"Why does Sea World have a seafood restaurant?? I'm halfway through my fish burger and I realize, Oh man....I could be eating a slow learner."
-Lyndon B. Johnson.
My parents never wanted me to be like this. I guess I just became who I was always going to be, whether they wanted it or not. In fact, looking back on the situation, I think that I didn’t even want to be like this.
I didn’t want to be the type of person who lit fires with their friends, and I really didn’t want to be the ones who almost set their own house on fire, but I did turn out that way. And for the record, I just want my parents to know that it’s not their fault I turned out the way I did. I was just born with the idea that I wanted to be who I wanted, and that no one could tell me what to do. I didn’t want it to go as far as the accidental-house-fire-leading-to-various-forms-of-punishment.
So, when my parents told me I was going away to some sort of training facility, the things going through my mind were more like military school and juvie, not a camp where they used dogs to teach you discipline. Not that I wasn’t happy, I was just surprised. I mean, my parents never let me get a dog. Mom had been allergic and Julia was a wimp who couldn’t stand a little fur on the couch.
Anyway, I was sitting in our girl car- a Subaru- and heading off to my new summer home. I was going to be one of twenty-or-so campers. All of the campers are going for the same reason: to become better, more civilized human beings. At least that’s what Julie says. She also said that she wanted to be my mom, but I told her to go away (or really I said something more along the lines of “Butt out of my life.”).
Julie has never liked me. I guess that’s a good thing, considering that the feeling is mutual. She’s the one who wanted to send me away. Well, I’ll show them. I’ll have so much fun at camp, just so Julie won’t think she can make me miserable. The only problem is that, well, I don’t know how I can have a good time at camp.
I was miserable for the rest of the ride. Dad and Julie were in the front seats, talking about me in low voices, but I could still hear them. I didn’t listen in because what they were saying is what they had been saying for weeks.
I stared out the window for an hour and forty-five minutes, and was, consequently, the first person to see the sign saying: Camp Canine; just up the road.
“Dad, look. It’s right up there.” I pointed in between the seats of the car to another sing that simply had ‘Camp Canine’ and arrow underneath it that pointed out where to turn.
There was a young woman standing in the parking lot. She ushered us over a and let us park in one of the empty spots.
“Hi! I’m Kali. Welcome to Camp Canine!” She said as soon as we had all exited the car.
“I’m Jon Weston and this is my wife, Julie, and my daughter, Katie. Where should we put the luggage?” my father was a man of business and he always got right to the point. Kali never lost her freakishly bright smile in all the time that she spent bringing in my luggage.
“Hey.” said one of the other campers, as soon as I was all settled in. Julie was already back in the car, having ‘helped’ bring in my bags. Dad had followed after giving me an awkward hug and a pat on the back.
“Hey.” I said back. I was talking to a scarlet haired, green eyed girl who looked about my age.
“I’m Katie.” I said, not really know what else to say.
“I’m Scarlett.” she replied.
“You mean, like your-”
“Yeah, like my hair.” she laughed.
“Campers! Everyone!” shouted a short woman with blonde hair that was tied back in a pony tail. All of the people in the entry room stopped their conversation and stared at her. “My name is Amelia, the camp director. First, I’d just like to thank you for coming. Now, some of you might be wondering about the whole dog issue. All of the dogs used in this program are trained and should not have any problems with you. If you do have a legitimate problem with the dog that has been selected for you, you will come to me. Is this understood?” She didn’t wait for anyone to say anything. She was standing at the back door, waiting for us to follow her before we had the chance to say any thing. She opened the screen door and led us over to the back of the house.
“Now, this is the ‘kennel‘. It is also your sleeping space. If you look in the rooms, you will see a bed, a dresser and nightstand. On the floor in the corner is a dog bed. The kennels are heated and have running water and working plumbing. Go get your luggage and unpack, and then you can be introduced to your dog.” she led us back to the door. She waited until we had all of our bags in our room before she left us.
The rooms were about the size of my old room at home. There was a bed with a wooden headboard, a dresser and nightstand that matched the headboard. In the corner, like Amelia had said, was a dark blue dog bed. There was also two bowls, one marked food and the other water. I pulled my clothes out of my suitcase and put them neatly in the drawers of the dresser. I put my i-pod and copy of my favorite vampire romance novel on my nightstand. I surveyed my new room, making sure everything was in order. It was, so I stepped out into the hallway.
Only a few of the kids were done unpacking. Scarlett was one of them, so I walked over to her.
“I guess we should go over to Amelia.” I said. We walked over to her. She was standing in front of a door, clipboard in hand.
“Name?” she asked.
“Katie Weston,” she handed us each a slip of paper. We went through the door and were assaulted in barks, yips and squeals of every kind. It seemed as if all the dogs in the kennel were comperting for our attention. I looked down at the slip of paper in my hand.
German Shepherd Dog
5 years old
“Max, huh?” I muttered to myself. I wondered what the heck a German Shepherd looked like. I was soon to find out, though. Room 237 was all the way down the hall, so I followed Scarlett down the hall to her dog‘s room. She had a dog named Trish who was a Pembroke Welsh Corgi, a dog that was located in room 236.
Scarlett stopped in front of her room. She opened the door and stepped in. I stayed in the doorway, watching.
“Trish?” she called softly. A little dog waddled out of four stubby legs. Trish wagged her tail and came up to Scarlett, who was crouching down.
“Isn’t she the most precious thing ever?” Scarlett asked me.
“Yeah,” I said. I then went over to my dog’s room. I opened the door as cautiously as Scarlett, if not more. I nearly fell over in surprise when I was greeted by a tail-wagging dog. Well, it wasn’t really the tail wagging that surprised me. It was the size of the dog. After seeing Scarlett’s dog, I was expecting a small, wimpy dog like Scarlett’s. Max was huge and must have weighed close to ninety pounds. He had a long-ish coat that gleamed in the artificial light. His tongue lolled out of his mouth and his teeth glinted. Man, those where some BIG teeth.
Max and I stared at each other for a while before I finally got up the nerve to do something.
“Come, Max.” I said weakly. He obeyed. He walked slowly up to me, allowing me to take in his size. He seemed to sense my fear of him, but instead of growling at me, he nuzzled his head in my open palm. I patted him instinctively. His fur was as soft as it looked, but kind of oily, too.
“You’re my dog now, Maxie-boy,” I whispered to him, squatting down to eye level with him. He had big, soulful brown eyes that looked as sincere as possible.
“What’s Max look- wow, that’s a big dog!”
“I know, Scarlett, believe me. I was expecting something like Trish.” Scarlett laughed, and I joined her. Max went over to Scarlett and sniffed her, as if making sure she was safe. That made us laugh even more.
“You girls having fun?” Amelia came up behind Scarlett.
“We were just talking about the dogs.” I said.
“Well, I love all of the dogs here, but Max is one of my favorites. He’s quite the gentelman,” she laughed and walked away.
“Come on, I thinks she wants to tell us something else.” I said. Amelia was standing on a milk crate in the hall. All the other campers were making their way toward her. We joined the group in the hall.
“So, I assume that you’ve all met your dogs? You might be wondering how these dogs will teach you responsibility. Every day you will wake up at seven, feed your dog, eat breakfast, groom your dog, walk your dog on the trail with some other campers and myself or my husband, make sure your dog has food and water, eat lunch, then you can have some free time. After that you will play with your dog, put them in your room with food and water, have dinner and then go to bed. You will have full responsibility for your dog, and if you don’t take your job seriously, you will be punished so severly that you don’t even want to think about it. Are you getting this?” Everyone nodded. She smiled again.
“What are we doing now?” someone asked.
“Good question. Now we will groom our dogs. There are intructions about everything having to do with your dog hanging on the door. All the suplies are in the cabinets on the wall in the dog’s room. Please tell me if you have any problems, and don’t mix the supplies together, okay?” all the kids dispersed into their own rooms.
Max was still in the same place he was when I first met him, only this time he was lying down.
“Please be patient, for me?” I said. He cocked his head slightly and shot me a doggy grin, as if to say that he would.
I grabbed the little packet of information about Max. I looked at the grooming instructions. All I had to do was brush him, but I had to brush him in a certain way. I had to part the fur, and then brush, section by section. I took the correct brush from the drawer.
I did exactly what the instructions told me, and soon Max was postivly glowing.
I left the room, closing the door behind me. I went up to Amelia, who was no longer standing on the milk carton.
“What are we doing now?” I asked her. She looked at her clipboard.
“Taking a walk. I belive you will be in… my group. The dogs are separated by how long of a walk they need,” she explained.
“Should I get him leashed up?” I asked. She nodded.
I went back down the the room. Max was back in the sitting position at the door. I grabbed the leash and collar from their hooks on the wall. Max sat patiently as I figured out how to put in on him. When I finally got in figured out, I led him out of the room and into the hallway. A few other campers were already out there with their dogs.
“I’m Avery.” said a brunette with a yellow lab.
“I’m Katie. Nice dog.”
“I could say the same to you. Your’s looks like Rin-Tin-Tin or something.”
“Rin-Tin-Tin. You know, the famous television German Shepherd who made the breed so popular.”
“Oh, yeah. My dad mentioned him a few times, I guess.” Avery laughed. Her dog looked up at her, seeming to want to know what was so funny.
“His name is Max.” I told her.
“Her name’s Becks.”
“People! Attention please! I need you to listen up, because you will be with these groups for the rest of the summer. All the people walking with me will be Avery, Katie, Samantha, Jake, Eli, Leslie and Hayden. All the people walking with Tim will be Heath, Nate, Jolie, Beth, Keith, and James. People in Kali’s group will be Jaden, Gabby, Scarlett, Chris, Molly, Connor, and Angelina. So get your dogs ready, if you haven’t already, and then go wait outside with your leader.”
“See ya,” said Scarlett. She walked slowly over to her group, on account of her dog having four inch legs.
I walked over to my group. Amelia hadn’t gotten off her milk cart, but I guess she liked being able to see over most of our heads.
I recognized some of the other kids in my group, but I hadn’t really spoken to them yet so I didn’t know them by name. Avery took care of that, though.
“Hey, Katie! This is Samantha,” Avery grabbed my shoulders and directed me over to a small, quiet looking girl. She had big glasses and even bigger brown eyes behind them. Her dog was relatively large and had blonde colored hair.
“Hi,” she said.
“Oh, and have you met Eli yet? He’s super cute, if you know what I mean,” she wiggled her eyebrows. I guess she didn’t really care if I had met him, because she dragged me over to him anyway. He had that hair swoosh thing going on, and although it looks phony on some guys, it just made him look really hot. And I mean really hot.
“I’m Eli,” he said. Man, even his voice was hot. I was faintly aware that I was babbling like an idiot, but only after Avery shot me a look. Ok, so you know how in the movies in looks cute when girls forget their own name in front of a guy? Well, in real life it looks like you just had some sort on memory meltdown, and it’s not all that cute when the guy starts looking at you like you need some sort a medication.
“Her name’s Katie,” I shut my mouth. God, was every one staring at me? I looked down, only to see Max looking up. Yeah, all eyes were on me, as the saying goes.
“Yeah,” I said. Jeeze, what was wrong with me? I sound like an idiot with my mouth open, my friends saves me, and now I sound like some sort of dummy. Maybe I should just go live under a rock.
“Anyway, you still have to meet-”
“Is every one here? Let me check…” Amelia counted heads. Everyone was here so we all went out to the nature trail. Tim’s group would go on the same trail as us, but in the opposite direction. Kali’s group would walk around the camp a few times.
“So, what’s your dog’s name?” I asked Eli, in an attempt to start up a conversation.
“Cool,” he said. Then we drifted off into what felt like akward silence, but really wasn’t because Avery was busy talking like a machine gun. I was just glad that she didn’t give me an opportunity to talk and therefore embarrass myself further.
As soon as we were done with the walk, we had to feed our dog, eat dinner and then go to bed. All of that passed quickly, considering that I was just glad I didn’t get a further chance to embarrass myself.
© Copyright 2017 Candy Rock. All rights reserved.
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