Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Happy campers, canine style

For me, summer evokes memories of the carefree days of camp: paddling canoes, diving off a dock into invigorating lake water, telling scary stories around a campfire while enjoying the gooey sweetness of s’mores, hiking, and pillow fights. Too bad those aren’t my fond memories, but rather those of my two sisters! I had separation anxiety and chose to stay home. My parents (wisely, I think) didn’t force me to go, but I imagine that if I’d had the grit to stick out the first couple of days, my homesickness would have transformed into bliss.

Who knew that your four-legged friend can experience the same delights of camp that you did? I didn’t, until Janet Foreman, a longtime client and ardent dog lover, enlightened me. She and her 7-year-old blue heeler, Bella, are regular fixtures at Camp Dogwood in Lake Dellon, Wisconsin.  It’s located in the Wisconsin Dells at the Perlstein Resort and Conference Center at Camp Chi, about 175 miles north of our area.

Accommodations for a dog-centric three-day weekend range from tent and RV camping to staying in a lodge or a cabin. Campers can also make their own arrangements to stay offsite. Your dog shares your sleeping quarters, of course. 

There are camp sessions in the spring, fall, and winter, and activities vary from session to session. Sporting events are numerous. Some are just what you’d expect at a canine camp: beach games, dock diving, hiking, and Frisbee. But there are also fun activities that your dog may have never experienced:

Treiiball: Sometimes called “urban herding.” Dogs use their nose and shoulders to drive an exercise ball into a pen.

Weight pull: Dogs haul a cart or sled while wearing a padded harness. The goal is to see how much weight they are willing to pull for 16 feet. 

Barn hunt: This test of a dog’s nose and hunting skills requires her to find a plastic container hidden among bales of straw. It contains a live rat. Don’t worry; no harm comes to the rodent.

Flyball: If your dog pesters you to throw balls for her to chase, she’ll love this activity. She’ll learn to jump over hurdles leading to a spring-loaded box, release the ball, and race back to you, ball in mouth. 

No need to worry if you and your dog have never participated in activities such as freestyle dancing, agility, lure coursing, or tracking; the camp has sessions geared toward first-timers.

Janet explained that veteran campers give their dogs some downtime between activities, especially if it’s hot. That’s why the camp offers presentations and non-sport activities geared to the dog owner, such as classes on grooming, training, and treat-making. Want to do something useful with those brushes full of hair you get when you groom your dog? You can learn to spin yarn out of it!

Camping with your buddy doesn’t come cheap, but the cost seems reasonable for all you get. A cabin for one person and his dog is $635, which includes three nights of lodging, meals, and most activities. Rooms in the lodge cost a bit more. There are also day passes available for those who just want to try a day or two of camp. 

Many of my clients look forward to their vacations but don’t relish the thought of their dog languishing in a boarding facility. Maybe it’s time to take an extra trip and go somewhere tailored to your furry family member. Then you can both enjoy the classic summer camp experience you remember from your childhood. 

Photos courtesy of Janet Foreman and Renny Mills Photography.