If you could talk to your pet in a way that you knew they would understand, what you would say?
I’m might say something like,
Hey Layla, could you please stop chewing everything in the house?
But I’d also say something like,
Hey Beamer, I never thought I’d love another cat the way I loved Arnie but you helped filled a hole in my heart.
Because pets fill holes in our hearts and in our lives in so many ways. And I’m certainly not the only one that feels this way.
Way back in April, Purina sent me a “save the date” email for its second annual summit about the bond between people and pets.
From the description, it sounded a bit like a TED talk for people who get pets. You know, people like me.
How will innovation, technology, art, and science change the relationship we have with pets?
By featuring talks from cultural thought-leaders, scientists, and artists, we hope to get a clearer understanding about the future of pets and people.
When the formal invitation arrived a few months later, I knew it would be a tight schedule for me to make it (I have back-to-back trips) but I wanted to go so badly that I knew I could find a way to make it work. And I’m so glad I did.
The attendee list included Purina associates, veterinarians, industry professionals, and media (including bloggers like me). Turns out, these are my people.
People and Pets
Although it was the second year for the summit, it was my first in attendance so I arrived hoping to be educated but definitely ready to be entertained (pets are entertaining, after all).
Thankfully, there were a few friendly and familiar face that I had met two years before when I spoke at BlogPaws. They helped me navigate the space and introduce me to some fabulous people and their pets.
At the reception the night before, I met Terry and his flat cat,
saw party goers pose with a dog whose breed name I can’t pronounce,
and watched the crowds in awe of a Chihuahua on wheels (more on that later).
The pet watching didn’t stop there though. The next morning, on my way from the host hotel (Eventi – a Kimpton hotel, which I loved by the way), I sat next to a sort of celebrity.
Lucy is the pugalicious pet belonging to Ashley Paguyo and Ahmed El Shourbagy, names that might be more familiar to you as the account owners of the extremely popular Dogs of Instagram account.
There was even a meeting between them and Kady Lone and Eli Omidi of Cats of Instagram fame. I mean, if they can get along, isn’t there hope for world peace?
But the cute and furry feelings were just getting started as I sat in the front row for a day of fascinating sessions. Here are highlights from some of my favorites.
Brooke Martin – How a 14-year-old Inventor Treats Pet Anxiety
It’s admirable enough to be a 14 year old inventor. It’s even more so when you have the passion, poise, and creativity that Brooke Martin does.
She took her idea of a two way video chat between pets and owners and created iCPooch, a device that allows you to mount your tablet to a device that can distribute treats to your dogs at your (mobile) command.
In addition to the pampered pet who may miss their owner on vacation, it’s also a bonding tool for pets with separation anxiety or for those missing their pets (think deployed soldiers or a patient in the hospital).
Scott Stulen and Will Braden – Are Cat Videos Art?
Do you watch cat videos on the internet? Wait a minute. OF COURSE YOU DO. And your favorite videos involve Henri, Le Chat Noir.
[link to Henri]
So admittedly, I went a little fan girl when I met the founder of the International Cat Video Festival (seriously, it’s a thing) and the creative genius (and camera man, and French voiceover artist, and pianist, and cat wrangler) behind Henri.
In case you’re wondering, cat videos are still alive and well. And so is Henri.
Stan Marks – A Dog Named Bean: A Tail of Survival and Hope
What if someone told you your dog had a progressive and terminal disease? Would you give up? That’s not what Bean’s owner did, nor did Dr. Stan Marks, nor did any of the veterinarians treating him.
Diagnosed with muscular dystrophy, Bean suffered problems with his esophagus preventing him from getting his food properly from his mouth to his stomach. So Bean received a feeding tube. But Bean continued to suffer from complications with his trachea and esophagus and had the first ever dog tracheotomy.
Bean is doing well and even reluctantly posed for a photo with me.
Janet Jackson – Keeping Your Mature Pet’s Brain Sharp
If you’re ever fortunate enough to care for a senior pet, consider yourself lucky. It’s a gift to be able to care for our friends as they get older but it certainly doesn’t come without complications.
I’ve personally seen not only a physical but also a mental decline as my pets have aged over the years. And it turns out it may not be simply old age.
Purina researchers, including Janet Jackson, have found that MCT (medium-chain triglycerides) can have a profound effect on cognitive abilities. In fact, they gave us cookies made with MCT at the event. I’ll let you know if my mental acuity improves.
Wait, where was I…
Victoria Stilwell – The Power of Positivity in Pet Training
A dog trainer and TV host (I bet you thought she looked familiar), she made this longtime dog owner rethink my own pet relationships.
Rita Garza – Reinventing Shelters for Humans and Pets
Rita was the only presenter that brought me to tears and with statistics like these, it’s easy to see why.
An advocate for animals and survivors of domestic abuse, she led the charge to create the first of its kind program, URI Pals. Through this program, she’s created a network of shelters that allow women leaving an abusive situation to live alongside their pets in shelters.
Lisa Spector and Joshua Leeds – Through a Dog’s and Cat’s Ear: Sound Therapy for Improved Health and Behavior
What happens when you get a concert pianist and a music producer together? They create beautiful music, of course. But in this case, Lisa and Joshua took their love of music and it’s ability to soothe the soul and applied to pets in anxious situations.
By playing their recorded music, animal shelters, like one in Santa Fe, showed that animals stayed calmer, more relaxed, and with less barking. And the result is that visitors stayed longer and were more likely to adopt a pet.
Ah, the power of music.
Mark Deadrick – Printing Pet Prosthetics: The Story of TurboRoo
If you’ve ever read any of my pet stories, you know I’m a sucker for hard luck cases. My toy poodle Emma was my one eyed, toothless wonder dog. And I don’t doubt that TurboRoo’s owner feels the same way.
Born without any front legs, this Chihuahua was cast aside by her breeder as a lost cause, until a vet tech decided to adopt her. Ashley attempted to create wheels for her pup and when a rocket scientist caught wind of the less-than-ideal contraption, he decided to get involved.
Admittedly, my brain hasn’t quite let me grasp the technology behind 3D printing, let alone the application for it. Until now. Mark created a prosthetic device for TurboRoo that was not only custom-sized, but extremely lightweight and relatively inexpensive.
You can see for yourself how well it’s working out.
If you want to learn more about the amazing world of pets and humans, check out the tweets and photos from the summit with the hashtag #BetterWithPets and stay tuned for the full streaming available in the next few weeks on www.betterwithpets.com.
I could literally write a post about every session I watched so if you have any questions or want to know more about the summit, leave me a comment! Better yet, tell me how your life is better with pets!
I attended this summit as a guest of Purina and all opinions and content are my own.