After moving myself to Saskatoon to take a new job in early April, I returned to the Maritimes to pick up my wife and our dog for a 4,000km, seven day car trek from her family’s home outside of Fredericton, NB to Saskatchewan. I had missed my wife and dog something fierce for the six weeks. When I left them in Halifax at the end of March, before leaving our home to catch an early morning flight, I made sure to say a special goodbye to Chewy. He was suffering with some health issues, and I wasn’t sure I would ever see him again. Fast forward six weeks and a number of vet trips later, Chewy was there for me in New Brunswick.
The night I surprised him with my return, he jumped on the sofa beside me and laid down on top of me. Our dog likes to be close, but not too close, so I could tell he really missed me. And the next morning, he wouldn’t let me out of his sight, even camping outside a bathroom up a steep flight of stairs to make sure he could be close. On this early morning, he had no idea the adventure he was in for…
We pulled out of small town New Brunswick and pointed the car toward our night one resting stop just outside of Montreal. The little guy was restless, only calming down once my wife decided she was better off sitting in the back seat for the trip. She saw 3,700km of Canada from the back left seat of our compact Honda Fit while Chewy contentedly snoozed the miles away.
We let all the rules go out the window on this tip. If Chewy wanted to be up in bed, he got his way. Exhausted by the first day in the car, he took up residence on the bed in our suburban Montreal hotel.
Day two had us leaving Quebec and arriving in North Bay, too exhausted for anything more than a Loblaws roasted chicken, some side dishes, and an evening watching TV. The next day on the road, our goal was to make it to Sault Ste. Marie, and before that, a visit to Sudbury to see the giant nickel.
During a silly moment, my wife picked up Chewy and posed him for this picture:
When we finally arrived in the Soo, I picked up a couple of craft beers, and was looking forward to some time in a comfortable chair with a view out over the water. I opened a can of beer (side note: Railway City’s Witty Traveller witbier was the tastiest craft beer of the week), and when I turned around, someone had stolen my chair. Great laughter ensued. The chair was Chewy’s now. We were going to get the most out of our hotel pet fee.
Before leaving the Soo, Chewy checked in on this sculpture beside the hotel, even giving the dogs a few sharp barks to show them who was boss. Even as his health was declining, he still had plenty of spunk.
I’m not sure if I can properly express how long a journey this was. Two people, a hobbled dog and the rest of our worldly possessions crammed into a Honda Fit.. it really was a battle of attrition for the week. Each day: load the car, try to get Chewy to eat something (he never did), take him for a walk, drive, stop to walk the dog, drive, eat, stop to walk the dog, drive, pull into the next town, unload the car, have dinner, sleep, and start over again.
I’ll look back fondly on this adventure, because it was our family’s battle of attrition together. Uncomfortable small car, trying to keep our dog alive even when he wasn’t in the mood to eat anything except roast chicken, the occasional apple slice and some baby food beef fat…. But through it, we had a pile of laughs and saw some great sights.
Like day four, on the epic Soo to Thunder Bay drive, stopping in Wawa, ON for a break and to see the world’s largest Canada Goose.
Or a few more hours down the highway, after hour upon hour of twisting highway and epic views, stopping here in Terrace Bay to stretch our legs and discovering this waterfall on a perfect afternoon.
And then, nearing the end of close to ten hours of travel, a stop at the Terry Fox monument just outside of Thunder Bay. We spent a bit less time here on account of seeing a young bear on the drive into the park and not wanting to come face to face with a protective mama bear that Chewy would instinctively want to play with.
That night in Thunder Bay, Chewy ate like a king – devouring roast chicken and cheese and refusing anything else. We slept like babies, and after waking up the next morning and knowing we had a shorter day in the car, my two favourite living creatures decided they needed a bit more sleep. Like I said earlier, no more rules – Chewy had the full run of hotel beds now. Looking back on the trip from close to two months later, watching them sleep part of the morning away will forever be my favourite memory of this trip.
You know it’s a long trip when you consider five hours in the car a “reasonable” drive. Thunder Bay to Kenora was a lot less spectacular than circling the Great Lakes the day before, but we did come across this – the world’s largest mosquito about to eat a human in Upsala, ON.
Kenora ended up being our favourite stop of the trip. We had a hotel room overlooking the water, and we were all in a mellow state. Before dinner, Chewy used my wife as a pillow, clearly enjoying his new found rights on human beds.
This summed up our evening in Kenora. We enjoyed a meal and a couple of drinks while the sun went down over the water. Chewy even took up residence on the floor, his belly full of (you guessed it) roasted chicken.
By the time we pulled into Brandon, we both were getting really worried about our dog. He was still upbeat, but the lack of eating over the previous weeks going back to when I originally left Halifax was clearly taking its toll. Here is our furry dude out for a walk in Brandon looking far too skinny, but eternally happy, as was his way.
The last day of our road trip took us the remainder of the way into Saskatoon. For my early weeks in Saskatoon, I hadn’t made it too far out of the city, so the drive was my first experience with the wide open spaces and the skies. Our first hours on the prairies, we couldn’t get over how much sky there was.
The last two hours between Regina and Saskatoon, I realized I was heading home to something, while my wife had no idea what she was heading to – a new apartment, a whole lot of unpacking and a new job in the days and week ahead. When we finally arrived in Saskatoon, we were tired, happy to not have to drive anywhere the next day, and in good spirits after surviving a week on the road together.
The post script to our journey, sadly, was that Chewy only got six more days with us in his new home town. Since then, we’ve battled sadness, loss, a lot of tears, and a house that is much quieter than it used to be. But on the positive side, I got 13 extra days with my favourite furry dude and an epic adventure that I’ll always remember as our last days together. Whether it was him cuddling up to me on the night we reunited in New Brunswick, watching him go to town on numerous roast chickens when nothing else would peak his interest, stealing my beer chair in Sault Ste. Marie or taking our respective first ever steps in Manitoba together, he’ll forever be my favourite memory of this trip.
I’m glad we saw Canada together.