(Written in 2007)
Lonnie created the idea for a camp for dogs back in 89. There were no other dog camps at the time. How did she come up with the idea of a dog camp?
“Well, when my 10-year-old Border Collie was a pup, I knew she was going to be the dog of a lifetime. One day, I just looked at her and said, “Karli, you’re such a cool dog, I love you so much— I need to take you to camp!” The only camps back then were for humans to perfect their dog training skills to become better instructors or more serious obedience competitors. “Then I said, ‘Whoa, what am I saying? You don’t want to go to Mom’s obedience camp for a vacation— you want to go somewhere where they don’t make little dogs perform obedience. Dogs just want to catch Frisbees, and play flyball and practice agility, and learn water sports. “Someone should invent a camp just for the dogs, where they can go to have a fun vacation with their owners.”
There were no camps of this kind at the time, so Lonnie’s next thought was “Gee, who would be qualified to teach such a camp as this?” It would have to be someone who has devoted her life to fun with her dogs— someone who knew all about flyball, Frisbee, agility, herding, backpacking and other fun doggie sports. Lonnie realized that she would be the perfect person for the job.
Lonnie planned to hold her first camp in 1989 or 90, but before she could get the advertising out, another strangely coincidentally identical dog camp opened up on the East Coast. Someone else must have had the same idea at the same time. She did not move ahead with having a dog camp of her own, once someone else started a camp. “I didn’t want to be the ‘second’ person to have a dog camp— it would look like I copied the idea, instead of originating it.” So she sat on the plans she had made until the idea of forming Dog Scouts of America came to her in 1995. Meanwhile, dog camps had started cropping up around the U.S. Lonnie was keeping busy teaching activities, such as flyball, for other people’s camps in the United States, Australia, and Japan.
Ok, so she didn’t hold that original camp, back in 1989— what made her think of Dog Scouts of America in 1995? “It was Karli again.”Karli had been active in many dog sports. She had so many titles, they wouldn’t fit across one line of a type-written page. In addition, Karli had excelled in many other areas which did not offer titles. For example, she was an outstanding Frisbee dog. She was the lead dog on Lonnie’s sled team, and she had starred in stage productions and television commercials, and she performed tricks and entertained people in the hospitals, schools and nursing homes with her therapy visits. This dog was like an Eagle Scout, she had done it all! Lonnie decided that there should be an organization for dogs like Karli, or dogs which wanted to be like Karli, or owners who just wanted to have more fun with their dogs.
The concept of having a SINGLE organization which gave recognition to ALL of the various activities which dogs become involved in was just too profound to ignore. She jumped on the idea and had it trademarked, before some other person had the same idea (again). Dog Scouts of America gave Lonnie the perfect excuse to use her dog camp idea. The idea of dogs coming to camp with their owners to learn skills, for which they will get recognition in the form of merit badges, was, as Lonnie says, “The best idea I’ve come up with in my lifetime.” Everyone loves the concept. Everyone wants their dog to be a Dog Scout.
The camps have grown from an attendance of 14 the first year, to 21 the second to 80 the third year. We anticipate over 200 in the coming year. Lonnie was so discouraged by the low enrollment the first year, she had to decide whether to go ahead with the camp and take a loss, or cancel it. She chose to go with it. She said, “If I cancel it before we get started, I’ll never have a Dog Scout Camp.” It turned out to be a wise decision.
The Dog Scout Camp is big news. It has been covered on all of the local television stations and newspapers all over the country, as well as the cable network (CNN, Discovery Channel, and CBC), national publications (The Wall Street Journal, Chicago Tribune, Dog World, Dog Fancy, Dog Gone, Off Lead), books, and the internet. Dog Scouts have their own web page, but the camp is publicized on several other web sites, also.
Dogs of all breeds, sizes, and skill levels attend the camp. It is the aim of Dog Scouts of America to make all kinds of training and sports activities available to every dog who wants to try them. Dog Scouts of America tries to squash breed discrimination, and provides downsized materials (like miniature carts, tiny backpacks, and smaller equipment) so that the smaller breeds can participate in everything from Water Rescue (which was developed as a Newfie activity) to backpacking, which is a sport previously “reserved” for the larger breeds.
Some of the activities which have been offered at camp for the dogs are: Backpacking, Water Rescue Training, Agility, Flyball, Search and Rescue, Carting, Herding, Frisbee Catching, Freestyle Obedience, Sledding, IMPROV Obedience, Scent Discrimination, Sporting Retriever Training, Tracking, Naked Dog Obedience and The Art of Shaping. Coming year’s activities include Weight Pull, Freestyle Obedience, Flygility, Scent Hurdle Racing, Triathadog, Frisbee Freestyle, and Lure Coursing.
In addition to the merit badge activities, there are lecture classes, demonstrations and videos presented on such topics as canine massage, nutrition, conditioning your dog for athletic activities, preventing dog aggression, herbal remedies, spinning and knitting.
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