I’m not a veterinarian, a nutritionist, or scientist. I don’t write about technical subjects or issues that involve knowledge acquired through the study of any of these professions. I’ve been a teacher, am presently a lawyer, and above all…I am a Dog Mom in love with my dog, passionate about the well-being of all animals, and dogs in particular. I constantly seek information that will enhance the quality and length of my canine soul-mate’s life.
When I received an invitation from Hills Pet Nutrition through their public relations firm, Burson Marsteller, to be their guest for three days at the headquarters in Topeka, Kansas, I accepted. Hill’s has been hosting groups of writers to their facility to learn about their products, their company’s mission, and how their efforts in research can benefit cats and dogs. I believe they’re opening their doors to pet writers to get the good word out about Hill’s, dispel the numerous and rampant rumors about commercial dog food companies, and distinguish themselves from the pack of other pet food companies viewed as pariahs.
My report will most likely be different from the writers in my group. I was impressed our group consisted of nationally recognized writers, a few vets, cat writers, who by the way were more fun than I could’ve ever imagined not being a “cat” person, and even the CEO of two very large animal shelters. These people were very knowledgeable in the science and nutrition of pet food and asked far more intellectual questions than I did. I was personally interested in learning more about pet nutrition for my dog Sadie. She’s going through some very trying times with food and allergies. It’s no secret that I was ignorant of almost everything dog when I adopted Sadie, but I promised to care for her, so with her patience and the help of other dog parents, I learned. I thought the Hill’s event would be a great opportunity for me to add to my knowledge, find material to write about for other pet parents like me, and most of all benefit Sadie. I am happy to say, I was right.
I was astonished to learn that Topeka, the capitol of Kansas did NOT have an airport! All the writers flew into Kansas City, Missouri and were met by drivers in nice Lincoln Town Cars sent by Hill’s. The hour drive seemed remarkably short because I had a driver who was a good conversationalist, and two hilarious new friends in the car who were “Cat Ladies.”
Our driver dropped us off at the Hyatt Place Hotel where we would stay for the next three days. The desk clerk greeted all of us warmly, pointed out the food and beverages available to us in the lobby during our stay, and we were off to our rooms with time to get ready for our reception/dinner that evening at the Kansas Museum of History .
The reception was informal giving everyone time to mix and mingle and get to know each other. Hill’s arranged for a great dinner catered by local restaurant featuring some signature Kansas dishes which of course included beef barbecued ribs that were delicious. Our seating was assigned with at least one Hill’s employee at each table. Dr. Karen Johnson, DVM, and Luce were at our table. I can’t remember her title or her last name, but her friendly welcome and ability to make our table feel like we’d known each other for a long time won’t be forgotten. Luce shared with us that she was worried about her dog that night and a problem he was having which endeared her to me right away. Dr. Johnson discovered that she and one of the people at our table had graduated from the same vet school…the University of Pennsylvania…which is where I took my LSAT and off we went…talking like we had known each other forever.
After dinner each person was asked to tell something about themselves; what they write about, what they hoped to get from the Hill’s trip, and anything else they felt like sharing. It was a warm and comfortable evening, good food, new friends, and since the group was small, I felt like I knew at least something about everyone.
After dinner, we could tour the museum, or return to the hotel. I opted for the museum tour and was not disappointed. It was very interesting with historical artifacts and information about Kansas and the Midwest. There was a haunted locomotive with a few train cars we walked through, lots of civil war remnants, and a complete teepee and a woven grass house. I was disappointed not to see anything about the Wizard of OZ, but then again, it’s hardly a historical fact.
The gift shop did have some snow globes featuring various Wizard of Oz characters and my new friend Patrick, a veterinarian from California with a most interesting practice, shared a dark chocolate candy bar in the shape of the locomotive.
Our schedule for the next day started early, so even with an open bar, we returned to our rooms looking forward to seeing the Hill’s Global Pet Nutrition Center, meeting more of the employees, and in particular, I wanted to see how Hill’s tested food on animals and meet the dogs and cats whose job in life is to eat!