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  • J.Dorton, L. Dorton

When Nature Calls....And We Don't Listen

Taking a furry friend on an long-distance trip can be both challenging and rewarding. Last year, our adventures landed us in an isolated site, near the Salmon River in Idaho, where we planned to spend a few days. On day two of our retreat, while we were enjoying a crisp, cool summer morning nestled in our roof top tent, I noticed Otis, our then 6 year-old rescue hound mix, shivering. I assumed his shivering was due to being uncovered, as he is cold-natured, typically sleeps completely under the covers, and the outside temperature was in the low 30s. So, I covered him up and attempted to go back to sleep. The sun hadn’t yet crested over the mountains, and we were still enjoying the darkness the deep valley had to offer. The sounds of a roaring creek in the background and the gentle birds in the distance cerated an ambiance that made for a comforting sleep. Otis, however, just couldn’t get comfortable, which meant I couldn’t get comfortable either.

Imagine for a moment our sleeping arrangement inside the 3-person rooftop tent. My wife Linda and I typically sleep side by side, with Otis and our daughter Emma laying perpendicular at our feet. Linda and I share a queen size sleeping bag and blankets. Emma has her own mummy sleeping bag and blankets, and Otis also has his own blanket to help keep him snug and warm. While this makes for a cozy arrangement, we’ve managed to make it work.

Otis, still shivering, could not get comfortable that morning, and by then, my wife had awoken and descended down the ladder, where Allen and Jen, our fellow teammates who had risen early and started their morning rituals, greeted her. Faced with discomfort, I, too, started down the ladder, put my shoes on, and climbed back up to the top, expecting Otis to climb on my left shoulder for the trip down, as he typically does. However, this time, he wasn’t at the doorway ready to meet me. Instead, he was pacing around the tent, and on his final lap, he froze in place as his bladder let loose. Suddenly, all I could say was, “OTIS! NO! STOP!” But there was no stopping. He was like an overloaded train on a collision course. Eventually, it slowed, but not in any any form that you could call quick or controlled. Emma, still fast asleep, had not yet realized that the sleeping bag she occupied both in the dream world and the physical world had begun to absorb the yellow fluid. Otis stood with eyes wide open, frozen in time, unable to obey my command, while I feverishly tried to bring my daughter to the conscious world, so she wouldn’t inadvertently roll further into the oncoming amber liquid assault. His eyes were as wide as I’ve ever seen them, and he appeared to be staring 1,000 miles away. Otis’ eyes told the story of a pup who tried to communicate his need to answer nature’s call, but we, the unintelligent humans, just couldn’t pick up on his non-verbal cues.

After about a couple of minutes, the storm subsided, and all that was left to do was to clean up. Emma awoke to the reality of being soaked. The excitement and the panic of being pee’d on by her “brother dog” (as she calls him) made it difficult to talk her into calmly exiting out of the tent via the roof of the truck, but she managed to do so.

Being on the ladder, watching this unfold, prompted me to question where all the pee was going, which happened to be a valid question, as about that same time, a glorious golden waterfall initiated across the entire width of the tent and onto the ground.

The event drew laughter from Allen and Jen, but not so much from Linda, who desperately began to search for cleaning products.

We spent the next hour or so washing our sleeping bags, blankets, mattress cover, and other associated bedding in the coldest water Idaho had to offer. After enduring the discomfort of the icy waters, we placed all items on a paracord clothesline and gave them the rest of the day to dry. And Otis…well, let’s just say, he, too, got a bath!

This is just one of our many unforgettable stories, which often incites laughter from everyone who hears it and highlights the reality of traveling with pets. And although in hindsight these are the stories that make camping fun and our adventures memorable, the truth is that traveling with pets requires thoughtful preparation and planning, and the ability to handle unexpected situations with poise and quick resolve.

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