Four-legged friends invited to ‘AdironDog Retreat’
They say dogs are man's (and just as often woman's) best friend; and for many folks, their dogs are their family. But the Rev. Garrie Stevens says dogs can also be a way to see God's faithfulness.
That's what the first AdironDog Retreat at the Aldersgate Camp and Retreat Center in Greig is all about.
The three-day retreat, Sept. 5-7, 2014, invites dogs and their people to spend time enjoying the outdoors with other dogs and dog lovers, and just maybe learning something new about faith.
"(AdironDog can) help people to expand their sense of the presence of the Creator through their pets, and it's an acknowledgement that dogs, in a way, help us to see God's faithfulness because dogs are faithful. We remember, when we scratch their ears, that we are created by a faithful God that cares for us."
Rev. Stevens, a retired Upper New York elder, is a principal consultant with Run River Enterprises, which has been working on a strategic plan for all six Camp and Retreat Ministries sites in Upper New York, and is helping to organize AdironDog.
Aldersgate Co-Director Rebekah Wachob said that retreats for dog lovers have become increasingly popular, and this is another way to extend Aldersgate's ministry to a new audience. She talked about what she hopes people will take from this retreat.
"I want them to have a feeling of personal spiritual renewal and growth," Wachob said. "I want them to have a better understanding of their pet and be more connected to their pet, and to be able to share their love for animals with others who have the same feeling."
The retreat will include wilderness hikes, a chance to bake homemade dog treats, special guest speakers, a pet blessing, optional pet grooming and more – as well of plenty of time to just play.
"At Aldersgate there's plenty of shoreline and open fields for people to go hiking and swimming with their dogs," said Rev. Stevens. "We have a Lab (Journey, whose picture appears above); she's in the water at every opportunity."
Organizers have also adapted some practical ideas from other dog-friendly retreats to make the experience comfortable for everyone, including doggie waste-bag stations and coded dog tags that will let everyone know about the pooches' personalities: green for friendly, yellow for approach with caution, and red for pets that like to keep their distance.
Wachob said she's looking forward to the retreat not only as Aldersgate's co-director but as a dog owner. She and her husband, Lucas (Aldersgate's other co-director), have a new dog Chip. Chip, a "super friendly" boxer/Lab mix, will be sporting a green tag, she said.
She hopes that other dog lovers will take this chance to "celebrate the sacred nature of your bond with your dog."
Rev. Stevens said a truncated version of the AdironDog Retreat could be a way for local churches to reach out to their communities. They could do a Sunday afternoon on the lawn program for families and their dogs, he said.
"I think it's a way to reach out to families that may not be related to the Church or a congregation, but have a dog; and by recognizing and embracing the importance of that relationship, (an event like this) may be helping them take a second look at the Church," he said.
Rev. Stevens said other ideas for activities include family portraits with the pets, doggie massage and a chance for dogs to use their noses in a scavenger hunt.
He summed up what he thinks Adirondog will offer people this way: "They'll come closer to God because of their dog, and see their dog in a bigger sphere than just as the family pet. It's also a chance to get acquainted with a new pet or to bond with their pet in a nice environment."
What: A three-day retreat for dogs and dog lovers
When: Friday to Sunday, Sept. 5-7, 2014
Where: Aldersgate Camp and Retreat Center, Greig
Prices include all lodging, meals, and program activities for the three days. Dogs should be well socialized and up-to-date on their vaccinations. Dog grooming is optional, and will be provided on-site for an additional fee.
Youth (4-12): $85
Youth (4-12): $100