The Worst Thing About Working at Pet Camp

This is a guest blog by Michelle Barrera. I almost never editorialize on blogs written by the Counselors, but this blog is amazing. It is both uplifting and sad, and, if I may, very much worth the few minutes it will take you to read it. Mark.

This week I had the pleasure of meeting the C.O.O of our largest corporate pet care facility competitor in San Francisco (I’ll let you guess which one). While introducing us, Mark mentioned to this gentleman that I’ve worked at Pet Camp for 20 years (it’s actually only been 19, but at this point, who’s counting?) and like most people who hear that, he exclaimed, “Wow!” and asked for the secret to my longevity here. My answer to that question is always the same, and not because it’s some rote answer that I blurt from memory, but because it’s the honest truth: Pet Camp (Mark and Virginia) has been very good to me, so I am 100% loyal to it (them). I also love working with like-minded people (i.e. dog and cat fanatics), meeting so many different loveable, funny, amazing pets, and creating long-lasting relationships with them and their devoted pet parents. These are truly some of the best things about working at Pet Camp, but what about the other end of the spectrum? What’s the worst thing about working here? Sadly, it’s directly related to the last item on my “best” list, for you see, the joy of meeting and getting so close to our dog and cat campers means feeling the pain that comes with having to say goodbye when they pass.

This week was difficult because we had to say goodbye to 3 well-loved campers: Luther the lab, Murphy the mastiff, and Panzer the bulldog. All 3 of these friends had pre-existing medical conditions that, in the end, put their little bodies through a great deal of suffering, leaving their respective pet parents to make the heart-wrenching decisions to end that suffering and euthanize them. One after the other, over a span of 3 days, we received the painful emails from each pet parent detailing their difficult losses and thanking us for being such good friends to their furry friends. To say that the counselors were sad is an understatement; they were utterly heart-broken. These are campers who we came to know well: all of their quirks and foibles, who their best Savannah buddies are, which big plastic play balls are their favorites, how they like to be scratched and where. They became a part of our troop, and now our troop is very different without them. Each of them brought something special to Pet Camp that cannot be replaced and will not be forgotten, but then again, every single one of our campers does the same. They leave a little bit of themselves in the trees of the Savannah, in the blades of grass in the Meadow and the Prairie, and in the nooks and crannies of our hearts. When a counselor tells you that they love your dog or cat, they absolutely mean it. When your pet has a birthday, we celebrate with you. When your pet meets a training goal, finds a new playmate, or graduates to playgroup, we cheer them right along with you. And when your pet comes to the end of his or her short but glorious life, we mourn with you, too. All those things that make this the best place ever to work sometimes make this job very hard to bear when we have to say goodbye, and yet none of us would trade it for anything else.

Although our hearts are broken for losing these wonderful dogs, the counselors, Mark and I are so grateful for the chance to know them. It was a pleasure and honor to watch them each grow with us in the time that we had with them, and this blog is my way of saying thank you to their parents for sharing each of them with Pet Camp.

This blog is dedicated to Luther, Murphy and Panzer. Rest in peace, little buddies.

Camper at pet camp Camper at pet camp camper pet camp