Camping with a family’s best friend
Words and Photos by M. Lokelani Howe
When your husband says it'll be fine to take the pups camping—that's a doggone lie, y'all.
Sure, it was my idea to feed our doodles right before leaving town. We hadn't even left the metroplex before Buttercup upchucked her lunch on my son's lap. Lesson learned.
Next time, we'll stick with feeding them a single serving of ThunderWunders Calming Dog Chews. The small chews are made with hemp seed, chamomile, ginger, and other healthy ingredients that reduce anxiety. They also work wonders during other stressful moments, including trips to the groomer.
It's been one learning curve after another since bringing home our two doodles: Buttercup the Goldendoodle and Rosie the Aussiedoodle. Doodles are notoriously smart, mischievous too. Both of ours are a bonafide mess. But when my kids come home from school and hug their fluffy necks, it's all worth it.
Thanks to the fancy travel blanket that my husband ordered, the upchuck was made less of an ordeal. He's the kind of doodle dad who searches for all the best gear, and we've become big fans of Wash'n Zip Pet Beds. When folded and zipped, it's a padded bed, and when unfolded, it drapes over car seats. And laps.
Later that evening, we arrived at our camping spot at Beavers Bend State Park near Hochatown, Oklahoma. Setting up a new tent in the dark is beyond challenging. Add two youngsters and two six-month-old puppies? We needed help.
The campers next to us must have sensed the struggle—or heard the noise. They insisted on helping us secure tent stakes and fetch water. That's the beauty of camping; the wilderness brings out the best in people.
We went to sleep under a blanket of stars and woke up to a severe tornado storm watch. Several park rangers rolled through the campsite throughout the day to ensure everyone stayed informed. We chose to hunker down as nearly the entire camp cleared out by nightfall. The downpour began in the middle of the night, quickly turning the tent floor into a waterbed. At the same time, a waterspout spun around the lake, but the doodles slept like babies through the storm.
Perhaps that's the doodle way.
They didn't even need a calming chew. My husband might also point out that he purchased a big enough tent to house their crate, their safe place. I guess we'll give him that one too. He also found a handy travel bag by Mobile Dog Gear for their food, snacks, and toys. And it's pink, of course.
I'm not sure that they actually ate much of their everyday dog food. Instead, our doodles devoured small sticks and dead leaves, much to my husband's dismay. They couldn't get enough! This is particularly hard for a man who strives to do the right thing all the time. Letting go and allowing the doodles to do their thing? It's a forehead-slapping challenge. But hey, it's all fiber, right?
Then he really let go by setting them loose. No, not really. It's against the law to let dogs off their leash in most state and national parks. But he did purchase a sleek dog trolley from Tumbo. He geeked out on its engineering and customer service. I'm not sure who enjoys it more, him or the dogs.
There are plenty of people who leave their fur-babies at home when they go camping. There are still days when I'd happily be that person. My better half? Not for a doggone minute.
Maybe that's because our first family dog passed away a couple of months before our camping trip. We fondly nicknamed him "the old man," so we knew it was time. Still, it was very hard on the family. That's why we made room for Rosie and Buttercup. I'm not sure they've soothed my daughter's grief. She still cries for the old man, especially when she's had a bad day. Day by day, however, she turns to Rosie and Buttercup when she needs to hug a fluffy neck.
We enjoyed four full days of doodle mischief alongside the shores of Broken Bow Lake. Truly, we couldn't have chosen a better place to introduce our pups to the wilderness. Our kids cannot wait to return to stay at the Coyote campsite, although we are tempted to try all the others too.
In the evening, my husband brushed down the doodles, carefully removing the burs and tangles before kicking his feet up by the campfire. These are the tender moments born of trials and tribulations that our children will cherish.
Camping with pups is a hassle—no lie. It's an endeavor that costs time, energy, muscle power, patience, and cold hard cash. All the same, some adventures are worth the fuss.