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Summer camp...for dogs

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Summer camp has gone to the dogs. Or rather, the dogs are going to summer camp and they’re taking their owners with them.

According to Jeannie Richter in a recent article on abcnews.com, if you’re looking for a getaway for you and your dog, you don't have to look too far. Thanks to summer camps that cater to both dogs and their humans, you can “have a vacation,” she said, “…and your best friend with you.”

And Richter would know. After all, she runs Camp Gone to the Dogs, a retreat for both species in Stowe and Marlboro, Vt.

You need only look at the photo gallery on her Web site and others to see why campers sign on. It’s obvious in frame after frame that everybody’s having fun – dancing, practicing agility and herding, walking nature trails, and even riding gondolas.

It’s a multi-level bonding experience – one that has people connect with their pets and each other around the common denominator of wanting to have a good time.

“It’s weird to say, but I get all excited when I get to camp,” said Leah Caracino, who goes to summer camp with her dog, Indy. “I’m like a little kid, I count down the days.” And in its own way, she said, so does the dog.

A good price for a good time

With pet owners spending approximately $41 billion a year on their pets, it’s no wonder they’re willing to shell out anywhere from $650 to $1,400 for a week of camaraderie and summer fun with their dogs.

Typically, that buys them:

  • Accommodations that range from the rustic, like cabins and tents, to the upscale, like fancy inns and heated lodges, depending on what you’re looking for.
  • A full dance card. And a choice of as many as 100 activities in a day, including hunting, obedience, Frisbee tossing, carting, dock diving, fly ball, swimming, canine Olympics, and yes, even arts and crafts.

“One of our most popular activities is the doggie arts class or (making) paw or nose prints of your dogs,” said Lory Kohlmoos, director of Camp Winnaribbun. She said the camp also offers storytelling around the campfire, and a class for people to write about their dogs.

A camp for all reasons

While many camps are designed purely for pleasure, others have a more sharply defined purpose, like Camp Border Collies for Kids. Supported entirely by donations, it pairs rescued border collies with at-risk inner-city kids for canine agility and training classes on a farm outside of New York City. The goal is to teach children ow to have kindness and compassion for all living things.

The Dog Scouts of America is a non-profit that educates people on how to be responsible dog owners and nurture their relationship with animals. It hosts a full six-day learning camp for dogs and their owners and three-day mini camps on 80 acres of woods in central Michigan.

It’s about quality time

No matter what the camp or the reason, experts agree that vacationing with your dog is all about being together.

“We have people call and say we’re going away for a week, can we drop off our dog?” said Kohlmoos. The answer is always a resounding no. After all, she and others agree, that completely defies the point of it.

“The person who comes to camp wants to be with his or her dog on vacation,” Richter said. And, in fact, 70 percent of people enjoy it so much they come back time and again for the experience.

Credit: Reviewed by Amy I. Attas, V.M.D.
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