I’ve just returned from the 3 day PetSafe Pawprint Summit in beautiful Knoxville, Tennessee courtesy of the lovely folks at PetSafe. They invited me and ten other pet bloggers to experience the PetSafe brand hands-on adding southern hospitality and culture. Bloggers live much of their lives online so the opportunity to connect in person with fellow bloggers while being validated and appreciated by our hosts was truly inspiring.
PetSafe, the largest manufacturer of electronic pet training products in the U.S. and owner of Premier Pets (my favorite cat toys and water fountains) is all about safe pets = happy owners and I loved seeing many of the 350 employees working in the open plan office with their dogs happily at their feet.
It was my first time visiting Tennessee and attending a small pet summit. I worried how the mostly dog blogger contingent would accept me, the 110% cat person. From the moment I stepped into the hotel lobby and met Gina, of Oz the Terrier blog my fears melted away. By the time I met Jake the pitbull and mom Beverly, Sugar the golden retriever and mom Rosalyn, and Rocco the Havanese and mom Diane, Gretel the dachshund and mom, Jessica I felt fully embraced by doggy blogger love. Well, actually all kinds of love, 24/7. We were treated royally by the awesome PetSafe marketing team of Jessie, Jessica and director, Jason. A special shout out goes to PR whiz Meredith Schneider of Fetching Communications who acted as our mother hen and head counter before and after every expedition on our chartered bus. We had way too much fun and yes, rounding us up was like herding cats.
Besides being wined and dined at a serene lakeside restaurant, an iconic Icon restaurant with the sweeping 360 view high above Knoxville plus a down home BBQ, we were treated to a tour of the outstanding University of Tennessee College of Veterinary Medicine. The facilities and cutting edge research left me in awe. I will be following up with a separate blog post and interview or two from UTCVM.
A personal highlight was a private breakfast and tour at Scripps, the media family of HGTV, Food Channel, DIY etc. I’m a huge fan and the stunning campus where over 1000 employees work is breathtaking from every angle.
The purpose of any summit is to learn and to gain insights. I was pleasantly surprised by the transparency of the PetSafe brand’s values and huge giving back to the pet-loving community from dog parks to shelter programs. Renowned dog trainer Robin MacFarland gave an eye-opening presentation on e-collar training her with her own dog and a lively Jack Russell terrier belonging to Jim, the director of Animal Welfare Initiatives. Fellow blogger Larry Kay, volunteered to try what the sensation of an e-collar felt like. To my surprise it was subtle and not shocking. Although I doubt I’ll be using e-collars on my cats anytime soon, the electronic smart pet door is intriguing.
Another highlight was having a very casual lunch with the affable and approachable PetSafe CEO Randy Boyd. He embodied a grounded and friendly vibe many CEOs would benefit cultivating. In this case, proving nice guys do finish first.
We ended the summit in the rolling hills of Rockford at the home of musician Jay Clark who treated us to an evening of live Bluegrass and BBQ by a bonfire. The waxing moon twinkled and I had my first taste of moonshine with strangers who had transformed into friends. I confess, I didn’t want to leave. No one did so we lingered and savored the moment.
Golden purrs of thanks to SugarTheGoldenRetriever for the images of me. Click on the link can see her post about the summit. I posted an extensive album of my summit experience at G+.plus some stunning horses. My artsy photos (not posted here) will turn up at my other blog as sources of inspirational photo quotes down the road.
AND you can bet we’ll be having a special PetSafe giveaway real soon.