This week…we went camping and got a puppy. Or, lost our minds.

by Janelle Hanchett


  1. A few months ago, Mac and I started making noises about getting another dog – you know, a dog that actually plays, or moves, or likes kids. We decided on a Labrador. On Sunday, we got him. He is pictured below. Rocket named him Laser. Of course, that’s his name because it’s perfect.
  2. We have had Laser for 24 hours. I love Laser. Laser is wonderful. Laser is really freaking busy.
  3. Seriously people, what is WRONG WITH US? Our life was already insane. Chaos. Mayhem. Disorder. Noise. Pee. All of it reaching heights I never knew existed…and what do I do? “Honey, we need a family dog. We need one to go on trips with us and play catch and eat stuff it shouldn’t and bark.” Yes, clearly. That is what we need. Another mammal with toilet and obedience issues. Yay! And so my life is has reached a new pinnacle of crazy and I’m falling in deep love with this freaking dog, already. He’s bright, even-tempered, playful, engaged and eager to please. Not a spaz. He may actually be the least spastic member of this family.
  4. By the way, he is not my “fur baby.” And he never will be. Full stop.
  5. So the plan was that on Sunday we would drive up to Grass Valley to get the puppy from the breeder (no, we did not go to a shelter and we have our reasons and yes I am a terrible person and yes I should be shot. the end.). But on Tuesday, Mac texted me on his lunch break “Let’s camp in the foothills Saturday night.” And if there’s one thing I LOVE it’s impulsive decision-making and unplanned trips into the wilderness, so I said “hells yeah baby,” and found us a spot in a campground along the North Fork of the American River in the Tahoe National Forest. Incidentally, it was one of the best campgrounds I’ve ever been to and the trip was absolutely magical, probably because it was thrown together with very little thought or expectation, and we were all just glad to get the hell out of the Sac valley and its inferno ways.
  6. The campground was small and remote, filled to the brim with spruce and pine trees. The water poured from a natural spring in the ground. At the end of it was a swimming hole in the river.  Above the pool was a gentle waterfall that poured across the rocks with just enough force the kids could safely ride their intertube down it, into the swimming hole. They did it about fifty times.
  7. Mac and I sat on a nearby rock and watched them play. Georgia slept in her stroller. It was one of those afternoons when you’re sure there is not a single thing in the world you need beyond what you have, right here and right now.
  8. And let me get all hippie on you for a minute. As I watched those kids play and laugh in that river, navigating rocks and slippery spots, pulling each other out of the water, scraping their feet on gravel, dunking unexpectedly under the water, getting cold, getting too much sun, getting filthy, I realized that THIS is the thing that allows kids to develop a love of the earth. They were playing with her. They were riding her waves, exploring her rocks, cooling themselves in her water. And I thought to myself, this is probably the most important thing I could ever teach my kids, because if you love the earth you always have a friend, a source of nourishment, a source of peace. A place to revive your spirits and clear your mind and wonder again, like when you were a kid and you spent 5 hours riding a little waterfall on the American River.
  9.  My mom took us everywhere. We camped all the time. She always let me play in the river without the appropriate shoes. She always let me explore dunes and tide pools and rivers – alone and for hours and hours – and to this day, I feel in my bones that freedom, that joy and peace and wonder, and I feel a yearning for it sometimes. And I know where to go.

Wanna go sing kumbayah? Me too. But first, check out these pictures.

Have a great week, everybody.

navigating the river, without shoes (and in Rocket's case, without pants). totally unsafe.


telling stories to each other in the river. they thought I wasn’t listening.

the swimming hole

the swimming hole, see the little waterfall above it?

going down the little waterfall

gettin' stuck


and gettin down to the bottom, floating into the swimming hole

took this from our rock. maybe the best picture I’ve ever taken of them…

I have never seen them have so much fun together. pure joy.

he was so relaxed

so was he, on our rock above the waterfall

around the campfire. notice the shorts? yeah, it was like 74 degrees at 9pm

watching the campfire

we sang and played. I'm telling you it was magical.

filthy, barefoot, very happy toddler.

are you seeing those hands?

Rocket learned how to use a sling shot. Also very safe. PSHHHT.

And I took a picture with my kids.

And then, we added this guy to our family.

And Rocket found his new best friend.



16 Comments | Posted in weeks of mayhem | June 18, 2012
  • HogsAteMySister

    Lovely story and photos.

    And OF COURSE you needed a big sloppy dog named Laser.

    Getting him will be your best decision ever.

    Trust me on that.


    I chose the Moosedawg…

    I’m sure Laser will be perfect!

  • Marie

    Oh my gravy. I want to get me some magic! Whats the name of the campground? We went camping this weekend at Scott’s Flat in Nevada City. There were mosquitos and a bear. Not quite as magical as your place sounds but still had a dirt lovin, tree huggin time.

    • renegademama

      haha! nice. The campground was “North Fork Campground” off the Emigrant Gap exit on 80, about 40 minutes past Auburn. If you Google it you’ll find it immediately. There were mosquitoes for sure, but they were NOTHING compared to the wonderfulness. 🙂

  • shauna

    Just hormonally preggers enough to get all misty when I looked at those photos. What a good life is available!! Amen, sister!! Well done.

    • renegademama

      Thanks, Shauna. It was one of those life-affirming trips. And don’t worry, I got misty eyed looking at them too. There’s something awesome about kids having fun doing simple things. And family. Family is alright.

      Your comment made me happy. When is your baby due?

  • Momtothree

    Wow, looks like you all had a great time! Love the photo of you and the kids. Is it ok to ask what happened to your other, runaway dog, or is that a sore point? Or do you have two dogs now? You crazy person, as if you didn’t have enough to do …
    We lost our old faithful chocolate labrador after nearly twelve years together. The void in our lives was incredible. So we just adopted another chocolate lab, a two year old neutered male. He’s so much fun. Kids need a dog in their lives. Period.

    • renegademama

      Oh gosh I was totally unclear on that point! Yes, we still have Odie. So yes, we have TWO freaking dogs. The thing is with Odie is that he’s kind of a grumpy old man. He likes me. And bully sticks. And that’s pretty much it. He hates running, he hates the kids, he pretty much hates movement of any sort. He’s my dog and I ADORE HIM, but he isn’t exactly one for the kids, ya know?

      We needed a family dog as in a WHOLE family dog. 🙂

      So we got a lab.

      Love to hear about yours. I hear they are amazing dogs. My husband is already fearing the day we lose Laser. Me? I prefer to live in denial. And love him now.

  • Rebekah C

    God yes, I love camping. Without a doubt it provided my happiest childhood memories.

  • Jennifer

    I firmly believe that kids should go camping — and often. Great pictures. And you are crazy to get a puppy but goddammit he is cute.

  • Carrera

    What an awesome post! Sounds/looks like an awesome family trip. Congrats on the puppy addition, he is ADORABLE. You can’t look at a Lab and not smile!

  • Char Klassen

    Last summer I took my two boys camping all by myself. People thought I was nuts…huh? It was amazing. It rained on us, we adventured through native wild flowers, fished and got really dirty. It was awesome. I’m doing it again next week. Tradition-camping with MOM! Oh, yeah…

  • Beth

    Loved the camping pics! You are not a terrible person for not getting Laser from a shelter. We explored the same option a year after my border collie mix of 14 years died. No shelter or rescue will adopt to anyone with kid(s) under ten. Being a vet tech for almost 20 years, dodging and sometimes receiving my share of dog bites, I was also very leery to bring an adult dog, around my then 3 year old. Not sure what your reasons were, but those were mine. We didn’t really have a choice. And now we have a border collie from what I like to refer to as a yuppie-puppy mill. He’s a year old now(thank god). Crate training was our only means of survival!

  • Jessica

    Love this. Dude, i remember hanging out at this hidden spot where the creek ran into a shallow pool. The water was always clear, it had big rocks and a sandy bank. I loved that place. It took about 20 minutes to hike through the woods to get to it but it was like heaven during those hot, deep south summers.
    Thanks for evoking those memories!! 🙂

  • Jackie

    No idea where that came from, but I was welling up at your hippie rant. Maybe the personification of Nature as a mature goddess? Maybe the fact that you are such a vulnerable being, open to telling us off (about the lack of puppy shelter shopping) and then writing pure poetry? It’s beautiful. You give me hope that I could one day have a second child and live through it (maybe not?).XO

  • Sarah

    Love Laser! So cute – and from a fellow lab owner I completely understand why you went through a breeder! More pics please as lab puppies are the best.

  • Lizaelha

    The picture of Rocket and Lazer may be the best photo I’ve ever seen of a boy and his dog. You don’t even need to see Rocket’s face to know the expression on it! Life may be crazy (er) with the addition of a puppy, but I’m sure in 20 years Rocket will tell you how amazing it was to get his best friend when he was six!