The galleries below continue the story of the 2021 Psychiatric Service Dog Partners convention. The story begins in part 1 (covering Friday night and Saturday) and is accompanied by a page devoted to the studio portraits of teams at the convention.
Social breakfast/Hestia’s birthday
Deanna, a planning committee member, wasn’t able to make it to this year’s convention. Instead, she sent along a pink princess costume for Hestia to “enjoy” on her birthday! Veronica had her prance and dance in her fairytale romance.
“How do you train your dog to help with your disability?”
There were laughs and serious moments in this outside circle discussion on the patio (we all wore masks inside—even with the doors open for major airflow—but were able to safely de-mask outdoors).
Some overhead shots capture the overall action. Many close-ups catch precious moments between team members, such as Kate with black and white pittie Louis, Christi with black and gray Labradoodle Gabby (Gabriella), and Emily with Lulu. At the end are more fun portraits of photographer Brad in his snazzy, colorful garb.
Dog relaxation activity
Christi with Gabby led a mini-session seated on the patio, teaching participants about de-stressing your dog by engaging its brain with a simple game.
Convention-goers had a good time on the ground with their dogs, but also received three brightly colored plastic cups for a sniff-out-the-treat game. Gabby provided some entertainment with her relaxation on her back!
It was amazing to storm Carolina Place mall with seven service dog teams and three wheelchair users! We were able to get a couple of group shots lined up on the wall outside, and so many fantastic shots of multiple service dog teams just walking around together.
Ileana with German Shepherd mix Rocky went with Kate & Louis to Build-A-Bear, while most of the group practiced escalators at the start. After this impromptu training opportunity, the group was on its way, but as always, we had our spectators. Children and adults alike adore Karin’s Callie Mae, who seems to sit her tiny backside down on Karin’s shoe by default.
There was a tiny bit of shopping, but mostly it was just talking with each other, enjoy each other’s company, and taking advantage of training around the unexpected.
One such opportunity was the children riding battery-powered plastic motorcycles and plush animal carts around! They went right by Emily with young Golden Retriever Lulu and Karin & Callie Mae, all of whom handled it with confidence.
There were other dogs, there were strollers, there were kids who were cajolers. Whether on the strip, or in the bookstore coffee shop, our teams felt hip and didn’t want it to stop.
“Handling self-doubt and other challenges of being a service dog user”
This last circle discussion found many in need of some canine interaction.
Scarlet, who’s currently dogless and variously uses forearm crutches and a manual wheelchair, was feeling fatigued after all the activity. They (Scarlet) cuddled up in their blanket and Christi generously let Gabby snuggle up.
Louis twisted around on his back with his arm in the air as if he had a question. Korra reprised her role as a giant lap-dog and then doubled as a pillow for Skyler’s head. Tiny Callie Mae relaxed while perched up on Karin’s reclined chest. Afterward, Kate showed off her Build-A-Bear turquoise bear that has a tiara and a sequin-octopus shoulder-buddy.
We had such a good time at a Hawaiian bowl place for dinner on Sunday. Just spending time hanging out is the best!
The decompression session is the wrap-up for loose ends and to help folks prep for re-entering the non-convention world. Passing test-takers received certificates and raffle-winners received prizes. Ileana won a backpack full of service dog paraphernalia, Karin won a basket full of items, and Scarlet received plush service dog “Apollo” from Apollo’s generous winner.
We all won with the friendships we nurtured. Some participants allowed themselves brief, consensual hugs as emotions ran high. Veronica explained to everyone to expect things to feel very different after leaving this place where you are accepted in a community full of your peers. Among your chosen family.
We can’t wait to be together again. Hope to see you there!
(In the meantime, enjoy the studio portraits of teams at the convention.)