Monday, March 7, 2011

Working Dogs

Olivia is a Camp Dog. During the summer of 2008, I talked about nothing except puppies- googling photos nonstop, using spare minutes to email breeders and nonstop dreaming about the following summer when we would have a Camp Dog to roam around and make the children happy.

She's my dog of course (my bank account will confirm that fact), but when she is at camp, she is at work. I always find it funny when people ask me where she goes the rest of the year, as if she is ONLY a Camp Dog, but with her photo on the website, stuffed Olivia dogs in the camp store and her confidence and independence around camp, I guess I can understand their confusion (I'm actually just being nice, those people are dumb. This is a $3000 purebred dog that requires nonstop maintenance, she's clearly not just wandering the woods when camp ends... but I digress...).

At 8 weeks old, I brought Olivia out to the schools and churches I was visiting to recruit campers. I was blown away that, even as a naughty puppy, when her camp bandanna went on, she was ready to work. She was a perfect angel, soaking in the attention, never happier or more of a ham than when she was surrounded by a group of adoring children. People were amazed by how patient she was with the kids, while being perfectly obedient. She had tantrums and ignored every command at home, but she was a perfect puppy in public.

She was 8 months old when she started her first summer of camp. One of the first days of staff training, I asked the staff to stand on a line I'd created with a piece of tape. I was amazed to see Olivia go right over and sit right on the line with the other staff. Everyone paused and turned to look at her and I shook my head- she was a camp dog.

From the first moment, Olivia loved the kids, being outside and wanted to be included in every activity. When we got home in the fall, she was depressed and threw tantrum after tantrum. Camp is where Olivia is happiest.

I was very unsure about Griffin. It was June and I was going home for 24 hours to pick up some out of state staff. A new dog who had never been around kids was a terrible idea. But I fell in love with him and decided I could keep him in the house and away from kids and activities if I had to.

Despite being sick the whole summer, Griffin was a natural. His breathing was so bad that he could barely walk, but he loved the kids and he was quite content to sit on second base during kickball games, happy to be in the middle of the action. The kids all begged for stuffed Griffins in the camp store.

Last weekend was Camp Rally Day. Games! Prizes! Information about camp! A time to get excited for the summer. And what better way to do that than seeing the camp dogs?!

My mom walked them around the crowds of kids and both of them were very happy to soak in the attention. There was one little girl in particular who fell in love with them and spent every minute following them around. At one point, I looked over and she and Olivia were face to face, noses almost touching, and her arms were wrapped around Olivia's neck in a hug. For a dog who still throws regular tantrums when she doesn't get what she wants, I was proud of her and will happily trade a few naughty moments at home for such incredible behavior with the kids.

By the end of the event, Olivia, Griffin (and their new friend) were exhausted and laid down on the floor to cuddle (the top picture was right before Griffin used the little girl as his pillow, laying his giant head right on her leg). When we got home, they were even more exhausted, but very happy after a long day of work.

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