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With the Canine Commandos filming completed, and Hurricane Dorian not doing near the damage in Florida as expected, I was able to turn my attention to an upcoming conference.
In September, 2019 (when conferences were still being held in person), I attended the Pet Partners conference.
What is Pet Partners? Their mission is to improve human health and well-being through the human-animal bond.
According to their website: Pet Partners is the largest and most prestigious non-profit registering therapy dogs and other therapy animal pets including horses, cats, rabbits, and birds.
Basically, if you wish to bring your pet to do therapy visits in a hospital, or a school, or a senior citizen community, Pet Partners will evaluate your pet’s temperament and training, and offer appropriate training for both you and your pet so that the pet therapy visits are both safe and successful.
This was their first conference in a few years, and I wanted to attend for a few reasons. The first was to learn more about animal-assisted therapy. The second was that Steve Feldman, from the Human Animal Bond Research Institute (HABRI) and Dr. Aubrey Fine were going to be there.
I had met Steve back in 2014- the very first time I learned about the research behind the human-animal bond. Since then, he and I had emailed and spoken a few times but that was it. I had never met Dr. Fine before. He is one of the leading authors about the human-animal bond. I called both of them before the conference and let them know that I was going and asked if we could meet. I told them both about my documentary films (Steve knew a little already, but not much) over the phone and we agreed that we would speak more in person. I wanted to invite them to participate as experts in the film.
While I was expecting to learn more about Pet Partners and animal-assisted therapy at the conference, there were three unexpected surprises on this adventure.
The first surprise was that San Antonio is a great town. I had no preconceived ideas about it, but I had a great time there which was a bonus.
The second surprise happened on the first day of the conference. I walked into one of the breakout sessions and sitting down right in front of me was Heidi Huebner from the LAX PUP program! Remember her? If not, you can learn about the LAX PUP program in this blog and you can also watch the mini-doc about LAX PUP’s.
She and I had totally hit it off the day we filmed but hadn’t spoken in a few weeks. Her dog isn’t registered through Pet Partners so I didn’t expect her to be there and there’s no reason that she would have thought that I would be there since neither of my dogs are therapy dogs (they are very good boys, but not cut out for it.)
I asked why she was there. She said that she knew that Pet Partners did a great job with their education and wanted to check it out. We ended up hanging out for the next couple of days and had a blast together.
The third surprise was that not only were Steve Feldman and Dr. Aubrey Fine interested in participating in the film project, but many of the breakout session speakers were the scientists doing the research and they were also interested in participating in the films. As it gets closer to film time, I’ll be sharing more about who they are and the work they are doing.
I also met some wonderful people during the conference: Many are therapy animal handlers that are excited about the film project as well as some pioneers in other countries that are the first people in their country to showcase this type of work.
Pet Partners is a wonderful organization offering top-notch education and all in all, it was a fruitful conference.
**NEW Mini-doc now live!**
If you haven’t yet had a chance to watch our latest 3-minute mini-documentary, here’s a link: