Cheesecake And Keepsakes: Why BlogPaws Is About More Than Pets
How an exorbitant amount of sugar and caffeine gave me the super power of hyper-awareness and made me appreciate the durable bond that connects fellow pet lovers.
A lot can happen in three days in Nashville, TN. Especially when you’re attending the 2015 BlogPaws conference. This meeting of the furry minds is an annual event, switching cities every year. Pet bloggers, brands, experts and advocates gather to share information, learn ways to help them get their message out to readers, try new products and hang with some of the most incredible people (and pets) in the industry. As you can imagine, it’s hard to pick one thing to focus on when trying to summarize all the awesome that went down this year into an article.
I was torn about what to write about. I could talk about all the awesome swag I got to bring home*. I mean, look at that loot. “Arrrrrr! That be an impressive haul of booty,” says pirate Amy. (*Oscar not included)
Or I could tell you about all the workshops I attended. Keynote Speaker Peter Shankman (the guy behind HARO) started the conference off with a hilarious, pee-your-pants speech. But it wasn’t all fun and games – I got to hear my new pal Maggie (the blogger behind Oh My Dog Blog) speak about content marketing, and I soaked up an ocean of info about advanced SEO and Pinterest.
Even better yet, I could regale you with the selfies and shenanigans I got into with old friends like Gina from Oz the Terrier, Kimberly from Keep the Tail Wagging, Susie from Talent Hounds, and Jessica and Luna from Beagles and Bargains. Or how about new besties Rachel (My Kid Has Paws), Diane (To Dog With Love) and Alicia (Healing Habitat)? And I’d best not forget bonding with the Queen of Vegas Rock Dogs, Sam, over our shared (and overpaid) monarchy.
I could even fill up a page or two about all the adorable pets I mingled with. Let’s see… there was a stroller of Chihuahuas that I stalked throughout the entire conference. And a pair of Great Pyrenees who loved getting their bellies rubbed. There was even a pram full of pigs, newly hatched ducklings, and a ferret named Snotface.
And let’s not forget the food. Ohhhhh, the food! Nashville is famous for its barbeque, spicy cuisine, and plentiful drink refills. Also, I’m pretty sure BlogPaws puts out a cheesecake table just for me. I loves me some cheesecake!
But what I settled to write about was a chance encounter that was over in less than 5 minutes. I think that not only will it show the comradery amongst pet bloggers (a rarity in the world of journalism), but also illustrates the special bond that pet parents and animal lovers share with each other.
It was a dark and rainy afternoon…
I’m not joking about the scene setting. Seriously, it rained every day I was there. And when it wasn’t raining, it was humid and sticky, necessitating a shopping trip for new undergarments. But that’s another story, and I digress…
After finishing the morning sessions on the second day of the conference, I enjoyed a leisurely lunch, nomming on cheesecake and coffee. Yes, I know Mom, that’s not a balanced meal. But come on – CHEESECAKE! Look at it! (*Drooling at cheesecake memories). They run a pretty tight ship at BlogPaws. Before I could get in a (*cough) third helping, I was prodded out of my dessert stupor and herded in a long line to the upcoming session.
As I was in line, stuck somewhere in the middle of a pram full of pigs and a gaggle of excited pups, walking at a steady pace, a shiny doodad momentarily caught my eye. It looked like something… maybe a dime, or a sequin (they had a DIY kitty headband fun table the night before) or a piece of jewelry. I didn’t take a closer look. I had places to go, cheesecake to digest.
The engaging session I sat in on was hosted by always brilliant Denise Wakeman on how to build your brand. The presentation was held in the largest auditorium in the hotel and I strategically prefer to sit near the back (that’s where all the fun takes place). Behind me, I heard a door creak open – it was located to the left of the room, and from its squeaking, it was obvious this door wasn’t used frequently. I assumed that it was a late attendee, and went back to taking detailed notes… until I felt a light tap on my shoulder.
I turned around and was met by a woman, close to my age (mid-30s if I had to guess). Although I didn’t record the conversation, I remember it going something like this:
“Sorry to bug you, but I’ve lost something,” she said. “I was here for the last session [about an hour had past]. I lost the earring I was wearing. It’s silver and round – have you seen it.”
Now, it may have been all the coffee and sugar I had just consumed, but that sent me off on an excited panic.
“OMG OMG OMG! I saw something! It could be it, maybe, I don’t know!” I ranted. “It’s on the floor, back in the dining room, I don’t know where if it’s still there, follow me, follow me!” Looking back, I think I was channeling my inner dog-chasing-squirrel spirit guide.
Related: A Blast At BarkWorld
Barely looking back to see if she was following, I raced back to the dining room to see if the shiny thingy was still there. Making my way there, I would throw a few confused sentences back to the mystery blogger to explain why I hadn’t picked it up and given it to lost and found. By now, she must have been second-guessing her decision to tap me on the shoulder.
Success! It was still there… and it was an earring, shaped like a silver sand dollar. Small, delicate and pretty. But was it hers? I picked it up and showed it to her. She confirmed it was. She looked like she was at a loss for words, but she did thank me. I was just happy to help (well, and to be back in close proximity to the cheesecake).
On the way back to the session, she explained why she was speechless. The earring had belonged to her mother, who had recently just passed away. She was so happy and overwhelmed, she didn’t know what to say – she just reached around and pulled me in for a quick hug. Now, it was my turn to be speechless (I know, right? That never happens!).
She explained that she had noticed it was missing when she went back to her room. Thinking it came off when she changed her shirt, she searched her hotel room from top to bottom. When that failed to produce the precious memento, she began to panic. Heading right to the conference room, she scanned the room, but when that proved fruitless, she turned to me. And I was the only person she asked.
After another quick hug and thank you, I rejoined the session. But my mind was elsewhere. How strange was it that I happened to look down at that exact moment, at that exact spot, and see the earring… much less remember it. And how odd was it that she came to me first to ask if I had seen it? There were other people sitting closer to the door than I was – what compelled her to ask me?
I’m not a believer in fate, “it was meant to be” or any kind of outer-worldly influence. So if that’s the case, you may be asking: “How did it happen that you, by happenstance, found her beloved mother’s heirloom?” “What does it all mean?” “Get to the point, Amy!”
Here’s what I got out of that fortuitous encounter at BlogPaws:
- Keynote speaker, Peter Shankman, said something that rang true with me – at BlogPaws, we’ve truly “found our people.” But I think that it goes deeper than just the bloggers, pet experts and advocates that were attending the conference. Pet people – those who consider their pet to be part of their family – just “get” other people who feel the same way. We gravitate to each other, seek each other out, bond over experiences, rejoice over milestones and mourn losses together. There’s no judgment if you call yourself a pet parent… or if you don’t. Pet people connect on a frequency that unique to us. We may joke that the more people we meet, the more we like our pets, but it’s important to remember that special connection we have with our pet peeps. And it’s wonderful when we can help each other out with more than just pet related issues. This was one of those times I could help someone out, in this community, that had nothing to do with animals – and it felt awesome!
- Small things make a huge difference. For me, I noticed something shiny. Little things, such as leaving a friendly comment on a blog post, sending a friendly email to say you enjoy what a blogger has to say, sharing a connection, or even taking notice of things going on around you (because you never know when something you saw will come in handy). Sure, it may just be a few seconds out of your day, a passing thought or action, but it has the potential of making somebody’s day or changing their world.
- Fill up on salad, and skip the second helping of cheesecake and coffee. Damn, that was a nasty sugar crash!
Out of everything that happened at the BlogPaws 2015 conference, this is the “aha” moment that will stick with me. But what about the saucy undergarment adventure, you ask? Well, that’s a story for another day.