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The Dogs of Northern Wilds

Me and the Boys
By Shawn Perich

Last winter, Tanner, the old yellow lab, and I were pretty glum. The previous summer we’d lost Abby, a nearly 17-year-old shepherd-husky. Then in October, we lost Vikki, the woman in our lives. The old homestead was quiet and lonely. When spring arrived, I took Vikki’s advice.

“Get a puppy,” was one of the last things she said to me.

In April, a seven-week-old yellow Lab puppy entered our lives. We called him Rainy, because he was born in a kennel just outside International Falls, near a river of the same name. Within a day, he was right at home, incessantly tussling with Tanner between naps. Puppies take lots of naps.

Tanner proved to be a patient and gentle mentor, except for one instructive moment. Rainy thought he could push the big dog out of the way and eat from his food dish. A growl and a nip from Tanner taught him otherwise.

Within a week, Rainy was joining us for long, daily walks. He came to work with me, getting lots of socialization from the Northern Wilds staff and every dog lover who visited the office. Alas, he outgrew his welcome when he began stealing whatever he could off desks and causing other mischief. So it goes with young male labs.

In September, the boys and I took a road trip to Montana, wandering through mountain valleys where trout streams flow. We visited friends, saw some wild country and even caught a trout or two. Rainy learned how to travel, riding “shotgun” while Tanner curled up on the back seat. Back home, we began hunting grouse. The puppy showed promise.

In South Dakota a month later, the puppy became a bird dog. At first, he was unsure about this new game, chasing pheasants on the prairie. He followed Tanner through the grassy cover, mimicking the older dog’s moves. After Tanner flushed and retrieved a couple of roster pheasants, you could almost see the light bulb go off in Rainy’s brain. He began to hunt. By the third day, he was finding downed birds before Tanner and proudly, if not perfectly, retrieving them. Tanner appeared chagrined.

But the boys are still best buddies. They like nothing better than long walks and the opportunity to run full tilt through open spaces. As for me, I appreciate the exercise. Being a “single parent” to two dogs is sometimes challenging, but my boys are always happy to see me. You can’t ask for much more than that.

By Maren Webb

My husband and I had long wanted to get a dog, but city living didn’t quite feel right for the large dog we dreamed of having. Not to mention how difficult it is to find a pet-friendly apartment. Our move to Grand Marais sparked a renewed interest in getting a dog and about a year into our time on the North Shore, a lovable chocolate lab puppy entered our lives. From the start, Maya was our outdoors dog: from running nose to the ground along the Superior Hiking Trail, to taking a swim in whatever water she could find (thank goodness most of our waters are clean.) Early on, we decided to train her to the canoe, so she could accompany us on our regular Boundary Waters canoe trips. After one or two near spills into the lake, a few paddle taps and countless treats, Maya is a canoe trip champ. While dogs can be our companions in many ways, I love that our dog is up for all the adventures the North Shore offers us, no matter the season. The only spot you won’t find Maya is out on a frozen lake ice fishing (I’ll save that story for another time). Maya and I will see you on the trails.

By Erin Altemus

Last year, Ringo was our alternate for the Beargrease team, but an unforeseen injury in another dog gave Ringo a chance to prove himself. He finished the race, defying all expectations I had for him.

This year, during the Beargrease, Ringo got off to a poor start. At the first checkpoint, in Finland, Ringo started limping. I thought a previous injury had reoccurred, but after he limbered up, the limp went away.

At the next checkpoint, he started a fight with Emmy Lou. She gave him a good swipe in the cheek which necessitated some staples.

By mid-race, however, the Ringo from last year emerged.

As the team slowly trotted up a large hill, a sudden yip, almost a scream emerged from somewhere in the team and everyone surged forward, rallied by this sudden enthusiasm. These bursts of excitement would come when least expected and most needed.

By the last leg of race, Ringo’s tug line was tighter than any other.  As we neared the finish, he cheered the team forward.  At the finish line, he lunged to go further.

“Who’s that guy?” Someone asked me at the finish.

“That is an exceptional dog,” I replied.

By Breana Roy

In the fall of first grade, my friend’s farm dog had 12 unplanned puppies, and like any kids, my sister and I begged our parents to adopt one. After telling us no dozens of times, my Dad surprised us with the greatest Christmas present I’ve ever received. My Dad is a pilot, so the stipulation—we had to name her something aviation-related. We settled on Aileron, a part on an airplane wing. While she didn’t grow up to be a lazy, airport dog as my Dad had hoped, she captured our hearts nonetheless and quickly became part of the family.

She was a stubborn, loving, smart, high energy and highly food-motivated golden retriever. Stories about her often involve missing cookies, muffins, a tub of butter and even Barbie shoes and limbs. We believe she got her deep orange color from a few stolen Thanksgiving pumpkin pies. Her motto: It’s better to beg for forgiveness than ask for permission.

Her favorite spot to ride in the car was the front seat and she wouldn’t move for anybody. As a kid, I frequently sat in the back when my parents picked me up from school, because she wouldn’t budge from the front, no matter how hard I tried to make her move.

Since I’m the baby of the family, she constantly tested my authority. But she was also my best friend and playmate. We spent hours playing in the yard and swimming in the lake. As she got older, she thrived on summer boat rides, car rides and short walks.

Unfortunately, my childhood companion passed away when she was around age 14. And while it’s been many years now, I still think of her often. She is forever in my heart as my “baby girl.”

By Roseanne Cooley

Sitka is 9 years old and is half husky and half white German shepherd. We got her when my first born was a baby. We now have two kids and Sitka loves them. She is very protective, as if they were her own puppies. She likes to pull the kids around on their sleds and play outside, digging holes and covering the kids with snow. She also loves to play fetch.

By Julia Prinselaar

After repeatedly winding up at the local animal services shelter, Timber was taken under the care of New Hope Dog Rescue Thunder Bay until my partner, Juan, and I adopted him one year ago.

I often refer to Timber as “a human wearing a dog blanket,” because so much of his traits are unlike other dogs. He’s friendly and charming, but he doesn’t crave attention and is never overbearing. Instead of fetching a tennis ball, he’ll offer you a blank stare. He rarely barks and always takes treats gently from your hands. He pays little attention to either our chickens or our kitten. But he does like chicken eggs…

One morning, Timber joined me in the backyard as I was cleaning my chicken coop. There was a single egg in the nesting box, so I took it out of the coop and set it down on a small stump of wood while I turned the compost. When I was ready to bring the egg inside, I noticed that it had disappeared from the stump and was nowhere in sight. Then, I looked over to Timber. He was 10 feet away from the stump, sitting with the egg between his paws, licking at its shell. He had so gingerly picked it up in his mouth and carried it over that the egg wasn’t broken—not even cracked. He’s the most gentle dog I’ve ever had the pleasure of spending time with, and we look forward to many years of adventure together.

Bido and Srearl
By Sue O’Quinn

We got brothers Bido and Srearl as puppies when we moved into our new home in Hovland. They have been a big “help” in the yard, always finding treasure, keeping the wild animals at bay, and protecting the chickens and geese. Some people have deer problems in their gardens…we have dog problems. They enjoy garden produce, especially pea pods they pick themselves. They also enjoy blueberries. Even though they are getting older and gray, they remain active. When indoors, they have their own couch, where they enjoy lounging around and bird watching.

That’s Our Leo
By Eric Chandler

My wife was nice to the dog and gave him a treat this week. (I have since learned she gives him a snack every day. What gives?) He rolled over to earn it and, while rolling, sprayed the kitchen with pee like a lawn sprinkler. No, he’s not a puppy. My daughter assigned Leo January 10th as his birthday. He just had his fifth. Hard to believe we picked this Labrador and border collie mix up from Animal Allies back in 2011.

When he gets super excited he does it. Or when he’s drowsy and you touch him. Once I came downstairs in the morning and said, “Good morning, buddy.” He peed. It’s just the way it is. We have a rule: Don’t interact with Leo when he’s sleepy.

He’s quite handsome. The crossbreeding makes him look like he’s wearing a tux. However, I believe he’s somewhere on the autism spectrum. He doesn’t snuggle without you having food in your hand. And even then, it’s not snuggling. He vibrates with hope and his creepy yellow eyes bore into the food you’re holding like lasers. Not you. The food. Then he’s a damn genius. Speak. Roll over. Shake. Shake with the other hand. Go to his rug. Touch your hand with his nose. Once you say, “All done” and go to pet him on the head, he skulks away. There’s a five-minute window before he retires in the evening when he comes over for some love. But, you might get wet because it’s his bedtime.

He brings our family together because he’s our common enemy. But he’s not all bad. I ran all 300 miles of the Superior Hiking Trail (SHT) with him during the summer of 2014. He came with me on every single leg. I learned a few things about him that summer. He’s not much for people, but he loves to be outside. When I lace up the shoes to run, he comes downstairs and stands with his nose touching the door to head out. Impossible to ignore. He’s always game to go run or cross-country ski. He’s gone thousands of miles with me.

He never gives up. On the SHT, he tore into the brush after squirrels and chipmunks like a bullet from a rifle. Never caught one. He never will. But his enthusiasm never wavers. He has no memory. He only lives in the now. I admire that.

At home, he’s protective of my wife and kids. If I’m playing around and bear hug my wife, he starts barks to protect his mama. And that bark. It’s like a sonic cannon. I’ve been around dogs my whole life and I’ve never heard anything like it. He’s a medium-sized dog, but the pots ring and your eyes water when he makes noise. But he has a false-alarm rate of zero. He only barks when he should. When he barks, you discover there’s someone trying to ring our inoperative doorbell. But if you hear a door slam and he’s quiet, you know the car must be from the neighbor’s driveway, not ours. Good dog.

God help me, I love him. I actually do. I’d pet him, but…well…you know.

By Elle Andra-Warner

Our chocolate lab, Bear, joined the family in the summer of 2011, after my husband Glenn visited a Saskatchewan farmer who just happened to have seven pups ready to go to homes. We had no intention of getting another dog (our two golden labs had passed away a few years before), but when Glenn arrived at the farm, there was one pup that ran straight to him, put his paws up and looked at Glenn, as if to say, “You’re here to take me home, right?” A couple of days later, Bear was in the truck heading home to Thunder Bay with Glenn.

By Amber Pratt

If you’ve stopped by the Northern Wilds office in the past few months, you might have met Evee, the official door greater. Evee was adopted through the Paws for Love rescue group in Thunder Bay. When at home, she’s learning to get along with her 2 feline companions. One of their favorite games is ‘slap the puppy.’ She also loves the snow and could play outside all day long. And like most puppies, she loves treats.

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