St. Puppy’s Day: Commitment, Caring and Community
By Ed Sayres
The St. Puppy’s Day breeder education conference is a harbinger of spring. That warmer weather is within reach was of some comfort to me while, traveling from the East Coast to the conference in Neosho, Missouri earlier this month, I was forced to dodge multiple snowstorms in the least likely of places.
Happily, I arrived in Neosho no worse for the wear, and was well rewarded for the effort.
This was the 6th Annual St. Puppy’s Day, and my first. Hosted by Pinnacle Pet, it’s one of several events held around the country each year offering educational forums for breeders on animal healthcare, breeding best practices and kennel design and maintenance.
Chris Fleming – co-owner of Pinnacle Pet with his wife Misty and business partners Angela and Donnie Baker – is a natural, easygoing host. He and his team have a knack for creating an event that meets breeders’ need for information while at the same time encouraging networking among colleagues and providing business development opportunities, all in a welcoming, festive atmosphere. Not to mention that they serve homemade BBQ so that all involved – 250 participants this year – are well fed. No easy feat.
St. Puppy’s Day reflects the values of responsible, informed breeders and of our industry. Hailing from many different states across the Midwest, these breeders are passionate about the health and welfare of the puppies they care for. They are dedicated to their own professional development and to continually improving their animal care practices. Given the five-fold increase in conference attendance over the past six years, this is clearly a growing community of breeders, engaging with each other and their colleagues in the industry to ensure the supply of healthy, well-bred companion animals.
This year’s St. Puppy’s Day speaker lineup featured instructive, practical sessions led by experts including veterinarians Dr. Scott Gartner and Dr. Don Bramlage and American Kennel Club breeder field representative Stacy Mason and culminated with puppy development expert Pat Hastings.
To me, Pat’s presentation epitomizes the purpose and worth of St. Puppy’s Day. A leading authority on canine structure, Pat began her career in 1959 as an owner‐handler, moved into breeding, and then worked with her late husband, Bob Hastings, in professional handling.
Nearly 30 years ago, Pat and Bob began researching canine structure to help breeders evaluate litters more accurately to determine the best lifestyle choice for each puppy. Since then, Pat has evaluated more than 25,000 puppies. In her presentation, “A Glimpse at Structure in Action,” Pat focused on the importance of canine structure in ensuring the soundness of dogs over time, incorporating a veterinarian’s perspective on how to reduce the risk of structural injuries.
Looking back on it, Chris Fleming summed up the day, “In planning for this year’s conference, we conducted a breeder survey to help us tailor the seminar topics and other aspects of the meeting to the needs of breeders. What we learned from the survey results is that, for the overwhelming majority of folks, their top priority – by far – is to advance their own knowledge as breeders and enhance their breeding programs and operations.”
He concluded, “I’ve never seen our breeders so engaged with the substance of the seminars or more interactive with the experts leading the sessions. They listened carefully. They asked astute questions clearly aimed at how they can apply the latest research and innovations to improving their operations and maintaining a high standard of care.”
I’m already looking forward to my second St. Puppy’s Day next spring, energized by the experience and the example set by the success of the gathering and the breeders who participate.