Best Friends Animal Society National Conference 2017

The alarm clock blared. 
Through blurry eyes, I read the time: 
1:45 a.m.  It was time to begin
our 14 hour journey.

My husband and I were heading to New Jersey to attend the
Best Friends Animal Society National Conference.  I have always been passionate about animals
and their welfare.  To be able to spend
three whole days with others who share that passion is truly amazing.

With Polar Pops in hand, we hit the road!  The trip took us through the states of
Indiana, Ohio, Pennsylvania and West Virginia. 
I loved getting to see gorgeous mountains looming against the night sky
surrounded by stars.

I must admit that we were a bit overwhelmed when we reached
Atlantic City.  We were not used to all
of the lights, extremely tall buildings and valets on every corner.  Stepping into the Harrah’s hotel and casino
was like walking onto a movie set.  Plush
carpet gave way to luxurious marble floors. 
Lights flashed continuously in the casino as music and game sound
effects blasted forth.

A bellhop followed us to our room pushing our luggage on a
golden cart.  The elevators required a
room key card for activation.  The view
from our room was breathtaking. 
Skyscrapers gave way to the Jersey shore.  Seagulls lazily circled the rooftop below.





Our view of New Jersey!



After settling in, we decided to take a tour of the place
that was to be our home for the next three nights.  We discovered numerous dining options, an incredible
indoor pool complete with a DJ and multiple specialty shops, including a
jewelry store!  There was also a cooking
school, Elizabeth Arden Red Door Spa and a fitness center.  Talk about paradise!

The conference started bright and early at 7:30 a.m.  Did I mention that the New Jersey time zone
is an hour ahead of our usual time? 
Caffeine was a must!  After we
nibbled on fresh fruit and bagels, we went to the opening session.







So excited for the first day!




Gregory Castle, the founder of Best Friends Animal Society,
gave a truly empowering presentation.  He
is leading the movement to make all animal shelters across the United States
no-kill by 2025.  Several states have
already put this policy into practice.  I
am going to do everything that I can to make my home state of Illinois part of
the no-kill solution.






I am proud to have signed the 2025 piece!

My husband and I made constant use of the conference app.  We could mark which sessions we wanted to
attend, receive notifications, and share photos using the hashtag #BFNC.  The app also contained detailed maps so that
we could easily find our way to the next event.

We attended four sessions on our first day.  Even though we were tired, we headed to the
Exhibitor Hall to do some shopping.  I
was beyond excited to see a BOBS by Sketchers booth!  Not only were they sponsoring the conference,
but they also brought adorable dog and cat themed shoes to sell!  The best part?  Conference attendees received a 20%
discount!  I bought three pairs.

BOBS was also hosting a scavenger hunt.  Cut outs of BOBS shoes were hidden all around
the conference area.  If you found a
shoe, you earned an entry into a drawing to win several prize packages.  I was lucky enough to find a shoe on the
first day of the conference!  We had just
finished reading the placard about the 2025 piece.  I turned around to say something to Matt and
there was the shoe hiding behind the placard!






I found a shoe!




I also loved getting to speak with representatives from
animal rescue groups and shelters across the country.  Some of my favorites included: Alley Cat
Allies, My Pit Bull Is Family, and Wayside Waifs. 
I picked up some awesome swag to proudly show my support for these
amazing groups.



I am seriously loving all of my new shirts!





Aside from shopping, I gained a great deal of knowledge.  I learned about the Million Cat Challenge.
Per their website, “
The Million Cat Challenge is a
shelter-based campaign to save the lives of one million cats in North America
over the next five years. 

The core strategy of the campaign will focus on five key
initiatives that offer every shelter, in every community, practical choices to
reduce euthanasia and increase live outcomes for shelter cats.”  (http://ift.tt/157Oo4j)








Hanging out with Frank the Feral at the Alley Cat Allies booth.


Maddie’s Fund, a sponsor of the conference, dropped some
major knowledge.  They have created a
free app that allows shelters and rescue groups to track all of the animals
that they have taken in and adopted out. 
The database keeps a detailed log of each animal from the date of intake
through adoption.  The shelters/rescue
groups receive updates in real time including medical alerts.  I cannot believe that such a valuable app is
free!  #ThanksMaddie



Maddie was so sweet!  I even got a hug!


Maddie’s Fund was also handing out tokens to all conference
attendees.  You could earn additional
tokens by stopping by their different booths and learning about their numerous
animal welfare projects.  The tokens then
earned you a spin on the Maddie Wheel, where you could win awesome prizes.  Some attendees walked away with $1,000 grants
for their shelter/rescue group!  My
husband and I both won luggage tags.  (www.maddiesfund.org)

One of my favorite conference moments was getting to meet
Aladdin.  This adorable Pitbull had been
found severely emaciated, his back legs and tail were broken and he was missing
12 teeth!  Aladdin has since recovered
and is now a therapy dog, spreading joy and smiles to everyone he meets.  This amazing pooch is now in the running for
a Hero Dog Award.  We were lucky enough
to see Aladdin meet Maddie from Maddie’s Fund. 
My husband recorded the adorable event.



Aladdin relaxes at the conference on his favorite bed.




Matt and I left our mark on the Petco Foundation map!






Wayside Waifs has created their own anti-bullying curriculum that features real dogs!



The second day of the conference was just as busy.  My favorite session was Working with Shy and
Fearful Dogs.  This session ended up
being standing room only!  The speaker was
amazing!  The tips and tricks that she
provided were truly helpful and the training videos were so touching.  Seeing dogs that were once shy and fearful
blossom into happy pooches was an emotional experience.

I am very glad that I brought my husband with me.  There were so many sessions that I wanted to
attend, so we did a bit of tag teaming. 
He ended up leaving one of the sessions early to assure that we would
get our copy of Catify to Satisfy signed by Jackson Galaxy.  I am glad that he did.  By the time my session ended, the line was
out the door!



My husband, Matt, and Jackson Galaxy!


My favorite session was presented by the Cat Daddy
himself!  He was so dynamic and passionate.  I loved how he totally immersed himself in
the topic and completely lost track of time. 
When the Best Friends volunteers held up the 10 minute warning sign, he
said, “Is that all the time I have?  For
the whole presentation?  SH*T!”

He would have talked to our group the whole day if he could
have.  I loved watching the video for his
new Cat Pawsitive shelter program.  This
is a system of training techniques and care to make cats more adoptable.  The program teaches cats how to high five,
jump through hoops and more.  The video
was so emotional that Jackson was even crying! 
Seeing him whip out a blue handkerchief and dab his eyes made my heart
swell.

I was so inspired by the conference that I became a Guardian
Angel Member of the Best Friends Animal Society!  My monthly donations will go toward saving
animals across the country.  The Best
Friends staff and volunteers were absolutely amazing!  Their passion for animals and their welfare
was evident in everything that they did. 
Some volunteers danced as they held signs that guided the attendees toward
key locations. They were always available to answer any questions that we might
have had and did so with a smile on their face.



I am so proud to be a Guardian Angel Member of the Best Friends Animal Society!




  The closing session
was beyond motivating.  Legend Gloria
Gaynor surprised the audience by singing her epic hit “I Will Survive.”  We then listened to an impassioned
presentation about how we can all make a difference in the no-kill
movement. 

I left the conference feeling
more inspired and motivated than I have ever been before.  My commitment to be a voice for the animals
has been renewed.  I am going to work
tirelessly to ensure that the United States of America becomes a no-kill nation
by 2025! 

Join me in this powerful
movement and together, we can Save Them All! 
Take the pledge by clicking here: 
http://ift.tt/2tObkHv

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