Ross Murray's Border Report
Ross Murray
is a freelance writer living in Stanstead, Quebec. You can reach him at
Posted 08.12.10
Stanstead, Quebec


Joys of Camping Redux

There was a brief possibility of hope, a vista of joy, a burdenless future -- or at very least a weekend camping without the dog. Instead, we now have a medium-dog-sized hole in our tent.

I know the literature calls the mid-teen years the Root Canal Years, but there are some advantages. One: you have in-house designated drivers. Two: they tend to take on summer jobs, which means they can't always participate in summer weekend getaways. And that in turn means... dog-sitting!

Consequently, when Deb and I decided to book a last-minute camping weekend in Vermont, it looked like we'd be blissfully dog-free. But at an even later last minute, the kids' plans changed and we were forced to bring the beast.

I believe I've made the case against the dog. I believe I've also made the case that camping makes no sense -- taking everything in your house (dishes, bedding, food) along with primitive facsimiles (tent, inflatable mattress, gas-powered cooking implements) and moving them temporarily into the woods. This is fine. I just think the line should be drawn at the dog. We don't bring the cats, right? And don't think they don't know it...

Maybe it was the last-minute nature of the planning, but things didn't go well, starting with the dog. It needed an up-to-date rabies certificate to get into the state park, which meant another still-later last-minute appointment with our vet in Vermont.

I'll try to be brief:

  • Terribly late for the appointment, frantically search for passports. Find mine and Katie's in the van. Bring Katie's into house. Leave with dog.

  • Arrive at U.S. Customs, hand over passport. Officer: "Uhhh, I'm pretty sure this isn't you." Realize that I've mixed up Katie's and my passports. Also realize that I don't have my wallet or any kind of ID. I do, however, have my VISA.

  • Refused entry, I return to Canada. At Canada Customs: "No, I don't have my passport or ID. But I do have a VISA."

  • Search for passport at home. Discover it in my pocket, where it's been all along.

  • Return to U.S Customs. Hand over passport. "I had a feeling you weren't born in 1994!" "But I could totally pass, right?" "No."

  • Get to vet 15 minutes late with a van full of dog drool.
In the end, we got to the campsite without incident but with considerably more drool.

After all these years, Deb and I consider ourselves veteran campers. We've learned from experience to bring such necessities as dish soap, garlic and corkscrews. We've also learned that you don't lean a kerosene lantern against the side of a tent. Sadly, this was a lesson not well passed on a few years ago when one of the kids burned a fist-sized hole in the tent.

Being veterans, it was strange this time that we forgot to bring dish soap, dish cloths, and dish towels. (We had two corkscrews.) But what is camping without compromise? A pot of hot water, a bar of hand soap, a beach towel draped around the neck -- one end for washing, one for drying -- it worked just fine, if a bit bad for the posture, not to mention general hygiene.

We also know from experience that it's best to let the dog sleep in the van. Sure, there's ample food to be attacked in there and delectable upholstery to be chewed, but the dog can be safe there and, more important, we can ignore her. For whatever reason -- perhaps the same reason we hadn't thought about rabies and dish soap -- we decided to let the dog sleep with us in the tent.

I'll try to be brief:

  • 5:50 a.m. Sound of shuffling.

  • "Bella, lie down."

  • Scratch, scratch scratch...

  • "I think the dog wants out."

  • Ri-i-i-i-i-p...

  • "She doesn't want out. She's GOING OUT!"
One lantern-sized burn hole was now a medium-dog-sized hole. And I was running across neighbouring campsites at 6 a.m., something I rarely do before coffee.

So what have we learned from this? One: Plan your camping trips in advance. Two: Dogs will find and exploit any gap. Three: Essential camping supplies should include duct tape to close up any gaps. Four: Dogs are idiots. But you already knew that.

Ross Murray's collection, "You're Not Going to Eat That, Are You"? is available through