So over Father's Day weekend I took Nora for her first ever camping trip!
Boyfriends often describe me as neurotic as I tend to worry about things that most often turn out to be not nearly as terrible as I expect them to be. So naturally I was very anxious leading up to our trip. I'd only had Nora for three weeks at that point and she is like me in that she could be described as nervous or a worry wart. She has a much better reason than myself. From what I understand she was kept in a kennel for quite some time before she ended up in my life (much longer than a 3 year old dog should be). And while she's made a lot of great progress in the three weeks I've had her, there are still those little things that make this shy girl panic- the loud neighbor who continues to exclaim while Nora's cowering away, the biker who comes whizzing by on our walks and the dreaded car ride!
The car ride was the biggest struggle for me. We tried shorter trips to the pet food store or to work but she seemed to look at me with her big sad eyes as if to say "Do we have to?" every time I put her into the travel crate. Leading up to our trip I began to panic about the 6 hour ride to the U.P of Michigan. I was planning on stopping multiple times, but worried about how cooperative she would be about getting back into the Jeep after each subsequent stop. I was also concerned about being away from home for those 2 days and how she would handle being outside in the loud camp ground with the all the kids and other dogs.
Nora made it up to Michigan just fine. We met up with my dad and sister and set up camp. Nora took a bit to warm up to my dad but by the last day she would let him rub her belly. He even got her back leg kicking! She handled the outdoors very well and was content to sit with me by the fire. My dad remarked at how much Nora and I had bonded. When I left the campground to get some water or visit the restroom, my dad said Nora would sniff around and look around anxiously for me. Not that I want to her have separation anxiety, but I was glad to see that she recognized me as her person. On Father's Day we drove down to the Porcupine Mountains and hiked up to the Lake on the Clouds. Nora got to sit with me in the back of Dad's Jeep and I think it helped her with the car ride. After taking a few family photos, we continued on to Presque Isle to check out the waterfalls there. The scenery was gorgeous but the stairs up and down the falls became a little daunting. After a while I started carrying Nora- I certainly got a good work out.
That evening, Nora crawled into the tent and snuggled in between my sister and I. Some intense thunderstorms rolled through overnight and while they woke me up, Nora found a safe corner in the tent and didn't stir the rest of the night.
The ride back to Minneapolis was pretty uneventful as I had hoped. But my biggest fear was that, while Nora seemed to enjoy the camping, she was still subdued and cautious. I was scared that all that we had accomplished in the last 3 weeks would be compromised. We'd gotten to a point where her ears would perk up and her tail would wag when I called her. In the morning she was so excited to get her leash on and follow me downstairs for her morning walk. She no longer slunk away from Lily, my cat, but would herd her in circles around the apartment. She frequently put on her "happy face." What if the stress of the trip, or the change in scenery put her back in her fearful state, where she wouldn't know if she could trust me.
We arrived back at the apartment and as soon as we walked in the door she turned around and looked up at me with her "happy face." Her tail started wagging and she jumped around the apartment as if to say "We're home! We're home!"
As much as I love visiting the U.P. and seeing my family, I think the best part about traveling or camping is the eventual return home. With more camping trips in our future, I hope Nora will see that getting in the car doesn't mean I'm going to take her and leave her somewhere or that she'll be rehoming yet again. She's coming with me everywhere and we'll always come back home.