Sunday, October 30, 2011

Taking my dog camping: It’s about time

If you’ve ever had a dog from puppydom right on through to senior citizenhood, you know as well as I that after so many years, you think you know everything about your dog. That there are no surprises left.
But time after time, Sensi proves me wrong.
Even though Sensi is now almost 9 years old, our September camping trip to the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore was his first time in a campground.
Not that he’d never experienced “up north” vacations before. Up until he was about 5, we’d take regular trips with some friends of ours to their property in Northern Michigan. He lived for those trips — off leash with a pack of dog friends to keep in order, morning romps through the woods, late nights curled up by the fire and an endless bounty of sticks to turn into mulch. On really cold nights, he’d ask to climb under the covers with us in our tent. And when we got the pop-up camper, he thought he was king of up north with so many different cushion-laden sleeping areas to choose from.
In recent years, we haven’t taken those trips anymore. Last year, Brent and I finally got ourselves back up north, pitching a tent at beautiful Higgins Lake for a less-than-beautiful (it rained ALL weekend) last-minute Labor Day weekend. We choose not to bring Sensi — see the post, Not a campground dog — and were so grateful we did.
The state park we stayed in was packed with campers and dogs, many of which were not on-leash. The campsites were so close together that there was no semblance of privacy. And the cold, wet weather would’ve had my dog endlessly depressed.
But this year, we were finally going back to the land that stole my heart as a child. The place I know like the back of my hand. The campground I treasured for two weeks every summer. 
Beautiful, beautiful Benzie
Being a national campground, the rules are strict and strictly enforced. How many times I heard “stay off the vegetation!” from a park ranger as a kid I can’t count. And if they’re worried about your footprint disturbing the vegetation, you can bet your butt they don’t tolerate off-leash dogs.
I also know the sites are set up to be reasonably private, and that if you really know the park, you can usually get yourself into a site with better-than-reasonable privacy.
On top of that, I’ve wanted my whole life to show Sensi Lake Michigan. It means so much to me, and for as much as he loves water, I knew it would blow him away.
So it was time. After a summer full of fear-reduction exercises — exposing him to large crowds at parks, even walking past air balloons being launched — it was time to stop using his behavior problems as an excuse and get him up north again.

1 comment:

  1. Such a nice story Karen. I have two dogs of my own and we haven't been camping yet. We went on a 16 hour road trip together (believe me, it was quite the experience) but no camping yet. I can't wait to go.