If anyone doubts the growing pet industry’s magnitude – or our justifiable obsession with our fury friends – attend the annual All About Pets Show (and Ontario’s Mane Event) at the Mississauga International Centre near the Toronto airport in Ontario, Canada. Now in its 21st year, and always held on Easter weekend, more than 20,000 people pay $16 each on Friday, Saturday and Sunday to roam rows of tradeshow-like vendors, watch dog shows and pure bred cat competitions, and interact with reptiles, birds, some rabbits, rescue organizations and many dog breeds along with their breeders.
This year the event was crowded but notable lacked a major pet food sponsor and the usual number of free samples available previous years. (Like most food and wine shows, it’s becoming an opportunity for vendor sales rather than promotion). But evident was the number of pet-related small businesses (most for dogs) sprouting up faster than terriers spotting squirrels: doggie daycares, dog hiking (without you), biodegradable poop bags, medicated anxiety wipes, and Frisbee toys guaranteed not to break. Basically, if you’ve got a pet problem, there’s someone out there with a solution.
Of course, most horses are pets too and this year featured the second attempt at adding to the festivities Ontario’s Mane Event sponsored by the Ontario Equestrian Federation. Not to be outdone by their canine counterparts, horses made a predominate appearance in the World of the Horse ring, and the tradeshow portion expanded vendors to include trainers, publications and some suppliers. Trainers Josh Lyons and Elaine Ward demonstrated how to build a performance horse and Western Dressage respectively, and the glitzy Canadian Cowgirls (four of them), a Western riding synchronized performance team, dazzled with a 15-minute appearance twice on Friday followed by a Q&A session.
With Canadian flags in hand, the patriotic adrenaline-pumping Cowgirls show is a general crowd pleaser, though the other demos in the ring are geared toward the horsey set – those most familiar with the sport who can spend hours in the bleachers watching smooth lead changes, comfortable lopes, and flawless collection look easy. During this, however, the attentions of the less equine inclined might drift, so whether the Mane Event created any horsey wannabes is questionable, but it likely affirmed the passion in the converted.
And really that’s what this show is all about for those who can’t get enough of all things four-legged fury and basically not human. I’m looking forward to next year, with or without free pet food.