On January 25th, 2017, I became the Community and Pet Editor for ConsumersAdvocate.org. I had never heard of BlogPaws. It wasn't until around mid-February when "BlogPaws" started flashing across my networks and coming up in conversations at work. You might say #BlogPaws was trending in my world.
Originally, a colleague asked me if I was going to BlogPaws's conference in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina in May. I said to her, "Blog what? - Did you say BlogPaws?" She told me BlogPaws are a pet and social media community with annual conferences. That put a big smile on my face. As a human dad to 6 dogs, I'm crazy about animals, I love animal loving people, and I love social media. BlogPaws is all of that. The quintessential trifecta if you will.
BlogPaws connects brands with pet parents and pet parents with each other. They're a community of action. Their blog posts are filled with actionable and useful information. The Social Learning Community will connect you to other pet influencers any time. Their courses can help you grow your influence so you can be better qualified to participate in the BlogPaws Pet Influencer Network.
After several days at the conference, I realized BlogPaws is a circle of giving. Bloggers, brands, and sponsors produce and then they give back. Everybody wins and the circle keeps spinning. There was even a surprise, anonymous donation of $50,000, which was spread out between different veterinary facilities that work with the animal rescue organizations chosen by the winners of the random, pre-conference draw. The keynote speaker, Kathleen Gage, said it best: "Your business is merely a means to get your message out to the world. It's not just about what you do, but the reasons behind why you do it."
And besides, where else can you can find 6 Chihuahuas striking a pose for a photo opp ? -- "Where else would you see 4 stuffies in a Fresh Wave "bubble bath"? - More on that at the end of this feature.
When I first looked up Chloe DiVita, her description said, “Chief of Everything at BlogPaws." I was quite perplexed when I saw that. I said to myself, "That's a very broad description, not sure what to make of that" -- After several days at the conference, it was clear to me why she has that title. Chloe wears many hats and wears them well. From giving speeches, introducing sponsors, conducting teaching sessions, and mingling with the attendees and their pets, this uniquely talented woman really was the chief of everything.
One of the things she mentioned resonated particularly strongly with me. In the past, Chloe was unsure what she wanted to do with her life. The one thing she was sure of certain was that it would involve being around pets. I had a lot of identification with that. Over the years, I've often said, "animal lovers are a cut above the rest"
OK friends, we have a lot of people and pets to share with you. And as you're reading and scrolling through this feature, lookout for ConsumersAdvocate.org's MVP award (Most Valuable Player). It's a big surprise. Time to Rock and Roll;
Carol Bryant is the founder Fidose of Reality, a health and wellness blog for Cocker Spaniels. On it, she provides a wealth of information regarding dogs’ physical and emotional health, the pet lifestyle, dog products, and news. She is also the founder of Wigglebutt Warriors, Fidose's fundraising arm.
Carol's medical background as a certified medical transcriptionist (CMT) has helped solidify Fidose of Reality as a go-to site for dog health concerns. Carol’s intense love for animals inspired her tagline: "My Heart Beats Dog."
To date, Fidose of Reality has raised over $50,000 for homeless Cocker Spaniels, which has gone towards covering their medical, food, and basic needs. These funds are intended to last until they find permanent homes. Together, Carol and Dexter’s efforts have been so successful that they were able to land an appearance on the Gayle King radio show, co-produced by Oprah Winfrey. And if all that wasn’t impressive enough, Carol is also the Public Relations manager for BlogPaws.
Fun Fact; Carol has been to all 9 BlogPaws Conferences with her family. Dexter has never missed a BlogPaws Conference.
As the writer of this feature, I want to thank Carol Bryant for accommodating me throughout this story. It is most appreciated.
Kia Chambers, husband, Jordy chambers and Schnauzer, Simba from the renowned blog, Come Way Along. Kia is a great storyteller and has a great sense of style. She blogs about her family and her dog. Come Wag along is a fun and upbeat community.
Originally, Come Wag Along was just a hobby for Kia. Now it's grown into something beyond what she ever imagined. She's worked with numerous brands, written for other sites, and been featured as a top pet blogger.
Fortunately for Kia, her husband is a professional photographer and videographer. You can see his work here. In 2014, Jordy created family vlog, "Meet the Chambers." -- Kia hopes to give helpful tips on having a dog and being a mommy and wife. She loves sharing her experiences with others whether it be with their use of products or their day to day experiences.
Kia also had the brilliant initiative of putting together a Facebook group called BlogPaws 2017 Newbies, which streamlined a lot of the confusion for freshman participants like myself.
Between Kia, Jordy, their two kids, and superstar, Simba, Sky's the limit.
Make sure to subscribe to their vlog.
Eldad Hagar and Lisa Arturo from Hope for Paws were at BlogPaws last month. This was a real treat for everyone at the conference. The world is a better place because they're in it.
Hope for Paws was created in 2008 to help animals who suffer and die every year because of negligence and abuse. One of Hope for Paws’ most effective outreach methods is via filming their often dramatic rescues. Eldad, with Lisa by his side, has crawled 15 feet into the earth, navigated through a hazardous water treatment facility, walked through trash yards, and squeezed into stairwells to rescue dogs and cats.
Sometimes when I'm watching Eldad's videos, I feel like he's a 21st Century Indiana Jones or something. The difference being, Eldad is not chasing an ARK for fortunate and fame, he's rescuing animals to save their lives.
Our May feature story on senior dogs included one of their rescues, Mufasa, whose rescue and subsequent happy placement with a loving family struck a chord with people all over the world has been viewed over 10 million times. Another video featured the rescue of Miley, a malnourished stray that had been barely surviving in a trash heap, has over 22 million views.
Being Hope for Paws is a non-profit, donations always help. No donation is too small: every bit counts.
Speaking of the circle of giving, Merrick Pet Care was at BlogPaws in support of veterans suffering from PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disability).
Merrick Pet Care's, Pete Brace gave a very moving speech at the conference regarding the human animal bond. Pete also showed this must see video of a veteran suffering with PTSD and the calming effect of his service dog.
On March 22nd, 2017, Merrick Pet Care Expands Partnership with K9s for Warriors with New Merrick Backcountry Hero’s Banquet Recipes. In a special K9s For Warriors promotion this July, Merrick will make a donation of 1 dollar to K9s For Warriors for every Merrick Backcountry Hero’s Banquet item sold.
Last year, Merrick also committed $250,000 to complete clinical research showing the effective role service dogs play in the treatment of PTSD among American military veterans. Currently, there are 21.8 million veterans in the United States. One in five suffers from PTSD.
K9s for Warriors is front and center when it comes to veterans suffering from Post Traumatic Stress disorder (PTSD). They pair the veterans with service dogs. K9s for Warriors has a three week program training veterans about their new life with their service dogs. Veterans from all over the country come to K9s for Warriors's campus for training.
Sharon Duval, founder of said " We bring the warriors (veterans) here as a home to heal. A place to regroup, hit the reset button. The skillsets our dogs learn help these warriors (through their disabilities; the anxiety, the depression, the isolation the nightmares.The service dogs help them go back out into public arena; into restaurants and into airports"
K9s for Warriors' gets 90 percent of their dogs from Rescue organizations. CEO of Merrick Pet Care said "K9s for warriors is taking shelter dogs and turning them into heroes"
K9s for Warriors is putting a lot of goodwill into the world. They're saving dog's lives by rescuing them out of shelters. Their service dogs are helping veterans reacclimate with society. And remember, when one dog is pulled from a shelter, a new dog takes its place and has a chance to be rescued too.
BlogPaws joined hands with Merrick Pet Care and their commitment to K9s For Warriors to present the exclusive peek at the featurette for Bleecker Street and LD Entertainment’s film, Megan Leavey.
Another of our recent feature stories shone a spotlight on the Bayer company and their national campaign in support of the PAWS act, a piece of legislation intent on improving the safety of people and their pets fleeing domestic abuse. Below are some shocking statistics:
- 4 million women a year are assaulted, beaten and otherwise abused by their intimate partners
- 1 million animals a year are abused due to domestic violence
- 71 percent of survivors with pets report that their animal was threatened, hurt or killed by their abuser
- 65 percent of domestic violence survivors delay leaving due to concerns over the safety of their pet
Lauren Dorsch, Senior Manager of Communications at Bayer, said the following: "Survivors of domestic violence should not have to choose between their safety and a beloved pet. Once passed, the PAWS Act will help more domestic violence shelters save the lives of pets.”
The VCA, another BlogPaws conference sponsor, has over 750 animal hospitals throughout the United States. Their Social Media Director, Jennifer Koontz, was there throughout the conference, connecting with pet influencers and the pet community at large. I took advantage of the opportunity to speak with her about Care Club, VCA’s wellness health plan, which helps pet parents amortize their routine checkups and vaccinations throughout the year versus having to pay out a lump sum all at once.
On another note, the Woof hats were probably the biggest promotional hit at the conference last month. VCA gave out 400 of them in a blink of an eye. In case anyone is wondering, "Woof" is the stock symbol for VCA and trades on the Nasdaq exchange.
Carma Poodale was sponsored by Hill's Pet Nutrition at BlogPaws 2017. Carma Poodale is is not just a dog blog. They're a family blog. Carma Poodale's posts are inspirational, informative and heartwarming.
In recognition of National Animal Disaster Preparedness Day, Hill's was spreading more awareness for pet parents to be prepared in case of emergency. They want to encourage owners to prepare a first aid kit, 3 days' worth of food and water and comfort items such as blankets, favorite toys, or something to bring comfort to the animal from home.
In 2013, through its Food, Shelter & Love® program, Hill's Pet created a one of a kind Disaster Relief Network to help pets and their owners during times of crisis. Hill's Pet responded to 16 emergencies across the United States in 2016, including the severe flooding in Louisiana, where it donated 75,000 pounds of free pet food!
When it comes to natural disasters, let's be preemptive, not reactive.
Have an evacuation plan and make sure your pet has an ID, collar, and leash on at all times.
Since its creation, Hill’s Food, Shelter & Love® program has provided more than $280 million worth of Hill’s® brand pet foods to over 1,000 shelters in North America and helped more than 9 million pets find new homes.
More on their website - Hill's Pet.
The four lovely ladies pictured above all run amazing pet blogs focused on their dogs.
Bryn and Bill Nowell, with their two dogs, Bean and Yoda, are the magic behind A Dog Walks into a Bar. The name isn’t just the premise to a clever joke: this blog combines all things dog with adult beverages, (mainly beer and wine). Bryn is also very involved with animal rescue and animal welfare.
Kristin Avery runs The Daily Pip, an award-winning, lifestyle pet blog providing resources, support, and humor for rescue families. Kristin has felt a connection with animals as far back as she can remember, with a particular soft spot for animals with special needs: seniors, pets with chronic medical issues, animals with behavioral concerns, and misunderstood ones, such as Pit Bulls or black cats. The Daily Pip was a 2017 Best Cause Blog finalist at the conference.
Alison Reder heads up The Sarcastic Dog with her Pit Bull, Piper, and her two rescues, Zora and Simon. After foster failing, Piper became a permanent member of Alison’s family in May of 2015. Her blog is about rescue efforts, education, and Pit Bull advocacy. Alison is obsessed with her dogs. She thinks they're the cutest, funniest, and smartest. See if you can prove her wrong. The Sarcastic Dog was also a 2017 Best Cause Blog finalist. Alison even taught a session at BlogPaws, "What are you Worth in 2017? And, How to Make Brands Believe It"
Rochelle BaRoss runs The Broke Dog with Henry, her sidekick rescue dog who loves the spotlight. The blog focuses on reviewing pet products, helping people to shop smartly and make informed decisions, thanks to Rochelle’s wealth of tips and tricks. The Broke Dog frequently has giveaways, contests, and offers discounts on great products, like stuffed animal cuddle clones of a beloved pet. As a matter of fact, the dog in Rochelle's hands in the picture above is a cuddle clone of Henry. Rochelle not only conducted a session at the conference, entitled “How to Setup Shop and Monetize Selling Your Own Product”, her blog was also a 2017 Best Written Pet Blog Post: Sponsored Finalist.
Helping Hands is one of the most fascinating stories I've ever heard of in the pet / animal world. Say hello to Dr. Lori Pasternak, husband, Jake Pasternak and Chilly, their dog.
Lori and Jake discovered the solution to prevent economic euthanasia. Helping hands performs all life threatening and non life threatening surgeries like knee surgery, hip surgery and growth removals for $1000 dollars or less. Sounds to good to be true, right? - But it is true.
Why do they do it ?
Helping Hands believes in what they do. -- They love animals and don’t want to see an animal put to sleep or go without because of limited finances.
How do they do that ?
Helping Hands is a high-volume animal health clinic based in Virginia. They are not a full service veterinary hospital. Helping Hands is here to get your pet through the surgery / procedure affordably, then back into the hands of your full service veterinarian. They provide outpatient advanced surgery and dental care only. All patients go home the same day. And as such, Helping Hands makes sure all of the money is spent on the surgery versus other costs that full service hospitals have to incur.
By providing affordably-priced healthcare for pets, Helping Hands has saved thousands of pets, that might otherwise have had to be put down. Although based out of Virginia, people from all over the country come see Helping Hands to prevent economic euthanasia.
Dental procedures are $260 or less. If no blood work is required, costs are always at or below $200. For all surgeries and pricing, checkout Helping Hand's price sheet.
We plan on doing a dedicated piece for Helping Hands in the coming months.
Heather Wallace, a certified equine and canine sports massage therapist, runs the Bridel and Bone blog. She’s also an adult amateur equestrian in love with her OTTB (off-the-track thoroughbred horse), and her two rescue dogs, Gonzo and Beau. Heather is deeply passionate about her career improving the quality of life for horses and dogs.
Heather is very witty and creative. She said, "In a sea of dogs and cats, I stood out with my horse (Scroll down). With over 495 people in attendance, standing out is a good thing"
On the far right of the above picture is Tori Mistick of Wear Wag Repeat, a blog about style and DIY crafting. Her fun, upbeat blog is full of fashion posts and reviews for dog toys, treats, and foods. Tori and her 4-year-old Chocolate Lab, Lucy, love doing photoshoots featuring her fun, fashionable, creations. Wag Wear Repeat won "Best Pet Blog Design winner for 2017.
If BlogPaws had an MVP award, photographer, Carl Kerridge would've won it, hands down. Between the attendees, brands, and sponsors, there were a lot of moving parts at the conference. Carl was sticking and moving in and out of rooms catching the pivotal snaps with the prowess of a professional boxer. And the best is, he had a smile on his face the whole time and could not have been more pleasant.
At one point, I was going to ask if he had an identical twin brother. I couldn't comprehend how one photographer handled the entire conference. If I didn't see it with my own eyes, I wouldn't have believed it. Carl is the real deal.
Carl Kerridge has been dedicated to image making since obtaining his first film camera at the tender age of seven. Mostly self-taught, Carl’s passion is in creating images that narrate a story, focused on natural light, real emotion, and strong compositions. Based in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, Carl’s high-energy approach to photojournalism was in full force during BlogPaws.
Carl's top notch work has landed him jobs all over the U.S. and internationally as well. Make sure to book him in advance.
Robin Mudge is the creative mind behind Playful Kitty, a blog about cats, tips, and catnip trips. Her educational, cat-themed articles are well balanced with playful humor, such as in the comic strip series, Niptoons. Everything on Playful Kitty is inspired by Robin’s deep love for her own cats, and her commitment to providing accurate information regarding cat heath, rescue, and culture. The community she’s created shares her sense of fun, and is a must-see destination for upbeat cat owners!
Folks, I've been writing about pets and animals for years now, the Playful Kitty is one of the best cat websites on the internet.
I was fortunate enough to be able to attend the "Content, Content Content, in All its Variations" session, by a three-person panel consisting of Robin, Wendy Toth (Director of Content for Pet360 Media), and Jen Reeder (President of the Dog Writers Association of America, as well as a member of the Cat Writers' Association).
Chlole Divita and Rochelle BaRoss from The Broke Dog sharing an emotional moment. Rochelle had won $10,000 from a random drawing for Pet Haven Animal Hospital, the hospital that saved her dog, Henry's life a while back. Rochelle originally rescued Henry from Sean Casey Animal Rescue, a great organization.
This was one of the moments that inspired the title, "BlogPaws - The Circle of Giving"
This is Cathy Armato and her dog, ICY from Dogs Luv Us and We Love Them Cathy's blog is for extreme dog lovers looking to learn more about pet health and wellness, safety, travel, and training.
As a newbie, Cathy was one of my go to people pre conference and throughout. She was a great ambassador for BlogPaws. And now, she's just my pal.
Natural Balance, the booth in the background is a provider of premium cat and dog foods trusted worldwide by top trainers, rescues and caring pet owners, was another sponsor.
Her Siberian Husky, Icy is a trained and registered therapy dog, and as a team, they're a Pet Partners therapy team. The blog is full of heartwarming stories about how they've served the community and helped people in need.
Former vet tech, Jennifer Costello and Newfoundland, Leroy from My Brown Newfies, a personal pet/lifesyle blog about dogs, pet health, pet products, family, and totally crazy stories that only seem to ever happen to her and her dogs.
Between Jennifer's two newfoundlands, two kids, her husband and running her blog, she is the ultimate multitasker.
More on Leroy at BlogPaws last month.
Another sponsor for the conference was Fresh Wave, a company dedicated to providing natural, odor-removing products without any harsh chemicals that can harm you, your family, or your pets. Their pet shampoo makes having a great smelling pet as easy as one-two-three!
Some of the pups that attended the conference had stuffed animal versions of themselves. In the picture above, the Golden Retriever is Sugar's stuffie, of Golden Woofs, who was sponsored by Red Roof Inn.
On the floor in front of the tub is Shiner from Pawsitively Pets, a blog run by Ann Staub. Ann is a former Vet Technician who has worked with dogs, cats, small exotic mammals, birds, and reptiles. As such, her blog is dedicated to all things animal, irregardless of species. Shiner is the name of Ann's Pit Bull.
The great and Powerful, Oz the Terrier is on the right in the bubble bath. Oz is a Cairn Terrier (mix) who was saved from living in a puppy mill. Oz is very fortunate and grateful to now live the good life in sunny South Florida with my Ma and Daddy-dog.
Oz the Terrier blogs about dog friendly traveling tips, dog health and wellness, product reviews and raw diets.
And despite being a playful and rambunctious Terrier, Oz the Terrier has a soft side and writes poetry too. Really good poetry I might add.
The Great and Powerful, Oz the Terrier has several options for brands to work with his greatness.
One last tidbit, Toto, Dorothy's dog from the "Wizard of Oz," was also a Cairn Terrier.
Karen Sanabria of Queens, New York, is the proud momma to the coterie of Chihuahuas above. As Chai Latte on facebook and instagram, Karen loves showing off her 8 chihuahuas, Pit Bull mix, 4 cats, 2 birds, and bearded dragon. And it seems other people love to watch too: some of Karen's pets were recently featured in a Ford Commercial.
This is Cathy Bennett from Groovy GoldenDoodles and me, Scott Smith.
Sometimes life just throws you a gift. On Friday afternoon, after a session and some lunch, on the way back to my room, I ran into Cathy, daughter Tiffany and her two Goldendoodles, Harley and Jaxson. Cathy and Tiffany were in the lounge / bar area waiting for their ride to the Charleston International Airport.
Although it was rushed circumstances, within 30 minutes, we developed a friendship and even managed to squeeze in this great photo opp above. And now, Cathy and I are like peas and carrots. Best buddies.
More on Cathy;
Cathy is an exceptional pet blogger. Her posts are inspirational and upbeat, and her pictures are stunning. Cathy started her blog to share her undying love for her GoldenDoodles with the whole world, and has gradually expanded it into a truly informative destination for health & wellness, product reviews, sponsors and blog hops. Her stories are full of her funny adventures: her sense of humor is visible in almost every word she writes.
Some key Cathy-isms are: "I’m probably the only person who lives in Charleston, SC and doesn’t eat rice!", "I’m very loud #saysmyhusband", and a personal favorite, "I’m deathly afraid of squirrels."
To learn more about Cathy, Tiffany and Groovy GoldenDoodles, click here.
I'm very grateful to have met all of these incredible people and pets last month at BlogPaws. I always wanted to live in a world surrounded by animals lovers. BlogPaws gave me that world. Between all the attendees, sponsors and vendors, the main commonality is that we all love animals. And our love for animals is unbreakable.
Folks, We'll see you'll in Kansas City next year for BlogPaws 2018.