What's in a Name (of a Blog that is)?

Blog Living Room I received a great comment from a reader today who wondered about the name Pugs and Pics. When first introduced, this reader was an uncertain about the site, worried that it would be devoted to a bunch of silly dog photos, but stuck around and has become a fan. The same reader wondered if the site might be better served by another name, asking if it had grown beyond its original intent.

I say this is a great comment because this reader is engaged and had some valid points. It’s tough to choose a name for a site, and once you do, you’re kind of stuck – you’ve likely paid for a URL and built up a following, so experts warn choose carefully. A lot of writers decide to go by their name when they can. I couldn’t get the URL to my full name, so I originally was going to have a web site foe my work called www.kjgifford.com. You can still reach the writing portion of my blog from this URL.

I tried for years to get that web site off the ground and in the meantime I developed a love of photography, initially sparked by taking pictures of my own as well as my friend Joan’s pugs. When it comes to any form of art whether it is writing, photography or painting, it’s best to pursue subjects you feel passionate about. There is a different type of energy surrounding things you love. My photography teacher noticed this in my work early on and encouraged me to continue taking pictures of my pugs and other dogs. I started a Facebook site devoted to my photography www.facebook.com/kjgiffordphotography and subsequently a blog on Posterous and Blogger. When it came time to start these blogs, I wanted to attract people who would be interested in my photography, which in this case would be other pug people, hence the name Pugs and Pics.

I look at my friends in the Hubbard Hall Writer’s Project and note the name of their sites. John Greenwood chose Raining Iguanas, an unique and interesting name that has to do with awakening, a subject to which most of his writing is devoted. Rachel Barlow chose Picking My Battles and she often writes about challenges in being a mother, a wife, a writer. She picks her subjects and battles with care. Jon Katz, the leader of our group, has a very successful blog entitled Bedlam Farm and you guessed it, he writes about life on his farm with his wife and animals. And, yes, on my site I write about pugs and pics. But, as the aforementioned reader noted, it has become about so much more. Jon calls his blog a living memoir and mine has certain become one. I am only beginning to understand all that this site is about. I learn through the writing.

I have been a freelance writer for 20 years now, writing magazine articles for a variety of regional publications, and a memoir-writing instructor for 11. When I joined the Hubbard Hall Writer’s Project, I decided it was time to get serious about my own writing, which initially had a lot to do with pugs. It still does. It is my hope to turn some of the ideas found in these pages into a book one day. I’d really like to write more about my experiences at Pugdom, my friend Joan’s house and yes, these involve a lot of talk about pugs. The things I have learned there, however, go beyond that and are themes that are universal as well as personal. What do we do when we find ourselves alone in life? When things get tough? I met Joan after my family had been through a really challenging ordeal (a story for another time). I was single when most of my friends were married and starting families and I was lonely, looking for a dog of my own. I came from a small town, hadn’t traveled much and then I met this woman, who had a houseful of pugs and amazing stories to tell and had traveled the world a couple of times over. Except for her dogs and a handful of friends, she was alone, too. Her husband had died the year before I met her. An older woman with a childlike spirit, Joan chooses to live with all these pugs a top a lonely mountain in Warren, Vt. Her life can be chaotic and challenging at times, but it is never dull and she lives it her way. I admire that about her. Since I met her, I too have traveled to places I never thought I would have gone. I’m not sure I ever thought I would have traveled much at all before meeting her and I have learned a lot about what it means to be strong and I have learned my own limitations. I hope I will not find myself alone when I am her age, but for now in spite of the circle of friends and family, I am essentially on my own and sometimes that can be lonely. The pugs, both mine and the pack at her house help fill the void. I look at Joan and at other women in my life and I learn from them.

These are things I’ve tried to share in these pages. Each of us has his or her own unique way of looking at the universe and I’ve tried to share mine as well. It is often easy to judge what is best for a person – a woman of Joan’s age shouldn’t be living alone or she shouldn’t have so many pugs, a person my age should be on their own by now. She should have a home, a family. I think it is important not to judge to let people carry what they must, to help them when you can and to try to understand their point of view, even if you disagree. I think this is how we learn and grow. I also think this is a responsibility we have when we befriend someone – the responsibility to let them be who they are. I think we have responsibilities to animals, too, especially when you breed them or rescue them and claim them as your own. There is an issue of stewardship I wish to explore and how in living and loving these creatures we learn about ourselves. This is the book I would like to write someday and it all starts with pugs. But it is not limited to them. They are just the lens through which I began to see what I wanted to explore, they are my companions on this path to growth.

Pugs and Pics thus, seemed to serve this site well. When I decided to start blogging about theses subjects it made sense to use it, to attract those who might be interested in a woman with two pugs and her friendship with a breeder with dozens. Besides, I already had this name for my Posterous and Blogger sites, so my fans there carried over. My web site designer asked me if I thought I might still be blogging about pugs 12 years from now and the answer is who knows? But they will always be a part of my life. As I have written, I have a pug tattooed on my shoulder, another on my back, my license plate reads Puggies. I’ve been branding myself literally for a long time now and I don’t think I’ll ever completely leave the subject behind.

And, it’s not just pugs. I think there is something special about the dog/human bond, the animal/human bond for that matter. I think that animals and particularly dogs, which have infiltrated our hearts and lives so thoroughly, enrich us in unique ways. I think that anyone who starts to explore their life with dogs in pictures and in writing soon find that they are exploring these subjects; even if it begins with a bunch of funny dog photos. I know this is certainly the case for most of the dog blogs I love best.

In the months since I’ve had the site, it is true that my writing is changing to include my photography, art, and personal stories from other areas of my life and I hope it continues to evolve even more. The name Pugs and Pics may not be as broad as it could be, but hopefully more people like this reader will discover it and stick around long enough to see that it can be. My pugs and my photography were the starting point for this journey and I am following them where they lead. They have taught me to see my life in a new way and I hope that this blog is allowing readers a glimpse through this lens and giving them a new perspective – something all good art and writing should do.

A special thank you to my reader for inspiring this post and for sticking around and please feel free to comment. One of the things I love about blogging is this dialogue, which fosters growth.