As a first time participant in many of THLN's events, I was ecstatic to have the opportunity to attend an incredibly rewarding and informative conference with a variety of topics and speakers. On Friday, I checked into the lovely downtown hotel, which was very easy to find for a newcomer to both Texas and Austin. The Capitol tour was very informative and the beauty of the Texas Capitol kept the tour fun and provided for lovely photo opportunities as well.
Friday evening was an absolute thrilling experience. We had the wonderful paddleboat cruise reception, where I got my first taste of all the amazing vegetarian food options! The most amazing part of this evening however, besides meeting many new faces, was watching the Austin bats! I had no idea there were so many bats living under the Congress Street Bridge and actually had never heard of the Austin bat population before! It made a girl feel like she was Batman standing in the Bat Cave, if only Christian Bale had shown up! The bats were everywhere and I couldn't help but wonder if I could pet one if they would land on the boat. Alas, they were quite busy with whatever it is that bats do, but watching them fly around us and above us into the night sky was an experience I will not soon forget and hope to share with my husband and children on our next visit to Austin.
I think one of the best aspects of this conference were the Saturday sessions. In addition to having vendors with a variety of grab bag goodies for us including pens and stickers and candy, we also were able to enjoy breakfast, lunch, and dinner throughout the day without ever having to leave the second floor of the hotel. What a treat! Now, please keep in mind as a stay-at-home Mom this was my first mini-vacation alone in 8 years so it was truly a treat for me! Now, allow me to explain about the sessions themselves...
Heartbreaking. Informative. Mentally draining, but also unprecedentedly surprising, would be how I would describe these sessions. As a new resident to the Dallas area, I had never heard of horse slaughter for human consumption before. Just as many people are unaware that gas chambers exist. However, gas chambers I do know a thing or two about, as I was very involved with Beckham's Law in Alabama. I digress...horse slaughter; we had two phenomenal ladies present information on the horse slaughter issue in our state. The bravery of both Paula Bacon, former mayor of Kaufman, TX and her associate Julie Caramante was evident in their speech. The fascinating depiction of the horrors of these slaughter trucks carrying the horses to Mexico was something I will not soon forget and will be sure to make a priority in my activism with THLN now.
At lunch, we also had another phenomenal speaker, Representative Eddie Lucio III, whose passion about animals came shining through in his speech to us. He spoke to us as friends, not as constituents and that will help him get elected again. He shared with us how to approach a Representative or a Senator and the vital importance our opinions play. He also reminded us to be kind to the Representative or Senator's staff, which is so important because we too often feel that it is only the actual Representative or Senator that has power. Staff are not only vital to our success, but also vital to the Representative's success.
Later in the afternoon, we were also treated to an open panel discussion reviewing the Medlen case (sentimental value vs. market value of pets) in Fort Worth, a review on the importance of social media, and a very entertaining fundraising presentation by a sweet and funny lady named Beverly Seffel, who really wished she could have brought her dog, Sophie Seffel. Each speaker was unique and knowledgeable.
At the dinner and reception, everyone had a wonderful time chatting and bidding on the silent auction items! I was highly tempted by several but decided against upping my bids when I was outbid on the two items that caught my eye.
Dinner consisted of vegetarian lasagna or vegan pasta. I had the vegetarian lasagna and it was delicious! Ledy Van Kavage with the Best Friends Animal Society had all of us laughing with her cat herders video and reminded us particularly about the plight of pit bulls in shelters. Hopefully, breed-specific discrimination will soon become a thing of the past with all of us working to end the stigma associated with the bully breeds. We also heard a sad farewell from our inspirational current president, Cile Holloway. And while she will remain active with THLN, her absence will be missed. Our new president, Yolanda Eisenstein, will be wonderful as well and we are excited to have her!
As for me, I truly enjoyed this conference and not only will I hopefully play an active role this legislative session, I hope to attend many more conferences in the future! Click here to read the President's Message about the 2012 THLN Conference.
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