The magnitude of positive pet-loving energy that circulated at this past weekend’s BlogPaws 2010 was unlike any we’ve ever experienced.
In the heart of Columbus, Ohio’s downtown district, the first-ever pet bloggers conference brought together more than 250 pet aficionados to pow-wow around all things animal. From dog, cat, and ferret lovers, to guinea pig enthusiasts, BlogPaws provided the perfect setting for sharing our common bond with the animals we love, tweet, write on facebook, and blog about.
As the Chow Hound sponsor for BlogPaws, i Love Dogs could not be more proud of the overall success of the conference, its founders, and its staff. We arrived a day early to settle into Columbus and prepare for a wonderful weekend of loving on doggies. The next day we were pleasantly surprised by the pawesome atmosphere that was slowly building.
As attendees arrived, we finally began to meet some of our Twitter friends face-to-face for the first time! What an experience, the people behind the Twitter handles were just as sweet and engaging as they are online, and a feeling of seeing “old friends” was a widespread energy flowing throughout the Westin on High Street.
Speaking of the Westin (or barking of, or meowing of – whichever you prefer!), what a dog-friendly welcome indeed! It’s no wonder that the BlogPaws founders chose this hotel as the home base for so many pet lovers. They welcomed our pet-loving community with open paws, hunkering down a welcome mat with embroidered paws outside their lobby entrance, and placing bowls of water and treats on the mat for four-legged conference arrivals to enjoy.
Gray and green BlogPaws paws led the way throughout the hotel, pointing attendees in the right direction. The conference staff had already sniffed out all the hot spots. Finding one another was a cinch, and hunting down our exhibit booth was a piece of biscuit! We set up shop after having dropped off a delicious supply of TJ’s Health Bites for conference attendees’ goodie bags. During our drop-off, in the room that would later become the “pet park,” we finally met the wooftastic Yvonne Divita (@y2vonne), co-founder of BlogPaws, who’d done an incredible job coordinating our sponsorship for the conference.
On our way up to set up our exhibit booth, we met BlogPaws co-founder Caroline Golon (@RomeotheCat), who saved the day by securing us a last-minute hotel room at the Westin. Many thanks to her for keeping us in mind despite her hectic schedule!
We unpacked our i Love Dogs goodies, including our Multivitamin, TJ’s Health Bites, Green Tea and Reishi supplements. We had no idea our time in the exhibit area would bring us such great new friends. We especially enjoyed watching Rex the Great Dane receive so much well-deserved attention. In fact, we spent half of our time on the floor cuddling with Rex and chatting with his dog mom Ronnie Daldos, founder of Bella’s Pain Relief, and the other half of the time talking to visitors about our fabulous line of vitamins and supplements.
As attendees mingled, we knew something special was starting to grow. We think everyone wished they could slow down the hands of time, and multiply every minute by seven human years. As the evening progressed, we were ushered into the Grand Ballroom for the opening reception.
Once there, we were able to sit and chat over drinks and delicious appetizers, compliments of BlogPaws, while listening to a sweet welcome from BlogPaws founders Divita, Golon, and Tom Collins. We were formally welcomed by Sue Resnicoff of Del Monte Foods, and then received a resounding welcome from keynote speaker Charlotte Reed, who expressed the extent of how special pet lovers are (indeed they are!).
To top things off, BlogPaws had set up a wonderful silent auction of donated art pieces and crafts, the proceeds of which all went to animal charities. The spirit of giving and caring for our less fortunate four-legged companions resonated with all attendees, and we were honored to be affiliated with such a wonderful group of people.
It had finally arrived – the big day! Though an evening welcome took place the night before, it was on Saturday, April 10 that we’d experience the most of BlogPaws. Of course, the conference ran as smoothly as ever as we arrived to a lovely breakfast and sat down to meet more of our favorite online pet lovers.
At our table were Lauren Gibbs (@DailyDogScoop) and Rebecca Braglio (@ThePhillyDog), as well as Embrace Pet Insurance CEO Laura Bennett (@LauraBennett). We later met a few members of her staff, Lea and Kate, who were incredibly helpful in helping us understand the benefits of Embrace. (We were so excited to receive our quotes!) We heard a motivational keynote speech from Animal Planet’s Andrea Arden, star of Underdog to Wonderdog, and then it was off to the panels!
Everyone was knee-deep in informative conversation by the time lunch rolled around. Attendees were able to experience the best of the best of pet blogging experts, while gathering tidbits of wisdom from individuals like Stephan Spencer (Covario), Janiss Garza (Dear Sparkle), Ellen Burgan (Doctors Foster and Smith), and loads of other experienced individuals willing to share their expertise.
The morning panels triggered the fervent stream of tweets in the Twittersphere with the #BlogPaws hashtag (a way for Twitter users to join in on the same conversation). BlogPaws attendees had laptops and phones out as they chronicled every step of the conference. The tweets garnered much attention from pet lovers on Twitter who weren’t able to attend but who, thanks to the coverage were already packing their bags for next year’s conference!
Right before the beautiful lunch that i Love Dogs sponsored, and just as we were packing up to head over, who did we bump into? None other than Ms. @VetLovingPetsHB herself, Annmarie Hill, DVM! Prior to BlogPaws, we’d formed a great working relationship with Dr. Hill mainly via our online networking – the power of social media, folks! We finally had the opportunity to sit down face-to-face over a lovely lunch and an awesome keynote speech by PurinaCare Blogger and veterinarian, Dr. Larry McDaniel.
Let’s just say that our lunch hour was spent happily surrounded by witty and humorous veterinarians. The lunch session not only brought smiles to our faces, but tears to our eyes, and over a big slab of scrumptious cheesecake, we toasted to the wonderful conference that had taken place so far.
Back at our exhibit booth we learned more and more about our neighbors to the right. The generous Pam Wheelock of Purrfect Play was just a few feet over with her organic, dye-free pet toys. Kitties and puppies were going wild over these balls, tugs, and toys. But as we mingled and chatted, we realized we had more in common than we thought. Soon enough we were discussing the benefits of Reishi and other medicinal mushrooms for pets, and finding ways to collaborate on naturally ensuring the optimum health of our pets.
Even more exciting was that we soon went on a hunt to deduce whether Ollie, Wheelock’s newly adopted pooch, was a Jack Russell Terrier and Chihuahua mix, or a Rat Terrier and Chihuahua mix. We’re almost certain that Ollie’s a Rattie-Chihuahua mix, and even more certain that TJ.LA K9 reporter Irie the Jackahuahua had just found herself a new pen pal and/or boyfriend. We’re delighted to hear that Ollie will be trying our vitamins and supplements!
Other poochies are on the list to try out our new supplements, including Dr. McDaniel’s oh-so-cute Milo, whose pictures he shared during his keynote speech. He was kind enough to discuss pet health insurance and what pet parents should do to ensure they’ve chosen the best plan for their buck.
The day continued as we received many pleasant visits at our exhibit table. We were thrilled to come face-to-face with Pawcurious.com’s Jessica Vogelsang, DVM (@Pawcurious a.k.a. Dr. V). It suffices to say that we were star-struck; we are big fans of Dr. V and her fabulous blog. We’re also big fans of the wonderful work she does with animal charities. In fact, one of the sessions in which she was a panelist, “Be the Change You Want to See,” was one of the most popular sessions of the conference. The session has already built quite a following with Twitter trending topic #BeTheChange paving the way for innovative ideas on how we can all contribute to making a difference.
Along with panelists Dorian Wagner (@YourDailyCute), Lynn Haigh (@FrugalDougal, and co-founder of #PawPawty), and moderator Jane Harrell (@PetFinder), these women set the stage for compassionate pet lovers to come together behind one cause. Not only did they inspire attendees with a heartwarming video, but they also began a movement toward creating change.
Their first goal? Bringing together pet lovers on Friday, April 16, to raise funds for Ohio-based Pets Without Parents.
“The coolest thing about this conference … was the whole idea that not only is this grassroots, individual type action considered acceptable, it is the optimal way to do things on this network built of individuals,” wrote Dr. V in a follow-up blog post on Pawcurious.com. “We are building this sparkly little Charlotte’s Web of connections one strand at a time in order to create something beautiful. What it’s going to end up looking like is as much a mystery to me as it is to you, but life’s about sink or swim sometimes, so I’m jumping.”
We couldn’t have said it better ourselves. Whether raising funds for important causes, or networking to support one another’s work and online outreach, we all came together at BlogPaws to create something uniquely engaged in the pet lover’s ability to project compassion and comraderie.
As Dr. V. put it, “No blog is an island.”
Congratulations to all the organizers! We can’t wait to see you all at BlogPaws 2011.
More photos from BlogPaws
PHOTOS: Brad Smith Photography, i Love Dogs
The synergy doesn’t end here. If we weren’t able to connect at BlogPaws, please get in touch with us and tell us about what you do and how we can be of help to one another!
Did you attend BlogPaws 2010? Tell us about your experience in the Comments section below!