My Blog Journal


SuperPetExpo: The Good, The Bad, and the Dog Pee

Wow, has it really been over a month since I last updated my blog?! Actually, I can believe it ~ this year is moving at lightning speed!

Just a couple of weeks ago, we were griping about all the snow, and now spring is HERE! I will gripe about all the thunderstorms instead. ;)

I missed posting about our March Rabbit Hole Collective auction, “Webs & Wings”. :(
I was able to complete my piece for the auction, “Little Miss Muffet Knitting a Tuffet”, with her little spider friend for company. This painting was influenced by my yearning for spring and green things!

Cat and Spider Knitting Art by TaraFly

“Little Miss Muffet Knitting a Tuffet” ©TaraFly, 2015. Acrylic on paper.

The original has sold! Thank you! Prints will be available shortly.

Be sure to check out all the wonderful pieces which were submitted to the Rabbit Hole themed auction ~ (CLICK HERE); many are still available for purchase directly from the artists. :)

Super Pet Expo at Dulles Expo, Chantilly

Cat Art Booth SuperPetExpo

Last weekend, I set up my cat art booth at the SuperPetExpo in Chantilly, Virginia.

This was the first event I’ve done that was specifically designed for pets. I’ve been participating in outdoor arts/crafts & music festivals, indoor farmer’s markets, and Megacon (Orlando’s Sci-Fi/Fantasy/Comic convention), but I’ve never done a “pet expo” before. I had no idea what to expect!

When I came home on Sunday, exhausted and still a bit buzzed from adrenaline, coffee, and an empty stomach, I didn’t really have the mental energy to process everything I’d experienced at the show.
I shared a few dog photos I’d taken on Facebook, ate 2 slices of pizza, and went to bed.

By Monday morning, however, I was wide awake and the memories of the show came flooding back to me: the Good, the Bad, and the Dog Pee. (I think I’ll make that my title! Haha)

The Good

Chantilly is very easy to locate, and the 1.20 hr drive down I-270 and I-495 was a breeze.
Having attended shows in the past where I literally followed my GPS in circles and turned onto dead-end streets, the directions to the Expo Center (which I scribbled onto an envelope) were goof-proof.
I had my radio turned up, miles of highway stretching before me, and beautiful weather to enjoy with my windows rolled down. :)

The Dulles Expo Center had free parking (in a gravel lot) for vendors, which was nice, as many places I’ve exhibited charge vendors per day for parking near the event. Loading in and out was quick and painless, too. I didn’t have to walk 5 miles from the vendor parking lot to the building. I didn’t feel in danger of being run over by tractor trailers unloading their pallets of merchandise.

cars unloading Dulles Expo

We had the option of driving our cars straight up to our booths to unload, but I decided to use two handcarts instead of waiting in a long car line.

Set up took about 3.5 hours, but most of that time I spent goofing off, taking pictures, and re-arranging my stuff on the tables. I brought my own tables, as they require you to purchase tables and chairs separately. Unlike the frenzy of set-up at other shows, Friday morning was laid back and quiet.

Super Pet Expo Chantilly VA booth

Everything in my booth fits inside my Chevy Cobalt. :)

setting up booth

I had been allowed to pick my booth location from a map of available spots; I chose to be near the food court and restrooms, which made potty breaks very convenient.  I wound up being sandwiched between the Prince William Humane Society and a Sweepstakes Vacation booth.

TaraFly Cat Art Booth SuperPetExpo

The show itself appeared to have a decent turn-out. I appreciate everyone who stopped at my booth, complimented my artwork, shared their cat stories and pictures, and made purchases.
My fellow vendors were all friendly and encouraging. I made new friends and shared my artwork with a brand new audience.

I was able to recoup my booth fees and travel expenses, and make a bit extra for my time, so I considered the show to be “fair” if ranked on a scale from “excellent” to “poor”. I wouldn’t call it a successful show, financially speaking, but it wasn’t a total loss either.

Would I do this show again? Now that is an interesting question….. that deserves a thorough answer.

SuperPetExpo Dog Expo

The Bad

Initially, when I contacted the coordinator about vendor applications, I was told that they were seeking to increase the number of cat-themed vendors by offering them a discount on the standard $750 booth fee. The website even advertised that “Cat-Centric Exhibitors” were a new feature to the show.

That should have raised warning flags, and provoked questions like “Why are you having trouble enticing cat exhibitors to attend?” Right? LOL
However, I chose to sign-up with a conservative optimism that my artwork would be well received by pet people.

What I discovered upon arrival is that the “SuperPetExpo” should appropriately be named the “Super DOG Expo”. :P

Dogs at SuperPetExpo

There were DOGS. EVERYWHERE. Hundreds and hundreds of dogs were accompanying their owners to the expo ~ which advertised that “leashed pets” were welcome.
It was a dog parade. A convention for dogs.

Superman Dog Costume

I like dogs, really, I do.

I liked them, even though they crawled under my table, stepped on my boxes, and stuck their noses in my purse.

I liked them even when the larger dogs stood on their hind legs, paws up on my table, sniffing for treats. Several vendors were selling (or giving away) dog biscuits and treats, so the dogs had come to expect food at every table.

Scottish terrier

The barking of a hundred dogs was a constant, near-deafening roar in the building. By Saturday evening, my throat was raw from trying to talk (in some cases, yell!) over the noise.

Sheep dog

And where were the “cat-centric exhibitors” that were promised? Aside from myself, and a few cat rescue groups stationed nearby?
There weren’t any.

In fact, after the show ended, I checked the website again on Monday, only to find the wording had been changed. The original promotional spot, still showing on the Dulles Expo Event Calendar, reads:
“NEW – Canine Good Citizen Testing with the AKC, the Aquarium Experience and Cat-Centric Exhibitors”,
whereas on the PetExpo’s official website, it now says:
“Canine Good Citizen Testing with the AKC, the Aquarium Experience and A World Record Attempt.”

A World Record Attempt… at what? A record attempt at enticing cat people to show up for a dog event? ;)

Dog wearing tie

Okay. So I was one of the only 100% cat-themed vendors at the show… that could be a good thing, right?
No competition from other cat vendors?
Um…. no.
I would much rather see a greater diversity of animal vendors, including a healthy representation of cat exhibitors.
I felt bad for the guy selling rabbit hay across from me. Rabbits were even less popular than cats!

Dogs attending the SuperPetExpo

The Dog Pee

Dog pee?! Really??

Yes, really.

And dog poop, too.
Lots of it.


I realize that a show allowing leashed pets on the premises will likely have a few accidents ~ dogs get over-excited and/or stressed in the presence of sooooo many other dogs!

But I did assume there would be a designated area for the animals to … you know… do their business. After all, dogs are trained NOT to pee on the floor, so I’m sure none of the dogs wanted to relieve themselves on concrete. They probably felt guilty about it.

Rather than discouraging accidents, or preventing them by having a special area marked as Doggie Restrooms, the show producers thought it wise to hire 1-800-Doody-Calls to send custodians with mop buckets to walk the show floor, cleaning up dog pee.

1-800-Doody-Calls pet waste

1-800-Doody-Calls is a pet waste management company.

Dogs would literally urinate in front of vendors’ booths, and owners would casually lead them on their merry way… knowing that the guys in green T-shirts would eventually come along to take care of it.
Interestingly, there were no “Wet Floor” signs placed around the mopped concrete floor while it dried. I always assumed Wet Floor signage was an OSHA law. I wonder if they’ve ever been sued?

Doody-Calls mopping dog pee

It is difficult enough to attract potential customers into your booth, without the added disadvantage of having dogs peeing in front of you. Someone told me that dogs had even sprayed a couple of vendors’ tablecloths. :(

Dog vomit. Dog diarrhea. A customer mentioned seeing blood on the floor from a wounded dog.

When I expressed my shock to my neighboring vendor, who worked for a rescue organization, he replied matter-of-factly,
“You’ve never been to a pet expo before, have you.”
It wasn’t even a question.

No, I haven’t. But why should it matter?
We are trying to conduct business at this event.
Shouldn’t this expo maintain the same level of professional and sanitary standards as other shows?

The ladies across the aisle, in the Maine Coon cat rescue booth, assured me that the National Capitol Cat Show (held at the Dulles Expo in September) was the exact opposite of this event: clean and quiet.
It sounded purr-fect to me! I e-mailed the man in charge yesterday, with whiskers and paws crossed.

I am not giving up on pet expos. Not yet.

But I am starting to realize that cat shows and dog shows are a lot like cats and dogs themselves, and it might be better to keep them separate. ;)


Tara Fly

About Tara Fly

A Crazy Cat Lady ... who divides her time between painting portraits of cats dressed in period costumes, watching BBC mini-series, growing weeds and wildflowers, and baking pumpkin pies seasoned with cat hair. Would you like some fur-flavoured coffee?

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  •    Reply

    This was really interesting – I’m considering participating in it this March to sell my (primarily dog) pet beds. Thanks for the detailed review!

    •    Reply

      Hi Jane,

      If you sell products for dogs, I would recommend this show! It’s definitely a DOG SHOW! :D

      A few bits of advice:

      1. If you can choose your own location on the map, try to get closer to the center of the room. Most of the traffic seemed to be in the center.

      I chose to be near the food courts/restrooms, assuming people would walk past my booth on their way to those popular destinations, but the traffic wasn’t very good at all.

      Maybe it was because I was situated the “rescue shelter aisle”… You would think rescues would draw attention, right?! But people seemed to be fleeing from them! I think they were afraid of being coerced into adopting another pet! LOL

      2. Keep the pee in mind. Seriously. The dogs pee everywhere!

      Vendors, who had obviously come prepared, pounced upon any puddles with paper towels… because otherwise you would have to wait until a custodian came along with a mop & bucket. Those guys were really busy!

      If a dog pees in front of your space (or inside your space!), your best bet is to clean it up yourself… as customers will be giving your booth a wide berth until it dries. :(

      3. If you choose to buy food/bring snacks, make sure they are sealed tight (preferably in plastic Tupperware) and kept far away from curious noses.

      A very friendly pitbull dashed straight under my table, and knocked things over, because he smelled my lunch (which was hidden away in the corner with my purse!) LOL

      You can also bring treats for the dogs, to distract them. Of course, all the vendors who *didn’t bring treats* will hate you! Hahaha

      I am sure I will think of more cautionary advice, but don’t let my review dissuade you from attending. I sell cat art to “cat people”… so my personal experience will be very different from yours. :)

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