You know how it is when we go Up North--first, a morning-long scramble to pack the truck. Do we bring the dog beds? Both of them? Will they fit? You know they're just going to sleep on the bed anyway. How many coats will we need? Is it supposed to rain? Will it snow? How much dog food do you think we need? Are you sure that's enough? How many pairs of hiking boots are you bringing? Only one? What if they get wet? What do you mean you'll just buy another pair in Grand Marais?
Then it's drive drive drive drive drive, through Duluth, on up Highway 61 (Should we take the scenic highway? Or should we just barrel on through?), winding through the former fishing villages turned tourist towns, until finally, four hours later--Zup's in Silver Bay, and the happiest grocery shopping trip of the year.
From Silver Bay--wedging in the bags of groceries, worrying that the boys have absolutely no room at all back there, preventing Riley again and again from climbing over the seat into my lap--we have one more hour to the cabin. Ah, turn down the dirt road, bump down the driveway into the yard. Unpack unpack unpack. Put away the food. Arrange the dogbeds. Turn up the heat. Crack open a bottle of wine.
By now it is dark, and far too late to hike. We walk down to the dock and listen to the fish splash in the lake, but we cannot see much. So by the next morning, it has been a long wait for that first hike of vacation. We walk back down to the dock. We watch the mist rise, and we look for the eagle. The boys race around. We walk back up through the dewy grass. Our boots do, indeed, get wet. The boys race past us. We go inside and pack a lunch. The boys stay outside, racing around.
Finally, we're ready; we set out. And on that first morning, as we walked up our road, the oranges and reds and gold absolutely at their peak--Boscoe put on the brakes. He did not want to walk.
We walked down the road, and he stopped and watched us go. Uh-uh. No way, he said (with his eyes). Not going. I'm done. He had that stubborn look that said he meant business.
We turned around and brought him back to the cabin and locked him in, and we hiked alone that day, with Riley. We had never done that before, and it did not feel good. (Riley, heartless Riley, did not seem to mind at all.)
A week or so before the trip, Dr. J had prescribed Tramadol for Boscoe's pain. Just a half-tablet, twice a day, to start, to make sure he could tolerate it. He tolerated it just fine, but it didn't seem to be helping much. So, after that first sad afternoon, we doubled the dose, and it made all the difference. Boscoe hiked every day after that, happily. We were careful to pace him: Some days we went for upwards of three hours. Some days we hiked only an hour or so.
One afternoon I felt that neither Riley nor I had gotten our fill of walking. So while Doug got the coals ready for grilling, I laced up my boots and called to Riley. He zipped up the road ahead of me, and we turned off at the usual spot, up the snowmobile trail. After a quarter mile or so, the trail forks, and I turned left. Riley did not follow. He stopped at the fork, and he looked down the way we had come, and then he looked back at me. I whistled. He did not move. I called. He looked back down the trail, back at me, and his face looked uncertain.
I walked back down to where he stood, and I looked down the trail, and what did I see but ... Boscoe! Trudging up the trail toward us. At that moment he reminded me of my mother, who walks gamely but grimly, favoring her bum knee. Riley had known he was there, and was waiting for him to catch up.
How in the world... After a few seconds I could hear the Jeep start up. The dogs and I hiked back down to the road just in time to see Doug drive slowly past, looking extremely worried. When he saw us, he stopped. Both dogs leaped at the truck in joy.
Doug leaned out the window. He escaped, he said. I opened the door to light the coals, and he escaped. I figured I was either going to find him, or keep driving. I knew you'd never forgive me if I lost Boscoe.
He turned the Jeep around and drove the 25 feet back to our driveway. Riley chased the truck at full speed. Boscoe trotted along next to me happily. No way are you leaving me behind again, he said (with his eyes). Now let's go have some dinner.
44 minutes ago