Written by David Walters
Illustrated by Denise Fulton and Maria Tatarinova
One morning Wire was confused. He could tell that something different was happening because Ellen didn’t go to school that day. Instead she helped her mother and father carry all sorts of things to the car. He watched them carry out a cooler full of food, a tent, some sleeping bags, foam pads, and a flashlight.
Wire Dog wanted to help, but all he could do was wag his tail and bark. “Look Mom,” said Ellen. “Wire Dog is excited to go with us too.”
It is true that Wire Dog was excited, but he didn’t know what the family was doing or where they were going. He had never been camping before. He didn’t even know what camping was. He was wagging his tail because people were walking in and out of the house carrying so much stuff. And he barked because he wanted to help.
When everything was loaded, all the family climbed into the car. Wire Dog wondered where everyone was going, but he was even more puzzled when Ellen called for him to get in the car too. Wire Dog very seldom was allowed to ride in the car, so he hesitated for a moment to make sure of what Ellen was telling him to do. When she patted her hand on her leg and called again, he was sure she meant for him to get in the car.
Quick as a wink, Wire Dog jumped in the car and crawled up on the seat beside Ellen. When everyone was buckled in, the family drove away from the house. They drove out of town and far away. Wire Dog thought it was taking an awfully long time to get wherever they were going. He looked out the window to see where they were. First he saw fields of crops go by. Then he started to see more and more trees. Wire Dog liked trees. Then he began to see some hills and finally a big lake. Wire Dog had never seen so much water in one place in all his life. The duck pond near his home was the largest body of water he had seen before. Wire Dog was surprised and happy when the car stopped at a campground right beside the lake.
When Ellen opened the car door, Wire Dog jumped out. He ran here, there, and everywhere. He was confused and excited all at the same time. His nose and his great sense of smell went to work sniffing the ground, trees, bushes, flowers and grass. He could tell that many different people and animals had been in the area. But at the moment, Ellen’s family members were the only people he could see. Soon, however, he saw a squirrel run across the ground. Wire Dog immediately ran after it. The squirrel quickly ran up a tree and Wire Dog barked at it from the ground.
Ellen’s mom and dad told her not to let her dog run around the campground, making a lot of noise and disturbing people and frightening animals. They told her that if her dog didn’t behave, he wouldn’t be allowed to go camping with them again. So Ellen called her dog over for a little talk. They sat together by a pile of wood and Ellen tried to make Wire Dog understand a few rules about camping. She said that they needed to keep their voices down to not bother people nearby. They were not supposed to scare animals because this was the animal’s home and no one should be chased or frightened in their own home. Wire Dog listened with big eyes, but he was not sure he understood everything that Ellen was trying to tell him. He started to understand better when another family set up a camp nearby, and Ellen had to call him several times when he began to walk into their area. It was hard for Wire Dog to understand the boundaries between their own camping spot and that of the neighbors. Ellen seemed to understand it perfectly, even though there were no fences, lines, or markings between the camp sites. He also tried to understand why Ellen would call him back every time he ran after a bird, squirrel, or deer. His natural instinct was to want to chase everything that moved. Ellen’s little talk by the wood pile and her calling must have been meant to help him understand that nature was to be enjoyed, not destroyed. So, Wire Dog did his very best to resist some of his natural desires. Instead of chasing everything, he tried to just look, smell, explore, and enjoy all the wonderful and interesting things at the campground.
The most interesting place for people seemed to be the lake. Some people were fishing there. Some were boating. And some were just walking along the shore. Boys liked to throw rocks in the lake. Every time a boy threw a rock, Wire Dog wanted to chase it. But he looked at Ellen and she shook her head, so he resisted that temptation too. Sometimes the parents would tell the boys to stop throwing rocks also, if they did it too much, or if the rocks were too big or if they were too near someone fishing. So Wire Dog began to understand that even the people at the campground had to follow certain rules or resist doing some things that might seem fun or natural.
That evening Ellen’s father made a campfire by chopping some wood and lighting it with a match. Wire Dog liked to stare at the fire but he was also a little bit afraid of it, so he stayed back and watched from a safe distance, while lying on the grass. As the family sat around the fire, father and mother explained a few more things about camping that Wire Dog only partly understood. Mother said that they were never to feed wild animals, even though it would be very tempting to throw bits of food to squirrels or birds. Ellen asked why. “What’s wrong with feeding the animals? Don’t they like it?” she asked.
Her mother replied that the animals certainly did like it, but that was the problem. They like it too much. Human food often has too much sugar or other ingredients that can be harmful to animals. If animals start to depend on humans to feed them, they can lose their natural ability to hunt for food and will go hungry. If big animals like deer, bears, and cougars get a taste for human food they will want to follow people around and that can lead to trouble for the people and the animals.
Father agreed. He told Ellen that they should keep their campsite very clean. They should never leave bits of food on the ground or out on the table. They were never to eat or store food in the tent because animals would smell it and want to come near enough to eat it. Father explained that all these rules were not meant to spoil their camping trip but to make sure it was fun and good and safe for everyone in the campground.
That night, as Ellen lay in her sleeping bag in the tent, she thought about it. She was sure her parents were right. If everyone kept the rules, things would be good for everyone involved. If someone broke the rules, it might seem fun to them at the moment, but could be bad for others. Wire Dog thought about it too.
Ellen’s family stayed at the campground for two more days. They hiked along a trail were they saw all sorts of plants and animals. They even saw a waterfall and felt the mist on their faces. They fished on the lake and went for a ride in a canoe. Once Wire Dog understood all the rules and kept them, he had the best time ever.
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