The Boat Ride Home

It’s May 15th. Julie is bundled in a survival suit, I’m in Gore-tex layers, and Kip’s ears are flapping in the wind, his nose is pointing home, toward Two Moon Point. It’s our first trip back to the lodge this year. We don’t know this will be our old Labrador retriever’s last trip to the camp, but we both know there is that unspoken feeling.

Kip came to us twelve years ago, the year we took ownership of Two Moon Lodge. Our guests know the story: we adopted a one-year-old large male lab from Canadian Border services where he had been trained as a sniff dog, rewarded for finding goodies in traveller’s luggage; how, over the years, Kip generalized those skills to include cooler inspection and removal, stealing hats, gloves, worm boxes, lunches, cameras, glasses, *______________ * (insert the name of your stolen item(s)), how in his later years he developed his negotiating skills to convince the exchange of pilfered items for treats, how he would limp through his daily dinner-time rounds to the barbecue or nudge open the cabin door and flop down on a mat, as though he was invited to join the meal. He became a fixture of camp life and a friend to our guests.

This season was our busiest and most enjoyable yet. The weather was outstanding, the fishing consistent, the catches impressive. New friendships were made and acquaintances renewed around the pizza oven, always a highlight of our life at Two Moon Lodge. And throughout, the Old Kipper looked on, waiting for a pizza crust to fall his way.

Now it’s mid-October and we only have a few days left before we close the lodge for another season. The woodshed is full again, the hunters are out stalking a moose, the autumn rain is pushing the leaves into the lake, the woodstove is roaring. But Kip’s leather chair is empty. His final day was spent doing what he loved best: being with people, swimming with Julie, stealing kibble from his doggy-cousin Newton. He passed quietly that night in August and Kip will be, from now on, resting peacefully here at Two Moon Lodge, a Labrador Retriever’s version of heaven.

We will always remember the 2019 season as Kip’s last summer. We are grateful for the twelve years we had with such a wonderful dog, and for the messages of condolences from our past guests. Anyone who has had a family pet understands the loss.

Our boat ride home will have a empty seat.