Posted by: petsweekly | September 5, 2010

PetsWeekly & Toyota: Making pet safety a priority

The Toyota Pet Expert Team

As many of my PetsWeekly, Twitter and Facebook followers know, PetsWeekly was recently invited to CA to consult with Toyota on their new pet safety features and pet-friendly vehicles.

Toyota has made a huge commitment this year to focus on the importance of properly protecting and securing pets in automobiles.  And in order to accomplish this lofty goal, they have brought in the leading pet experts to help them succeed.

Now, the invitation was exciting in and of itself. After all, the entire PET (Pet Expert Team) consists of myself and five other people.  So – that in itself is pretty flattering. But, when I met the other pet specialists, I was even more excited. The PET team includes the famous pet columnist  Sandy Robins with MSNBC,  Kristen Levine from Fetching Communications, Greg Kleva from the Martha Stewart Show on Sirius, Megan Blake from Animal Attractions TV, and Harrison Forbes (not Ford, although how cool would that be?!) from PetTalk.

All are big names, all are people who do this line of work much better than me, so of course I was a little starstruck to be in the same room as them, but they were all amazingly gracious and we had a fantastic time. In addition to these big names, the executives from Toyota were on hand to pick our brains and determine the best way to get their pet safety message across to the public and discover what pet owners really want and need in their vehicles. (So – now is your chance to help us make some changes – leave us some comments below or send us an email – it’s all good).

Today’s blog is a little about our trip. (Next time, if you all behave, I’ll tell you about my very first Toyota, Shamu. You’ll like that story!)

Loved this sporty looking, roomy hybrid!

During these three days, we had plenty of time to exchange information, chat, compare pics of our pets, discuss pet-safety features that we all want to see, and play around in the Toyota vehicles they let us try out while we were on location.

I got to drive my first hybrid vehicle (prior to this, my only experience with hybrids was of the wolf kind). Sandy and I hung out for awhile and together we learned to operate an electric/gas vehicle on the California freeways, without dying in the process. As it turns out, I’m a big fan of the hybrids – both wolf and vehicle.  Not only only was there plenty of room for our bigger dogs as well as people (which was very surprising for such a small car!), but this little car is fast, easy to run, it talks to you (which was like driving KITT), it has special ignition units so our pets don’t drive away while sitting in the air conditioning, and it averages 50 miles to the gallon – so what’s not to love?

I learned to navigate CA traffic, something I don’t envy native Californians, and I even managed to do it without a navigation system! Although on Day 2, the navigation system came in handy when I got turned around at the beach. (Getting “Turned Around” means ending up in a different city).

The Toyota Venza offers lots of room for you, your pets and your kids!

The Venza was my “assigned” car and while I usually prefer large SUVs,  I really enjoyed driving the Venza around. Once you’re inside, it feels like you’re in an SUV – with plenty of room to move around, lots of storage and a surprisingly powerful engine. Other cars I was able to try out include the Sienna, the Highlander and the Sequoia – and yes, I loved them all!

The days were spent talking about the best ways to improve what Toyota has already improved – autos. We ate a lot too. (Seriously – a lot!).

Dinner with Toyota execs

Our final night included dinner at The Charthouse which is right on the ocean. Dinner conversation was spent laughing and talking about animals – all of the Execs have pets, which is what has inspired this “pet project”.

(Maybe later on, if you’re still really good, I may tell you about the hilarious side conversation I had with a VP Exec about coyote urine and feral cats. I think you will all enjoy it).

Needless to say, we all really enjoyed our time in California and we came away from it absolutely inspired to help spread the message that our pets deserve the same loving attention to safety that we give other members of our family. With the help of the new PET team, I know we’ll make a difference in the lives of pets everywhere!

You put your kids in a car seat, you wear your seatbelt, you secure your groceries, why in the WORLD wouldn’t you secure your pets?! Toyota gets this. They also understand, as we all do, that we have to make an effort to educate others on this topic. It fits in with their whole theory of Kaizen – continuous improvement – and it’s a concept I that I honestly feel they live by.

Charging station at Toyota headquarters

In fact, I believe that if we all practiced some Kaizen in our lives, the world would be a much better place. No one is purr-fect and sure – we’ll fall off our horse once in a while. The important thing is that we get back up, brush ourselves off, hope no one saw anything, climb back on that horse, and this time – stay on. Life is about improving everything we do each day, not perfecting it.

If you can keep a smile on your face while you do it, you’re already ahead of the game! Keeping that in mind, check out this fun video that Sandy Robins put together on our trip. We’ll be back soon with more news from the Toyota PET team!

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