2016 BlogPaws Conference, Arizona

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2016 BlogPaws Conference, Arizona

That was the best BlogPaws conference, ever! I missed the first half due to work conflicts, but Melanie was settled in with our friend Carol (and her local yokel daughter Chris) when I got there. When you go to Phoenix, stay out in Chandler at the Sheraton Wild Horse Pass Resort, it’s a masterpiece! A well considered collaboration between Starwood and the Gila River Indian Community, it blends easily into the community setting. An inviting lounge, a meandering pool (movies at night!), wildlife trail, great food, classy but not pretentious, and environmentally sensitive, too. Next year is Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, and we’re excited to go, but this location will be hard to beat.

Melanie and I have both been blogging a while, and most of the participants are dog/cat people, so what’s in it for us at this point? Why was this our fifth conference? We live so far from each other, we’d just be Facebook friends if we didn’t have Blogpaws. We both get a kick in the pants to blog more often when we hear what other people are doing, so you’ll notice more writing, better writing, spiffed up websites after each conference. I even incorporated as a non-profit after one conference. Plus, we always pick up a stray though she swears she found us, and she’s right, that’s how it is with strays. They find us.

Jessica Claudio is a young enthusiastic zoo veterinarian from the D.C. area who already knew all about capybaras. If she thought we were weird she was very polite about it. She had a couple free days after the conference, too, and a rental car, so we talked her into chauffering us all over Arizona. For us, the most exciting part of the conference was its proximity to two capybara breeders! For Jessica, it was an invitation to enter the obscure animal world bridging the gap between zoos and pets.

I think I took some photos, but here on this flight, balancing my orange juice, mini-pretzels, and funky iPad on a tiny airline tray, there are no guarantees. I’ll want to have some fun showing you the capybaras and their oddball sidekicks, and by that I could be talking about the other rodents . . . or maybe the owners. Like us, they are quirky, and I could still be talking about the animals or their humans. Those blogs will come along later, but I meant it when I said Blogpaws conferences are inspiring, because I couldn’t wait to write this!

So with Jessica driving, Melanie and I chattered her ears off, and we covered Chandler to Tucson. Two fun days of drive-testing a rental Prius with Los Lonely Boys, Santana, Dizzy Gillespie, and Nirvana providing the sound track. We saw dust devils, blue skies, distant rain, thunderclouds, lighting strikes, and sudden spatters of rain. Saguaros were through blooming and now pimpled with red fruit. At dusk, their spooky stubby arms raised like an alien army begging “Don’t Shoot!” Palm trees scattered like shady jokes among the trailer parks, and vultures soared in the distance. (Ever seen a cell tower disguised as a palm tree?) Stone walls, stone piles, stone mountains, dry creek beds with Flood Warning signs. More Saguaro cactus, seriously, is this the same planet that hosts soggy Seattle? Like marauding pirates landing at Olive Garden, we looted their wine cellar. Not really, but they had free wine so we felt like we had hit the jackpot. Sorry, Jessica, you’re the duty driver, but hey, can we have yours?

Whenever I see a chipmunk, I feel as though my life is complete, and so the Phoenix area rates all ten points. Even if they were actually Harris’s Antelope squirrels (these certainly weren’t the Chip and Dale variety of chipmunk), I am partial to all kinds of rodents, large and small. A cute furry tailed rodent scurried directly across our path. We first thought it was a kangaroo rat, but it was probably a pack rat. We saw bats, big ones. Or maybe one was a goatsucker? That was a Great Horned Owl in the distance. Vultures, of course, but a covey of quail and bunches of dove/pigeon types. Big fat doves, smaller ring-necked guys, tiny tan ones, flying, strutting, hiding in upper branches. We saw jack rabbits playing under the trees before they raced away. Not as many lizards as I expected, and nary a snake. When it’s too hot for reptiles, it’s really, really hot!

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