Today, the camp said goodbye to a good friend. We gathered behind the Tabernacle and buried Miles, the camp dog, near his old friends, Shadow and Bailey. Miles was about 10 years old. He had started to really feel the affects of cancer and got hit by a car last week. It seemed that both of those were more than he could handle.
Miles became a camp dog when Vickie sighted him living in a ditch along that drive between Camden and Eva that the staff made daily for lunch. Miles was a little black puppy with giant feet then. Vickie said, not wanting to see a puppy starve everyday, that if he was there the next time they went by, she would pick him up. Sure enough, he was. Vickie said he was so excited when she stopped and motioned for him to get in the car. At that point, the Lawson’s had three camp dogs, and certainly didn’t need another. Vickie planned to drop him off at the animal shelter after a few days, but I decided after being around him a few days that I would take care of him. I named him after my favorite jazz musician, Miles Davis.
For the first few weeks, Miles stayed at my house on Mockingbird Hill, not spending much time at camp at all. But over Thanksgiving, I left him with Gary and Vickie. Those 4 days made Miles fall in love with Lakeshore. From then on, every time he came up to Mockingbird Hill, he didn’t stay long before sneaking back to camp. Over time, he would become much more my dog only in name and on vet records. In his heart, I think, Miles belonged to the camp.
Though he started out small, we always knew Miles wouldn’t stay that way. It wasn’t too much longer before Miles was tipping the scales at 85 and even 95 pounds. As his body grew quickly, Miles’ maturity took a little longer to catch up. He was an energetic child trapped in the body of a hulking adult. Miles pounced and chewed on Shadow and Bailey, who were pretty old and arthritic by that time, but they were very patient with them. He loved them both, and followed them everywhere they went.
Time went on, and Miles, himself became the old man of the camp. The new dogs would jump on and pester him like some kind of cosmic payback for those years when he was a puppy. Miles always handled it with the same good nature that his predecessors had. As long as he was able, Miles would follow Wilderness camp up each night. He knew that that meant he could beg for bacon or sausage the next morning. He was always well-loved and well-fed, especially during the summer.
During the fall, winter, and spring months, Miles would settle into a regular routine, demanding Gary and Vickie take him for a walk at the end of each day. Every afternoon, around 4:00pm, Miles, like clockwork, would begin nudging Gary and Vickie, letting them know it was time to go for a walk. Vickie when mentioning a walk, would be careful to spell it out, saying, “it’s almost time for a W-A-L-K,” like you do with preschool children. Miles figured this out even, and began to get excited upon the spelling of “walk.” He began to make noises that I don’t think I have words to accurately describe. I think if Miles had had the right vocal chords, he would have spoke as well as the rest of us in the office. He certainly tried. We got a great deal of amusement each afternoon, listening to Miles try desperately to tell us it was time for a walk. Gary and Vickie called him their personal trainer.
Miles was always a very vocal dog. Even, if he was just laying in the office, you would hear him making groaning noises. When you began to talk to him, he would just groan more and more. We even took him to the vet, to see Miles was groaning because of some kind of pain. The vet check him out all over and told us what amounted to, “it looks like he’s just eccentric.”
He most definitely was eccentric. He was a great companion and a wonderful representative of the camp. Miles did just as much work to make campers at home and realize the power of community as any of us. We will miss him greatly and be telling stories about him for years to come. Goodbye old friend.