Posts Tagged ‘Canine Camp Getaway’

Fantasies of Summer Vacation (With Dogs, Of Course!)

Tuesday, January 22nd, 2013

Here in New York, we’re looking at the coldest day we’ve seen in in several years — it’s so cold, in fact, the dogs haven’t even asked for walk (which is unheard of around here). We’re comforting ourselves with hot chocolate (me), bully sticks (the dogs), a cozy heating blanket (all of us — and who knew a single heating blanket could fit one human, two dogs, two cats and a giant stuffed hedgehog?) and fantasies of summer vacation.

Of course it will be a dog vacation, because what fun is going on vacation without the dogs? Well, okay, on days like today, I wouldn’t mind a week on some tropical island, relaxing on a lounge chair with oversized sunglasses and a drink with an umbrella in it. But since I haven’t won Lotto yet, I can’t buy my own island with a private dog-friendly beach…nor do I have a private dog-friendly plane to fly there. And anyway, the dogs would just hog the lounge chair.

dog camp, enjoying the pool!

You're not the only one who fantasizes about enjoying vacation poolside in a comfy lounge chair!

Thankfully, I have Canine Camp Getaway, which satisfies my dogs’ need for fun in the sun (and in the shade, and in the pool, bar and pretty much everywhere else), as well as my own need to kick back a bit and relax, without having to worry about work deadlines, what to make for dinner or whether my dogs are safe and happy. Dog camp may not be everyone’s dream vacation, but spending a week with dogs and dog lovers actually suits me quite well — and let’s face it, is there anything better at the end of the day than Yappy Hour with friends (both two-legged and four-legged)?

With Canine Camp Getaway’s June vacation nearly sold out, and September filling up fast, you’d think other hotels would be taking the hint: dog-friendly properties = more customers. Yet not everyone seems to be getting the message.

In a random sampling of “dog friendly” hotels, I found that more than half charge a (sometimes hefty) dog deposit or “cleaning fee” (It costs you a hundred bucks to clean the room after Buffy the miniature poodle stays over for two nights? Really?). Many still regulate the size, weight or breed of dogs they will accept (and my 97-pound dog points out that it’s not only not “friendly” but downright rude to have strangers questioning her about her weight!).

Atlantic City has finally gotten some dog-friendly hotels (presumably someone finally saw that “Dogs Playing Poker” painting and realized there was an opportunity there), though there’s still not a lot to do with your dog once you get there.

Disney, I’m told, has added a doggie daycare center for those who want to bring their pup along for vacation…a step in the right direction, to be sure…but the hotels on site are still not dog-friendly.

California does a better job with dog-friendly hotels, beaches and restaurants…but if you live on the East Coast, you’ve either got a really long drive to contend with, or you have to worry about bringing your dog on a less-than-dog-friendly airplane.

So, what do you do if you’re a dog owner who hates to leave your dog behind, or a dog who’s too big to sneak into Mom or Dad’s suitcase? First off, do your research: when planning your vacation, call several area hotels and ask about pet policies, any hidden charges, available dog amenities and local activities for dog owners. Some hotels will not allow dogs to be left alone in the room — even in a crate — so be sure you know the hotel’s policy on this, and if your dog must be with you at all times, be prepared with a list of dog-friendly restaurant options, or a local doggie daycare center. Don’t count on leaving your dog in the car — even if the temperatures are moderate, an unexpectedly hot day can put your dog’s life in danger.

If sharing time with your pet is an important part of your vacation plans, contact pet stores in your destination cities and ask about dog-friendly events, restaurants of hot spots — sometimes there are “unofficial” hangout spots where dogs and dog lovers gather that only the locals know about. Local dog meetup grounds can also be a great resource for this — contact the group organizer if you’re looking for suggestions for the best hiking spots, dog-friendly parks or other fun events.

Even if you’re spending much of your vacation sight seeing, be sure your dog gets enough exercise and entertainment to minimize stress — a long hike and some playtime each day will leave your dog feeling relaxed and happy. And you’ll not only feel better about heading out with friends if your dog is happily tired out first, but you’ll be glad you got some extra exercise when you’re eating out and enjoying that extra glass of wine, or that rich slice of double chocolate cake.

Of course, if your dream vacation involves seeing your dog have a great time, check out Canine Camp Getaway of NY — designed by dogs, for dogs…and their people, of course!

It may be too cold to do much more than “armchair traveling” right now, but it’s a great time to curl up somewhere warm, relax and dream about your (and your dog’s) next vacation. Happy travels!

Janice Costa is owner and founder of Canine Camp Getaway of NY, the Lake George, NY-based vacation for dogs and dog lovers. When she’s not working, playing or traveling with dogs, she works in the home design field as an author and magazine editor.

What Your Dog REALLY Wants for the Holidays

Sunday, December 9th, 2012

The holidays are a wonderful time for letting your loved ones know how special they are to you — through loving words and warm wishes, music, cards, shared meals and rituals, holiday parties and sometime gift giving.

And if you’re like most of us, your four-legged best friend is on (perhaps even at the top of) your holiday shopping list. But what do you get for that special canine in your life?

In honor of the holidays, Canine Camp Getaway’s ambassadogs share their suggestions below:


Every Christmas, my Mom and I settle under the tree together where she has all these wonderful wrapped packages for me and my sister. We sit together and she tells me how much she loves me and rubs my ears while I sniff them all and tear off the wrapping paper. Mom has exceptional taste (she picked me out, didn’t she?), and there are always so many wonderful presents…Cuz toys just begging to have the feet chewed off, Kongs, braided bully sticks, super soft blankets and once even a stuffed octopus with 12, count ’em 12 squeakers! Good stuff!

But here’s a secret even my Mom doesn’t know: If there were no gifts at all, I would still be perfectly happy just to sit under the tree with her while she talks to me and rubs my ears. Because the best part isn’t the stuff, it’s the two of us, being together…11 years of being best friends. Kisses and long walks and BBQs and cuddles in bed, dog friends and games of ball and agility classes and the time I got hurt and Mom slept on an air mattress on the floor for three weeks so we could be together without me jumping.

So I think — and I’ve talked this over with other dogs and we all agree — if you’re looking for the perfect present for your canine buddy, forget the stores. What your dog really wants, and what your dog will cherish most, is time with YOU.

Now as Senior Ambassadog, I can tell you that Canine Camp Getaway is a GREAT way to give your dog (and you!) some special bonding time. Because honestly, humans are always distracted….we go for a walk together, and you don’t even notice the amazing smells, you’re so intent on getting there, you miss the best parts…and we know you have to work to pay for the kibble, but it would be better if you were throwing a ball for us or rubbing our bellies wholeheartedly instead of doing it with one eye on the computer.

But at Canine Camp Getaway, all of that fades away, and we can both be together, living in the moment, where the moment is all about US. Swimming, doing agility together, hiking those amazing trails, learning flyball, playing games and just hanging out together all day. What could be better than that?

So I think the perfect holiday gift for your dog would be for both of you to sign up for Canine Camp Getaway in 2013.

But what if you can’t make it to camp, what do you get your dogs then? The answer is still — time together. Trust me, I’m not the older, wiser ambassadog by accident; I’ve seen many holidays, and met thousands of dogs, and I can tell you that time is the most precious thing you can give us.

So for the holidays, make a commitment to take us for regular walks…and not just those five-minute walks where you rush us to potty and don’t let us sniff anything. Take us for a walk and walk WITH us, enjoy the walk through our eyes and noses. Let us run part of the way, stop and sniff part of the way, meet the other (friendly) dogs along the route.

Make a commitment to take us to the park to play ball, or Frisbee. Sign us up for an agility class. Play in the snow with us, or when it gets warm, take us to a doggie beach, and come in the water with us!

Get up five minutes early to give us a nice long belly rub one day. Cook us a terrific, healthy meal. Take a class in canine massage so you’ll be able to help us feel better when we get older.

For the holidays this year, give us the best gift ever…YOU. It’s what we’ll remember most when we’re old and gray, and we will always cherish that time together.

(Though if you find that octopus with the 12 squeakers, feel free to pick that up, too!)


I LOVE holidays! And holidays are a great time to get your dog TOYS! I l LOVE toys! Especially toys that are BALLS! Squeaky balls, and tennis balls, and those big, soft rubber balls with the cut outs that you can sink your teeth into…and speaking of things you can sink your teeth into, those soft boots with rubber soles, those are pretty fun too. Also stuffies with squeakers, and if you have two dogs, you should buy extra stuffies for your other dog, because it’s more fun to unstuff their toys first, it makes yours last longer.

And I always tell my Mom a big swimming pool would be great, but she says no swimming in winter. But in summer, you can swim because there’s camp and I especially love swimming at camp because I can play BALL in the WATER with all my FRIENDS!! You can too! So camp is a great gift, especially the swimming part, and the lure coursing part (because you can chase stuff without getting in trouble and no one yells, “Leave the cat, LEAVE the CAT, LEAVETHECATALONE!!!”). And the hikes are pretty awesome, and sometimes there are tennis balls around for flyball and there are so many dogs to play with and…well, all the parts are pretty great, actually. And there are TWO camps this year, one in June and one in September, so you could even go TWICE!

So, as junior ambassadog, I would strongly advise you to bring your dog to Canine Camp Getaway’s June or September session because it’s a great holiday gift. And if you celebrate Christmas, you can put boots under the tree, too, Croc boots are my favorite, but anything soft and squishy is good. And if you celebrate Chanukah, you can buy eight different kinds of balls and give your dog one every day, I like the Cuz ones, and also things with squeakers, though tennis balls are also great. Or just give us the wrapping paper, that’s fun, too!

Even if you don’t get us gifts, that’s okay, because we have YOU, and you’re the BEST GIFT EVER!

Happy holidays to you and your pups, and we hope to see you next year!

P.S. If you’re coming to camp, reserve your spot soon so you’re not shut out — and don’t forget to sign up before our Early Bird Deadline so you can save more money for dog treats! Contact us if you need more info or an application!


Jessie & Lexie Costa

Camp Ambassadogs

Canine Camp Getaway of NY

A New Online Shopping Option for Pet Supplies

Thursday, May 24th, 2012

I’ve never been a “buy everything on the Web” kind of person; I only started shopping online in the past couple of years, and mostly for things I can’t find in local stores.

I rarely consider shopping for pet products on the Web because (A) there are several reasonably well stocked pet stores within minutes of my home and (B) my dogs prefer the in-store shopping experience (especially since most of the local pet stores keep treats behind the register!).

But with two dogs and two cats, I spend a LOT of money on pet products. And I really need to start watching my costs, since I’m the only one in this household who brings in an income (ironic, since I have two working dogs — you’d think, being working dogs, that they’d get a job and bring in some $$, wouldn’t you?).

While I like the “live” shopping experience, the truth is, the Web not only offers better prices, but there’s something to be said for having your pet supplies show up on your front step, instead of having to lug two 30-pound bags of dog food and two 20-pound containers of cat litter from the store to the car, and from the car into the house (the dogs don’t help with this either…though if I get lazy and drop them just inside the front door, they will happily tear the bags open and engage in an all-you-can-eat buffet!).

So once I decided to do some pet shopping online, the next question was, where? Amazon seemed like the obvious starting point; they carry pretty much everything on the planet, and probably stuff from other planets, too. But the problem with Amazon is that they carry everything but it’s from everywhere else…which means ordering six different brands of products means buying from six different stores that go through Amazon, which means paying shipping for six different companies because you don’t spend enough with any one company to get free shipping (which you think you’d get from Amazon, but you don’t unless the item you want is actually coming directly from Amazon, which wasn’t the case with anything I wanted).

Coincidentally, I was complaining about this very issue when I received an invitation from to try out their Web site. With two dogs and two cats, each of whom are on different foods, and who like very specific treats (different brands — God forbid anyone like the same thing and make my life easy!), I went to the site expecting another “If I go here, I’ll only have five more places to go” experience.

Instead, I was pleasantly surprised. They not only carried everyone’s food brands, but they carried the specific formulas and flavors my dogs and cats prefer (one’s a senior, one only likes salmon, one is on a high protein diet and one throws up anything except chicken and oatmeal, sensitive systems). And they offered free delivery, which was a huge bonus.

Next we browsed the dog treats section. Dog treats are important in our house. So we browsed…and browsed…and browsed. Lexie settled on my feet on the couch and stretched out to view the treat choices over my shoulder.

My foot fell asleep by page 15 or so, and we still weren’t done browsing all the treats. I’m quite sure someone went to bed with visions of sugar plums in her furry little head (or visions of freeze dried chicken treats, as the case may be!). Endless choices = happy dogs, especially since they had organic and wheat free choices. The prices were also quite reasonable; the hard-to-find peanut butter treats that my sister’s Morkie pup loves cost considerably less than in the local pet store.

The ordering process was simple, and the next day, I had an email saying my order had shipped. Which is good, because I’m the kind of person who realizes I need dog food just about when I get to the bottom of the container. Even more surprising, a day later the whole order showed up. In my experience, free shipping means free shipping via the pony express (i.e. you order now and hope it shows up by Christmas), but this was the kind of shipping that you could actually realize you’re down to the bottom of the food container, order more (without paying a rush fee) and still get the food before your dog misses a meal. Hard not to be impressed by that.

There was a lot to like about this site, from the ridiculously large selection of treats and food options to the ease of shopping and super speedy delivery.

What didn’t I like? They were still selling chicken jerky treats, including at least one company that imports from China. Granted, the stuff hasn’t been recalled, but it’s hard to imagine anyone anywhere hasn’t heard the FDA warnings, or the numerous stories about deaths and severe illnesses tied to chicken jerky originating from China. And even though the stuff is legal to sell, I still feel that a company that makes a living from (and presumably cares about) animals shouldn’t be promoting or selling this stuff. That said, perhaps I’m being idealistic here. I did notice that they don’t carry the three big brands that have been primarily cited as being associated with these problems (though I’d still feel better if they didn’t carry any chicken jerky from China at all)

They also don’t stock my personal favorite supplement, Glyco-Flex III (though to be fair, they stock a very good selection of glucosomine options — far more than other sites I’ve visited). So I still have to go to one more place for that.

But by and large, there wasn’t much I could think of buying that wasn’t available here. The prices were good, the shipping fast and free, and my dogs were so excited when the box showed up, they didn’t even miss the pet store trip!

Janice Costa is owner and founder of Canine Camp Getaway of NY, the Lake George, NY-based vacation for dogs and dog lovers. When she’s not working, playing or traveling with dogs, she works in the home design field as an author and magazine editor.

Getting in Shape for Hiking with your Dog

Friday, April 20th, 2012

This week, Canine Camp Getaway hiking instructor Bob Dealy is guest blogging for us with some tips for getting your dog ready for hiking season.

The past couple of days it’s gotten unseasonably warm in the northeast, which got me to thinking that my dog Shadow has to start getting in shape for the hikes we’ll be taking at Canine Camp Getaway of NY in June. Black lab (ops) training, ha-ha!

Camp owner Janice Costa has informed me that we’re expecting record numbers for this year’s camp. That means lots of new folks for morning hikes. These walks can be the highlight of camp for many guests. A good walk gets the juices flowing; you and your dog make new friends, as you get ready for daily activities. It should be a fun and carefree activity.

Having this forum allows me to talk about common sense things you will need to make those morning sojourns more enjoyable, whether you’re joining us at this year’s Getaway, or planning hikes of your own in the coming months.

First and foremost, let’s talk about you and your dog. I did say common sense! For our hikes at camp, we generally walk for 45-50 minutes. So if your normal dog walk is only 20-30 minutes, you need to stretch this out a little longer until you’re spending about 45 minutes to an hour walking together at least once a week. Not only will this build up your and your dog’s endurance, but as you progress, you’ll get better at recognizing signs of fatigue for each of you. Being able to read your dog’s body language (and paying attention to your own bod) will help to keep you from overdoing it in your hiking trips.

The same basic concept holds true if you are planning a two-hour hike or longer; build up to it gradually by extending the time you walk together a little each day, paying attention for signs of fatigue. It’s okay to push a little, but don’t overdo it; doing too much too fast can lead to injury or soreness.

As many of our camp walks will be on a wooded trail, there are insects – and this is generally true wherever you’ll be hiking this spring. Where I live on Long Island, it was a very mild winter and the bug and tick population is very healthy. I assume it was much the same throughout the Northeast. So it’s advisable that you and your dog have protection.

Your vet can advise you on the best care for your dog, dependent on where you live and what types of parasites are common where you’ll be hiking. For you, there are many personal bug sprays on the market; my advice if you don’t have a favorite is to try some out before hand to see how well they work. I’m personally trying out a product by Eco Smart, which claims to be pet friendly.

There is a product by OFF, the clip on which I don’t recommend for hikes. If you read the instructions you will find its best use is to create a barrier around you if you are in one place for a while. This means seated or standing. It’s not a bad product to use for other times you are on vacation, but not ideal if you’re going to be in motion. So take a couple of minutes and read the instructions and uses for these products before purchasing. For hikes, try to stick to a spray-on or lotion. It’s also been said that consuming a little apple cider vinegar can make you less attractive to bugs; dogs can benefit from this as well. Add a tablespoon to their water, and add a tablespoon to a bottle of water for you, as well. Do this for several days and you’ll likely notice yourself getting fewer bug bites.

Next, we come to hydration. As we all know, it’s important to drink up in warm weather. It’s important for our pups to do the same. So while you’re walking the dog and getting ready for camp, keep an eye on him/her for signs of thirst. As a runner, I’ve learned that a belt that can carry a water bottle is a beautiful thing. It helps to keep both hands free and it’s always available. Giving your dog clean water is better than having them find a muddy puddle because they are thirsty.

Remember, if you’re enjoying a few cocktails in the evening, drink some extra water before bed and when you wake up. Alcohol acts as a diuretic and you need to replace fluids after drinking. I know it sounds weird, replacing fluids after drinking, but trust me on this one. Grab an extra piece of fruit from the dining area. Fruits contain gobs of water.

The turnaround point at our favorite hike is a clearing with a pond on the other side of the woods. Dogs are not allowed in the pond. However, this is a great place to stop and regroup. It has become a favorite photo op site. So have your camera or personal device ready to take pictures.

As far as what to wear, we’ve had people wear shorts, tee shirts, long sleeve T’s, long pants, boots, sneakers, sandals. The choice is yours. We will be walking in the woods, the trail has been wet in the morning, sometimes muddy and there are some rocky parts. So office shoes are not advisable. Be comfortable for the conditions.

Recall is important if you like to hike with your dog off leash. So practice having your dog come back to you when you call him or her. If you aren’t confident in your dog’s ability to come on command, you may want to keep your pup leashed to be safe. This is a decision only you can make. The area off trail has a lot of brush and you can lose sight of your dog easily.

Always carry poop bags! Whether you’re hiking with us at Canine Camp Getaway or hiking in your own neck of the woods, it’s important to leave the trails as you found them. As responsible dog owners, that’s important! So be smart and bring an extra bag, just in case.

Don’t worry; I’m not going to ban you from hikes because you didn’t walk enough, forgot water or bug spray. That’s not what we’re about at Canine Camp Getaway. These tips are just that, tips to make your experience more enjoyable. See you in two months. Is it really that close already?

Dog Friends, Old and New

Saturday, March 17th, 2012

This week, Canine Camp Getaway hiking and lure coursing instructor Bob Dealy is guest blogging for us about dog friends, old and new, and about the journey from “new dog” to “beloved friend.”

For ten years my beagle Duke and I were inseparable. We were best friends and a good team. Around Christmas 2010 he passed. This November I was fortunate enough to have Shadow (Black Lab mix) come into my life. She is lovable and happy and we are bonding well. The two dogs are very much alike in many ways.

My old friend Duke set the bar high for future canine companions.

I love the way the two dogs would come up with alternatives to barking by using their tails to bang against objects to get attention. They are great at socializing with people and other dogs. Both are willing and ready to take a car ride at a moment’s notice, and when I come home, they give me the best happy dance you’ve ever seen. I was charmed when I first brought Shadow home that she went right to Duke’s old toy box and started playing with the toys. Talk about a quick adjustment period! Who could be so lucky?

I’m comforted by the similarities I see in the dogs. So what is the problem?

It seems that I am very lucky to have two great dogs, and I am. Yet I sometimes find myself assigning Shadow the job of being “Duke 2.0.” She is not.

I have not allowed her the time and space to show me all the wonderful things that she can be yet. I get disappointed when Shadow shows a behavior that Duke never would (i.e. the case of the disappearing chicken breasts). But she is not he. I must learn to teach her what is expected. I can’t take for granted she knows what to do just because of the similarities. And I certainly can’t expect her to live up the expectations of an old friend she has never met.

And that is the point of this entry. In dogs, as with people, we need to give those we let into our lives the opportunity to show us what is great, unique and different about them — even when they seem so much like others we have loved.

They say it’s the journey that matters, not the destination, and that is particularly true with our four-legged friends. Getting to know a new dog is a wonderful adventure. And just as no two dogs are alike, the relationship you build with your canine buddy is utterly one of a kind.

I see great things for Shadow and me in the future. We’ll share adventures, hikes, vacations, BBQs, days out playing with friends and lazy nights in watching Yankees games. We will share many of the things I shared with Duke, and many new things that are all Shadow. She will be her own dog, and I have no doubt she’ll make a great companion.

The Scoop on Poop

Friday, March 2nd, 2012

This week, Canine Camp Getaway hiking and lure coursing instructor Bob Dealy is guest blogging for us with the scoop on poop, responsible dog ownership and why cleaning up after dogs sometimes takes a village.

In the reader sound off section item of this morning’s paper, a lady was complaining about dog owners not picking up after their dogs. She was a bit dramatic, stating, “Do I have to dress up in a uniform and issue summonses?”

My first reaction was, Lady, you have no idea how far dog owners have come.

In college I lived off campus, I constantly had to dodge piles that were left on the sidewalk on my way to and from classes. It was all over the place.

Dog owners are so much more responsible today. The fact I noticed this as rare indicates there have been great strides made by dog owners over the last couple of decades.

Still the reader’s comment is valid. My dog can still find stray poop along our daily walk. And if you’re a responsible dog owner, you know this shouldn’t be. Like a lot of you, I’ll sigh, tell my dog to leave it and continue with the walk. As someone who likes to run, I occasionally have to avoid it or clean it off my shoes after returning home. But rarely on a walk will I pull a bag out and clean up someone else’s mess. After all it’s not my responsibility!

But after thinking about it, I have to wonder, should it be? I reluctantly came to the conclusion, yes.

There are two reasons for us to consider this. One, dog poop is the greatest danger to our own dogs, as it transmits illness to our dog or other dogs in our home area. Active dog owners are at greater risk than the general dog-owning public. Two, it enhances the reputation of dogs and their owners within the community. Property owners are not responsible for the care of our dogs and that includes picking up after our dogs.

If you know where there is stray waste on your walk, take an extra bag and remove it. Set the example for responsible ownership in your community. The property owner will appreciate it, and maybe the person whose dog dropped it will learn from your example. (I highly doubt the second part but it’s possible.)

In a world where we are asking for public funds for dog parks, showing increased responsibility in ownership can only help us all.

A Love Letter to My Dogs

Monday, February 13th, 2012

Dogs are easy to love. Mine are especially lovable — even when they’re barking ferociously at the UPS guy (Jessie) or running through the house wildly swinging my pocketbook over their heads and dumping credit cards everywhere (Lexie). In fact, rarely does a day go by when I don’t discover something new to love about my dogs. It’s hard not to be charmed by their loyalty, intelligence, humor, joyfulness and sheer goodness.

So, in honor of Valentine’s Day, I thought I’d share some of the many things I love about my dogs.

I love that they are always filled with joy, whether it’s a fun-filled Saturday or a dreary Monday morning; whether it’s rainy, snowy, hot and muggy or freezing out; whether we’re playing ball, going for a walk, or just lounging in bed doing nothing. They’re joyful regardless of the situation, as if it’s just a natural state of being for them. And sometimes It’s nice to be reminded that joy doesn’t need a reason.

I love that they see the possibilities in every day, and every situation. Sure, it’s hurricane conditions out there, but Mom MIGHT take us for a walk…she MIGHT drop a hot dog off the grill tonight…she MIGHT be walking into the kitchen not for a glass of water but to get us a treat…she MIGHT let us up on the living room couch, even though we’ve never ever been allowed on that couch. And although she says “Leave the cat!” so often we could practically recite it ourselves, when she opens her mouth as we’re nose poking the cat, this time she MIGHT say, “Yes, please, chase the cat, go for it!” All things are possible in a dog’s world.

There's nothing in the world better than a dog's love, except, perhaps, two dogs' love!

I love that their devotion knows no bounds; as imperfect as I am, they think I’m the best dog Mom ever. And they think that whether I’m tired and cranky, whether I’m in sweats or dressed to the nines, whether I’m playing with them or ignoring them to work on the hated laptop. Who else loves you with that level of constancy?

I love that they have a sense of family. They love each other, our cats, our friends, our friends’ dogs, and assorted parents, siblings, nieces and nephews (and their dogs), welcoming them as part of our extended “pack.”

I love their adventurous spirit. Road trip? No problem! Whether it’s their annual Canine Camp Getaway dog vacation, a day trip to check out the Pet Expo or a simple run to the grocery store with a stop off at Mom’s house, they’re always up for it.

I love their many moods and sides, love how they can be charming, serious and silly by turns, romping and playing ball one minute, barking excitedly and tackling each other, and then an hour later, be sitting quietly at (or on) my feet, sharing a contemplative moment.

I love their sense of honesty and loyalty. My dogs don’t hide who or what they are; they “say” exactly what they mean (if I’m clever enough to pay attention). And their love is equally honest, with nothing held back. They always believe the best of people, and are never petty or spiteful; they never even seem to be disappointed in me (even when they might have reason to be). There’s a purity in their interactions with humans and each other which is refreshing beyond words.

I love the wordless communication that we share; how we can read each other’s minds sometimes. It’s like a form of music, magical and powerful and beautiful.

I love the comfort of their warm, furry bodies, love the happy swishing of their tails, love the cold noses that like to flip the laptop closed when I’ve spent too much time writing and not enough time playing. And I especially love the four beautiful brown eyes that stare at me in hopeful anticipation, whether they’re waiting for a walk, a ball toss, a treat or just a pat on the head.

Most of all, though, I love that my dogs make me want to be a better human, so that I can live up to the person they believe I am right now.

If Valentine’s Day is a celebration of love, then I am truly rich. For I am loved by the two best dogs on the planet!

Happy Valentine’s Day to you and your loved ones (be they four-legged or two-legged)!

Janice Costa is owner and founder of Canine Camp Getaway of NY, the Lake George, NY-based vacation for dogs and dog lovers. When she’s not working, playing or traveling with dogs, she works in the home design field as an author and magazine editor.

A Car Ramp for Jessie

Wednesday, January 18th, 2012

Back in November, I began my search for a new car that my dogs would love as much as I did. Now, I’m not a car person, and I wasn’t really ready to buy a new car (my beloved convertible took an unexpected turn for the worse), so I didn’t expect the process to be much fun.

It wasn’t. I hated the pushy car salespeople and the boring online research. I fell asleep several nights on my laptop trying to decipher crash reports and safety ratings. Just the thought of a monthly car payment stressed me out beyond belief. And as much as I knew the dogs needed an SUV, I hated the idea of driving some monstrously big Mom-mobile when I was used to the ease and speed of my little convertible.

But despite these challenges, I eventually found and fell in love with the perfect car: a 2012 Nissan Rogue with enough little extras to make driving fun — and enough space to fit two dogs comfortably (including one dog with greater-than-average personal space needs).

The one thing I didn’t anticipate was the extra challenges caused by the added height of the Rogue. Now, by SUV standards, it’s pretty close to the ground. In fact, that’s one of the things I loved about it — no “monster truck” feeling getting in and out. But for a 10-year-old, 100-pound dog with some arthritis, it’s still a bit tougher to enter and exit than the old convertible (which was so low to the ground, if you pulled up too far in a parking space, the curb grabbed your bumper and you couldn’t back out without leaving your bumper there attached to the curb…not that I know this from personal experience, or anything!).

As a result, the dog was getting fewer car rides, and suddenly everyone was less than enamored with my wonderful new Rogue.

Clearly we needed a solution, so suddenly I was back in the market, this time for a dog ramp.

Now, dog ramps look easy, don’t they? Your dog walks up them and walks down them. Simple, right?

In theory, sure. In reality, you have to worry about length, weight capacity, slippage, side rails, whether they fold up or retract, whether they slice your fingers off while you’re trying to fold them up or make them retract, how much space they take up in the back, whether they have sharp edges that will slice an ill-placed hand or paw, how heavy they are to carry, how much time they take to set up, and whether your dog will actually use them after you do all this research and eventually buy one.

When I bought my new SUV, it was clear that a ramp was necessary to help my older dog enter and exit more easily.

I went through something similar a year ago when I picked up dog stairs to help my dog make it up more easily onto the bed. My bed is a bit higher than a typical bed, and I’d noticed that the dog had recently started needing a running start to jump up onto it. So the stairs seemed like an ideal solution.

I spent two months researching different brands, and several more weeks price shopping before finally placing my order. They arrived, looking and working every bit as well as described. Except for one tiny problem: The dog hated them. She ignored them, jumped over them and flat out refused to use them. Treats, praise, coaxing didn’t help at all. And it wasn’t that she didn’t know how to use them — she just refused.

For six months, they sat in a corner of the bedroom doing nothing. I even thought about giving them away, or selling them on eBay, but never quite got around to it. Then one day, the dog was pacing around the bed, clearly looking to get up, but seemingly unsure of her ability to make the jump. So I pulled out the stairs again. Coaxed her up with some treats. Coaxed her back down with some treats. And suddenly her eyes lit up in the doggie version of “Eureka!” You could actually see her mind clicking: “STAIRS! Stairs for ME! Stairs to MY BED!” That night, she probably climbed on and off the bed 20 times. And while I didn’t get much sleep (a 100-pound dog entering and exiting the bed isn’t the most graceful creature in the world), it thrilled me to be able to give her back the ease of spending time on the bed with me when she wanted to.

So you’d think with the stairs thing being conquered, the ramp thing would be easy, right?

It should be…but it wasn’t.

It turns out my dog doesn’t much like dog ramps. Not big ones, wide ones, ones with rails, ones without rails. She didn’t like the slippery ones or the non-slip ones, the fold up ones or the loud retractable ones.

My fingers didn’t like them either. Trying to assemble these in the dark so my dog could join me for a simple trip to Mom’s was an awful lot of work…and dangerous work for a klutz who can barely do this type of stuff in full daylight, forget at midnight in a coat and gloves.

And suddenly I had a eureka moment myself. Why was I trying to talk my dog into a dog ramp she clearly hated when she loved her stairs so much? So I pulled out her stairs, dragged them up to the back of the car, set them up…and she saw them and lit up with joy, as if to say, ‘Oh look, my stairs!” She walked right up them and into the back, happy as a clam.

So now when we travel, her stairs come with us. They’re a bit heavy to carry back and forth from the house to the car, but they open up in two seconds (no sliced fingers), and the dog seems happy with the arrangement. So I’m thinking we might just buy a second set and keep them in the car full time. They do bang around a bit in the back, so I need to think about how to secure them to the side so they take up less space. But overall, they do the trick.

And since we’ve worked that out, both dogs now love their new car!


Janice Costa is owner and founder of Canine Camp Getaway of NY, the Lake George, NY-based vacation for dogs and dog lovers. When she’s not working, playing  or traveling with dogs, she works in the home design field as an author and magazine editor.

Five New Year’s Resolutions Your Dogs Want You to Make

Saturday, December 31st, 2011

It’s that time of year again, and you’re probably busy making some New Year’s resolutions. Many of these are universal — lose some weight, save more money, get more organized. Or perhaps you’d like to keep your house cleaner, change jobs, or work on improving your relationships.

Your dogs have some New Year’s resolutions they would like you to make as well, and if they had the dexterity to work on your laptop, they’d probably already have added them to your list. Since they can’t, I’m sharing a few that the dogs have shared with me. Trust me when I say that life is far too short — especially when you’re a dog — and spending time with your dog is more important than dusting the furniture more often. Many of your resolutions — like getting more exercise — can also incorporate your dog so you’re both happier and healthier.

Below are the Top Five New Year’s Resolutions Your Dogs Want You To Make, as shared with me by Jessie, Lexie and friends. Happy New Year to you all!

1. Get us more exercise.
Young dogs need exercise to keep out of trouble (a tired dog is a good dog, or at least a dog who is less likely to jump up and steal the bag of cheez doodles off the counter and make a run for it). Middle age dogs need exercise to stay flexible and healthy. Older dogs need exercise to keep their bodies strong and lean and stave off arthritis.

Agility classes are great exercise for humans and canines, and a wonderful way to strengthen the bond with your dog.

“You can go to the gym, join a tennis club or take up volleyball. Without your help, all we can do is spend extra time chasing the cats (which always seems like a good idea until the lamp gets knocked over and the cats start making those weird Exorcist noises). We need YOU to take us on long walks, play ball with us, bring us to the park or enroll us in agility, flyball or other dog sport classes. Keep us active — physically and mentally — and we will be able to share more precious years with you on this earth.”

2. Socialize us.
Dogs that are well socialized are healthier mentally as well as physically, and they are more stable, calm and well mannered than those who are not socialized regularly. Mental stimulation can also increase a dog’s lifespan by as much as two years, according to some studies.

“Don’t YOU get stir crazy when it snows and you’re stuck in the house for two days? Sometimes our whole lives can feel like that, and we want to get out and see the world, too! Take us out to dog fairs, local hiking trails, dog-friendly pet stores, obedience or dog sport classes. Train us to become therapy dogs and bring us to visit the homebound, the sick, the elderly and the children who need some help learning to read (we’ll both feel better for helping those unfortunate people who are unable to have dogs in their lives full time!). Include us in your social activities. As an added bonus, we’ll help “screen” your friends (those who don’t enjoy dogs probably have other serious flaws as well, so you’re better off finding out early so you can instead choose animal loving friends, as everyone knows dog lovers are kinder, smarter and all around better humans than the non dog lovers!).”

3. Take us for Wellness Checkups
No one likes to go to the doctor when they’re not sick, and it’s easy to skip those wellness visits at the vet when money is tight and schedules are crazy. But an annual vet trip (twice annual for dogs seven and older) is important in monitoring your dog’s ongoing health. It’s also a great way to learn about new treatments that can keep your dog healthier for longer. Stem cell therapy, laser treatments, nutritional supplements, homeopathic treatments, doggie chiropractic care and new theories on diet can be all provide dog owners with valuable tools that can come in handy for maintaining your dog’s long-term health. Ask if your veterinarian gives free seminars about dog-related topics; if not, ask around, as more vets are offering free educational opportunities that are worth exploring.

“We may not love going to the vet, but we trust you to make sure we stay healthy and happy. Please do what you have to so that we can live long lives, free of pain and discomfort.”

4. Make time in your life for us.
Juggling work, family, chores and bills can be challenging, and lately everyone seems increasingly time pressed. But the old adage “life is short” applies seven-fold to dogs, and it’s easy to forget how quickly the time goes by. Dogs are pack animals, and they don’t just require food, exercise and sleep, they also require love and attention, petting and playtime. Dogs are a great reminder of what’s truly important in life, and in the greater scheme of things, it’s okay to let some of the chores slide sometimes while you focus on what’s really important: your living, breathing, always-loving-you dog. So put down the vacuum and toss around that tennis ball instead; get off the laptop and pet your dog; get off the phone and talk to your dog (who will likely be more attentive and happy to listen to you than whoever you were going to call anyway!).

“You are gone all day at work, then at night you have friends to visit, parties, chores, erands to run. We spend the whole day, every day, just waiting for you to come home. You are our whole world; we would die for you without a second thought, so please don’t forget us! We understand that you have to work to pay for the kibble, the bully sticks and the stuffed squeaky hedgehogs, but we’d rather have a few less toys and more time with you. Please enjoy us while we are here, and let’s wring every moment of joy out of this life together!

5. Take Us On Vacation!
Vacation is how we celebrate life, letting go of our day to day responsibilities to just have some carefree time full of fun. It’s the “magic time” that we spend with our favorite

Take your dog on vacation to Canine Camp Getaway where even the pool is dog-friendly!

people, our closest friends. We tend to be at our best on vacation, relaxed, happy, joyful. And who’s a closer friend, who’s more deserving of our best than our dog? Dogs are with us during the worst of times, supporting us, being patient with us, loving us no matter how busy or tired or cranky we get. Shouldn’t they also enjoy the best part of us?

“You may not realize it, but we work hard, too! We guard our home and protect our loved ones from trespassing squirrels and evil mailmen, we support you when you are sad, or tired, or cranky, or overworked, and we are always, always here for you, even when your head is somewhere else and you barely seem to notice us kissing your hand, warming your feet it just sitting next to you, supporting you and loving you. Won’t you take us somewhere fun where we can play together without all the distractions of ‘real life,’where we can celebrate life and the love we have for each other? Take us to Canine Camp Getaway of NY next June, and give us the best gift a human can give a dog — time together to play and have fun together!

Wishing you all a wonderful 2012!


Janice, Jessie & Lexie

A Dog’s First Car Ride

Thursday, November 17th, 2011

When you’re a dog, a car ride is pretty magical. It can be pretty magical for a human, too, especially when it’s the first car ride with a new four-legged best friend.

I had the opportunity to share that first car ride recently when my friend Bob adopted his new dog. We’d spent several days visiting shelters before finding her — a beautiful two-year-old black lab mix — at North Shore Animal League.

Shadow Dog

Newly adopted dog Shadow enjoyed her first car ride!

The adoption process can be stressful for a shelter pet, but she was surprisingly calm, as if she’d already realized that she was going to a great home and had nothing to worry about.

Shadow (as she would later be named) got into the car happily enough, and immediately curled up on the back seat with a sigh; she might not know where home was yet, but she seemed content to be taking the ride.

Unlike my still-insane lab mix — who thinks car rides are about sticking her head out the window, rubbing her body against every part of the car she can reach in case there’s a Shedding Olympics she’s inadvertently been entered in, jumping from front seat to back seat to the compartment where the convertible top folds down, and occasionally gnawing on a seatbelt — Shadow seemed a natural for car rides. She sat quietly, moving her nose just enough to nuzzle Bob’s hand when he reached back to pat her.

No barking, no whining, just a quiet sigh, almost too soft to hear. As if she, too, knew that this first car ride was special, something to be savored.

She’ll have plenty more car rides in her future. Dog parks, vet trips, pet store visits, meetups, holidays with friends and relatives, and of course her annual dog vacation as a staff dog at Canine Camp Getaway of NY.

She’ll probably stuff her head out the window at some point to take in the scents, whine in excitement as she develops and recognizes new favorite places, poke Bob looking for a pat, or maybe even scoot up to the front seat looking for a taste of some drive-through dinner one night. She’ll grow more confident each day, and with each trip, more bonded to her human buddy, more excited about getting into a car that will take her to extraordinary places, places that will help her experience all the joys of life as a traveling dog.

But nothing will ever be the same as that first trip.

When we adopt a rescue dog, it’s an act of faith. We don’t really know about the dog’s past, or what the future will hold. We don’t know the dog’s quirks, or if there are latent behavioral or medical issues. We don’t know if the bond will “take.”

But we rarely realize how much more of a leap of faith it is for the dog. The dog doesn’t know she’s being “rescued.” She follows the person on the other end of the leash, hoping that she will end up someplace safe, where they will feed her, shelter her, care for her. She hopes that the person who picked her out from hundreds of other dogs won’t grow tired of her. She hopes someone in her new home will play with her…exercise her…cherish her. And keep her safe forever.

Even though her having been dumped in a shelter in the first place probably means someone already failed to live up to that trust.

Thankfully, Shadow is one of the lucky ones.

But watching her on that first car ride to her new home, it was clear she already knew that.