Posts Tagged ‘agility’

Fall Road Trips

Saturday, October 29th, 2011

Ever since I launched my first dog vacation business, my dogs have played the dual role of companions on the home front and doggie road warriors, up for any adventure, any time, anywhere.

And while their annual Canine Camp Getaway vacation may be their favorite trip, that doesn’t mean they don’t enjoy all the little side trips we take throughout the year — to dog fairs like  Hounds on the Sound, dog charity fundraiser events like the Canine Companions for Independence DogFest and friends’ homes where they not only welcome my dogs, but would be disappointed if I showed up without them (in at least one friend’s case, I think she’d actually be less disappointed if the dogs showed up without me than the other way around!).

Last weekend we spent at Fido’s Festival in Woodstown, NJ, which is some of the most fun you can have if you’re a dog (according to Lexie), and not a bad time for humans either (despite the absence of the kettle corn guy, which I had to admit was a tiny bit of a disappointment).

For the dogs, they had dock diving, lure racing (an obstacle course that dogs run while chasing after a squeaky toy or “lure” that runs on a pully system on the ground — often referred to as “crack cocaine for dogs”), agility, games, treats, vendors and a costume parade. For the humans, there were educational sessions in the open air pavilion, hayrides, shopping galore, rescue booths with adoptable dogs, games, free samples, a food court filled with every type of food you can imagine (except for the aforementioned kettle corn…yes, I know I’m harping on it, but I’m STILL disappointed about that) and lots of fun dog people and dogs to hang out with.

It was, my dog and I agreed, a nearly perfect weekend (and could have edged into perfect territory if only there’d been less traffic on the way home. And a kettle corn booth).

Hounds on the Sound

Hounds on the Sound is another of our favorite dog festivals.

Still, it was one of those weekends that makes you love fall, even though it means summer is over and won’t be back for what seems like ages.

This weekend, we were hoping to make it out to Barktober Fest at Camp Bow Wow in Cherry Hill, NJ (another really cool event), but bad weather and a temperamental car but the kibosh on those plans. So instead, I’m sitting on my couch, wrapped in a blanket with a cat on my head and a dog on my feet, trying to keep warm while the temperatures drop as if Mother Nature got confused about which month it is (Note to Mother Nature: October is the month where you dress up and get candy. December is the one with the snow. They’re totally different months, even though they both end with “ber.” Or, in this case,”brrr!”).

It’s not that I mind a day curled up on the couch all cozy and warm, wrapped in a blanket and surrounded by pets and whatever sweatshirt/shoe/toy Lexie has decided to carry into the den in hopes of enticing me into a game of keep away. But it’s also not as much fun as a road trip on a sunny fall day, walking around with the dogs, enjoying the fresh air, seeing new places and meeting new friends.

Sadly, by next month, the outdoor dog events will peter out in the Northeast as winter begins to take hold. That means fewer road trips.

Oh, there’s Winter Woofstock in Toronto, which I’m told totally rocks, but I’m not convinced I can do 22 hours of driving in one weekend (especially since my car now knows I’m looking for a new car, which has made it testier and more temperamental than usual).

And of course there are always the various Pet Expos, but you can’t bring your dog, and my dogs have an issue with me attending dog events without them.

Do any of you road trip in the cold weather with your dog? Any great dog-friendly, cold-weather destinations you would recommend? Feel free to share!

Older Dogs: Still Living Life to the Fullest

Sunday, September 18th, 2011

Some years ago, I was driving to the grocery store when I saw a man carrying a very large dog. Assuming the dog was hurt, I pulled over to see if I could help.

“Is your dog injured? Do you need a ride to the animal hospital?” I asked.

He gave me a smile that was a little bit sad, and said, “She’s fine. She’s 16 now, and she runs out of steam pretty fast these days. But she loves to walk in the sunshine, even though she can’t go very far anymore. So I take her out, and when she gets tired, I just carry her home.”

I remember thinking, what a remarkable man! Although he recognized the limitations that come with age, he still honored his dog’s desire to enjoy life to the fullest, for as long as she could, and he was helping to make that happen.

Back then, my dog was still cutting her puppy teeth on my furniture, and old age seemed a lifetime away. But now that my 100-pound shep mix is fast approaching 10, I sometimes think back on that chance meeting, and the lessons to be learned from it. And I wonder…was his dog still taking walks at 16 because of some genetic good fortune, or was his willingness to help his dog experience life to the fullest part of the reason for her longevity?

As our dogs age, it’s easy to want to wrap them in a plastic bubble wrap. Rest them so they don’t get “too tired.” Protect them from getting hurt. Guard them from all the dangers of the world, as if by doing so, we can somehow keep old age from catching up with them.

So maybe we may cut the walk a bit shorter…retire them from the agility field…leave them home from our favorite pet event because we don’t want to tire them out. Maybe we assume they can’t do something and don’t give them the opportunity to try.

We want to protect them, but is this making assumptions thing truly in the dog’s best interest?

I’m not saying it’s not perfectly reasonable to make allowances for a dog slowing down as the years creep up. But shouldn’t the dog have a say in it?

Dogs are, in many ways, born to be wanderers, joyful travelers who long to explore the world, whether their trip takes them cross country, or simply around the block. They thrive on stimulation, whether it’s a playdate with other dogs, a sniff fest along a wooded trail, a rousing game of “find the treat” or a social outing with their favorite humans.

And the same way many human seniors eschew retirement because they are happiest when they’re doing what they love, dogs, too, may want to continue their life travels for as long as their legs will hold them up. Or in the case of one 16 year old dog, even longer.

And it’s not such a bad thing, that.

Because the truth is, you can’t stave off old age. No amount of rest will prevent the years from passing. But though we can’t keep our dogs from getting older, we CAN keep their lives joyful by letting them do the things they love, for as long as they can.

Is your older dog living life to the fullest? Tell us about it!

Traveling Tails

Wednesday, September 7th, 2011

For the first 21 years of my life, I never traveled out of the tri-state area. So it still sort of amazes me that the second half of my life, I racked up more frequent flier miles than your average basketball team (but not nearly as many miles as my luggage racked up!) and I now run a dog vacation business.

Equally amazing, I somehow ended up with two dogs who not only love to travel, but who seem to feel it’s their mission in life to encourage dogs and dog lovers to join them on their Canine Camp Getaway of NY vacations.

I guess it shouldn’t surprise me. Most dogs are wanderers at heart, and while my dogs are more of the velcro-dog variety, both share an adventurous spirit and a willingness to chase tennis balls across fields, valleys, state or even country lines. They also love other dogs, so while travel is fun, travel to someplace with lots of dogs is MORE fun.

They even have their own luggage — matching travel bags with paw prints on the outside and separate compartments for treats, bowls, tennis balls and extra leashes. Which is funny, since I spent my college years heading back and forth with my clothing stuffed in a duffel bag that vaguely resembled a large pillow case.

If you’d told me 20 years ago that I’d be planning vacations for dogs and their people, I probably would’ve thought you were crazy. Of course now some people think I AM crazy…but these are generally people without dogs.

If you have a dog, you understand that going on vacation isn’t nearly as much fun when you have to leave your furry four-legged friend behind. And dog guilt is a really powerful thing.

But my two dogs took it one step beyond dog guilt. First, they started dumping their bones, balls and toys in my suitcase when I started packing for a trip. When that didn’t work, they began lying in the suitcase (like, I might somehow miss a 100 pound dog sprawled in the middle of my clothing, zip it up and take her with me by accident!).

Finally, they decided to forget subtlety entirely and plan their own vacation. Canine Camp Getaway of NY is their idea, and it’s all about them. Dogs in the pool. Dogs running lure coursing, or chasing frisbees, or doing agility. Dogs in the dining room, or in the bar at night. Dogs and their people romping, playing, relaxing together, and remembering what makes the bond between canine and human so very special.

I’m just along for the ride.

But as rides go, it’s a good one. Dogs teach us so much about life, and traveling with your dog turns a vacation into a Grand Adventure. When I’m with my dog, the grass is greener, the air is fresher, the stars are brighter. And my soul is lighter.

In these high-stress times, there’s something to be said for that. So next time you plan a vacation, think about bringing your best friend along. You’ll both be glad you did!