“Mom, what is that sound?” Jessica whispered softly.
“I’m not sure, but I think it maybe a couple of dogs.”
“Do you think the owners are close by?”
“I hope they are, but to be honest I do not remember anyone coming in with dogs. Let’s just wait until the morning to check the situation out and I will talk with the campsite hosts about this. Please don’t leave the tent until we know what kind of dog or dogs we are dealing with. I am sure they will get bored and hopefully go back to their own campsite soon.”
“Okay, I guess, but they are sure making me nervous.” She said with fear and trepidation.
It was 1997, and our last family camping trip. Within a year my health changed substantially, which prevented our monthly summer camping trips.
Jessica was 16 years old at that time. Daniel was 11 and Mariah was 4 years old when we went to one of our favorite campgrounds on the Oregon coast.
Tyee campground is located just outside of Florence, Oregon. It is a rustic campground. There is no electrical hookup, just campsites for those who use tents, and of course outhouses. Not the blue plastic port-a-potties, but honest to goodness cedar outhouses.
We enjoyed camping there because the pace was slow. There was no electronic distraction and we had to communicate to stay entertained. We fished, hiked and walked on the beach, and in the evening before bed I had picked a good family book that was read as we sat around the campfire.
We had been at the campsite for 2 days and one night. We were having a great time until Cujoã came for a visit.
The dog or dogs, I was not sure, stayed near our tent all night long. They barked, sniffed, scratched and peed on every outside wall of the tent. Needless to say, I did not sleep well. By the following morning I was ticked, and looking for the dog or dogs owner.
As I exited the tent I saw the dogs, and yes it was 2 dogs. Now I was really angry. What I had envisioned as I laid and cowered in our tent was not even close to what they really were. They were not large intimidating dogs they were Basset Hounds. Sloppy, long eared, drooling basset hounds.
The dogs looked up saw us and began to run joyfully toward our campsite. I just stood there shaking my head in disbelief, and muttering obscenities under my breath. One of the young men tried to call the dogs back, but they were not very well mannered.
Eventually he came to our site to retrieve his dogs. As we stood there watching the dogs wrestle and lick Mariah, the young man looked at me and said,
“Did my dogs come for a visit at your campsite last night?”
“Yes, yes they did, and to be honest I was not thrilled about the visit. They peed on just about every side of the tent, including the door.”
“They did, I am so sorry about that. We kind of got drunk last night. Guess I lost track of where my dogs were.”
Before he said anything, I knew he had been drinking based on the condition of his eyes, and his breath. The man looked like death warmed over and bad breath to match. He reeked.
I looked at him and sarcastically asked,
“And I was just wondering did you hear them barking at all? You do know they kept us up most of the night?”
“Like I said, ma’am, we were drinking last night and lost track of the dogs. So they peed a little on your tent, what is the big deal? You do know you don’t need to make a federal case about this, right?”
He staggered back to his campsite, dragging the dogs with him, and talking about what a bitch I really was. By now I was beyond angry, I was livid. I began to follow him. I was going to give him a “piece of my mind.”
I didn’t though.
As I took two steps I saw out of the corner of my right eye my youngest daughter Mariah. She was watching me like a hawk. She looked up at me kind of confused and asked me a couple of questions.
“Mommy, why did that man call you that? I thought a bitch was a girl dog. Why was he calling you a dog? Why is your face so red? You look really mad. I don’t like it when you have that look.”
I began to look around and realized my other children were watching me as well. I managed a half hearted apology for getting so angry and trying to ruin our weekend, and then I heard the words come out of my mouth.
“What a selfish man. He made me so angry! He needs to keep his dogs under control he is thinking only of himself. What a jerk, I mean really, a jerk!”
Mariah looked at me again and asked,
“Mommy, how did he make you mad? You always say that no one can make us mad but us. We decide if we get mad or not, so how did he make you mad?”
Nothing like having your own words come back and bite you in the butt. Again I apologized, but this time I meant it.
By the afternoon, after the young men had sobered up, I went over to their campsite and apologized to them. My attitude and behavior toward the men and their dogs had been wrong and I knew it. I had taken a mole hill situation, a minor inconvenience, and had made a mountain out of it, and this was not a mountain situation.
After I apologized they asked me to sit down and visit for a bit. Mariah played with the dogs, and in the course of talking with them I learned that they were from California, the bay area. We shared dinner that night and had an enjoyable time.
I began to realize that day that it really is easy to dramatize minor life situations and allow emotions and imaginations run wild. The hard part is reigning those emotions and imagination in. Sometimes all it takes is a 4-year-old mirror reflection to help accomplish that task.