Blog Paws Conference; Myrtle Beach. I’ll be completely honest and admit that I didn’t make plans to attend until the last minute. When my friend Jennel, a conference staffer, mentioned it to me, the only words I heard were paws and beach. Yes, please. Sign me up!
The timing of the invitation was pretty serendipitous. About a year ago I had shut down my new blog when my dog’s health started declining. After Lucy passed away last October, I had been unable to write anything meaningful. That is, until now.
When Lucy died I buried myself as much as was humanly possible into my work and education. The labor of knocking out some major goals was a constructive way for me to channel the intense grief I felt over losing my dog. As my heart healed, I began to find my voice again. And so, my blog was reborn.
I have no idea what I’m doing
Blog Paws wasn’t anything I expected it to be. The people were so welcoming and encouraging. The content was impressive and at times, way over my head. Was anyone else googling how-to-SEO during the SEO for Beginners workshop? The amount of love for animals was mind blowing. My attendance was a treat to myself and it indeed gave me the much-needed reboot I needed to come back to my everyday life.
I was utterly unprepared for everything I experienced at Blog Paws. As I mentioned before, I’d only recently relaunched my blog. In comparison to other attendees, I was a baby – an infant, really – still learning how to crawl. I didn’t really know how I was going to present myself or my brand, and I fumbled introduction after introduction. In one conversation with a brand rep, I literally spit out the food I was chewing on and then started choking on a crumb that got stuck in my throat. Talk about embarrassing!
It turns out, though, that pet bloggers and the brands that love them are a surprisingly welcoming bunch. Despite my lack of confidence (and occasional drooling), everyone I met showed genuine interest in connecting. The love for pets was palpable, and I had endless opportunities to photograph guardians setting their pets up to succeed. As a professional dog trainer, there are few things more encouraging than seeing humans acknowledge and attend to their pets’ needs.
Despite my newbie status, I ended up feeling perfectly at home among veteran pet bloggers. In one session, one attendee shared that she had started off as a fashion blogger but quickly learned that pet bloggers are a lot nicer; she now runs a DIY fashion blog for dog moms. Despite being surrounded by competitors, I had the same experience at Blog Paws. Pet bloggers know how to build each other up.
As an introvert, conferences are challenging because I would rather be chillin’ with my dog at home, pantless. (True story!) On top of that, I truly had no idea what I was doing. Many of the bloggers I met touted thousands of followers, pristine Instagram feeds, and big-name-brand support. Me? I didn’t even have any business cards to hand out! Still, I made the most of the workshops offered and came home with a plethora of notes. Most importantly, I was more energized to write than ever before. The ideas have since been pouring out of me, and my life is currently a stack of post-it notes.
One takeaway from Blog Paws is that, clearly, I still have so much to learn. As small as I may feel sometimes, it is also very empowering to know that the opportunity here is endless. And pet bloggers are as generous as they are welcoming. There was more knowledge-sharing than in my other circles, like animal sheltering and professional dog training, which is saying something. It’s human nature to want to keep your million-dollar ideas under lock and key, but sharing them and helping each other out is exactly what Blog Paws is all about.
Some of my favorite moments included:
- Getting some encouraging advice from Aimee of Irresistible Pets & Irresistible Icing about developing my voice. Our conversation was my first aha! moment of what ended up being a weekend full of them.
- Hearing No Bowl Feeding System creator Dr. Elizabeth Bales answer the question about why this product is not tech, i.e. it has no lights or battery-powered motion. Because it wasn’t made for humans! Humans need lights and batteries, cats don’t care about that. Listening to her speak about how this product was designed to meet the biological needs of cats, and not what humans think they need, made this behavior nerd want to shout “Hell yeah!”
- Being introduced to Hope for Paws through some of the most moving videos of animal rescue that I have ever seen. My personal favorite, the one that sent chills down my spine and left me wiping tears off my face, featured eight motherless puppies rescued from living in a cave.
- The countless motivational quotes sprinkled throughout Kathleen Gage’s keynote presentation, like “Letting life put in front of you what you are meant to do and answering the calling;” “It’s not what happens…it’s what you do about it” from W. Mitchell; and “It’s not what you know, it’s what you do with what you know.”
- Watching former shelter dog, Tega, walk the red carpet. This dog, who was almost euthanized due to exhibiting defensive behaviors in a shelter environment, was now strutting her stuff alongside pet blogging superstars. It was a proud moment for her foster mom and I to see this former-throwaway beaming with confidence. Tega is currently searching for her forever home!
Some more friends you should check out online (and no, they’re not paying me for the shout out!):
- Hay Hay Life
- Healing Whiskers & Oliver the Therapy Rat
- The Chestnut Mutts
- Ballet the Pomeranian
- Louie the French Dog
- Jane, AdvoCats community founder
- Wear, Wag, Repeat
- Samson the Cat
- Gals’ Best Friend
- The Dog Only Knows
- Life with Dogs & Cats
Oh, and eventually, I made it to the beach, too!