We took Max out for one last run around Treasure Island before setting off for Horse Lake. Max waited patiently in the wagon while we stopped for breakfast and shopped en route. He was itching for action once we reached the resort, but he still had to be patient while we settled in. The cabin we’d ordered had been double-booked, and our replacement turned out to be a chalet containing two beds with a divider between and a long rod for curtains across the front. There was also a ghastly smell of propane which Max didn’t like at all. However, this dissipated once the owner came round to fix the gas stove, and the girls stopped making rude remarks about the accommodations once they realized there were lots of other children about.
We soon realized that, unlike Lac La Hache, this resort was a busy locale and there was no way Max would have the latitude to run about. During our first session with Gary Gibson, he had told us how to train Max to come. This involved using a long line attached to his collar and letting him roam about until we called, “Come!” At that point, we had to jerk the line and pull him in if he didn’t come of his own volition. We had not had time to practise this before leaving for our holiday, but we decided this was a good time to start. Fortunately Hugh had some garden gloves on hand, because the routine with the rope was a guaranteed way to lacerate the palms if they were not protected. Max was suspicious of this new restriction, but once he realized he could trot and sniff, he accepted it, and we managed a walk, and even a swim in the weedy lake, without incident.
The following day, Hugh went off early to go fishing, but returned soon as the lake was covered with fog. He and I made breakfast: then, as the sun came out, we took Max for a hike on his long line. When we returned, the girls were playing with their new friends, so we took Max out in the boat. We explored to the end of the lake and part way down the river, which was full of reeds and weeds. It was very windy, but Max loved the interesting smells that were borne on the breeze. After lunch, we swam off the communal party boat, a flat wooden structure that was tied to the main dock. Max swam too, going after his tennis ball and bucking the waves like a battleship – heavy, sturdy and straight. The day was going well and Max appeared to be settling in.
After dinner, Hugh went fishing and the girls were playing with their friends, so I took Max for a walk. What a calamity! Just as I put him on his long line, he saw a cat. He charged, but I didn’t notice, for one of the girls’ friends—a boy named David—had approached to speak to me and my attention was on him. Consequently, Max ran the full length of his line without me seeing what was happening, and when it went taut, he jet-propelled me several feet through the air. I crashed down like a felled rhinoceros and lay spayed on the ground. On impact, the line flew out of my hand, and Max joyfully loped off after the cat. My stomach and head hurt so badly I couldn’t move. David sprinted after Max while I lay in the dirt and slowly recovered. When I finally managed to drag myself upright, I saw David triumphantly returning with a wild-eyed, ecstatically happy Max in tow. Later, I nursed my aching limbs as we sat around the campfire and watched the lightning flashing at the far end of the lake. Max slept at our feet, toes twitching and a smile on his wolf-like face. Probably dreaming of that wretched cat.
Anti-inflammatories got me through the night, but the next day, I was sore. It was a busy day, since our original cabin was now vacant and we had to pack our things and move. Once we were there, it was pleasant, though, because the chalet was right on the lake.
We all went for a swim after lunch, doing laps between the private dock of our cabin and the party boat. We found Max a stick and let him swim with us as the party boat was a contained area and we thought he couldn’t escape. However, Smarty-paws finally figured out that if he swam further, he could climb out at the dock and race for freedom. This he did, after which he charged around the resort, chased all the cats, and flatly refused to come when called. Finally, in desperation, Hugh had a brainwave. He opened the hatch of the wagon, got into the driver’s seat and turned on the ignition. To our relief and surprise, Max came thundering back, hopped into our car and sat there like the best boy in the class. Needless to say, after that, he was swimming as well as walking on his long line.
Deciding that Max was going wild from too much excitement, we gave him a time out. We left him in the cabin and drove to Lac Des Roches, where we had dinner in a quaint restaurant with movie memorabilia on the walls and a charming proprietor who looked like Timothy Dalton. The next afternoon, Max had another spell of solitude. Hugh went fishing and I drove Katie to Northwood Lodge where we’d booked a two-hour trail ride. Even without Max, this turned out to be quite an adventure. Accompanying us was a family of four from Coquitlam. There were two teenage daughters: one of them was quiet and calm; the other was loud and made no bones about the fact that she was nervous. When we had climbed high up the trail and were trekking through heavy bush, the mother’s horse was stung by a bee. The horse started to shiver and stamp, causing the other mounts to prance as well. The noisy-nervy sister started to shriek when her horse sidled into a tree, her screaming scared all the horses, and her sister’s horse bolted into the bush and threw her. Katie, bless her, stayed calm and obeyed my instructions to soothe her horse. We managed to hold the trail boss’s horse, too, while she went back to check on the sister who had been tossed into the undergrowth. Fortunately, the girl was all right and the rest of the ride proceeded without incident.
At the end of the ride, Katie and I said reluctant farewells to our horses and headed back to the resort. While the girls took their friends out in the boat, Hugh and I enjoyed mugs of coffee at the water’s edge. I started to tell him of our adventures, but we became sidetracked by the action on the far side of the lake. It appeared that Max wasn’t the only rebel at Horse Lake. Thinking they were out of sight, the kids had gone ashore and were heading up the mountain. Hugh got out the binoculars and followed their progress, and they were not happy to find us waiting on the dock when they returned. Max may have been sprung from solitary, but the girls took his place and spent the next hour on timeout in the cabin. It appeared we needed long lines for all the junior members of the family.
The next day, the girls were playing with their friends again, so Hugh and I took the boat to the far side of the lake. Our intention was to tire Max out with a mammoth hike up to the meadow, along the logging road and back via the cattle trails and the shoreline. The trek was a marathon and we had to negotiate several ravines along the way. Everywhere, we saw the handiwork of bears and beavers, though fortunately, we didn’t meet any of them. Max’s nose was going nonstop and his eyes were glittering with excitement. If he hadn’t been on his long line, he would have answered the call of the wild.
Once we got back to the boat, it was hot, and, as no one was around, I decided to go for a dip in my undies and tank top. Hugh went one better. His undies happened to be his last clean pair and he didn’t want to get them wet, so he chose to have a skinny dip, figuring he could use the boat as a shield to get in and out of the water. So off he stripped and in he slunk, decorously covered by the boat. At that moment, some boaters started to come across the lake, but Hugh was not concerned because our boat screened him from their view. However, Max, puffing excitedly on the shore, decided to leap into the boat, thus propelling it forward, and I was treated to the hilarious spectacle of Hugh in his nothings swearing at the dog and streaking after the boat trying to regain his cover. I laughed so hard I cried. Max and I were both in the doghouse on the ride back to camp.
The long hike had been a good strategy, because Max was tired enough to settle down for the trip home the next day. He seemed very excited when we pulled into our driveway and he was happy to be able to go out and lay in his own backyard. He’d enjoyed his adventures, but it was time to be domestic dog again. He ambled in and out throughout the afternoon, contentedly watching, as we slugged through the unpacking, did piles of laundry and dealt with the overblown garden veggies. In between naps, he played with his toys; then wolfed down his dinner and headed up to bed. I followed two hours later, exhausted from the labours of the day. Max was already blissfully asleep, whiffling contentedly in the corner of our bedroom. As I dragged my aching limbs into bed, a thought crossed my mind: Whoever said it was a dog’s life didn’t know what they were talking about.