So who manned the booth and what did we do all day? Peg and Doug Lehnen from PA brought Carys and Drue, Rich and I brought Kian, Remy, Tigg and Red, and Wendy Jordan from MD brought Bridget. Red is 13 weeks old and Bridget is 19 weeks old, and the rest of the dogs ranged in age from 2 years to 7 years old. When we first arrived in the morning, we set up the graphic banners that WSSCA provided, and arranged the crates and the puppy expen and stowed all the stuff under the booth tables, keeping the booth neat looking and approachable for the public. We arranged beautiful photos and historical pictures, books and mementos on the two booth tables, and set out informational handouts and crayons for a coloring activity we planned for the kids.
When the doors opened at 10AM Saturday, the hall quickly became packed with people stopping by our booth to pet the dogs, oogle the puppies and ask questions. We asked kids to color an outline of a Welshie, and hung up the colored Welshies if the kids wanted to share them with us, and they became a part of the exhibit. There were even professional photographers who couldn't resist the puppies-Getty Images and Animal Planet photogs stopped by for sessions. Once the public arrived, the booth team fell into an easy pattern of making sure there were at least two dogs and breeders available for information and petting while the others rested. We spelled the dogs and each other, grabbed coffee and lunch, took photos, posed the dogs for photos, tried to do a little wandering around to see the vendors and booths, gave the dogs walks and potty breaks.
We endlessly described why Welshies make wonderful companions and why families should or maybe shouldn't consider the breed in their search for the perfect pet. There are two activities not permitted at the event, though. First, no breeders may solicit puppy buyers or sell puppies at the event. And second, no personalized kennel information or business cards are allowed to be distributed. We referred all people to the WSSCA website and the Breeder Referral program if they were interested in finding a breeder or obtaining more information about the breed. We handed out hundreds of informational flyers and had to make more copies Saturday night to bring back to the booth for the Sunday visitors.
A highlight of the weekend was the amount of socialization Red and Bridget got with people, and the incredible variety of sights and sounds and experiences they absorbed over the two days wandering around the hall and visiting booths. In addition to learning to potty in the ex-pen area, the puppies were like 'people magnets' and attracted a huge number of folks who just wanted to pet them and take their photo. At one point Red fell sound asleep on the grooming table and people kept petting her. It seemed like the puppies were pet therapy for the people-everyone stroking a puppy just smiled and felt better, even if the puppy kept sleeping.
Wendy will be writing a Starter Barks article about our experience, so I don't want to go into too much detail. But, I want to take this opportunity to ask other WSS breeders and owners to volunteer to participate in next year's event. This is a premier opportunity to introduce the public to Welsh Springer Spaniels. We need volunteers to man the booth for one day each, and a coordinator each day to assure that there are handouts, dogs and breeder/owners, and that the banners and photos are set up and repacked and stored safely for the next year. If you are interested in being a part of next year's event, let Rich know.