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Deaf Dog Education Action Fund

Picnic Planning Tips

The essence of any game, it seems to me, is to gain possession of the ball and find a quiet corner where one can destroy it in peace.
 - Peter Mayle

So you want to have a Deaf Dogs' Picnic? Well, they are a ton of fun and a lot of work, and we have some ideas contributed from planners of past picnics (including the "World Famous" Florida Events). Don't get discouraged, there's a lot here, but it'll be worth it!

Picking The Place

Obviously, you will need a place to hold the picnic. The most popular choice is a dog park (see if there's one near you - - Dogparks in the US), but other places can be used as well (if possible, you want to avoid having to rent a place to hold your picnic). You need to check the park ahead of time and walk the perimeter to make sure the fence is in good repair. You need to write down any posted rules and whatnot and share those with all the others that will be attending. List all the amenities. Bathrooms for people? Water for dogs? Poop pick up bags or do you need to bring your own? Do they allow food in the park? If not, where will you have your lunch? Do you need permission from someone to hold an event there? (Some park directors will be thrilled to have you there and can be very helpful with the planning.)

You will need directions for everyone to get to the park, at the very least from the major intersections. For people coming a long distance, there are various trip planning websites (MapQuest is one) where you can get directions and approximate driving times. You will still want to be sure they know landmarks and stuff when they are getting close. If you have travelers coming from out-of-town, you will probably need to help them find a place to stay. If you already know of places that are pet-friendly, find out how much the deposit is, and what size dog is allowed. An on-line list of pet friendly motels is at Pets Welcome. You might want to look for campgrounds too.

Finding People Who Would Like to Attend

Keep A List! Start out by asking the deafdogs list. Make sure your post is clearly labeled, tell them where you are, ask if anyone is interested, and ask for Private Replies. While the whole list will love to hear about the actual picnic itself, they don't really care to hear that this person lives here and that person lives there, or that you have added them to your list. As you start to get responses, keep a list of:

  • The person's name, and how many people will be coming with them
  • How many dogs they will be bringing (find out how many are deaf, and what breeds they are; this is good information to have a bit later on)
  • Where they are coming from

Many groups have found it helpful to start a local mailing list just for picnic planning. Let us know if you start another!

You will probably need to make this announcement more than once, since new members join all the time, and some people only read some of their mail. At some point in your planning, will want to invite any other deaf dog people who may not be on the List. One good place to check is the Deaf Dogs Atlas. While some of these people will be on your current list, many will not. They may be former members of the deafdogs list, or may never have been on a list, but wanted to list their dog. (By the way, if you find some invalid E-mails when you write, the DDA webmaster at would appreciate being informed.) If you know of any other deaf dog groups, you may want to invite them too. Posting flyers in "doggy" locations (such as pet supply stores, or groomers) may find you more people too. If you can post a flyer or poster at the location where your picnic will be held, even better!

Picking The Date

Write a group E-mail to everyone who has contacted you to express an interest. There are a couple of ways to pick a date.
Ask them which dates they cannot make it (you may want to narrow it down to a couple of months to start with). Once all of those are marked off your calendar, send another E-mail, and give them the remaining open dates, asking for preferences.
Another way is to ask everyone to vote for 2 or 3 days (again, narrow it down to a couple of months) that would be good for them. Pick the day that has the most votes.
Yet another option is for the organizers to decide on 3 or 4 days that will work for them, and include it in their initial picnic announcement. Everyone who wants to come can vote on which they prefer, and the date is chosen that way.

Once the date is agreed on, select a time. Don't start too early, or the long-distance travelers won't be able to make it. Depending on the weather and the time of the year (will it be really hot in the afternoon?), don't start too late either. (If you are able to serve food, starting between 10 and 11 is usually best, so the dogs have time to run and play while the humans get acquainted. You can plan on beginning lunch between 12 and 1 that way.)

Planning The Food

What about food? It is not a good idea to have one person pay for all the food, and then expect everyone to pay you at the picnic. There will be people that don't show up and don't bother to cancel in advance and they will not chip in later! The best success seems to be with a potluck. Decide on what the "main dish" will be, and then on most of the side dishes. One of the organizers brings the main dish, and each person signs up for one or two items, so that not everyone brings the same thing. It's also a good idea to divide up who is bringing the side stuff like paper plates and napkins. A good rule of thumb is to make sure you as the organizer knows that who ever is supposed to bring a major component is reliable, or you'll have to provide back up. It's easier if everyone is responsible for their own drinks. The other way to do it is to have everyone bring all their own food, then you don't need to worry about it. Getting a "Doggie Cake" for the puppers is a fun idea too. (See Three Dog Bakery for ideas - and hey, they have deaf Danes there!)

Notifying The Media

If you are interested in having press at your picnic (positive stories on deaf dogs are always good!), you will need to send out a press release (as an example, see the Release sent out for the third Florida picnic) at least 2 weeks ahead of time (and 3 to 4 would probably be better). This is where you will want your count on people and deaf dogs attending. Include all local papers, and TV news stations as well. It's a good idea to re-send it a week before too. Sometimes the TV news will need a 'fluff' story and will send someone at the last minute!

Telling The World

Don't forget to contact us and let us know when, where, what time and who the contact person is for your picnic, so that we can add you to our Current Events pages.

It's a great idea if someone involved can put up a website (there are lots of places to do easy freebie ones, check with your Internet Service Provider if you haven't already). You can set it up before hand to give all the "up-coming" details, and then put up picture pages afterward. After the picnic everyone in the world will start bothering you within an hour of arriving home to post pics! It doesn't matter how tired you are! They are fresh as a daisy and waiting for word on how much fun you just had! It's a good idea to stop at the one hour developers on the way home and then run back and get them. If you have someone with a digital camera, all the better!!!! If you want to look at pictures from past picnics, see our Websites page.

The Day Of

Have a good time, wear sunscreen, take lots of pictures, and tell the list as soon as you get in the door! Everyone will be dying to hear how it went!

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