It’s nearly the end of August and all I keep hearing is that the Summer is over. Depending on where you live there might still be lots more sun and nice weather in the forecast, but we’re three days away from September. This means back to school for some and back to the grind for many of us. However, it doesn’t mean that we’ve had our fill of the outdoors. There is still time for camping, hiking, and sightseeing for those of us who just can’t get enough.
I’ve always been a big camper. Growing up, my family was very into camping. With four daughters and two dogs, what other options are there for Summer vacations? My parents would load us and the dogs into the minivan to spend weeks in the trees. Many of my best childhood memories were made during those camping trips. When we started to grow up most of us got Summer jobs. Like many adults we camped less and longed for the wilderness as soon as the weather would allow it. What is it about eating outside, sleeping in a tent, and watching the stars come out that gets to us so deeply? Something that helps us reset? Something that helps us connect with who we really are?
Our last two family dogs never got a chance to chase us around a campsite for weeks at a time. They were raised in the suburbs, comfortable with their private yard and local parks. Last Summer was the first time we were able to introduce them to camping. I was nervous that two senior dogs wouldn’t be interested in learning the art of camping. Or that they would be ready to head home to their comfy beds at the end of the day rather than crawling into a tent with their humans. One of my dogs has some mild anxiety in new situations, would she be able to handle two nights away from home? I even worried that I wouldn’t bring enough kibble!
Naturally I had other worries. Ticks and mosquitoes are taken care of with ease using the natural extracts from plants. NaturPet Outdoor Spray is a great natural flea, tick, and bug repellent (for dogs and humans!). Snakes, spiders, cuts, thorns, and falling in the river were my biggest fears. Did my big old city dogs know instinctively to avoid these things? We were staying far enough away from any emergency vet service that I wasn’t going to trust them completely. I was more cautious during the first Summer while we learned how they would behave.
As is usually the case with my aggressive worrying, it was all for nothing. My old dogs loved everything about their extended wilderness adventures. New smells, no boundaries, and the freshest water flowing calmly by in the creek just for them to drink. They slept in the dirt during the day and curled up at our feet by the fire at night. They barked at anyone foolish enough to wander past their new territory and ate fish fresh from the river. I could tell that they loved it. They know when we turn off onto the dirt road that leads to their favourite spot. It’s like driving your dog to the dog park and watching her get excited as she starts to recognize where you’re taking her. Some dogs love meeting other dogs, mine just love exploring and can’t wait to get out of the truck and get sniffing. In the wilderness they are living their best lives. Astro even pouted when we started to pack up. She still does this every time we pack up and I don’t blame her, I feel the same way. Something about being out there is just so calming.
So what is it about reconnecting with our wild selves that is so soothing?
Here are some of the reasons that we think dogs (and humans) benefit so much from being in nature:
Regardless of the science behind our desire to be in nature it’s effects on wellness are real. We can feel it in the refreshing sensation of breathing deeply among the trees. We feel it in the serene moments of observing a calm stream. And I can see it manifesting in my dogs as they become less anxious, and more content.