The last day of camp is wildly bittersweet. We have some of our most memorable activities, with campers and dogs moving as partners and doing things they could not have imagined doing on Day One. And then, having achieved this, we have to say goodbye.
Today we woke up from our sleepover and made breakfast for ourselves. Then we cleaned the barn — it has to be spotless for graduation! Then we took a break for lunch.
After lunch we went to Encore Assisted Living, where we brightened everybody’s day by letting the residents visit with our dogs. Imagine trying to do this on Day One! The dogs entered a strange building, met a lot of people they did not know well, saw people in wheelchairs for the first time, saw older people possibly for the first time, encountered strange smells and strange sounds and everyone did quite well. We are so proud of our campers and our dogs, whose hard work made this possible! The residents always love visits, and today they particularly enjoyed the tiny puppies, Moana, Maui and Kane, who could sit on laps.
Graduation this session was in the rain, but even with the crowds and the rain on the roof everyone put on a spectacular performance, showing off all the skills they had learned over the last two weeks. We even managed a swimming demonstration!
Goodbye is always sad, although this session we did have several dogs leaving graduation directly to their new forever homes!
Today we did some work training in the morning, and quickly cleaned the barn, but the highlight of the day was the trip to Kings Landing to go canoeing with the dogs!
We can fit two or three kids and their dogs in each canoe and go around a short circular canoeing path or simply canoe up to the “swimming hole”, with the rope swing and the diving platform, and spend the day there. There are things to climb on and logs to sit on and we can run up and down in the water with the dogs. This is always one of our favorite trips! Even though some of us had never been in a canoe before, we all did really well and had a great time!
Tonight is our camp sleepover, where we spend the night in the barn (or even outside, if the weather holds) with the dogs. Tomorrow we will make ourselves breakfast, and have a busy day before graduation at 4:30 pm!
Today was “nonprofit day” for us! We have raised $123 so far in our fundraiser for United Against Poverty, and today we took our donation to their headquarters to get a tour and learn more about what they do. UAP, partnering with a variety of local charities, specializes in empowering those who do not have stable housing situations to regain control over their lives through a variety of means.
After a morning spent working on loose leash walking, we went to visit UAP. We got to tour their discounted grocery store and learn where the foodstuffs there come from, and we also got to see their clinic and classrooms and computer lab, where they help people with a huge array of issues from domestic violence to resume writing to classes in activities of daily living (such as cooking) to simple medical care.
We stopped for lunch on the way home, and afterward we worked with the dogs, adding chairs as a distraction. Later on, we were lucky enough to be visited by Mari and one of the dogs from Canine Companions for Independence, another nonprofit!
Today began with more training! We polished up work on pedestal training and added the cone/pvc pipe, which is an object around which the dog is asked to turn, to everyone’s repertoire. Then we cleaned the barn….
…and went on a field trip with the dogs! We went to Oviedo Riverside Park. We stopped somewhere to get lunch on the way so we could have a picnic with the dogs in the park! Then we spent some time just being out in nature with the dogs. The dogs got to sniff, run, crawl, climb, and wade in the water, as well as move around on a very long leash so they could really get out and exercise.
At the end of the day we took the dogs to one end of the field and let them run toward their camper, who was calling them (a “long recall”). Campers had to get very inventive to get the dogs to run toward them! Everybody enjoyed the running, but it was very, very hot and we got back onto the bus and stopped to get drinks on the way back to Doglando.