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Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Camp Unleashed

Since she was 8 weeks old I’ve been toying with the thought of starting a blog, Shale’s Tales about my Border Collie.  Now a few weeks shy of her second birthday I’m actually following through. 

For my inaugural blog entry I’ve decided to write about Camp Unleashed.  Check out Camp Unleashed at:  Shale and I attended Camp Unleashed in June 2010 in the Berkshires of Massachusetts and I can’t wait to go back this September.   Camp Unleashed also holds camps in Ashville, NC and Sequoia, CA.

I’d been hearing about dog “camps” for a number of years – they’ve bee
n increasingly getting a lot of press and attention with their number and popularity rising exponentially. For example in greater New England I can easily think of half a dozen different camps for dogs and their people to get away “ruff” it and participate in all kinds of training and canine sports.

Last summer a friend with 4 dogs, yes that’s not a typo – 4 dogs - recommended Camp Unleashed for me and Shale and I decided to check-it-out.  Admittedly I was skeptical - what’s the big draw I thought?  Why is she raving about this place?  Could it be as much fun as she was claiming?   Did the camp experience really make the drastic impact on her pack that she was claiming?  The opportunity to take agility lessons, nose works and other canine activities – that seemed like things we were already doing.  As for being off-leash and hiking in nature – that’s our regular weekends all year round I thought.  But when plans to take Shale camping with some friends fell through, I signed us up for Camp Unleashed and off I went with Shale in tow hoping for nothing more than a few relaxing, activity filled days in the scenic Berkshires.   I’m very pleased to report Camp Unleashed was far better than I had anticipated and Shale and I left as happy campers – hooked on the concept and ready to go back.  A work commitment kept me from going to the June session in the Berkshires this year. 

Let me tell you about our Camp Unleashed experience last year and what I am hoping to get out of this year’s camp in September.  I imagine that Shale would say Camp Unleashed was a dog’s dream vacation where she could “Eat, Sniff, Play” to her heart’s content.  My three words would be “Eat, Friends, Play”.  I venture to say “sniff” translated from Doggish to English means find friends!  Camp Unleashed Berkshires is held at the YMCA’s Camp Beckett in Beckett, MA, a delightful property encompassing 1400 beautiful lakeside acres in the Berkshires of western Massachusetts.   I choose for me and Shale to “ruff” it in one of the private cabins (no electricity) though they do have a dormitory style option with all the comforts.  The food was really great and the days were filled with all kinds of activities. One of the nice things about Camp Unleashed is you can choose to be as busy or as relaxed as you want to be.  All of the people I met from other campers, to Camp Unleashed Staff were really terrific.  Everyone was really friendly, nice and we all had the common denominator of loving our dogs.  I meet a ton of people (camp is limited to 50 dogs and their people) and it was a great mix of people and really well-behaved dogs.   A full day’s and evening’s schedule of activities is offered but you can choose to participate in as many or as few as you want. Since campers pick and choose their activities, the number of dogs at each activity is kept to a reasonable number and it is amazing how well it works.  The staff is very attentive, well-trained and experienced. The quality of instruction on the activities was very high. I was very impressed with how smooth the operations were and how comfortable I felt with that many dogs on the property.  It was also really cool to have that much space where there were no worries about cars or leash laws!   For many dogs this was the first time they had the opportunity to hike in the woods and to safely run leash free.  It really made me appreciate the wonderful opportunities Shale and I have for recreation in our area. 

As we always are, Shale and I were constantly on the move – at Camp Unleashed - starting our day with Yappy Hour each morning, a vigorous hike, followed by dock diving, disc, agility, canoeing, and much more.  Evenings included the traditional camp fire, movies and a number of speakers on important dog-related topics.  We even took the massage class and met with a pet psychic!   A camp friend took the opposite approach and spent a lot of time relaxing, reading and letting her dogs just be outside.  Others found a happy medium between Shale and mine’s constant “go go go” and our new friend’s laid back approach.   I really liked the flexibility Camp Unleashed offers to pick and choose as many (in our case) or as few (in that of my friend) activities. 

I made some wonderful connections and terrific new friends at Camp. Without doubt the most important part of Camp for me was my meeting my new friends.   Over a year later I regularly get together with a core group of friends from Camp that all live in the greater Boston area and we frequently hike and bike together with our dogs.      

Camp Unleashed was a wonderful experience for Shale and me.  We meet great new friends, got Shale’s CGC title, tried new activities, learned a lot, improved our communications and had a wonderful vacation together.  Shale went to her first camp as rough and tumble adolescent, she’ll go back this year with new found maturity and a higher level of training and more adept skills.  I think Shale will continue to get more and more out of going each year and I intend to make it our annual summer tradition.  I will return this year with a better appreciation of all that the Camp Unleashed experience offers.  

I went from a skeptical first-time camper to raving about Camp Unleashed like my friend did last summer.  This September I’ll be returning to camp and am so excited that I will be sharing the experience with many I already count as friends and I am equally excited to meet new ones as well. 

If you’re looking for a wonderful vacation for you and your canine pal check out Camp Unleashed  Be sure to tell them Shale recommended you go!


  1. LOVE your blog and the camp sounds so fantastic!!! Cricket my Hillcrest girl says she wants to go, actually all my dogs would like to, LOL.

  2. This camp sound like a place that RhiRhi would have loved! Flurry, on the other hand, may be too much of a people dog to really enjoy it. However, I will keep it in the back of my mind for next year. Thanks for the great blog, Shale & Karen

  3. I read on the Camp Unleashed Facebook page!/CampUnleashed that they are talking about starting a camp in Oregon. Maybe some other Hillcrest BC's will be going soon.