Overall, the conference itself was fabulous. There was a total of 1286 registered attendees throughout the 5 days. The feedback has been great so far, and some feel like it was one of the best conferences in several years.
It helped in that we had some new, fun things for attendees to do like a Bingo game for the conference puppies (1st time conference attendees) with great prizes and held a silent and live auction, raising over $20K for the new foundation. Who would have ever thought dog trainers had that type of money?
So here's a rundown of the conference:
- Met some amazing, new people and reconnected with old, wonderful friends
- Another conference staff person gave me chocolate in my box on the last day. It warmed my heart and made me feel kind of special.
- There was no bickering or arguing with any of the conference staff people. This seemed a great feat with 18 of us. Everyone got along well and helped one another out
- Seminars were top notch as always
- Off-site workshops went really well. The feedback has been great from attendees. This one is dear to my heart, because I put a lot of work and effort into organizing everything.
- Trade show was awesome as usual. I bought some new toys for the dogs, a toy and harness for Clover, and some books
- Drank a new drink--a blueberry dream. This was funny, because I told the cash bar guy that I did not know drinks well but wanted something sweet and with vodka. So, he made me a pretty drink he called a blueberry dream. It was very good--had a bit of pina colada taste
- Well known dog trainers recognized me from the conferences. I received an invite from one to visit her and hugs from others. It felt slightly star struck.
- Several people fell at one of the off-site locations on my watch on the same set of stairs. Ugh! One had an abrasion to her head which required us to call the paramedics to have her checked out, the other skinned her elbow and knee.
- I had to scold one attendee for trying to handle a dog when she had only paid to be an observer. I must have told her like 5 times, and she just rolled her eyes at me. I was not thrilled by this. I relayed the story to the rest of the staff when I got back which somehow turned into a story that I nose punched someone! LOL We all joked about this one.
- Sleep deprivation
- The food! (see below)
- My friend's car broke down (see below)
- My parent's fed Clover dog food, not her pellets all week! I was aghast by this. Luckily, she did not die and there is no major effect, but she was rounder than when I left. I was really upset with my parents by this since I had specific written out instructions. I guess next time, I will have to pre-package her food like I did with the dogs.
I was amazed that there were hardly any vegetarian options at all. Seriously, this was downtown Atlanta! My dinner on the first night was a chef salad without the meat or cheese (they put it on anyway). The portion size was not even big enough for Clover! I felt worse for another staff person who was a strict vegetarian and had even less options available.
It wasn't until Friday that I had a "real" meal. And that was only because I insisted with the other staff people that we needed to order in or something. We had Chinese delivered. The last day, we went to a very good seafood restaurant a few blocks away from the hotel.
Though I did bring clif/luna bars, animal crackers, granola bars, etc., it really wasn't enough. A few people did notice, including my new Canadian friend who stuffed a few bananas in my box when I complained there were no bananas! She told me had she been at the hotel all that day, my box would have been completely full! She was also the one who gave me the chocolates on the last day which wound up being my lunch on Sunday.
This trip did result in some weight loss and GI issues. I've been trying to get myself back on track this week. Slowly, I'm getting there but my GI issues have remained. It's annoying how just a week of crappy/non-substantial eating messed up my system.
The other thing I still recognize is that my body perception is still distorted. I mentioned to a staff person how dog trainer A and B were so small and thin, and they'd chime in, saying I was included in that group. I truly don't know if I will ever truly feel differently about my body. It's a terrible conundrum to still think you are fat when logically you know you really are not.
The other big negative issue was that my friend's car broke down on our way back from Atlanta to my house. It was 1:30 AM, and her car started to rumble with an oil light appearing. We pulled over. She added oil, but the car would not start at all. Fortunately, my mom kept the premier AAA membership, so they came to tow us to a nearby hotel. We got into the hotel about 3:30 AM and were whipped.
The next day, we had them tow us to a repair place. After they looked at it, they said it was an engine problem and there were some other issues as well. The cost was $5100 to replace the it. My poor friend was in tears. She called her family, I called my dad, and we found some other options available.
By late afternoon, we were on the road to my house in a rental and got there late that evening. It was great that my friend got to meet my doggie crew, my bunny, and my mom. Even though this was quite an unpredictable adventure, I am truly glad I was with my friend when her car broke down. I just think how awful it would have been to be broken down on the side of the road, late at night, having to sit and wait for a tow truck all alone. I think in the end, she was thankful too.
So now, it is back to reality and catching up on everything. Next year, the conference will be in San Diego! Hopefully, I'll be able to attend as I'd love to visit there.