Pet Parenting: River Goes Camping

What can sometimes seem like the smallest, most insignificant decision, can ultimately lead to the biggest changes in your life.

Today, I find myself celebrating two years of working for the Fort McMurray SPCA.  When I begin thinking about everything I’ve been through since I started, I find it hard to wrap my head around that length of time.  I can remember my first day as if it just happened but when I think about the people and animals that have come and gone I feel …. a lot of things really.

It is not an easy job.  But it is rewarding.  And really, of all the jobs I’ve had, this one has changed my life in ways I did not expect.  In one way in particular, especially.  So, for my two year celebration, I would like to focus on this story.  A continuing story.

This is how I met my best friend.

His name is River.

I’ve posted about him before here.  You can read all about how I adopted him from the SPCA and some of the misadventures he had as a puppy.  I could probably write another 5000 words on all the things he’s done in the last year and a half to make me laugh…and cry.  But I won’t.  That’s not the point of this story.  In fact this story is only about a week old.  This story is new.  This, my friends, is the story of the time I took River on his first real camping trip.

Our little group decided that we were going to spend the weekend at Crow Lake and everybody decided to leave their dogs behind….except for me.  Mostly as a part of poor planning on my part; I hadn’t really given it any thought until the day before.  I hadn’t found anywhere for River to stay and was faced with a small dilemma.  What do I do with the little guy?  I came to the rapid conclusion of simply bringing him along, despite knowing he isn’t necessarily the best at car rides.  So, I piled him into the Jeep with my bag and pillow and away we went.  And guess what?

He puked.

After an hour and a half of drooling all over my back seat, we managed to pull onto the dirt road leading into the campsite and that’s the moment he tossed his cookies.  No big deal though.  It was mostly liquid – easy to clean up.  Our afternoon began with lighting a fire and making some lunch.  I left him on a long leash and this is when I noticed something I had almost taken for granted before.  Something that had gone largely unnoticed.  He was a perfect gentleman.  He didn’t make a peep; he was calm, cute and playful all in one.  He walked on leash as if he had been doing it for years.  He kept vigil watch from the shoreline as we had our own misadventure in some questionably green water.  As the day wore on, he didn’t get into any trouble or cause a fuss.  He wouldn’t even go the bathroom on our campsite – he needed to be escorted away from it out of respect for the space we were calling home.  For the first time since I’ve adopted him, I felt like I didn’t really need to hover over him.  It was a weird sensation.  To top it all off, at night when we all went to bed, he made his rounds inside the camper and made sure everyone was OK; cuddling everyone he could.  As people drifted off to sleep, he hopped off their beds, curled up on the floor, and went to sleep himself.  He refused to sleep until everyone else had gone. And this is when it hit me. All this time I had been taking care of him and I hadn’t really clued in.

He was also taking care of me – I just hadn’t noticed it until I had seen him do it for the others.

Since the day I brought him home, River has been in a league of his own.  He has caused a fair amount of destruction and gotten into a fair amount of mischief, but it’s the other things he does that I sometimes fail to notice.  He cuddles me when I’m sad and when I’m going to sleep.  He follows me around the house wherever I go, always two steps behind me.  He is patient with me in the morning when I need those few extra minutes to wake up.  He makes sure that I go out for a walk and exercise, even when I have the urge to be lazy.  He is my biggest critic, my unshakable shadow, and my constant companion.  The truth is, I didn’t bring River camping because I forgot to make arrangements for him.  I brought River camping because I couldn’t imagine going without him.  This is when I learned that he is more than just my dog.  This is when I learned that River is my best friend.

Of course, the time eventually came to pack up and go home; the camping trip was over.  So, I grabbed my bag and my pillow and piled everything into the Jeep.  I grabbed River, who eagerly hopped up into the back seat, and we were off!  Back down the dirt road and out onto the highway; all the way back to town.  Finally, we pulled into the driveway; the back seat covered in River’s drool.  And guess what?

He puked.

I recently read that every dog I help in my career is simply doing the best he can with the tools that life has given him.  If that is the truly the case, then River was born with Batman’s utility belt.

So here I am, celebrating two years of a job I love doing and writing about the little furball that has made big changes to my life; the little furball I am lucky to call friend.

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