I took a day off from work to drop into the Chicagoland Pet Expo at the Arlington Racetrack before the weekend crowds hit. And I have to say it is bark-a-rama in there—very dog focused with a smattering of cat, horse, snake and bird-related stalls. I saw several entrants in the Saint Patrick’s day contest go by and took in a educational show about parrots. Here are a few of my favorite finds from this year’s show.
1) Best Toy: The NeedleNoz Toy
Okay, I am biased. I adopted my pup, Vera, from Greyhounds Only. Bur this dog toy is generously sized, fleecy, has three squeakers and is greyhound approved. As demonstrated by this picture of me trying to show how the toy resembles Vera, and Vera trying to take it away from me.
I also saw quite a few humane groups selling rope toys made by braiding strips of fleece blankets in inventive way. And all kinds of variations on the usual toy designs in exciting colors and textures.
2) Best Crafty Marketing: The Happy Meal
Annie’s Pooch Pops had a range of treats including three types of cunningly packaged “happy meals” complete with a burger or hotdog, fries and a desert all made in the form of a dog treat. It may look like junk food, but it made with all natural ingredients.
Although my dogs personal favorites seem to be the peanut butter squirrels from Lovin Tails of Berwyn IL.
3) Best Free Giveaway
The Chicago Veterinary Emergency and Specialty Center gave me one of these cute bone-shaped pill boxes to help me remember to give Avon his Pepcid and everyone their glucosamine… and whatever else they might need at any given time.
This stall was staffed by people who looked happy, engaged the public, and promoted their veterinary center in a way that was not pushy. By contrast I have to say that many of the stalls for veterinary services and associations were sparsely decorated and staffed by people who looked awkward and already bored with being there despite being only a few hours into a two and a half day long expo. Some essentially ignored me even as I edged around them to look at their brochures.
4) Best New Product: PupLight
“NekLight” is going after the dog market with a bright collar mounted light that helps your dog find his way, and if necessary will help you find your dog. I liked the idea but the stall was unstaffed both times that I went past it–so I was unable to purchase one. No matter how good your product is, it cannot literally sell itself
Also of note was an artificial grass turf designed for dogs from Perfect Turf, and the beautiful pet photography of Kramer Photography.
5) Best Overall Purchase: A & S Goody Bag
A & S offered a $10 goody bag that turned out to contain twenty different items, and multiples of many of them. A generous amounts of samples and full size items including treats, food and supplements as well as shampoo, measuring cup and all sorts of things. Definitely value for money and kudos to the companies that donated towards it. My only tip would be to not buy an item like this early in your visit unless you are afraid they will run out–it is heavy!
6) Notable Canines (from left to right):
At the stall for Hope Pets Rescue, Inc I met Francesca (that’s the puppy) and siblings who were taking turns in the public and private areas of the booth to make sure they didn’t get too tired from the constant adoration of passers by. In fact most of the dogs on display seemed well chosen and well managed to avoid them becoming stressed. Although I did see a few who looked well under eight weeks of age, which struck me as perhaps unwise?
Also of note were two stalls side-by-side were showcasing the “Mi-Ki” a promoting a new toy breed developed by a breeder in Milwaukee. And Houndsong Rescue had an adorable inmate (convicted of “stealing hearts”) trying to raise bail via donations. Who could resist?
There were breed groups and rescues with adorable ambassadogs including bulldogs, Old English Sheepdogs, Rottweilers, Golden Retrievers and many more.
7) Good Cause: Canine and Human Cancer Research and Prevention
2 Million Dogs was there to raise awareness of canine cancer and links between canine and human cancer. If you could guess two symptoms of canine cancer you got a snazzy “puppy up” bandanna.
There were so many great rescues there that it would be impossible to pick just one to highlight. But it is great to see so many people doing such good work, and I put money in quite a few collection jars. And many had some versions of a raffle where you pay a dollar to get a small novelty gift. One was As Good as Gold (Golden Retriever Rescue of Illinois) where you picked out a circling rubber duckies to determine your prize.
If you also had a chance to checkout the Chicagoland Pet Expo please let me know what your highlights were!