We just got back from a two-week camping vacation in the Florida Keys. We have been so worried about Oscar and how he would be in the campground, around people, and in general since his fear and anxiety usually makes anything social a total ordeal. We got down to Long Key State Park on January 3. We should’ve known from the 3 hour drive that things were not going to be normal this trip. The drive was honestly insane. We narrowly averted many accidents, crazy drivers and insane wind the whole way down with the kayak strapped to the roof of the truck. There was a ton of traffic as well for a Saturday morning. But Oscar climbed in on top of the pile of gear onto his dog bed and was calm yet excited the whole drive.
The wind was so strong that setting up camp was incredibly challenging. The tent was blowing like a big giant sail and if you’ve ever set up a tent you know that trying to stretch it out, stake it down, and prop it up with polls is not necessarily easy even with no wind. Our very nice campsite neighbor came over to help us hold down the gigantic tent so that we could get it done.
The Whacky Shack
Camp was all set up and the dog was doing pretty good although he seemed to bark at everybody that walked by the campsite, obviously in protective mode of us. Alerting us “People! People are here! See them! See them!” If I had to complain about anything it was his barking when we were talking to people. Oscar just does not seem to know when enough is enough. He is learning. But it was definitely manageable.
We had a great two full weeks camping beachside. Although there were some very challenging parts to it. We had days upon days of very strong wind which actually broke our tent one night! The same night that the tent collapsed and the polls broke from the wind, (we called the tent the wacky shack) the inflatable mattress also died. It was a VERY interesting night haha! Not only was the tent rocking and rolling, wacky shacking, but we were also laying on the hard ground. This was the end of the first week and we had to drive all over the keys trying to find a new tent or polls to fix the old one, none of which was happening. We actually had to drive all the way back up to Homestead which is a good two hours away in order to purchase a brand-new tent from a sporting goods store. Not something we wanted to do on a gorgeous Keys day…
Of course as soon as we got the brand-new tent and got back to the campsite, there was absolutely no wind. Instead being very warm this time of year which is unseasonable, usually it is much cooler at this time if you’re down there, there were now bugs. Lots and lots and lots of bugs. Noseeums. Also known as chiggers. The little bastards that you can actually see, that bite you and it really does hurt, and they actually draw blood. Thousands of them. Swarming. Around your face, your ankles, your ears, your neck, wrists, hands, anywhere that you have exposed skin. And they are relentless. Absolutely relentless. And they leave nice red welts. Wonderful…
So for a good six days we had constant battle with bugs. Oscar had bites all over him as well. Apparently the salt water, the sand, or an abundance of various repellant products does not keep them from biting. Apparently nothing does. As much as I am opposed to DEET I actually relented and used it here and there. It doesn’t really work well either. Nothing keeps these bugs from biting you. It was brutal. They fit through the screen on the tent as well, so they bite us all night long. There is nothing like trying to cover your entire face in a tent trying to sleep.
And that really was one of the biggest challenges of the entire trip. We got very poor sleep. This has never happened to us before on any of our camping trips to the Keys, and this is our 7th year. Usually it is much cooler out and the bugs are manageable. Not this time. I have never experienced such a brutal relentless bug issue as this trip. And the sleeping, that was a whole other animal. The humidity was high and so when you crawled into the tent to go to bed, everything was damp. Add the bugs to that and you get what I’m saying. BRUTAL!
The only place the bugs were not biting was out on the kayak in the middle of the ocean. And so we made quite a few trips with the dog in the kayak especially in the morning when the bugs are really bad. Oscar was incredibly good on the kayak and he loves it.
But beyond all of the challenges, losing the tent in the middle of the night, the deflated air mattress, and the relentless bugs, we had a great time. We did a lot of fishing with the dog on the bridge, we did a lot of kayaking with the dog, lots of beach running and walking, he had a blast. And he was so incredibly good. We were so worried about his anxiety and his fear, but it really was not an issue. We even took him out to dinner and he sat under the table and was generally okay. There were a few incidences of him shaking like a leaf here and there, but for the most part he was well behaved and fine.
I truly have to contribute this to the Prozac. If this was a few months ago a lot of the things we did on this vacation would’ve been impossible with him. As much as we discussed it and were against putting him on these drugs, I really think there has been a breakthrough. The goal was for him to enjoy himself, and his life. And I think we have been successful at that at this point!
Oscar was great with other dogs at the campground. Although some smaller dogs, if he was off leash, he would charge. It wasn’t like he was trying to do anything aggressive, he just has no manners. He would charge out of our campsite over to a dog, wagging his tail but of course the owner doesn’t know that he’s not harmful. As I mentioned before when people would walk by our campsite he would bark like crazy and if they stopped to talk to us he would bark continuously through the conversation which was annoying. There were times where I would have to grab his head and make eye contact to make him stop. We also ended up tethering him to the picnic table with his leash at times where we were walking around, constructing the tents or wanted to go out in the water without him. We have never done this before. I don’t think we have ever tied him to anything prior to this trip. But he was good. He would sit in the shade and watch us diligently.
We were honestly amazed at how good he was. How different his attitude was comparatively. The Prozac was a good move. It has definitely helped.
And of course, the worst part about vacation, is when it’s over. We had two full weeks without computers, very little phone use, and absolutely no television. And I can’t say I missed any of it. We got home this weekend to find our garden was going crazy, so we had a totally sustainable meal. We ate fish that we had caught ourselves the day before, and delicious chard that we grew in our own garden. This was a first for both of us. Just amazing!
So… the verdict. Prozac has definitely helped. Just 20mg a day has made a HUGE difference in Oscar and our quality of life.
And sadly, we are back to reality now. We have not decided how long we will keep him on the Prozac but we are taking it day by day. I figure another couple of months and he will be over most of his issues to the point of tolerability. Not sure if that is even a word but I am going with it…