Just before my break from school started, I was feeling a little bit sorry for myself. Several of my coworkers were going to be traveling to Florida over break, and I was really wishing I could attend BarkWorld, but the money tree hasn’t started earning its keep yet. Then, I got an intriguing offer. I was invited to a blogger summit at PetSafe’s headquarters in Knoxville, Tennessee. It didn’t take a lot of convincing to get me to go.
I admit that I hesitated a little bit. I wasn’t sure I even knew about the company or what they make, but after a little researching, I realized that I’ve seen their products in a variety of places and was even familiar with a lot of them. They own Premier brand, Invisible Fence brand, Sport Dog, and Drinkwell fountains. I’m aware that some people have bad feelings about the company, but I am here to tell you that I am so happy that I went. All of the people that we met from PetSafe were extremely nice to us and the Southern hospitality was just so pleasant and refreshing, especially Natalie and Robin, who must still be exhausted after all of the excitment today. They never stopped taking care of us from the time we got to Knoxville Thursday afternoon until it was time for us to go on Saturday morning. It was a fantastic learning experience for me and I loved it.
They took us to dinner, put us up in a great hotel and gave us a really fascinating look at what goes on in their company. During lunch, their CEO, Randy Boyd came and spoke to us about the company, their mission and their values. I am not surprised that all the college students who hear him speak all fight passionately to get internships at their company. There are no private offices in their company. Instead, there are desks set up without partitions or dividers around them. Even his office, which moves through the different divisions from time to time and is right out there with his other employees, is the same as everyone else’s. I sat there thinking about how refreshing that would be if the administration at the school district where I work was like that.
I learned a lot about their company, and they even showed us prototypes of some very cool stuff that they will be coming out with in the somewhat near future. The techie geek in me was beyond excited. I’d be no good at planning or designing the things that they do, but I admire the daylights out of people who can make those concepts into reality.
I also loved seeing what a positive impact their company has had on their local area. They have helped to build seven incredible dog parks in their area. Our Thursday evening entertainment was seeing the Smokey Mountain Dock Diving Dogs give a demonstration. The man in charge of the group told us that the company had come to the dog park and added the dock for them, so the dogs could practice dock diving into the lake. The dog park we have at home is nice, but this place was amazing. They also have a lot of other ways that they give to the community, including scholarships for students in their area who are first time college attenders in their families and mentor help for them to make sure they get through the enrollment process with ease. They help local shelters in their area a great deal. They helped get local ordinances passed in their area to make the town more pet friendly, too. Knoxville was recently named the most pet friendly city in the Southeast. I found myself wishing they’d relocate to Peoria and help our area become more pet friendly.
After all the fun we had seeing their products at their headquarters, we also got to go and see the University of Tennessee Veterinary College. That was really awe-inspiring for me in a lot of ways. The college treats all kinds of animals; birds, snakes, dogs, cats, bears, tigers, elephants and anything in between. They have some cutting edge cancer treatments there as well as an incredible rehabilitation center. We were able to meet Mabel, a Beagle who was relinquished by her owners to a rescue because “she wasn’t fun and didn’t run around anymore.” She weighed 64 pounds when she was turned in, and she should weigh around 20. She has now lost 34 pounds, and a lot of that is thanks to some products made by PetSafe, which was a really cool way of seeing some other things they do in action.
The trip was a whirlwind learning experience for me, and what struck me the most was how passionate and genuine everybody who works there is. I’ve never considered myself a very big deal as far as the blog goes or my place in the world, but they treated all of us like we were blog stars. There are many things I liked about the trip, but the one thing I’m left with is how I want to bring that same passion that I felt there towards pets more into my own life. I think I feel that passion, but I’m not sure that I always express it well. I went into the experience with a lot of preconceived notions about some things, and I left feeling a lot more informed. It changed my opinions about some things, opened my eyes to other things, and strengthened my beliefs about others. You can’t ask for more than that. Well, maybe you could ask for an office where everyone brings their dog to work and there are cool pet fountains all over the place, but I guess we can’t all have everything.