Summer Camps Have Gone to the Dogs

By Maryann Mott
for National Geographic News
June 20, 2003

It's the dog days of summer, and camps have opened their doors for fun and sun. For dog owners camps can make them feel like they're kids again—only now no tears need be shed because they've had to leave their faithful companions at home.

There are specialty camps where two- and four-legged campers get to stay and play together. From dawn until dusk, there are dozens of things for humans and canines to do together: sports, games, lectures, contests, and crafts. In fact, there are so many activities camp directors often have to tell people to pace themselves.

"It's addictive," said Chris Puls, who attends The Dog Scout Camp in Michigan. And she doesn't go only once during the season. Puls visits the camp two or three times each summer.

There are only a handful of canine camps scattered throughout the United States. Most owners, though, don't mind traveling far to get to their favorite resort. It takes Puls five hours to drive from her home in Ohio to Michigan. Each time the owner of four dogs goes, she takes along a different furry friend.

For more than ten years, Doris Banfield has made the trip from her California home to Camp Gone to the Dogs in Vermont.

The opportunity to share activities with like-minded people, she said, is what keeps her going back year after year.

"It's like a large family reunion with dogs," said Banfield, who owns two bearded collies, Lorna and Buddy. "So many of us have become such good friends."

Since Camp Gone to the Dogs opened in 1990, founder Honey Loring said many of the same people, like Banfield, visit every year.

The camp has become so popular, Loring said, that some Europeans and Americans from Hawaii, who can't bring their own dogs because of quarantine restrictions, borrow pets from nearby breeders or shelters just so they can attend with a four-legged friend.

"I'm lucky that there are a lot of people like me who eat, sleep, and drink dogs," said Loring, whose car license plate says: "Dog Crazy."

There's no shortage of things to do at this canine camp. Between 30 and 50 activities take place each day, such as herding, obedience-training, agility classes, hiking, swimming—the list goes on and on. Classes start at 7 a.m. and run until 9 p.m. But don't worry, this isn't boot camp, where the sergeant barks at you all day long.

"You can do everything, or nothing at all," says Loring. In fact, relaxing is encouraged. Special certificates are awarded to people who participate in less than two activities a day.

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