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DAKOTA – OUR DEAREST FRIEND

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She sits tall with her head held high as her soft brown eyes span the width of the beach and sparkling blue lake beyond the dock. This is her spot where she stands guard by the corner of the lodge watching anything and everything that moves in any direction. Her ears suddenly perk up as she hears the high pitched laughing sounds of the kids and she turns her head in the direction of the main house and where the noise is coming from.

Always and forever in love with children the sound of their voices was as intoxicating to her as the fresh, clean air of northwestern Ontario is to visiting tourists. It made her heart pump happily as she slowly begins to stand and with her front feet out in front she has herself a long, satisfying stretch. Awe, it’s good to live here she thinks to herself I would never want to be anywhere else.

RILEY

RILEY

TAYLOR & JESSIE

TAYLOR & JESSIE

Soon the kids; Riley, Taylor and Jessie come bounding up the walkway to the lodge as Dakota eagerly waits for each of them to give her the usual morning hug around her neck and a pat on her head. Oh life is so good and these kids are so loving and kind to her. She knew it was their breakfast time and afterwards they’d be out throwing a ball for her and playing chase, and maybe even a little tidbit. She laid back down watching the door close behind them and waited in anticipation for the kids to return.

Dakota is a 75 lb., pure bred, female yellow lab, born in Sioux City, South Dakota, hence the name Dakota. She could’ve been called Sue but her master would have none of that. So Dakota it was and besides she liked that name……sometimes. She was one from a litter of six and she was the only female. Too boot all her brothers were very BIG and very black – quite obviously a contrast from her golden blonde color. Her mom was a black lab and her dad was brown, so what the heck happened with her? All in all though Dakota was a beautiful girl with a HUGE heart and the best temperament that a labrador retriever could ever have. Absolutely the best!

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The view from Dakota’s perch

Life for Dakota meant growing up in northern Ontario at a fishing/hunting lodge with a family. There was Tami & Terry who built the lodge and then there was their three fun-filled, energetic grandchildren who were just the perfect companions for Dakota. During long, lazy days in the summer Dakota and the kids would go swimming.

Tami, along with Riley (the eldest granddaughter of the children) taught Dakota to save the people especially children from drowning. If the kids started splashing and yelling loudly, Dakota jumped into the lake and swam out to where the noise was coming from and the kids in turn were to grab her by the neck or tail and she would swim back to shore as they held on. Dakota felt so proud and knew this was a very important job and she took it very seriously too. She always sat on alert and watched over the kids. Nothing would ever happen to them as long as she was around, she thought.

Left to right:  RILEY, TAYLOR & JESSIE

Left to right: RILEY, TAYLOR & JESSIE

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So much fun with RILEY

Retrieving was one of her most favorite things to do in the world because that’s what labs to best…..retrieve. Riley would make her wait up by the lodge (250 ft from the lakeshore) and then start running down the hill towards the lake while she held a stick and shook it in the air for Dakota to see, all the while daunting her. Dakota would shiver in great anticipation and in a low, stern voice Riley would command; ‘stay, stay’. As Riley got closer to the lake she held the stick higher and then yelled back to Dakota; ‘Go get it girl’. No sooner had those words come out of Riley’s mouth, Dakota was racing as fast as she could down the hill, her eyes never left the stick and as Riley threw it high in the air over the lake Dakota’s goal was to reach the stick before it hit the water. Didn’t always work that way, but, it was so much fun trying. They would do this over and over until Tami had to remind Riley to quit otherwise Dakota would keep running for the stick in the water until her heart gave out. Dakota never minded though…..but the kids knew grandma meant business and knew it was time to stop.

One day the young family moved away and the kid’s voices were no more. Dakota sat by the corner of the lodge and waited but they never returned…….not for a very long time. She didn’t understand that they had other things to do and the lodge wasn’t where they could be while they went to school. Humph! Dakota groaned as she layed her head on her outstretched front legs……humph and then a sigh!

Every once in a while the kids would come back for a visit and play just like they did before and these were very happy times for her, but, they never stayed long and this saddened Dakota because she really missed their hugs, gentle patting, playing, swimming and retrieving – her days became longer and longer as time went on. Guests of the lodge would come and go and many were very nice to her, but, to Dakota it just wasn’t the same. She just missed the kids.

It was during a hot spell at the end of June in 2010 that Tami brought home a little dog, at least that’s what Dakota thought it was. Wow, was that thing ever small, smaller that Dakota’s entire head. Where’s the fun going to be with that one she thought. Lexi is a female Shih Tzu and at first glance at Dakota backed up nervously. Then ever so slowly she moved forward and then backed up again. Not sure what to make of this little thing Dakota laid down and continued looking a Lexi. Soon Lexi sensed that Dakota was not a threat and approached her face and began sniffing and tail wagging. Curiosity got the better of both of them and with a sniff here and a sniff there they soon realized they were both dogs. Phew, good they thought!  Dakota thought that Lexi was definitely not going to be as fun as the kids and even though she’s real cute and all she’s just way, way too bothersome. Go away you pesky little dog, she says to herself!

Dakota’s owners (Tami & Terry) closed up the lodge each fall and travelled down south for a well earned winter break. Dakota went everywhere from the east coast to the west with them and met many new people from so many different places. The road would bounce underneath the coach as they went from one city to another and one state to another. I’d rather be at the lodge she thought as she laid her head back down on the floor of the motorhome to daydream of wonderful summer days. So much more to see from my perch back home.

As time went on Dakota was getting older and began to slow down a little  more with each passing day. Papa would have to help her in the vehicle as she wasn’t strong enough to get in to it on her own any longer as her back legs would fail her. Lexi would bounce around in front of the door making it even harder for her to get in, boy that young pup is annoying Dakota thought. Can’t you see I’m having a hard time here as she glared at Lexi? Those young-un’s…..so much energy and no brains, ugh!

This spring we finally returned home from travelling and Dakota was so happy to be back again but as she jumped out of the truck she winced as her achy bones cringed under her weight. Oh, this is my most favorite place in the whole wide world she thought ignoring the pain that shot through her legs. I’ve been to a lot of places but nothing compares to being here – at home – where I belong as she once again took in a long sniff of that familiar air.

Dakota sat at the corner of the lodge one warm day and the heat from the sun penetrated her coat, oh this is such a welcome feel she thought as the warmth soothed her achy muscles. As she laid her head down on her front paws the wind was just right and kept the bugs from landing on her – she closed her eyes and just before she drifted off to sleep she thought……I have been loved and cared for all my life, I have never wanted for anything, my masters took very good care of me, never left me alone and saw to my every need. I am one lucky dog ……. her ears perked slightly as she thought she heard the faint sound of the kids laughing voices and as the end of her tailed happily wagged at that beautiful sound, Dakota took her very last breath.

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Dedicated to the best friend we could’ve ever had:
DAKOTA

May you rest in peace dear girl and thank you for the joy you brought into our lives and know that you will be
sadly missed by all of us at Wawang Lake – your home, your friends & your family!
July 24, 2013

 

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BIG BLACK

haidaIt was a clear, crisp and extremely cold January morning as Terry stepped out the back door of our log house when suddenly he stopped dead in his tracks.  In the tree line  just 100’ from the house sat a black animal looking intently and directly at Terry.  Squinting his eyes against the bright sun, Terry couldn’t believe what he was looking at.  His first thought;  a black bear?  Could it be out from hibernation at this time of the year?   No, it’s much too early for them to wander out this time the winter– could it be he thought again, questioning what he was looking at?

He blinked a second time, against the bright morning sun, mystified at what was he seeing when suddenly to the right from the corner of his eye, Terry caught a glimpse of a flash just within the thick undergrowth of timber known as the boreal forest.  It was another animal and it ran right behind the black one except this one was grey!  Hmmm, he then realized it was wolves.   His curiosity now satisfied he noticed that as fast as the grey colored wolf had sped by, the black one immediately got up and quickly followed after.  Then throughout the entire bush the air was filled with the eerie, unnerving sound of howling.  The wailing echoed all around and he quickly scanned the vast timber anticipating seeing  more – but didn’t.  They were warning the others he thought;  to run, to get away – quick!   It sounded by the urgency of their screams.Wolf Howling

He watched the two wolves run past the house towards the lake but didn’t see any others.   Giving no mind to the snow covering  the seat, he quickly jumped onto his snow machine and was a little surprised that it started on the first pull.  Pleased with the ease of it starting he gave the throttle a couple revs, spun the machine around and headed down to the beach in search of the wolves.  Following the shoreline he came upon where their tracks came out of the thick timber – just about where he thought they would too and noticed that they had headed out onto the open expanse of Wawang Lake.  He lifted his hand over his brow, shielding his eyes from the sun hoping to see some sign of them but he didn’t see anything.  Not detecting any sign or movement on ice in the direction they had gone he decided to try and chase them down anyways and headed out following the fresh trail.

There were four wolves in all he guessed counting the distinct tracks left in the newly fallen snow from last night.  Looking over the windshield the icy wind felt like steel rivets hitting his bare face and his eyes watered from the intense cold.   Invigorated by the hunt,  he drove on and had to frequently wipe his eyes from the frozen tears that were now forming on his lower eye lashes.   Man he thought those animals are fast, as he took another wipe with his glove, when unexpectedly there they were, right in front, fanned out, fully stretched out and running full speed with the big HaliburtonWolves (176 of 106)black in the lead.  Terry could see that there were two black and one was obviously the Alfa male – since he was BIG, very big – the size of a small bear in fact.   Two of the wolves were noticeably smaller and Terry soon realized that this was a small pack.

As a trapper, his intention was to bring down the big black wolf as the pelt would bring in a pretty nice bounty to pay our bills and provide a nice spread of fresh food for our table.  Ever so slowly he began coming up alongside them to their right.  Whether it was the sound of the machine or its shadow, the wolves abruptly veered away and picked up speed trying to distance themselves from this unknown danger.  Squeezing down hard on the throttle he kept up with them and at the same time he noticed the wolves were beginning to show signs of fatigue yet steadily raced on as their tongues hung out, loosely flopping out of the side of their mouths, and frost condensing on their muzzles – but they weren’t slowing down any.  It wasn’t in their nature to give up and if they did – hmmmm, it then ran through Terry’s mind that he could be facing a wee bit of a problem here.  Four against one and he estimated the big one out-weighed him by at least 25 lb. –  then he remembered he did have his trusted side arm strapped to his hip and this would give him an edge since the sharp gun blast would scare them off from an attack, if it came to that.   At least he hoped so and as this scene unfolded in his mind he slid his hand down to his hip and unhooked his holster…..just in case he thought.

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The shoreline across from the lodge was beginning to draw closer and Terry watched in admiration at the wolves’ stamina and couldn’t help but respect them for  their sheer determination to flee danger – and it was at that moment he decided against breaking up this family.  Mom and Dad still had much to teach those young he thought and best left to have engrained the values, customs and traditions into those young than for them to turn into outsiders or misfits he thought – no, there’s enough of them out there as it is.

Easing up on the throttle, he began to slow the machine down as he watched the wolves make distance between him and them.  Stopping the machine he noticed that they had now reached the timberline and quickly disappeared in the bush with the only trace left of them was their tracks.  It then ran across his mind how easily he could’ve taken BIG Black   – oh, but what the heck he thought as he shrugged his shoulders while the muscles in his jaw twitched just below his earlobe (a common characteristic when he’s in methodical thinking mode) we still had lots of moose meat left and some walleye from our last ice fishing trip as he quickly inventoried our pantry in his mind.   We’d be fine he thought again, and we always were – fine.

Now had it been a large pack known for ravaging and destroying the large & small game  in our area the outcome would’ve been much different.  Terry would not have remained this composed nor would he have controlled his own hunters’ trait.  Large wolf packs are common in our area that can consist of 30 or more.  These packs are vicious and can be very deadly by killing off the moose, black bear and other small game animals including their Terryyoung.   Basically, slaughtering and greatly reducing the wildlife needlessly.

Trapping in Ontario is all about day-to-day management and assessing each and every situation while out in the field – as Terry did at this time and has done so on many other occasions over the years.  Contrary to what some might believe, trappers manage their areas and realistically speaking they simply don’t kill every animal they see, as a matter of fact this couldn’t be farther from the truth since much thought goes into a season of trapping, like for instance how many beaver can be taken from a beaver house.  Breeding stock needs to be left in order to sustain the trap line for years to come.  Our family has trapped for almost 100 years and we’re proud to pass this honorable tradition onto our next generation – like the generation did before us and  just like our neighbors – the wolves.

 
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Posted by on April 20, 2013 in Personal Stories, Trappers, Wildlife

 

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