Laura L. Benn (Twitter) is a published writer, photography enthusiast and animal lover. She is the founder/editor of PAWSH, a different breed of pet publication based in Ottawa that combines a deep love of words with a passion for artistic photography and a devotion to captivating design.
Tell us a little about how PAWSH started? Where did the idea come from and who’s your target audience?
PAWSH is dedicated to celebrating a life lived well with pets and the idea for it started brewing in October 2009 — although it didn’t officially launch until January 2010. I’ve always had three constant loves in my life since I was a little girl: writing, animals and design. In fact, the very first piece of fiction I ever wrote was called “The Adventures of a Little Cat called Munchkin” when I was about six years old. PAWSH became a grown-up way for me to apply my publishing background, combine those passions and share them with others.
As the readership grew I decided to reshape PAWSH into a stylish online magazine as a means to showcase creative pet topics in greater detail within a modernly designed format. It’s fresh, youthful and informative, intended for the doting pet owner. I am continually blown away by the amazing work of the PAWSH team and the support of our incredible readership who visit PAWSH from all over the world.
PAWSH covers a lot of topics — everything from dog portraits to health to hot toys and treats. Where do you draw your inspiration from?
As cheesy as this might sound, inspiration comes from the pets and their people. PAWSH isn’t just about your standard pet topics; it’s about making the most of life with your pet. Also, although based right here in Ottawa and always eager to showcase local pet matters, PAWSH believes that pets are universal and opens its pages to relevant topics and products from all over the world, seeking out only the best for our beloved fuzzy companions.
From exotic travels, to fun DIY projects, to useful tricks, interviews with creative people about their pets, fun nutrition facts, exciting giveaways and more, PAWSH covers all manner of lifestyle topics from a pet-centric perspective. In past issues we’ve interviewed popular artists, prestigious design firms, Bif Naked and numerous others about their work and their pets. The great thing about working in an animal related field is that the majority of people, no matter what their walk of life may be, loves an animal and has a unique story to share. Likewise, pets themselves come equipped with their own unique personalities and issues, so there is quite literally always something to write about.
Would you say Ottawa is a pet-loving city? Why?
Ottawa is most definitely a pet-loving city with a special place in its heart for dogs in particular. There are quite a few beautiful dog-friendly off-leash areas and parks in the city, gorgeous trails for long meandering walks and a lot of local businesses leave water dishes out on the street in the warmer months for dogs to drink. Whether people are jogging along the canal or enjoying lunch on a patio, you run into dogs and pet-loving people everywhere in the capital! At least, I do.
What are some of the best places pet owners can visit in Ottawa? (Either shops, parks or cafes?)
If you’re looking for a great cup of coffee and a fun place to mingle with other pet owners, you really cannot go wrong with WAG on Bank Street across from the Mayfair. Not only do they have delicious drink selections, but they stock some great pet products and welcome all dogs (and even cats) into the cafe! Everyone is invited to sit and stay! I also love Global Pet Foods in Hintonburg, because the staff is wonderfully friendly and they also carry a wide selection of unique products. Coco Mutts is a new dog friendly store in the west end that is also fun!
As for parks, my favourite is Windsor Park in Old Ottawa South. It is a gorgeous sprawling dog park nestled along the Ottawa River and offers a large yet charming running space for dogs, as well as tennis courts for the people. The Papery in the Glebe is also a lovely shopping visit if you’re like me and are obsessed with stationary – they allow dogs in their store which thrilled me to no end when I first found out!
You are gearing up to release your fourth issue in January 2012. What’s the reaction been like so far?
I can hardly believe that issue #4 is just around the corner! It feels so surreal. If I had to use one word to describe the reaction to past issues of PAWSH it would be overwhelming. Our latest fall issue “Learn to Wag” was released in September 2011 and has received just over 350,000 unique page views, which takes my breath away! Everyone involved in this project — the writers, the photographers, the designers, the sponsors, the readers — have been incredibly supportive and enthusiastic. None of this would be possible without their amazing work, passion, support and encouragement. I definitely recommend checking out the PAWSH contributors pages, because you’ll find some incredible talent there.
Is it hard to cover different pet-related topics every couple of months?
The hardest part, I think, is not being able to share certain stories and topics that we’ve scheduled for an certain issue before the publication date. Whenever I discover something article-worthy in the pet world, my first instinct is to share it with everyone. Although of course, when running a magazine you have to be patient and wait for the release date. I wish we could put out more than four issues a year, because there is so much to write about and explore in the pet world. Hopefully one day we’ll be able to do that with PAWSH.
Do you have any animals yourself? Tell us about them!
Absolutely! I’ve shared my home with dogs since I was a baby, including an Airedale, a Great Pyrenees and two collie-mixes. I presently share my life with a mini-poodle/shih-tzu mix called Rory. She just turned two and is a bundle of ridiculous non-stop energy. People are always telling me that she looks like a little lamb, especially during the winter when she hops around in the snow. She’s a sweetheart through and through and is always doing something silly to make people laugh, like waving when she really wants something. In the past, I’ve been a foster parent for Hopeful Hearts Dog Rescue (a local organization) and cannot wait until I have more space so I can foster and adopt again.
How else is PAWSH involved in the local animal community?
I am a huge supporter of pet rescues and make myself available to help local pet rescues or pet related causes as much as possible. In each issue of PAWSH we run a “Rescue Me” section that features dogs in need from Hopeful Hearts Dog Rescue. PAWSH is also running a holiday raffle this year to raise money for Hopeful Hearts. For a $2 donation you are entered into the raffle and have a chance to win a six page editorial photo-spread of your pet which will be published in an upcoming issue of PAWSH! Your pet could be a star!
I also donate some photography and writing time to shelters/rescues in the area to help create more appealing profiles for pets in need of new homes. Giving back to the community is extremely important to me and something I try to do as much of as possible, whether its donating time, coordinating fundraisers or promoting worthy pet causes through PAWSH.
Describe your perfect day in Ottawa.
I’m pretty easy to please. My perfect Ottawa day would consist of tea, some chocolate from Truffle Treasures, a good book or magazine and staying outside with friends and our dogs all day long … cellphone turned off, because it’s very important for me to unplug every once and a while. Bliss!
What can we look forward to in 2012 from PAWSH?
Oooh, there are all sorts of things in the works for the upcoming year. I can’t really tell you much right now as it’s all rather ‘top secret.’ But I invite everyone to follow the PAWSH daily blog or join us here to keep up to date with all the latest news, announcements, giveaways and fun!
Thanks, Laura! We’ll be anxiously awaiting Issue #4 in January!