Travelling With Dogs: The Camping Trip from Hell; The Trip to the Campsite & Setting Up Camp

The following is a reposting of the first in an ongoing series of posts originally written in “The Barrie Dog Blog” a blog I authored in 2010.

N.B: It became clear to me as I was writing this story that the entire story would take far too long to read in one blog posting, therefore the story is being broken down into chapters. As you are reading this one I am writing the next so check back tomorrow for the next chapter. 

Years ago when I was still a single Mom and only had one dog, a friend (who was also a single parent) and I decided to combine finances and take our kids on a week long summer camping trip. We made our reservations, packed our bags, fixed up his van and hooked up the tent trailer. We then loaded his two sons and one daughter and my daughter into the van. All that was left was to load in the dogs. Now I already mentioned that this was way back when I only had one dog, so you are probably thinking okay so no big deal, a couple of dogs and you’re on your way. If that were the case this would not have been the camping trip from hell.

My friend had three dogs, and they were not small ones! So what we were standing there realizing as we were looking at this van full of children was, “where the heck are we going to put all these dogs?” Packed into the tent trailer were a few crates for night sleeping containment of the dogs, and an 18 kg. bag of dog food, as well as dishes and toys and chew bones and the  like for four dogs. We couldn’t afford to kennel these dogs, and we couldn’t get to their things to leave them with friends without totally unpacking the tent trailer. They had to come with us, so into the van they went.

We set off on the two hour drive to the campground we had booked. We hadn’t gone a country mile when from the back seat we heard the three year old scream and begin to cry. I looked back (my friend was driving) into the back seat to see 120lb. Yellow lab Nelly Standing on the three year olds lap. The little boy was screaming and crying as his 17 year old sister attempted to get the dog back onto the floor. At the same  time from the third row seat where my eight year old daughter and my friends six year old son were sitting I heard “Ow! Let go of my ponytail!” ,”you pinched me first!”  “Oh this is going to be a great trip!” was my sarcastic thought.

About an hour into the trip we were thinking we needed a refreshment and bathroom break for everyone, dogs included. Somewhere in the back a dog (probably mine) vomited on the floor, this made the decision and we pulled into the next rest stop we came to. 

It was decided I would take the younger children into the washrooms, and my friend and his 17 year old daughter would walk the dogs. Off I went, and dealing with children who needed to go to the bathroom, had no problems. When I returned with children and refreshments in hand, I was confronted by a scene that made me think “Wonderful! I’ve been dropped into a bad G-rated camping comedy!”

My friend, always the ego-maniac (he was a fire-fighter who thought he could handle anything) had decided to attempt to walk all three of his dogs at the same time! Now these were country dogs who had never been leash trained, and I think I previously mentioned that one weighed 120lbs. What I haven’t told you is that another was a 100lb. blind lab, and the third was a young wolf-hound cross who had no real training. The site that confronted me when I came out of the building was of my friend being dragged across the parking lot on his back as three dogs went their own way. I helped his daughter put my dog back in the van with the kids, and we set out to corral the other three and rescue my battered and bruised friend. We hadn’t even made it to the campsite and I was already pulling out the first aid kit! The second half of the trip went pretty much the same, but we finally reached the campsite.

Plans were for myself and the two girls to bunk down in the tent trailer with two of the dogs. He, and the boys would sleep in the tent with the other two.  This would have been fine in theory, had it not been for the good old Algonquin weather gods who saw fit to flood or campsite with a storm in the middle of that first night. About two in the morning we awakened by a pounding on the trailer door. We opened it to find three very wet humans and two soaking wet dogs. Seems the tent they had all been sleeping in now had six inches of water floating in the bottom of it and was unusable for at least the rest of the night. We packed everyone into the tent trailer dogs included and slept the rest of the night feeling much as a sardine must feel once packed in its can.

The rest of the night was peaceful despite the crowding. The next morning dawned bright and sunny. We got up got the kids dressed, and started to prepare breakfast. The dogs had to be walked as Algonquin park has some very strict leash laws. The four children decided to walk the four dogs. Great in theory, not so good in practice. My 60lb. 8 year old daughter decided for some reason we will never know, that she was going to walk the biggest dog we had brought with us. Nelly the 120lb. yellow lab. This would also have been fine in theory were it not for the fact that just as my daughter was passing the river that ran close to our campsite, Nelly saw a squirrel..

When a 120lb. dog decides it wants to chase a squirrel there is no way they are just going to let it go. When a 60lb. child is the one walking that dog you just know the results are going to be disastrous. The squirrel saw the dog at about the same time the dog decided she wanted squirrel for breakfast. The squirrel took off running in the direction of the river, Nelly hot on her heals with my poor daughter hanging on to the leash for dear life and being dragged behind. Right into the river they went, me running along behind screaming at my daughter to let go of the leash, which she finally did. My friends 17 year old daughter took my daughter back to the campsite to get her dry clothing and bandage a few small cuts and scrapes. I set off in search of the dog who was still chasing the squirrel leash trailing behind her. I finally caught up to the dog when she treed the squirrel and was able to wrestle her back to the campsite and put her in the van with the other dogs for the ride to the beach. It was the morning of the first full day and already I had silently vowed to never go camping with this many dogs again! Ever! Six more days to go and I was already wondering what else could possibly happen. I had no time to think about that now, we had promised the kids a beach trip and it was time to go.

To be continued…Next Segment – Travelling with Dogs: The Camping Trip From Hell; Dogs & Beaches Don’t Mix!