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I recently did a course in social media management to improve my social media skills. During the course, some of the top social media managers gave their input on what makes a Facebook page more popular and interactive and it seems like we are doing everything right for the most part, except that they said that the most popular pages are pages that interact directly with their followers, introduce key personnel and become “friends” with followers. In these times of influencers, pages that are personal, warm and friendly and where followers can see a face behind the page, do far better than other clinical pages.

Now I’ve never been one for writing blogs as for some reason, it’s made me feel awkward and maybe even a little narcissistic and ‘braggy’ but if you look at the rise and success of bloggers and YouTube and Instagram celebrities, maybe it’s an important way to interact with our very valuable followers and readers. I’m just not sure I have that interesting a life to keep you entertained about my activities on a daily basis. It would kind of read…woke up, played my favourite online game (I’m obsessed with a game called Township and have made so many friends through it), worked, loved and played with dogs, worked, answered emails, eat lunch, went to a meeting, cuddled dogs, worked, supper, watched old seasons of The Office with my son, went to bed. Not that exciting, right? So I decided to try my hand at a ‘blog’ where I would tell you a bit more about me and my family so that you know who is publishing and editing Canine Zone, and commenting on your posts (when it’s not me, it’s the dog mother of SA – Patti who posts all the rescue and adoption posts here and on our other page, All about Cats).

My name is Sharon and I love in a well-worn but much-loved house in Little Falls in Johannesburg. I share my home with my husband and son as well as our two adored fur kids, Drake (a three-year-old Rottweiler) and Holly (a three-year-old Afrikaner mix – we know that her mom was a dog and her dad was a dog and that’s about it!). From as far back as I can remember, I’ve been crazy about animals and dogs in particular. I remember getting a little camera for Christmas when I was about eight with a few rolls of film and I spent so many happy days walking around our neighbourhood and taking photos of all the neighbourhood dogs. I made up names for them and found out what breed they were which I wrote in a note book. Unfortunately, this didn’t last too long as paying good money to print photos of random dogs wasn’t something that my dad enjoyed doing.

My first dog was a gorgeous Rough Collie named Rinty and I’ve got an old home movie that shows me at about two years of age, playing and running around with Rinty and him then knocking me clean off my feet. When I left school, I spent a short while volunteering at and doing the public relations at the Animal Anti Cruelty League in Booysens and I always dreamt of having a career that somehow involved dogs. My career path led me into public relations and marketing and then publishing when I launched my own teenage girl’s magazine called Blush and started my own publishing company. But the dream was still to publish a dog magazine – something that took me over 25 years to achieve!

After moving into my own home, I fell in love with Rottweilers and my first Rottweiler, a beautiful girl named Storm, joined the family. In those days I had a lot of time and energy, so Storm and I joined a dog training school and we worked hard to compete in obedience and agility competitions. Storm was joined by my big boy Bear (who I was going to show as he was absolutely stunning, but unfortunately he developed hip dysplasia at only one year of age), Zardoz with the heart of gold, and Saska who loved to play ball all day long. Not too long after, they were joined by Torch and Katchita. A family of six gorgeous Rottweilers.

When I lost them over time, I was heart-broken and decided to open my heart to three Staffies over the next few years. Tyke, Lulu and Amy (a cross Staffie/Boston Terrier), lived to the ripe old age of 14 and helped me raise my two boys – ensuring that they too would become devoted dog lovers.

When Lulu, Tyke and Amy crossed the Rainbow Bridge, I rescued a little Bull Terrier named Diza, who was going to be put down because she wasn’t ‘show quality’ and she was joined three months later by our beautiful boy Lolo (who we were told was a cross between a Jack Russell and a Bulldog but who turned out to be a Pitbull). Lolo initially gave us some concerns about his behaviour, but we were devoted to him and he turned out to be an amazing dog with such a unique character.

My Diza passed away when she was 11 with sudden kidney failure. Lolo was so lonely as he adored Diza, but unfortunately, he didn’t get along with other dogs at all and so we became a one dog household and gave all our love and attention to our precious boy. What we didn’t know was that six months later, Lolo would be diagnosed with Lymphoma. We did all we could but six weeks after diagnosis, he passed away and I was beyond devasted. Coming home to a house without the energy and love of a dog in it was an absolute nightmare. Packing away all of my Loly’s toys, blankets, leads and bowls, whilst crying hysterically, I vowed to not have another dog as I just couldn’t deal with the pain when they inevitably died.

Three days later our wonderful contributing behaviourist, knowing how much I adored Rottweilers, gave me a gift. A gift that healed my heart completely and brought love into our home again. Drake arrived and there was never a dull moment since that day. He is a very busy boy who want’s to ‘help’ and be involved in everything. He is a big, affectionate, cuddly teddy bear with a strong will and an abundance of energy. He needed a friend and we had lots of room in our home and hearts, so after visits to a few shelters, we found our Holly at Woodrock Animal Rescue. Holly and Drake hit it off immediately and although Drakey is so much bigger than Miss Holly, she is definitely in charge! They are my heart’s children and I would do anything for these two fur kids of mine.

Back in 2011, my dream of publishing my own dog magazine finally came true and although there have been ups and downs and many changes, I’m so grateful that Canine Zone is still on the shelves and doing well. I’m also grateful for everyone who has supported me and all our sponsors and advertisers who have been there for us, year after year.

I took a decision four years ago to not feature any ads for breeders as although there are lots of highly reputable breeders in South Africa, sadly there are more unscrupulous backyard breeders and puppy farms and it would be hard for me to vet them all. Although this hit us hard financially, it’s the right thing to do and I will never compromise. My mission is to help shelters as much as possible and I would be a hypocrite if I allowed backyard breeders and puppy mills to advertise in my magazine.

Over the years we have received so many queries about the products we have featured in Canine Zone and the logical next step was to launch our own online store where we could offer products that we truly believed in and where we could offer our customers very good prices and an excellent service. We also wanted to let the shelters benefit so we put various names in a hat and drew a shelter to receive 10 per cent of profits every month. If you have a look on our website – under the Our Story tab, you will see the shelters that will benefit in 2020.

In 2017 I also decided to launch our mini pet expos and pet festivals at various malls where we can educate and entertain the public but also help various shelters to raise funds and highlight their beautiful dogs up for adoption. Over the years we have also run many fundraising events, published calendars for shelters and I even hosted a radio show called Animal Central on Gareth Cliff’s online radio station. But I haven’t done even near enough and there are so many abandoned dogs in South Africa. So many dogs needing homes. So much cruelty. So much education needed. Such a lot of funds needed.

I feel so frustrated and incredibly sad that I haven’t done more so this year, I really hope and pray that our Canine Zone magazine sells more copies, that we can educated more people, that more people support our little expos, that we have helped to get more dogs adopted, that our online store takes off and does well - all so that I can do more and give more. That’s my personal mission in life. I need to know that when I am old and grey and unable to work, I can say that I helped dogs in ways that really made a difference!

Well that’s my story in a nutshell. If you enjoyed reading this, give me a thumbs up and it may encourage me to write a monthly blog or even do a podcast or YouTube video!

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