Pet Camp

We were playing around with the idea of taking a trip without Henry.
Doggy day care is everywhere in the big cities. Every time you turn around in LA, there’s a doggy day care or a Gentleman’s Club, two such places in my neighborhood share the same building with different entrances. Passing by, I always wonder if someone wasn’t paying attention and walked into the Silver Reign rather than the Wag’s Club, could a whole life change within the course of this error? I’m guessing yes!

But Henry because he still has his you-know-what’s isn’t welcome at the Wag’s Club or most doggy day care places. So when I heard about this camp out in the country outside LA, a place described to me as “summer camp for dogs,” I decided to check the place out. It’s so exclusive you need an appointment for the evaluation. And for ten dollars more a day, Henry with his you-know-what’s would be welcome. Provided he passed the entrance exam.


“It sounds like the interview for nursery school,” I told my husband. “Will you go with us?”

“OK, just so we agree we’re not going to leave him there, just check the place out.”

I adored camp the only summer we had enough money to send me there. I was the youngest camper—eight years old—and I got to stay there for two months. I fished, I took nature walks, nobody guilt tripped or terrorized me. I slept in a cool cabin with nine other girls so I wasn’t afraid of the dark. It was an utter contrast to regular life, back in Shreveport, Louisiana.

My husband hated camp.
And so did our son. The former managed to get himself lost on Fire Island, and the later was apprehended as he fled Catalina Island in the middle of the night with all his belongings, trying to get home.

I was hoping Henry would be like me in this regard. How great would it be to send him to the country whilst we went to some interesting city!

The trouble with modern pet-hood, is the same thing that is the trouble with modern parenthood: there are a multitude of experts, theories, and because a lot of people treat their pets as children (I certainly do) there’s a spill over.

On the one hand, we speak about dog issues the way we speak about young childhood issues: we speak of separation anxiety, we speak of discipline issues, we speak of transitional objects, proper diet, we buy them little coats, healthy treats, the list goes on and on.

And on the other hand, we want them to be dogs.

We got in the car with Henry and drove way past the valley. We exited, and we drove up a small mountain. We turned this way and that. And finally forty-five minutes later, there we were at the gates to the pet spa.

We were met by a pretty young girl, and a handsome dark haired man with an accent and a beret, who took Henry off our hands. We were invited to observe him by camera from the waiting room.

My husband and I were staring at the screen at three dogs plus Henry walking around in a circle. Things looked like they were going pretty well. Henry didn’t leap. Henry wasn’t barking his head off. He seemed cool, calm and somewhat collected.

Then Henry disappeared from sight. And we were given a tour where we saw big dogs frolicking in a fenced in area. There were small dogs doing the same.

“Every dog has it’s own private room,” said our tour guide.

The private room turned out to be a cell. The cement floor, I thought was wise, but I didn’t like the jail bars. In back of the cell was a small exit for the dog to do its biz. But on questioning, I learned the dog door wasn’t open at night. The dogs were locked in from five in the evening till seven in the morning.

I imagined Henry in his usual spots at home: in my workroom on the silk comforter I bought in India some years ago. Or on the fake shearling in the corner of the couch where he sits at night. Or on the orthopedic pillow meant to cure my neck that indents in the middle that he took as his own minutes after I brought it in the house. I could not see him in a cell by himself, even if they gave him a pillow.

“Could I bring his pillows and toys?” I asked.

“No! we don’t encourage that.”

We returned to the waiting room, and presently Henry stood in the doorway with his captor, who had attached a small noose around his neck.

“He did ok,” said the captor, and then he demo’d the noose. Henry who had been jumping up and down excited to see us, immediately calmed down. And sat obediently. Nothing like a noose around the neck to make any living creature behave itself.

“I don’t think he’s ready for the overnight yet. If you leave him with me for a day, I’ll see if he can join the pack. He just needs a little training. You should get him a collar like this.”

Once again he pulled the noose tight and Henry sat obediently looking straight ahead. He looked serious, resolute and utterly cowed. I’d never seen him this way before.

We got back in the car the three of us. Henry collapsed in my lap after a head to toe shudder. We drove in silence toward the Pacific Coast Highway.

Presently I said, “I don’t know about you, but I’m depressed.”

“I thought you liked camp!”

“I loved camp. But it didn’t remind me of camp, it reminded me of my childhood.”

My husband nodded his head. “I know what you mean.”

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