Monday, May 28, 2012

Day One: 8 Hours is Too Long to be Stuck in a car with Rubi

Favorite DogGear: Lupine Collar's 1" martingale collars - pit bull tough, but clean up nice. Guaranteed for life, even if chewed. 

Close Encounters on the Wild Side: black flies, gold finches, chickadees, pine martin

I've traveled the roads between River Falls, WI, and Duluth, MN all my life: to visit friends, to see family, to go one vacation - sometimes all three. The miles of pavement, the hills, the trees, and the little towns are as comforting and familiar to me as a warm quilt on a winter night.

My dad decides on a short detour to see an old friend who's having a rough time of it. Why they talk, Piper Ann, Rubi, my brother, and I wander down to the lake to stretch our legs. One of Rubi's previous foster homes told me that she likes to swim, and I'm curious to see what she thinks of the lake. We haven't found a place in the cities where she can play in the water because, well, there tend to be other dogs at beaches where dogs are allowed. Go figure.

Rubi rushes down to the shoreline, but seems content to wade ankle deep and eat copious amounts of grass. (She does this at home, too, but she almost never throws up - Rubi just really likes the taste of grass, I guess.) We follow Piper out onto the dock because, well, why not? Rubi looks out over the lake, breathes deep and sighs.

Clear Lake. Not to be confused with Clearwater Lake. One Rubi owns; one pwn'd Rubi. 


Rubi takes one step too far and the lake swallows her in an undignified gulp.

I wince as her head goes under once, and then again. Apparently, losing twenty pounds of fat changes your buoyancy. The water is only about twenty inches deep here, and after a few seconds of vigorous splashing, Rubi gets her front feet back on the dock, fixing me with the most horrified expression I've ever seen on a canine face.

I'm pretty such she thinks she's melting.

Rubi collects herself to jump back on the dock, gives a little hop - and falls backward into the lake again.

I can't help it, I burst out laughing.

This time, when she drags herself half out, I grab her collar and help her out of that treacherous, pit bull-eating lake. Rubi makes a beeline for shore and safety, me snickering behind her. Throughout the rest of our trip, Rubi makes one idea abundantly clear -

Rubi is not, nor will she ever be, a water dog. Not never. Fo' serious.

After our adventure on the lake, we're back on the road, up through Duluth and then east along Highway 61. This road from Duluth to Grand Marais is the most beautiful drive I've ever taken. One one side rolls Lake Superior; four years I lived in Duluth, and not one moment did I grow tired of seeing this lake. It's splendor cannot be captured by mere words, and pictures are merely a pale replication of its glory. On the other side of the pavement lies the great Northwoods. Brilliant poplars and birches freckled with the darker shades of ever greens, broken up by frequent glimpses of rivers and waterfalls - Lake Superior's many tributaries.

On the road. Ready to get off the road anytime now. Really.

Once we reach Grand Marais, we turn north onto the Gunflint Trail. It's not long after that when we reach Clearwater Lake Lodge, where we'll be spending the night before hitting the trail. Once out of the car, Rubi goes wild, sniffing and whirling and rushing the end of the leash. Even Piper's a bit wound up; eight hours in a car has not been kind to any of us. I herd, cajole, and drag the girls down to the lake for a little exploring. Rubi wades right into the water, squats, and pees.

That's right: Rubi now owns Clearwater Lake.

Don't worry, I'm sure she still let you use it if you ask nice . . . but bring bribes, just in case.

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