to write about cats and dogs for a living because they are a big part of my life. As a freelancer, I’ve written hundreds of magazine and online articles as well as 25-plus books (including one called Careers With Dogs). I specialized in writing about dogs and cats because I was already a recognized expert on those topics, thanks to my time at Fancy, but it’s more fun and interesting and stretches your mind more if you can branch out into other topics as well. It also increases your client base and your ability to earn an income.”
What advice would Kim give to a young person who might like a job like hers some day?
“Whether your interest is pets or video games or cars or technology or music, you can make a living writing about it. Geek out while you’re still young and learn everything you can about your interest—read about it, watch videos, volunteer, join a club, take classes, keep a diary, write a blog. That early start will serve you well later on. The Dog Writers Association of America offers an annual award to a young writer, and kids up to age 18 (but usually much younger) have won for newsletter articles and even books that they’ve written. Majoring in English or journalism will give you a good foundation as a writer, but courses in psychology, anthropology, history, and biology or zoology will be useful if you want to write about animals. Look for courses in science writing, ethology (the science of animal behavior), and statistics. If you want to write seriously about animals, you’ll be reading a lot of studies throughout your career; a background in science and statistics is useful in making sense of them.”
Kim Campbell Thornton’s book, Careers With Dogs
Carol Bryant lives in northeastern Pennsylvania. She is a home-based dog blogger, copywriter, writer, pet influencer, consultant, author, and social-media and pet-product specialist in the pet industry. Carol has been the president of the Dog Writer’s Association of America since February of 2019 (a volunteer position). She is the owner and founder of Fidose of Reality, LLC. Carol decided to form her own business because she loves dogs immensely and wants to help pet parents help their dogs live longer, healthier lives. Carol says, “I serve pet parents and the companies who care about them.”
I asked Carol about the education and experience that were the background for her qualifications for the job she does today.
Carol explained. “I’ve always wanted to write and I always have. It started as a child when I would journal and write in my diary. While my friends were playing outside, I’d ride my bike to the library and read books . . . lots and lots of books. I would write . . . lots and lots of writing. I’ve done so many styles and types of writing, from medical writing to press releases, blog posts to books.
“My Heart Beats Dog®so very much that I registered that phrase and wear it permanently on my left bicep. As a frequent media contributor, I appear on television, on social media, on radio, and in print. I returned to college as an adult and received two associate degrees and graduated summa cum laude with a B.A. in English.”
I asked Carol what she liked best about her job.
She answered. “What I like best is that I have a career and not a job. I worked for many companies over the years and have been a telecommuter (home-based) writer since 2001. I was working from home before it was mandatory! Work-from-home doesn’t mean never leave your home. Pre-pandemic, I attended conferences, events, dog shows, and writing symposiums. I am a lifelong learner.”
What advice would Carol give to a young person who might like to have a job like hers?
“Don’t listen to people who tell you it can’t be done. If you have a passion and a tenacious spirit, do it. Go for it. If I had listened to everyone who said it couldn’t be done, I’d never have formed my own dog writing/blogging/consulting business. Learn as much as you can. Read a lot. Write a lot. Talk to people who read and write a lot. Become a lifelong learner and put yourself out there. Don’t stand in a corner at a conference. Approach people. Be kind.”
Best Dog Blog 2020, Dog Writers Association of America
Cataract Treatment In Dogs: How To Help A Dog’s Eyes
Pet Blogging for Love and Money, by Maggie Marton and Carol Bryant
Eileen Anderson, who lives in Arkansas, is the author of Remember Me?: Loving and Caring for a Dog with Canine Cognitive Dysfunction, and the Eileen and Dogs blog at https://eileenanddogs.com/.
I asked Eileen about how up-and-coming writers can better their work.
“I give writing mentorships through the International Association of Animal Behavior Consultants (IAABC). Participants are mostly professionals in the animal training and consulting world, but anyone at any level of writing skill is welcome. If you plan to work with animals, you will be writing about animals. Trainers and behavior consultants have to write a lot, and my mentorship can give you a head start on that kind of professional writing. You can learn good techniques for client handouts, training plans, behavioral assessments, communication with clients, web content, and more.
“Note that the IAABC is an organization for trainers of all animals, including exotics; we’re not just talking about dogs here! Learn how to write fluently, with clarity, with the appropriate voice, and with good grammar. I maintain a safe, inclusive, and comfortable writing environment and mentees enjoy the writing community we create together. The two eight-week mentorships start in January and July each year.”
Are you a young person who dreams of working with or around animals? Do you enjoy writing? I hope the advice of these professionals can persuade you that honing your skills as a writer will matter in the long run, whatever your choice of animal-related career. Now is the time to start—today!
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