Oh, baby! Dogs included in family portrait of William, Kate and Prince George

I was delighted to see the photos released by Kensington Palace on Tuesday of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge with their newborn son, Prince George. They were billed as the official family portrait of the royal couple, William and Catherine (aka Kate).

The image released by Kensington Palace shows the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge with their newborn, Prince George, and dogs Tilly (the golden retriever) and Lupo.

The image released by Kensington Palace shows the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge with their newborn, Prince George, and dogs Tilly (the golden retriever partially cropped to the left) and Lupo.

What was so cool about the portrait is that it included the couple’s black cocker spaniel, Lupo, and the Middleton family dog, a golden retriever named Tilly. The photos were taken by Michael Middleton, Kate’s father.

Apparently the photos have caused somewhat of a stir because they weren’t taken by a “professional” portrait photographer. The images are backlit (light coming from behind) and apparently aren’t sharp (in focus) enough to please professional photographers. There also were whispers about the fact that Tilly is simply lying down next to the couple and not “posed.”

I, for one, appreciate the fact the Duchess of Cambridge’s father took the photos. While I don’t know the royal couple and likely will never meet them (I wish!), I applaud them for bucking tradition. From everything I’ve read about them, they tend to go against the grain on a regular basis and seem as down to earth as possible, given their status.

In excerpts from CNN’s special airing in September, Prince William talks about being a new father. He even mentions how Lupo, the dog he and the Duchess welcomed to their family shortly before Christmas in 2011, is adjusting to having an infant around.

I have to believe that by having Lupo and Tilly in the portrait, the Duke and Duchess gained even more fans than they already had, if that’s possible.

And little Prince George will grow up around dogs just as William and Harry did, and as his grandfather, Prince Charles, did. After all, Queen Elizabeth II is known for her love of dogs, particularly corgis.

It seems the royals and dogs go hand-in-hand, and what better way to emphasize that than by including them in the portrait with the newest heir to the throne of England?

Mary Ullmer is editor of Dogs Unleashed, a lifestyle magazine for dog lovers. Contact her at info@dogsunleashedmag.com. To subscribe to Dogs Unleashed, visit dogsunleashedmag.com, and be sure to “like” Dogs Unleashed Magazine on Facebook.


Dogs, kids and adults delight in first Summerfest pet show

If you’re from West Michigan, you’ve no doubt heard of Coopersville’s annual Summerfest, a week-long celebration of summer that honors Coopersville’s own Del Shannon.

Summerfest has tons of activities throughout the week, including garage sales, tractors on display, farmer’s market, concerts, a race car show for kids and more. It culminates with the awesome Del Shannon Car Show on Main Street downtown on Saturday (cars arrive Friday night with a cool drive around town).

A new event, the Coopersville Hardware & Feed Store Pet Show, was added this year. I had the honor of judging the contests at the pet show. About 30 dogs and many more people attended the event, held in front of the hardware store.

The Humane Society of West Michigan was represented and even brought a dog, Bear, who is available for adoption (he didn’t find a home at the event, but check him out at HSWM).

Also on hand were Carol Visser of Hovingh Dog Training Center in Allendale, who set up and supervised a mini agility course, and Dan Anderson of Tun-Dra Kennels & Outfitters, who did a brief sled-dog demonstration.

Owners Steve and Margo Kol, who renovated the hardware store this past year,  put on a great event and handed out prizes to contest winners. I’m already looking forward to next year’s event, which no doubt will be even bigger.

Enjoy the photos from this wonderful event, and be sure to mark your calendar for next August so you and your dog can be part of the fun!

The Great Cosmic Kittygrass Experiment: Success!

I’m happy to report I did not hold on to a package of “Cosmic Kittygrass” for more than 10 years for nothing. As I wrote in previous posts, I stumbled upon the grow-your-own cat grass (I’m assuming there is catnip in there somewhere?) in our pet cupboard last week, so I decided to experiment to see if it held up all these years.

I followed the instructions for the most part, but also planted some of the seeds in our outdoor herb planter to see if it really made a difference whether or not the grass was planted in the little plastic container provided.


Success! The Cosmic Kittygrass not only grew in the little container, it also sprouted up in our planter. Not all the seeds sprouted, as you can see by the photos, but not all of them made it deep into the soil-like product provided in the container. There were a lot of seeds, after all.

I haven’t seen our barn cat, Buck, munching on it yet, and it’s not likely I will. She mostly comes into the patio area at night while we’re fast asleep to avoid any run-ins with our dogs.

grass2I did catch Yvonne eating a piece the other day … I forgot to tell her I had planted it among our herbs, and she apparently thought we had planted lemon grass. Judging by her reaction — she made a face and then spit it out — I’d say it’s probably good for cats, but not people. Oops.

The Great Cosmic Kittygrass Experiment: Update

From my previous post, you know I’m trying an experiment involving Cosmic Kittygrass that I found in our pet cupboard. The product was more than 10 years old, I guessed, since the testing date was 2002. I decided to give it a try anyway, to see if this stuff works.

So far, so good. I waited three days and checked for sprouts. Nothing. I figured perhaps the place I stored it, inside an old cooler on our sun porch, wasn’t warm enough (it says to store in a warm dark place). Since temperatures have climbed the past couple days, I decided to put it in a shady area (still with the lid on) outside.

That seems to have done the trick! I opened the lid this morning, five days after planting the seeds, and, alas, sprouts have sprouted! Now, it’s a matter of keeping the soil matter damp and leaving it in the sun. I’m hopeful I’ll have a container filled with yummy catnip-like grass in no time.
And yes, we have a cat, sort of. She’s a barn cat, Buck. She has a boy’s name because we thought she was a boy when we took her in to get “fixed” as a kitten (we are responsible pet owners and have all our pets spayed/neutered, even our barn cat). When they told us she was a girl, we opted to keep her name so we’d have a story to tell about how she got her name!

Buck, our awesome barn cat (yes, she is spayed).

Buck, our awesome barn cat (yes, she is spayed).

I’ll leave the catgrass on our patio area, which Buck frequents at night when the dogs are all in the house. Hopefully, it will grow the point where she can enjoy it!

The Great Cosmic Kittygrass Experiment

I am not a hoarder, but it’s likely I’m somewhat of a pack rat. I just have a hard time throwing things out that I might use sometime.

“Sometime” has come for an item I found tucked away in our “pet cupboard.” Yes, we have an entire cupboard area devoted to pet items: Extra food bowls, the dogs’ current boxes of heartworm preventative, vitamin supplements, treats, etc. I’m sure we’re not much different from other pet owners in that regard.

I’m not sure how many pet owners have an unopened box of Cosmic Kittygrass lurking in their pet supplies area, though.


cosmic kittyI discovered it for the umpteenth time when looking for something the other day and decided it was time to get rid of it. After all, I don’t remember when or how we acquired it (probably in a gift basket at some point), and we haven’t had a house cat in years.


Sure enough, when I turned the box over to search for a date, I saw it was “tested” in 2002. But rather than throw it in the garbage, I decided to see if it would still hold up after all these years.

expire dateThus begins the Great Cosmic Kittygrass Experiment. This is the first of a few posts I’ll make to let you follow along with the unscientific science project.


I followed the simple instructions, which seemed a little more complicated than what I expected. I figured you dump the seed packet in and add water. Wrong!



I didn’t have a nail handy to poke holes in the bottom of the little plastic container. Note: The lid is kept on when the container is turned over to poke the holes as there is a dirt-like substance inside. Like any good do-it-yourselfer, I did manage to locate a screw and made my holes with that. We’ll see if that makes a difference.

step 1When it came to planting the little seeds into the container, there seemed to be an abundance of seeds for such a small container. While is said to push the seeds down into the mixture, there were too many seeds to get them all underneath the mixture.

seedsOnce again improvising, I decided to experiment further and plant the remaining seeds in soil. Two experiments in one!

extrasThe extra seeds reside in our home-made plant stand on our patio, where they’ll get plenty of sun, heat and water.

plant standBack to the “real” experiment. I added two ounces of water and then “floated” the container in a bowl of water to absorb through the holes in the bottom (it didn’t seem to absorb too well … maybe it was the screw vs. nail problem).

The final step in the first part of the experiment was to put it in a warm, dark place. Our basement isn’t exactly warm, so I chose to put it in an antique cooler we purchased at a yard sale a few years ago that resides on our sun porch. It will stay dark inside, while the sun blazing in the sun porch should provide enough heat.

warm dry placeMy Great Cosmic Kittygrass Experiment is underway. It must remain in the warm, dark place for three days, at which point I’ll check back in. I’m prepared for failure … can I really expect 11-year-old seeds to sprout … but I’m hopeful it works.

Stay tuned… I’ll report back in a few days!

Mary Ullmer is editor of Dogs Unleashed, a lifestyle magazine for dog lovers. Contact her at info@dogsunleashedmag.com. To subscribe to Dogs Unleashed, visit dogsunleashedmag.com


‘Underwater Dogs’ a bargain and a must-have book for dog lovers

Our hardcover copy of “Underwater Dogs” arrived Thursday, and even our corgi, Truman, enjoyed the fantastic photos.

If you enjoyed the small sampling of photos in the first issue of our free bi-monthly magazine, Dogs Unleashed, you’ll really dig the hardcover book “Underwater Dogs” by photographer Seth Casteel.

I had pre-ordered mine a couple of months ago, and it arrived yesterday. I’m here to tell you, it is fantastic. And for only $11.62, you’d be wise to order a few as Christmas gifts for your dog-loving friends and family.

The book is page after page — 132 pages! — of spectacular photos of dogs diving under water and even lists the name, breed and age of each dog in the photo. Many of the photos are new to those of us who have viewed Casteel’s work on his Little Friends Photo website. At the end of the book are “mug shots” of each dog as they appear on land.

Congratulations to Casteel on a fabulous book that belongs on every dog lover’s coffee table!

To order your copy, or purchase an “Underwater Dogs” calendar, head to Little Friends Photo site.


Frankenweenie, Howl n’ Boo and help humane society, all at once!

Admit it. Although we’re adults, we LOVE kids’ movies. And as animal lovers, we especially enjoy movies made for kids that feature animals. My personal favorite? My Dog Skip, since I’m a Jack Russell owner. Yes, it leaves me bawling every time, but I adore the movie.

I also am a sucker for the many animated movies featuring dogs, like Up (“Squirrel!”), 101 Dalmatians, the Fox & the Hound, Lady & the Tramp… the list goes on.

YouTube Preview Image

And now, there’s Tim Burton’s “Frankenweenie,” an animated/computer generated take on the classic story of Dr. Frankenstein, but with a young boy bringing his faithful companion dog back to life.

Full disclosure: I’m an employee of ESPN.com, which is owned by Disney, the company behind Frankenweenie and a gazillion other great movies. But that’s not why I’m encouraging you to load up the kids and go see this movie.

I’m encouraging you because by taking the family to see Frankenweenie at Celebration! Cinema North on Saturday, Oct. 20, you can help the Humane Society of West Michigan and see a great movie.

HSWM is holding a fundraiser at the theater that day from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. It includes a private screening of Frankenweenie and access to HSWM’s mini version of “Howl n’ Boo,” featuring carnival games, treats, crafts and more.

The movie starts at 1 p.m., so families should arrive early to enjoy “Howl n’ Boo.”  Tickets are $15 per person or $50 for a family of four. Admission includes the private screening, free pop and popcorn (that alone would cost a family of four more than 50 bucks!) and the “Howl n’ Boo” entrance.

The event is open to people of all ages, since the movie is rated PG. Don’t have kids? Do what I do … borrow some! What friends or relatives wouldn’t jump at the chance to have someone take their kids to a great event?

Whether you bring kids or go solo, enjoy the show and help the animals awaiting adoption at HSWM at the same time.

To reserve your seats and purchase tickets, contact Nicole Cook, HSWM Marketing and Events Coordinator at (616) 791-8089 or  ncook@hswestmi.org.


Time to Unleash the news on a new and fun adventure

Update: Click here to find the podcast!

I chose to announce our latest venture, a new magazine called Dogs Unleashed, on Wednesday’s WGVU Morning Show with Shelley Irwin for a couple of reasons. I love public radio and am an NPR nerd, and what better place to share community news than on a community news show?

If you like The Morning Show with Shelley Irwin’s Facebook page, you know she always snaps a shot of her guests and posts! Yours truly today. (Photo/Shelley Irwin)

And what better person to talk to about a dog publication than Shelley Irwin, who has three Jack Russell terriers? I will admit, I’m partly responsible for one of them, Petey, ending up in her home. I sent Shelley his cute photo and bio from the Kent County Animal Shelter because I knew she was beginning to search for a new sibling for Ralphie, her JRT.

I didn’t know at the time she was headed to Indiana (that same weekend) to rescue yet another one, Leah. She fell in love with both Petey and Leah and opted for a full house with three Jacks.

So I thought it was fitting that I my friends, former co-workers at the Grand Rapids Press and the rest of West Michigan find out about Dogs Unleashed via WGVU. For those who missed the show, here’s a link to the podcast.

Now, about that magazine:

Dogs Unleashed is a free bimonthly publication. It will be distributed via hundreds of locations in Kent, Ottawa and Muskegon counties, and I’ll personally drive some copies to shelters and humane societies in neighboring counties.

Yes, I bribed Shelley Irwin with “swag,” then turned the camera on her.

We are billing it “A lifestyle magazine for dog lovers” because that’s what it is. It includes  advice, feature stories, columns, great photography, reader submitted photos, kids’ activities, marketplace items and more.

Tom Dodson did some amazing design work that I think readers will find appealing and entertaining. We wanted to have fun with this magazine, and I think it shows in both the design and the writing. Contributors include fellow journalists and photographers no longer with their newspapers who wanted to be a part of a new adventure and help out a friend and former colleague in the process.

You’ll start to see the publication popping up in several locations, from pet boutiques to coffee shops, the week of Aug. 27. Please take one, and grab one for your friends, too.

If you dig this website but don’t live in West Michigan (or if you’re my family from out of town), don’t worry. The publication will be available on Press Unleashed in an e-format.

Hey, Grand Rapids: Do UC Pawz? What gives?

I’ve been seeing Facebook posts the past couple of days various animal lovers/advocates I’m friends with. They’re leading me — and their other Facebook friends, I would presume — to visit a website, icpawz.com.

Because I trust the people who posted them, I went to the site. (Don’t worry, it’s not some sort of virus … I tested!)

Have you seen these on Facebook or, better yet, around Grand Rapids?

Today, the Facebook post includes a photo. It shows the yellow paw print/logo that’s featured on the website, but it’s drawn in chalk on a sidewalk near Aberdeen Park. I suspect the paws are elsewhere in GR but haven’t been “in the city” for a few days.

Anyone around Grand Rapids seeing these yellow paw prints? Take photos and share them with Press Unleashed (send to photos@pressunleashed.com), including where you spotted them, or “like” the Press Unleashed Facebook page and share them there.

And be sure to check out the icpawz.com site. There’s a countdown, presumably to when this mystery will be unveiled. Not sure what else will show up in the coming days, but I’m sure my Facebook friends will keep me posted, so to speak.

I’ll admit it, they’ve piqued my curiosity. I wonder how many are out there and what they mean. Is Rob Bliss at it again? Has Grand Rapids gone to the dogs? Stay tuned.


Where’s Mare? Don’t worry, Press Unleashed isn’t going anywhere

In case you’ve checked the site and wondered why there hasn’t been much new content of  late, I took a little two-week hiatus while settling in to my new job. I am a part-time associate editor with ESPN.com, working with the fine folks on the espnW.com site.

Stuart and our other dogs dig the new job because it keeps Mom home all the time.

If you read the “Something About Mary” page on pressunleashed.com, you know that my career mainly has revolved around sports, as a writer, copy editor and editor. Sports always has been a passion of mine and when the opportunity with ESPN came up, well, how could I turn it down?

Fortunately I still will have time to devote to my endeavors in the pet world, especially Press Unleashed. I plan to get back to posting more frequently after the Memorial Day weekend, including information on this year’s BISSELL Blocktail Party and a few other goodies.

Look for new Press Unleashed goodies starting back up again next Tuesday!

Here’s hoping for a safe and glorious weekend for your families, including your furry kids.