This was the third year running that we have had a stand at the Pet Expo, in fact, since the Pet Expo began in Canberra. Our position in the Fitzroy was a good one, just inside the big roller door so we got a good cross breeze. We had a bit more room than other years, too. Next to us was the NSW Cavy Club (Gwen and Karen from Camden, plus local helpers), then the ferrets and so on. Opposite were the guide dogs for the blind - very quiet and well-disciplined as you'd expect - and the chooks, who weren't. Yes, the Yass and District Poultry Fanciers had followed us from Murrumbateman.

This year the animal organisation displays were especially impressive. The ferret people had made a big playpen with tubes and toys so the ferrets were running around and making a good show. The birds, some of them at least, were in a big, barrel-shaped cage suspended from the ceiling so could be seen from anywhere in the hall, while new were the reptiles with a very good display with terrariums with different critters, as well as some outside, including crocodiles. The A.C.T. Veterinarians Association was there for the first time with brochures about their work, which was useful. One vet wanted to make a link to our club's website as he said he didn't know much about rabbits, which is a fine attitude. It would be good if others were similarly up-front and willing to learn. Oh, and they finally got our sign right and had "Canberra Rabbit Club" instead of "A.C.T. Rabbit Club".

Friday John and Christine were on duty; Saturday, Sarah, Angela & Adam, Dita and me, and Sunday the Sowden family ( I was there but helping out at the cavy stand as the Sowdens seemed to have everything well in hand, though at one point I did put my chair between the two stands to keep an eye on both if need be.)

On Saturday, assuming Sarah, who was coming in by bus, would be bringing just herself, I brought seven bunnies (Aurelius, Orange Rex, Laelius Blue Butterfly Cashmere, Merula Black Otter Netherland Dwarf who shared one side of a two-holer with a Rex cavy I was bringing for the cavy stand; Calpurnia, Opal Satin, Maximus, Black Dutch and Yokozuna, a half-grown Brown/Grey British Giant on the grounds half a BritGi was better than none until Angela arrived with Spartacus at lunch time). Sarah had managed to bring in two Rex, mother and son, and a cross-breed house-bunny on the bus. Well, I suppose they don't yowl. I still have nightmares about the only time I took a Siamese on the bus.


SARAH, AURELIUS (Orange Rex in cage), ANGELA, LEO (REW Dwarf Lop)

Laelius was very good, didn't get sin-binned once. He was very patient and sat quietly on the dry-bed on the patting table. Aurelius remained in his cage with the lid open so he could be patted. Just as well he wasn't out as Hazel, Sarah's Rex doe was on the ran-tan, looking for a buck, and we simply don't do that sort of a display! Maximus tried to oblige the lady but a Dutch Rex the world doesn't need.

Some of the questions were interesting such as those from a breeder (not in the club) who has lost a lot of kits recently. As several of our breeders have had similar experiences this season, I was able to reassure her that she and her son were doing the right thing, and made a few suggestions, but really I blame the peculiar weather. Several people asked at what age a child should get a pet rabbit. My answer of seven years I think disappointed one mother but two and three year olds are far too young.

The usual pilgrimage was made to BadgeRs for rabbit (cavy, cat, whatever) calendars and T-shirts/sweat-shirts (there are three new rabbit designs). The rescue dog people came by, accompanied by a magnificent long-haired German Shepherd, and were taken with the rabbits. Beautifully behaved dog, as you'd expect. Pity the same couldn't be said for the public with their unleashed dogs. Or their unleashed children as John had to contend with a charmer who grabbed cruelly a baby Mini Lop with both hands along its spine and pulled it up. (Another gem opened the cat cages in the Mallee). However, most children were well behaved with their parents watching carefully and saying "Gently, gently" (over in the cat area, some visitors were considerate enough to say, "We've been patting dogs and we don't think the cats would appreciate that, so we'll go away and wash our hands and then come back and pat the cats if we may.").

Angela brought her Siamese Sable Mini Lop, Orlando, Cinnamon, her Orange Netherland Dwarf, Leo, her REW Dwarf Lop, Vierli, her Chinchilla Mini Rex and, of course, Spartacus, who was on his leash, and then in his tub. He occasioned the usual amazement, "Look at the size of that!" "He's the size of a dog!" Many were impressed he could be taken for a walk on a lead and Angela's and the Sowdens' numbers were handed out. Dita arrived in the early afternoon and provided an extra pair of hands and voice to allow others to take a break. Everyone had a chance to look around.


Sunday the Sowdens brought not only their rabbits which included Dwarf Lops, Mini Lops, William a young British Giant, Mini Rex, Netherlands and Satins but also a mini 'patting pen' John had made. This was an adjustable table with a small 'fence' which sat around the edge thus allowing young children to reach in to pat the bunnies inside, mostly baby Mini Lops and Satins. Sue fell for a Red Persian cat who spent the entire afternoon asleep on an alpaca-wool doonah at the T&T stand. When I saw the owner carrying him (his name is Rebus) across to Sue, I thought that she'd seen Sue grooming her Angora and thought she'd do the same for another long-haired animal. Instead, she came to give Sue the name of the breeder as Sue was impressed with the gentleness of the cat and offered, tongue-in-cheek, to swap a rabbit for Rebus.

Dr Harry Cooper signed autographs and later gave a presentation in another pavilion, along with dog-trainer, Steve Austin (no relation to the $6 Million Man). By 4.30 some stalls had already packed up and most were cleared by 4.50 as not many members of the public were coming through. The Expo finished at 5 pm.

It seemed to me that the numbers were down on previous years. Friday I believe was very quiet. The cat people said that eight out of ten people who came to the Mallee were fellow exhibitors and between 2-4 pm no one came in at all. John and Gwen also said Friday was very quiet. Saturday was busier. The stream was constant but not as many around as in previous years. I actually had time to go outside and look at the other pavilions and there were not many people out there either, walking about or in the patting paddock (Jane and Kathleen also found it quiet) or in the Mallee or in the horse pavilion where they had a display of Andalusians. Sunday was much busier. However, a number of the commercial stall-holders will not be back next year because they simply didn't make enough to cover the site hire fees (which I believe are very steep).

This is a shame as the Pet Expo is a valuable shop window for both pet suppliers and pet associations. It seems to me that the Pet Expo organisers might be killing the golden-egg laying goose. It is pointless to charge high rates just because you can if the renters can't make enough money to cover costs (after all, how much money do they imagine such stall-holders are going to make in such a place?). These stall-holders not only have to pay site fees, they have to budget for travel, transport, accommodation and food (speaking of which, what food is for sale is vastly over-priced and very limited). Next year they plan to have the Expo in September as they feel November is too hot.