Friday, July 22, 2011

Why I am Never Again Camping with Dogs

At the beginning of this miserable heatwave, I, along with many others, escaped to the North. Unfortunately, it really wasn't much of an escape. It was still outrageously hot, humid, and there was still no wind, unless I went to the shores of Lake Michigan, which we did once (and were rewarded with a gorgeous sunset!).

The first day was devoted to setting up our campsite, two tents and a mini-fridge that we put on a picnic table near the power outlets. The second day, my roomie Kimmy and I spent the day tootling around Traverse City and the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore region. We stopped in Empire (named for a sunken ship) for the root beer and a swim for me in the Lake.

Then on Sunday, Kimmy had to return home, and I stayed with the group. We swam in neighboring Duck Lake, played fetch with our dog Higgins in the water and generally relaxed... Until that evening.

The extreme heat was getting to everyone, including our dogs, who hate everything about camping. They kept begging to be let in to the tent, a veritable greenhouse, or the car, which I think they hoped would magically take them home. Baggins, our older dog, started acting even more unhappy than usual, so my mother and I decided to take the dogs for a ride in the car so that they could cool off with the air conditioning.

Higgins was grateful for the relief, but Baggins couldn't get comfortable and started hacking really hard and couldn't stop. We were getting worried, so I looked up emergency vets in Traverse City. Luckily, they had opened a 24 hour vet clinic last year on Front St called the Bay Area Pet Hospital

If you are in the Traverse City area, I highly recommend this group. Everyone there is friendly and obviously cares about all of their furry patients. They saw Baggins right away and he was diagnosed with probably bloat, which can kill a dog within hours. In fact, the internet claims that bloat is the second leading cause of death in dogs after cancer.

Mr. Baggins was made as comfortable as possible and checked into his air conditioned room for the night. We left our cell phone numbers and returned to the campsite for the night. The next day, after receiving a few updates on Baggins' condition (it was, indeed, bloat, and he would need surgery to untwist his stomach), we took our other dog Higgins down to the lake for another swim, and later paid Mr. Baggins a visit in the pet hospital. The surgery went perfectly, and Baggins perked up considerably when he saw us. The vet said that if he continued to progress so well, we could take him with us Wednesday, when we were scheduled to return home.

Tuesday provided further complications. Our younger dog Higgins refused to get out of his tent, and even after I coaxed him out, he wouldn't drink any water, though he did wolf down his breakfast.He crawled underneath the picnic table and there he stayed to sulk because we wouldn't let him into the car.

We began to break down camp and get everything packed up because we'd gotten a hotel room in town to spend our final night in air conditioning and be closer to Baggins. Meanwhile, Higgins grew increasingly restless, and was shaking his head and pawing at his right ear. This is a dog who has never been sick and, though vocal, does not whine or cry. He began to yelp and roll around the ground as if he were in great pain.

Thus we hurried back to the pet hospital with our second dog curled in the back seat of the car while our wonderful, generous friends finished packing up our stuff for us to pick up later. Since Higgins been swimming and no one had cleaned out his ears, we figured he probably had an ear infection. (Labs are known for them.) Nearly the entirety of the day was spent in the vet's waiting room.

We met some very nice people. There was one older couple who had brought in their dog who had eaten carpet, not the first time she had done so. While the technicians did X-rays, my mother and the lady chatted and swapped stories. Unfortunately, the prognosis on the couple's dog was not good, and after being called to the back by the vet, the couple left looking upset. After a little while had passed, a technician came out and told my mother that the lady had called and wanted her to pass on a message thanking her for the good conversation, and to apologize for not saying goodbye.

Spending a day in a veterinarian's was fairly interesting. So many people and pets and a story for each. Even so, it was a great relief to get to the hotel, crank the air, and watch some TV. Higgins, who had the beginnings of an ear infection, was grateful to be indoors, as well. 

The next day we stopped back at the camp site to retrieve our things, and I learned that my innocent puppy is a big fat faker. He had been fine since leaving the vet the previous day, but as soon as his little brown paws hit dirt, he began whining and pawing at his ear again and crawling on the ground. 

Finally at two o'clock, we were allowed to pick up Mr. Baggins from the vet and drive the three hours home. Both dogs were ecstatic and perched in the back of the car with big, sloppy grins on their faces.

This is why I am never again camping with dogs.

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