Friday, Saturday, and Sunday we had our annual Psychiatric Service Dog Partners convention. Monday was a tourism day as part of the convention, but I’ll write a blog entry about it separately.
On Friday we started off the day with a surprise puppy shower for Allison! We totally got her, she had no idea we were having a puppy shower! It was lots of fun to celebrate her new puppy with her (she picked him up after the convention ended).
Then it was time to start preparing. My job was to sit outside with Allison and give COVID tests. Brad was inside directing the others on the planning committee in setting up the room. We’ve tried to go more minimal this year with setup, so luckily we were able to get it all done in just 2 hours. Allison and I had the easy job of giving COVID tests!
We had a lot of last minute cancellations. We had 21 people registered for the convention, but only 12 people ended up being able to come. Some got COVID, had sick dogs or family members, and others simply didn’t ever stay in contact after they registered. So it was a smaller convention than we expected. That was OK, though, because it meant we all got to have more interaction with each other!
By the way, the food situation at this convention was awesome. There were like 20 restaurants within walking distance. There was a large food court with many different restaurants inside and great outdoor seating areas. My favorite two restaurants were Blue Bowl and Marinate. Marinate is Korean BBQ. Blue Bowl has healthy frozen coconut and other flavor bases, granola, fresh fruit, nut butters, and a variety of dried fruit, nuts, and seeds for toppings.
It was excellent that I had rented a power wheelchair for the convention because that meant any time I wanted to zip over to grab some food, I could! I didn’t have to worry about getting tired or in pain from doing so.
So after dinner, we had our opening welcome meeting. It went well! People were happy with the welcome bags and donation table. And there were lots of people looking at the raffle items—I think we had 11 raffle items!!!
Saturday morning we had testing. Three teams signed up for testing. One was just not ready to test that day, so they stayed behind. One other dog passed their ME, and another passed their PAT! Yay!
I carried the pups in a carrier on my lap for testing so that I’d have my hands free to write on paper and take notes. It worked out pretty well, though I had to switch back to Alice in the pouch and Hestia on my lap to grab food and eat lunch (part of the PAT). It also worked out well that I had the wheelchair as I didn’t have to hurry through test items because I was in pain.
We had two great sessions after lunch, and even got a group picture! Unfortunately during the picture Chris fell over and hurt her ankle!
Saturday night three more people had to leave early (they had planned to leave early LOL!), so we were down to a pretty tiny group for social hour and Sunday’s activities. We did have a lot of fun taking silly photos—stay tuned for those to come!
On Sunday morning I spent time hanging out with Linden before she left, and then we had a group outing to TJ Maxx. They had a nice little pet section for people to shop in. And some people even went clothing shopping! Luckily Deanna comes prepared for anything, and she had brought a wheelchair (she pushes it for balance), so she was able to push Chris with her hurt ankle.
Unfortunately one person had an episode in TJ Maxx, but their partner came over to help them and all was well.
During Sunday afternoon’s session, we had an interesting experience with a cat trying to crash our meeting! We had all four doors to the room open for better ventilation due to COVID. The cat walked past two of the outside doors twice! The second time it was really really close. Luckily only Hestia and Alice saw it, and they couldn’t care less about cats. Then the cat passed by on the other side, but the pups who saw it did a great job of being quiet.
Sunday evening during decompression we had a great time talking about the convention. We passed out certificates and medals, and we had the raffle! Everyone won something (if you count Brad and me as the same person, which I do!), and some people won more than one item. I won a gift certificate for a custom dog outfit! I can’t wait to figure out what I’m going to get.
Overall it was a good convention! It was smaller than usual, and also many more people than usual came without dogs. Two handlers with retired dogs who haven’t yet gotten successor dogs came. There were also a couple of people there who haven’t gotten their first service dog yet. They got a great experience seeing dogs of different sizes and temperaments working. And Hestia and Alice were happy to provide a test weight for people to hold and see what weight of dog would work for them.
I had so much fun that I’m already thinking of what we can do next year!
It was a super fun convention! I can’t wait for the next one that I can make it to! I’m also super inspired about getting a successor dog now.