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Magic at the Mushroom Dome

We booked the treehouse four months in advance. It was called “The Mushroom Dome” and was on a steep, forested path in Aptos. With two pugs in the back of our electric blue Honda Civic, we pulled in and parked in our designated Airbnb spot in front of a storage shed about 300 feet from the destination. When we got out of the car, there was that unmatched fragrance of dense trees and wet dirt. The pugs were thrilled. 

Up the trail we went, past the pasture of goats to the left and the endless greenery to the right. It was my birthday, and, instantly, I knew this would be unforgettable. 

Dr. Porkchop, our 8-year-old, is a noisy sort of pug, so he snorted as he trotted to the treehouse. Lt. Applesauce, our 11-year-old, has always been quiet, so he treaded the path in his silent, more sophisticated prance. I watched them both waddle their way to the front door. 

While it is deemed a treehouse, the Mushroom Dome is more like a cabin suspended over a haven of moss that is surrounded by a tremendous forest. Its terrace is decorated with glowing lights. To see it firsthand is to see something magical. I felt like we’d arrived at a secret, enchanted dwelling. We took off our shoes, as is the policy, and let the pugs run loose inside. 

They were delighted. But it was at that moment we realized that the treehouse did not suit the needs of our two furry little ones. 

The tiny living room was parallel to the miniature kitchen, but the luxurious bedroom was up a stepladder. And as it turned out, the gorgeous upstairs was only guarded by a 3-foot balcony that looked out on the cozy downstairs. This was not pug-safe by any means. Our darlings were older, but they were still prone to jump at the sight of birds or the sound of something unexpected. Surely, they would hoist themselves over the side while we were sleeping. 

We looked at each other with dismay — and understanding. How would we lounge in bed to watch movies and then admire the windowed ceiling in the morning to watch the sun rise if the pugs would not be safe upstairs? There was only one answer. The bedroom would have to remain unused. And so, we cuddled under blankets on the living room couch and watched the rain through the twinkling lights on the terrace. 

Magic. That’s what it was. We stayed for two days, and there was never a moment when I didn’t feel transported to a place where my husband and my pugs didn’t exist as the center of the world. 

We stayed on that couch at night, with the rain falling, with the forest around us, and we were together in a way that rarely feels possible. During the day, the pugs loved to visit the goats on our walks, though they didn’t bark at them. They seemed to just stop and look. The chickens, though, they shouted at. 

This happened last January. I keep the memory with me all the time now, those two days so far from everything else. I can’t wait to revisit the Mushroom Dome and get swept away again. I can’t wait to feel that close, so close on the small couch where all four of us fit perfectly.

Elyce Berrigan-Dunlop is a dog enthusiast with a special penchant for pugs. She works as the community engagement specialist for the San Francisco SPCA and spends her days coordinating events and publications to support animal welfare. When not in the office, she is home with her chef-husband and three rescue pugs, Dr. Porkchop, Cardielle, and Juice Box. 

Main article photo by: Photo courtesy Airbnb