Travel tails: Camping with your pup can be fun, just look out for leopards
Imagine winding down – after a long day of hiking and swimming – with a cold beer, by the campfire, and dinner under the stars. For many this would be enough. For some, the only thing that could complete this picture is the image of their fur baby resting happily at their feet, exhausted from the day’s activities too.
As pet parents across India tailor their trips around their dogs, many glamping sites — like Wag-a-Bond in Karjat and Phoebe’s Farm in Khopoli, both in Maharashtra, and Backyard Camp in Sathanur, Tamil Nadu — are being set up as “human-friendly pet resorts”. These include obstacle courses, canine swimming pools, a bed for the little one next to yours, and programmes that factor in your pet when planning hikes, boating excursions, etc.
Private camping sites are usually located on farms and estates situated at the edges of forested areas. Pets from the metros are so unused to wilderness, organisers say, that they often have to be acclimatised to various outdoor noises and other animals.
It‘s a good idea to take comfort objects for the pet with you — favourite snacks, bowl, leash. “I take my own first-aid kit and Cleo’s bed,” says Danielle D’silva, 30, a corporate communications executive who travels with her eight-year-old Great Dane-Indian mix.
Vanaja Kale, 31, a homemaker from Pune, says she also makes sure her Doberman, Coco, has a nametag with the family’s contact details and address on it. Weather is important, she adds. “We totally avoid summers. Monsoons and winters are much easier; the dogs don’t get as dehydrated.”
Coco doesn’t just vacation; she also runs marathons for charity, and goes camping with the family — Vanaja, her husband Prasanna and their newborn, Pravara.
“We’ve gone on one trip since the baby, and it was quite a breeze,” says Vanaja. “We’re so used to prepping Coco for camping, packing up all her stuff and making sure she’s safe, it’s almost like she prepared us for this.”
It’s not all fun and games. Discipline is important. Fighting is frowned upon; sharing is encouraged. “They should also know not to scavenge, lest they eat something that’ll make them sick,” says Akshay Rajagopalan, 37, a realty executive from Bengaluru, who goes camping with his Labradors, Fonzi and Leia. “Most importantly, since the outdoors is a feast of sights, sounds and smell, your pooch must be trained in recall. If your dog gets into chase mode behind a hare, when you call for them, they have to stop and come to you.”
In Pune, Mihir Sahasrabuddhe, a dog trainer, conducts overnight glamp camps called Bork Nights, to teach first time-time pet parents and first-time campers the ropes, and to help their animals learn to socialise with other animals.
“You can always tell if a dog is going to like it by how social they are,” he says. “Many of the dogs at Bork Nights are meeting each other for the first time. But it’s great especially for dogs from cities like Mumbai, where time and space are constrained, and dogs live pretty isolated lives.”
There are rules for the pet parents too. Know your pet and don’t push them too hard. On a group trek once, Rajagopalan says a fellow traveller egged Fonzi on, and it led to the dog falling into a gap between two rocks. “Fortunately I just had to climb down and lift him back up, but it could have been much worse, and I learnt my lesson — handle your dog yourself and don’t push him beyond what he wants to do.”
Cleo’s family plans her holidays during Diwali, so she can escape the city’s fireworks. “But there are downsides with remote sites too,” Danielle says. “We have to keep her on a leash at night because of leopards and to make sure she doesn’t get lost or injured. Still, the best moments are just sunning with Cleo on the rocks by a stream or the way she falls asleep while we laze in a hammock. When we see her peaceful and secure, we know we’ve picked the right place.”