Camping out

The month of March, 2017, was a particularly busy month for Square Paws.  Although 2017 is our fourth year of creating cat towers, there are still many people who haven't heard our name or seen our work.  And, like any business, it's important to "get the word out." 

So, we packed up a cargo van and headed up the Eastern seaboard, displaying our wares, as vendors do: first at Cat Camp in NYC, and then at the Super Pet Expo in Chantilly, VA.  And it was a transplendent journey!  (Any fans of Annie Hall out there?)

Being a "feline-centric" art studio that we are, CatCamp held a bit more for us in several ways: meeting and greeting other members of our cat tribe; getting to see vendors we've come to know and love; being back in my hometown; feeling the loving vibes of Lil Bub in the house; and the great opportunity to meet both Kate Benjamin AND Jackson Galaxy!

This was CatCamp's first year creating a symposium for all things cat, and husband/wife team Christina Ha of Meow Parlour and Simon Tung of Macaron Parlour, and their team, did a great job to pull off a very hip and cool event!  While it didn't have the kitty cosplay and Hollywood hype that has made CatConLA such a well-attended event in its first two years, CatCamp had a more laid-back, though quite jam-packed, aesthetic to it.  The Metropolitan Pavilion abounded with both creative artists and folks that are making a difference in their communities through various outreach and adoption programs.  And many cats were available for adoption in one section of the hall, which is always a good thing!

One of Meow United's rock-inspired items

One of Meow United's rock-inspired items

Benz, spokescat for OMC Rescue, atop the Eiffel Cat Tower by Square Paws

Benz, spokescat for OMC Rescue, atop the Eiffel Cat Tower by Square Paws

I got to meet Linda Peters of Meow United and learned that, behind her cool, cat-themed urban fashion line, her passion is actually the creation of a documentary about the feral cat world and the people who care for ferals.  Similarly, neighboring our booth was the group of filmmakers behind Catnip Nation, a documentary exploring the issues beseeching stray cats throughout the US.  

In addition, I got to meet several cat bloggers, including Robin Olson of Covered in Cat Hair (stay tuned on a new themed cat-rescue room for her non-profit!)  And, to meet the very-grounded Kate Benjamin of HausPanther was a treat, come to find out that a dear friend of mine from college spent many a wedding at Kate's father's restaurant in Upstate New York!

And then there were Brandy, Jim, and Dr. Jenny Conrad of The Paw Project, people who are wholly dedicated to ban the de-clawing of cats.  They've had great success in California and currently have two bills up for vote in the States of New York and New Jersey.  It takes courage and stamina to stand up for something you strongly believe in, and these folks have got it in spades!  If you haven't seen the documentary on Jenny's work, you can rent it on demand on YouTube: 

Our test-kitty, Lana, sporting a bowtie from NotSo Kitty (she's female but kind of a Janelle Monae - thing)

Our test-kitty, Lana, sporting a bowtie from NotSo Kitty (she's female but kind of a Janelle Monae - thing)

We also got introduced to Benz, the blessed lone survivor of a Maine Coon litter and spokescat for OMC Rescue a rescue group in Western New Jersey that only deals in the rescue and adoption of Maine Coons.  It was nice to see him, Chris, Vicky and Rita again at the Super Pet Expo the following weekend!

And there were so many talented and dedicated people to meet at the show, including Wendy of NotSoKitty, Jamie Shelman of The Dancing Cat, Helen and Juan of Kitty in NY, the good people at Meow Box, and Apollo Peak, the makers of catnip-infused cat "wine."

Cat wine by Apollo Peak

Cat wine by Apollo Peak

It was a joy to see my dear cousin, Tina Caterino, and to introduce her collection of photo-collage art cards at CatCamp!

And to meet Curtis Sliwa and his girlfriend and fellow Guardian Angel, Nancy Regula, was a treat, especially to learn about how the Guardian Angels are working with communities in NYC to use feral cat colonies as a means to control the rat population in the City!

Perhaps the high-point, though, of the weekend for me was at the VIP Lounge Meet-and-Greet with Jackson Galaxy Saturday evening.  He's a brilliant cat-behaviorist, and I've "auditioned" to be on his show, having a "cat from hell" myself who chooses not to use litter boxes.  I thought, "If Jackson sees my work, maybe he'll somehow endorse me, and then all this struggle of launching my career will be a distant memory."  As I waited in the line to meet him, I grew more and more anxious, until...

A girl named Kat (with a K) was in line ahead of me, very sullen, with tears in her eyes.  We asked her if there was something wrong, and she proceeded to reveal how she came back from bi-polar disorder and addiction to pain meds by watching Jackson and by attuning herself to her cats.  My egotistical mind-chatter faded quickly.  Hearing her compelling story, I knew I needed to capture the moment on video and was so glad I did!

Kat's story was particularly poignant for me, as my cousin's daughter, Kayla, an avid fan of my work, a bi-polar sufferer herself and one who had recently adopted a kitten, decided to take her life in 2016.  I felt remorse that Kayla's story didn't have the positive end that Kat is currently living, and I ached for the many people who suffer from any debilitating affliction or addiction.

I guess the message here is that, in spite of how dark life can be, there is always the possibility of coming through the dark times on the other side, and finding joy and purpose.

I carried that sentiment with me to the week that followed and the experience of Super Pet Expo, another great show.  This time, with dogs and reptiles and all the fun toys and items that come along with them!  Although I'm an animal-lover at heart, being at a show where people are allowed to bring their pets, I'd forgotten how quiet it is to be with cats versus dogs.

All the same, the show was a wonderful experience where I got to meet folks like Bill and Deb at The Ultimate Leash, as well as Kristen and Wendy of the Darbee Center.  I got to see some of my cat-tower brethren in Purrfect Cat Condos and Kool Kitty Toys with their items made by disabled Veterans!

I also got to visit with my cousin, Belinda MIller, a native Virginian author of some wonderful fantasy books!  And lastly, I met Cat Hustler Julia Grosz.  All in all, truly a transplendent journey!

Alas, as of the writing of this post, a fellow vendor's dog, Petey, who had gotten loose at dinner Saturday night, is still missing in Chantilly, Virginia.  I hope and pray that Petey allows someone to take him in so his momma can get him back home safe and sound.  Time to come in from the dark times, Petey!

Postscript: In re-reading my post, I realize I very possibly use more exclamation points than Elaine Benes editing a Jake Jarmel novel!