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Campfires + Canines: Q&A with Alysa Slay of Camp Dogwood

TAILS is all about celebrating the relationship between pets and their people. (In fact, it’s our tagline.) Camp Dogwood’s mission is in complete alignment, offering a jam-packed weekend of fun for humans and canines alike. We set up camp with founder Alysa Slay to learn more about why this unique time away is so critical to the human-animal bond.

TAILS: What was your mission when you started a camp for dogs?

SLAY: Our mission is comprised of three principles: providing activities focused on the health, behavior, and emotions of dogs; offering balanced opportunities for developing dogs’ potentials as well as enhancing the relationship between human and canine companions; and supporting organizations that improve the quality of canine life within our communities.

What does this look like throughout the weekend?

Each camp session offers more than 25 activities. Categories include sports (agility, flyball, lure coursing, nosework), health and wellness (pet message, essential oils, first aid/CPR, nutrition), camp fun (hikes, boat tours, swimming, arts and crafts, campfires), and fundraising activities (silent auction).

What keeps you committed season after season?

The amazement people experience watching their dog discover new talents is everything. I’ve watched so many dogs find their “thing” at camp after being exposed to things like sheep herding, barn hunt, agility, or nosework. They continue training in the sport at home and a whole new world opens up for both the dog and his person—we love when that happens!

What are the benefits of dog camp?

Socialization opportunities, building a dog’s confidence, and trying many different dog sports to see where your dog thrives. Even just walking in the woods and letting your dog explore all of the smells in nature offers her a chance to really spend some heartfelt, quality time with you.

How does the experience impact most canine campers?

I see many dogs leave with confidence and physical skill in something they have never done before, like going over the obstacles in agility or swimming for the first time. For some dogs, their natural instincts are awakened, especially in activities like sheep herding and barn hunt. Many dogs also leave having passed their Canine Good Citizen (CGC) test.

What have you learned from your time at camp?

When I started Camp Dogwood, it seriously never occurred to me that as the years went on our dog friends would cross the rainbow bridge. As cliché as it sounds, the biggest lesson learned at camp is that life is short—our dogs’ lives even shorter—and it is important to cherish every moment we have with them. Slow down, make the most of each moment, and create long lasting memories together.

Learn more about Camp Dogwood at CampDogwood.com.

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