Monday, July 7, 2014

2014 BRAT Convention

On June 12-14, Basenji Rescue and Transport, Inc. (BRAT) convened its 12th annual convention at Maplewood Inn and Suites in Syracuse, NY.  Convention chairman was volunteer Katharine Moore of Syracuse.  As folks began arriving at the hotel Thursday night, the convention room fairly blossomed with Basenjis. All told, there were 49 humans attendees this year, and 52 dogs, including one Schipperke, an honorary Basenji.

During the Meet and Greet that night, attendees got a sneak preview of hundreds of donated items slated for Saturday night’s raffle, and auctions:dog food, treats, stuffed Basenjis, books, collars, leashes, magazine subscriptions, vouchers for medical testing, T-shirts, collectible books, an original 8” x 10” oil painting of the winner’s dog, over-stuffed gift baskets, ornaments, pillow, signs, coasters, mugs, and framed prints of original Basenji art, and more.

(photos: Suzee Aff)

Friday morning seminars opened with President Liz Newton “Walking a Dog through BRAT,” followed by Jean Martin, a Basenji breeder from Tully, NY who spoke about her decades-long experience with Basenjis, (she got her first Basenji in 1967!), among other things stressing the importance of regular exercise in keeping Basenjis healthy and well adjusted. 

Jean Martin, breeder (photo by Suzee Aff)
Next came Mark Christensen, a former director at a humane shelter now operating a doggie daycare center, who encouraged volunteers to continue working with shelters to educate shelter workers and counsel families considering adoption. The day’s seminar agenda concluded with a discussion of volunteer opportunities within BRAT.

Next on the schedule: a fun-packed adventure at Wegmans Good Dog Park at the edge of Onondaga Lake, followed by a picnic. It was a rare treat to witness dozens of off-leash Basenjis. Spontaneous play bows, pee-mail checks, chases, and fence races immediately broke out. One little black and white girl spent the entire time racing up and down the fence separating the small dog area from the big dog park, while, at the other side of the park, a knot of curious Basenjis clustered around a visiting pure white American Eskimo Dog diva. One volunteer seemed to have a Basenji fan club; wherever he went there was a knot of dogs cavorting about his legs. It turned out he wasn’t a “dog whisperer” – he just had a pocket full of salmon dog treats.

(photos: Suzee Aff)

Later, back at the hotel, fun and games continued with contests.
Most Freckles resulted in a 5-way tie:  Roscoe (Carol Vossler), Zandi (Nancy Grant), Tess and foster boy VVG/Vincent Van Gogh (Terrie and Dean Sigler), and Khari  (Carin Horowitz and David Wagenheim)
Best Wrinkles:  VVG (Terrie and Dean Sigler)
Least White:  Miko (Chris and Tom Miles)
Best Baroo: Benny Sigler (who also led his cohorts in at least two “group howls” in the meeting room during the convention, as if to convince hotel staff and loitering guests that Basenjis are wild and their owners crazy!)
Best Trick:  Viggo (Liz Curran), with his utterly convincing vocalization, “Momma, I love you!”
Quickest Down: Kato (Liz Curran)
Longest Stay:  Zandi (Nancy Grant).
Smallest Basenji:  Nikki (Megan Pisani)
Tallest Basenji:  Abraham (fostered by Kate Moore)
Most Unique Costume: tie between Barnie as a vampire (Tania Doran) and Dee Dee as Zorro (Kathy and John Duffy)  
Scariest Costume: Congo in his skeleton attire (Suzee Aff)
Funniest Costume: tie between Ellie the Pirate (the Duffys) and Dottie Devil (Tania Doran)

Viggo: "Momma, I love you!" (photo, Suzee Aff)

Saturday’s agenda included a presentation by Dr. Kerry Brown, who has a special interest in canine reproduction and enjoys working with dog breeders; he is also interested in internal medicine, surgery, and nutrition, is certified in acupuncture, and co-authored “The Holistic Guide for a Healthy Dog”. Among other topics, Dr. Brown discussed immunization, testing procedures, Lyme disease vaccine and treatment, and the holistic approach to veterinary medicine, and its value as a compliment to traditional western medical practice.

Dr. Kerry Brown (photo by Suzee Aff)

Next, the floor was opened to Janet Ridgeway, animal consultant/communicator and Reiki Master who teaches classes, provides consultations, and is writing a book about her work. She emphasized that pets take cues from their owner’s physical and emotional issues, and discussed ways to change unwanted behaviors and get to the bottom of chronic health problems through proper nutrition and other practices.
Following morning presentations, there was a five-hour break to allow participants to sightsee, shop, or visit some of the Finger Lakes area’s world-class wineries before returning to the hotel.

The evening program commenced after a buffet dinner, with awards in recognition of twenty-two volunteers for their outstanding dedication. Honored this year were Megan Pisani (NJ), Xan Raskin (NY), Janette Hughes (NY), Heather Stanton (ME), Nick Russell (KY), Susan Chuvala (NH), Mark Ziegler (VA), Doug Miller (NY), Jeanetta Brown (FL), Kate Moore (NY), Jennifer Hill (OH), Janet Pace (LA), Terri and Dean Sigler (IN), Pam Lowrey (IL), Bill Newton (IL), Betty Garcia (CA), Jennifer Burgart (CA), Jan Burnham (CA), Lisa Rasmussen (NV), Rena Steele (AZ), and Dr. Laura Stadtmore (CA). Special recognition was given to Kate for her generous efforts as convention chairman.

The convention finale was the raffle and auctions of all the goodies! The raffle began with President Liz Newton and Treasurer Debbi Johnson at the helm, helpers Bill Newton, Kathy Duffy, and Mary Gunter retrieving individual items, and 8-year-old TJ Cosco, daughter of volunteer Lisa Cosco, drawing the winning tickets and entertaining the audience with enthusiastic commentary. The raffle was followed by the silent auction and distribution of prizes to high bidders. Bill Newton wrapped up the festivities with his well-practiced performance as auctioneer. Bidding was lively and fun as coveted items fell to the gavel; even bid losers walked away as winners, recognizing that their loss was a great gain for the relatives of the little dogs snoozing at their feet.

TJ Cosco with her prize Basenji puppy (photo Suzee Aff)

Auction finished, prizes and pups were gathered up, and goodnights and goodbyes exchanged, thus ending another happy annual meeting of basenji rescuers. Planning is already underway for the 2015 BRAT volunteer convention in South Carolina. 

To learn more about BRAT visit and follow Basenji Rescue and Transport on Facebook.

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