Dog Days of Summer ... Camp!

By Jennifer Haupt Contributor to The Christian Science Monitor | The Christian Science Monitor, July 7, 2004 | Go to article overview

Dog Days of Summer ... Camp!


Jennifer Haupt Contributor to The Christian Science Monitor, The Christian Science Monitor


When Doris Banfield says she's going to the dogs, she's not kidding. For more than 10 years, she and her two bearded collies, Lorna and Buddy, have traveled from their home in Tahoe City, Calif., to Camp Gone to the Dogs in Putney, Vt. There the threesome spends a week playing sports and games and participating in lectures and contests. They even do arts and crafts together. The experience always leaves two of them wagging their tails.

"The dogs make the trip more fun because they're so excited about everything - from the car ride to making friends in hotels along the way to the camp itself," says Ms. Banfield.

But she's not the only one singing - or barking - the praises of camps that offer four-legged campers and their owners a bucolic place to vacation together.

During the past 15 years, more than a dozen canine camps have sprung up in the US. The trend is even catching on in Europe. Experts say it's fueled by the fact that many people consider their pets to be members of the family and don't want to be separated from them even on vacation.

"My dogs know [camp] is a special time, because they get to be with 'Mom' 24 hours a day," says Ginny Vendes, an office manager from Chicago who went to Dog Scout Camp in St. Helen, Mich., with her 12-year-old niece and three shelties. "[The dogs and I] do everything together; they even eat and sleep with me."

The number of those who feel the same - and are willing to pay $750 to $1,300 for the privilege - is growing by leaps and bounds, camp owners say.

"When we started out, we were the first camp for dogs and their owners in the country," says Honey Loring, owner of Camp Gone to the Dogs, which had 57 people at the first session in 1990. Today she fills a lodge with 125 human campers and their canine companions for each ofthe three summer sessions. Dogs and their owners travel from as far away as Australia and Japan.

Over the years, she has become increasingly creative with the activities offered. If a dog has always wanted to develop a hobby other than tail chasing, he or she can learn to jump rope, skateboard, square dance, or paint pictures. (Banfield has one of Lorna's Picasso-esque watercolors hanging in her living room.)

The camp now offers more than 120 classes, including obedience training, agility, swimming, and hiking, as well as evening educational classes, for humans only, and a dog/owner talent show and costume party.

A camp for every interest

Other camps have a variety of themes and atmospheres to choose from. Camp Dogwood, located in the Chicago area, offers year-round themed camps, including a winter "Woof-Inn," a spring beach party, a lakeside summer camp session, and a "howl-oween" party in fall. …

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