Last week Maisie and I drove to Kansas City, MO for the BlogPaws Conference.
The agenda was filled with a wide selection of seminars, lunchtime keynote speakers, one on one sessions with experts and blocks of time set aside to explore the exhibition hall which was packed with vendors. Of course we also had time to socialize at meal time and happy hour and the big finale was an awards ceremony. Some of my favorite moments came from those conversations. I met so many interesting people and got some good tips along the way. Having Maisie with me was a huge help. She gave me the confidence to walk up to a table full of strangers and ask “do you mind if we join you?” and she instantly drew the attention away from me if I was feeling tongue-tied.
I loved the exhibition hall. I discovered several brands that I wasn’t familiar with. They each gave us samples and I’m really excited to try their products. I plan to write a series called Big Wet Dog Reviews with our honest impressions after we’ve tried them out for a while. Newfie’s needs can be different from the average sized dog so I’m looking forward to giving our unique perspective.
We also received a swag bag which was huge and it will take us a while to get through everything that was in there! I’m sure I will share some of the goodies with friends and family.
I have to brag about Maisie for a moment. She was so well-behaved! We are working so hard on training to become a Certified Therapy Team and this was a great opportunity for me to evaluate our progress and take note of the things that we need to work on. It was a lot of stimulation for her. Not only were there lots of people that we had to navigate around, especially as we worked our way through the buffet lines, but a lot of attendees had their pets with them as well. Maisie has distraction issues, but she listened well and was quick to give me her attention when I asked. She laid quietly (most of the time) at my feet during meal time and in the sessions and was able to recover quickly when she got barked at by another dog. In addition to a Service Dog and a puppy training to be a Service Dog, there were two Therapy Dogs who were able to walk by everyone, human and animal, without breaking their stride or concentration. They were both such great examples of working Therapy Teams and I will think of them as a reminder of what we need to look like when we are out and about.
Maisie also adapted well to staying in a hotel. We rode the elevator multiple times a day and we walked 1/2 block away to potty. She doesn’t normally sleep on the bed, but the first night she was pretty anxious and was a complete bed hog as she snuggled next to me. The next night, she sprawled out on the other bed and we both got a better night’s sleep. The one thing that tripped her up the whole time was when we encountered pets in strollers. All of our training has focused on walking by animals of different sizes on the ground, but the stroller pets were at her eye level, moved differently, and each stroller had a different smell and surprise. (Unfortunately I didn’t get any pictures, I was too busy trying to keep her attention and heel past them.) I mentioned it to our trainer when we returned to class and she thought it would be a good idea for them to get one so that we can all train to that distraction.
In additon to all of the education, networking and entertainment, I was especially interested in the Honor Flags. Annie was the inspiration for the blog and writing about her progress was my primary focus for the first few months. It seemed so appropriate that I would make a flag to honor her since she was the reason that I created the blog! The display was set up in a quiet corner right outside the exhibition hall and since I’m not terribly crafty or artistic, I brought a picture of her and used the supplies provided to create something to add.
After I hung her flag, Maisie and I went back into the exhibition hall but I needed a few more moments to get my emotions in check. I flopped down in a chair and was looking through my photos when we were approached by the Chewy camera team (Chewy acquired BlogPaws). We were right next to a blow up pool and they asked me if I was planning on putting my big dog in the pool. I chuckled and told them I wasn’t because I was afraid she might put a hole in the side, but then we all decided that since it was the last day, we should give it try! Maisie hammed it up for them and we all laughed while they got lots of picutres from different angles. She was such a hit that they approached me later on and asked if I would be willing to be interviewed for a promotional piece for next years’ conference. They wanted to know about us, the blog and our conference experience and I got a little teary as I told them about the Honor Flag project. I’m sure I didn’t look my best, but I hope that footage turned out well, it would be one more special way to celebrate my dear, Sweet Annie.