The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

July 28, 2012

MICHELE BENDER | Scouting for happy campers

Michele M. Bender
For The Tribune-Democrat

— My nest has temporarily emptied – not that it’s ever been fully occupied. My friend Joe frequently drops in to lend a hand. Licorice, his Scottish terrier, has “sleepovers” with me when Joe works extra-long shifts.

But this week, everyone went to “camp.”

Joe serves as an assistant scoutmaster, and camping highlights Boy Scouts’ summers.

Last spring, Licorice attended a weekend outing as a “guest camper,” but she was required to be “in uniform” (a Scout bandanna), which proved to be a bone of contention.

There are other issues. Licorice is a girl. Plus, she exceeds the “leg limit.” Weeklong July campers must be boys with only two legs.

She spends her week at a doggy spa, but would prefer more action.

My friend Sharon had a keeshond, Ralph. The first time he went to a kennel, they had to practically carry him to the car – and kees­honds weigh about 60 pounds.

He returned home happy as a lark. The next time he boarded, he was ecstatic. He would have driven the car there if they’d let him.

Sharon’s son Eric theorized that perhaps Ralph “got lucky” and made a love connection. Ralph smiled a lot, but wasn’t talking … no kiss-and-tell.

I never went to sleepover camp. Cincinnati Cathy attended Blue Knob every summer, leaving me alone and jealous.

However, nothing could change my mother’s mind. A Philadelphia city girl, she feared the dangerous environmental perils. Ants, lice, roaches, bees, snakes, bears … everything up to and including Big Foot and the Loch Ness Monster made Mom’s worry list.

A while back, someone wrote to Dear Abby, annoyed that pets are prohibited at hotels and motels. Abby wisely told the writer to do his homework. Research would prove that many inns welcome pets as long as guidelines are followed.

Then she wrote about a sign she saw once in a lobby.

“Attention lodger! Your dog is welcome here. He will probably not host a rowdy, uncontrolled party. He probably won’t break room service dishes, or steal ash trays or towels. We don’t expect him to drink to excess or start a noisy argument with his female companion.

“Yes, your dog is welcome, and if he vouches for you, you may stay here, too.”

In 1987, my brother-in-law Don moved his family to Harrisburg. We all pitched in with cartons, station wagons and pickups.

At the day’s end, our weary crew limped down the corridor of a pet-friendly Ramada Inn where we’d reserved a block of rooms. My dog, Squash, a well-behaved part collie-part retriever, was the only canine in our entourage.

As we plodded down a hallway, we met a family of vacationers: Two frazzled, drained parents and four energetic, squirming children weighed down with pennants, T-shirts, stuffed toys, candy and other Hersheypark souvenirs.

“Mom … look!” squealed a boy of about 10. “We could have brought the dog!”

Michele Mikesic Bender is a Johns­town resident and a member of The Tribune-Democrat’s Readership Advisory Committee.

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