As I wandered along the beach near the RV park the other evening, I found myself envying a family gathered around a campfire singing songs and softly strumming guitars. I used to camp every chance I got – sometimes with a dog, sometimes without, often with friends or family but often alone. I camped with my parents when I was a child, I camped with friends in tents or out in the open beneath the stars, I camped in tiny rustic alpine lean-tos on backpacking trails high in the mountains, and I camped (though I would hardly call it that) in a fully equipped trailer on my own little piece of recreational property in the Fraser Canyon. Whether in a tent, under the stars, in a rustic lean-to or a fancy trailer, camping has always been part of my life. Lazy days fishing or reading or hiking, evenings around the campfire, any spare time I had was spent doing these things I loved.
That is, until I began volunteering at sanctuaries and shelters and taking on senior and special needs animals of my own.
Working full time for pay while also volunteering 15-40 hours a week at a multi-species sanctuary for senior and special needs animals left no time for camping. From there I moved on to fostering animals – up to 18 at a time – pigs, alpacas and palliative dogs on my own property, while also assisting with rescue transports, homechecks and the occasional day at Hearts on Noses potbellied pig sanctuary. Post-retirement I moved on (both figuratively and literally) with my four adopted senior/ special needs dogs, and with various volunteer obligations as well life was pretty full.
Then the volunteer project I was most heavily involved with reached completion, and my two most needy dogs died the very next week, and suddenly the life of chaos amid structure, of uncertainty amid predictability, of going flat out for as many hours a day as I could while still caring for my deaf, visually impaired and cognitively confused shelties, was over.
As I wandered down by the RV park, and reminisced about my days of hiking and fishing and my nights singing and play guitar around the fire, it occurred to me.... I could actually do those things again. With only two quiet, old, easy-care dogs and few responsibilities, I could take off on a whim and go camping. Tenting doesn’t much appeal to me anymore, but my van is big enough for two dogs and me to sleep in, and I still have my campstove and axe and other basic necessities of camp life.
Or I could load up the dogs and visit my sister in Penticton or my friend of over fifty years in Vernon. I’m sure both would welcome me, with just two quiet, old, easy-care dogs.
Even without leaving home, the livin’ is easy with only two old dogs.
I now get up late for the first time in over forty years – and even then, it is my needs, not my dogs’, which drive me from the bed. Sadie and Charley have bladder control far greater than mine – they can go from nine at night until nine the next morning and still have to be coaxed outside to go pee.
I make very few plans for the day. If the errands and chores get done, great; if not, there is always tomorrow. I putter around the house or yard, take the dogs for a stroll on the beach or a short hike on some shady trail in the municipal forest. I snooze, or write, or chat with a friend, or confer with a neighbour about the blackberry brambles that are climbing over my fence.
I still volunteer at a couple of places, but schedules are flexible and the big fundraising events are over for the summer. I can go out whenever I want – the dogs don’t mind. As long as they have had their walk, they are quite content to sleep on the couch or the bed while I take off for who-knows-where. And when I am home, they continue to sleep – large black furry couch potatoes who demand nothing more of me than some food, fresh water, a few pats, and a soft bed.
Who you callin' a Couch Potato? I'm a Rug Spud!
An' this aint no comfy couch beneath me!
Well, okay, I'm a Sofabed Potato.
Or maybe just a bedbug...er..bed-dog.
[Aside from Allie: "Don't you DARE post dat picture! Don't you DARE!!! I'll be kicked outta the 'Cats Rule, Dogs Drool' Club if anyone seez me sleepin' wiv the enemy!!!]
It is a slow and easy life. And for now, at least, I think I like it that way. It offers.....possibilities. Many possibilities. I shall have to think about that when I next look at Chester, the eleven year old pitbull cross on the Bully Buddies website, or Casey, the ten year old yellow lab whose owners told the Maple Ridge SPCA they didn’t want him anymore, or Conroy, a ten year old boxer whose family dropped him off at a boarding facility and never returned, or any of the other dozens of senior dogs being temporarily cared for by rescue organizations and shelters in British Columbia. They all need a home. And I could provide one. But for now, it’s summertime, and the livin’ is easy.....with two quiet, old, easy-care dogs.